These stories present a young boy’s entrance into maturity through his encounters with life’s harsh realities. Death, disappointment, and the world’s stubborn refusal to conform to human ideals break down Jody’s childlike certitudes. Yet, though Jody at times is callous or bitter because of these experiences, he ultimately realizes that life holds both disappointment and promise and that acceptance of life with endurance and sympathy is the way of maturity.
In the first story, “The Gift,” Mr. Tiflin presents Jody with a red pony which Jody names after the Gabilan Mountains near his home. The pony quickly becomes his chief joy and responsibility, and under Billy Buck’s guidance, he prepares Gabilan to be ridden. As the horse is nearing the completion of his training, however, he is caught out in the rain on a day Billy had promised Jody it would not rain. Gabilan catches cold and, despite Billy Buck’s constant attention, dies. As Jody watches buzzards descend on Gabilan’s body, he kills one of them out of frustration.
Jody’s next encounter with the harsh realities of nature occurs in “The Great Mountains,” when an old Chicano named Gitano walks onto the Tiflin ranch on his way to the western mountains where he was born and asks to stay at the Tiflins’ until it is time for him to die. Mr. Tiflin refuses to grant his request, and Gitano rides off the next morning on an old horse called Easter, but not before Jody sees...
(The entire section is 589 words.)