The central character in this collection of four loosely connected tales is Jody Tiflin, a shy, ten-year-old California ranch boy who wants to be treated as a grownup. The Tiflins live far from any neighbors, and, as an only child, Jody has only the ranch-dogs and the cowhand Billy Buck as companions. His father is too strict to show much affection for the boy, and his mother is usually preoccupied with her kitchen chores.
In the first story, “THE GIFT,” Carl Tiflin brings home for his son a red pony and saddle which he has bought at an auction in town. Jody names the pony Gabilan, meaning “hawk,” and lavishes attention on his new friend. He relishes his new responsibilities and takes good care of the pony until he unwisely leaves it out in the corral during a fall rainstorm and the pony develops “strangles.” Jody and Billy Buck desperately try to nurse the pony back to health, but the boy learns that nature can be cruel and indifferent to human wishes.
The second tale, “THE GREAT MOUNTAINS,” tells the story of an old paisano named Gitano who returns, when he becomes to old to work, to the Tiflin Ranch where he was reared. Jody’s father cruelly refuses to take the old man in, offering him only one night’s shelter, but he discovers the next morning that Gitano has disappeared into the mountains with a decrepit old horse.
In “THE PROMISE,” the third story, Jody is given an opportunity to raise another colt to replace the red pony, but first he must...
(The entire section is 615 words.)