Jody Tiflin is a shy, polite, ten-year-old boy, the only child of the Tiflins, who own a small ranch in the Salinas Valley. Billy Buck, the ranch hand, is almost a part of the family and has Jody’s highest respect.
One late summer day, Carl Tiflin and Billy drive six old milk cows to Salinas to the butcher. Jody would like to go along, but school has resumed. Before setting out on the mile walk to school, Jody walks up to the sagebrush tine to the spring, and then to the cypress tree where pigs are butchered. On the verge of adolescence, Jody is beginning to lose his childish pleasure in smashing muskmelons or killing mice. He yearns for greater excitement and responsibility.
The two men return late that evening with a gift for Jody, a red colt. However, rather than present the gift immediately, Jody’s father only tells Jody to go to bed, that he will need Jody in the morning.
After breakfast the men take Jody to the barn to show him the pony. The insensitive Carl Tiflin abhors any weakness or sentimentality and seems cross and embarrassed about giving his son the gift, but Billy Buck comprehends the boy’s elation. Jody names his pony Gabilan, after the mountains next to which they live.
Jody’s life now so revolves around Gabilan that he sometimes forgets his chores, but with this new responsibility, he begins to develop greater maturity. Under Billy’s guidance, Jody takes good care of the pony and begins to train him. Billy seemingly knows all there is to know about horses, and in the evenings he even braids a tail-hair rope for Jody. The pony produces a strong bond between Jody and Billy.
Carl says that by Thanksgiving Gabilan will be big enough to ride, so in...
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