Horse and Dog Adventures in Early California: Short Stories and Poems by Ransom A. Wilcox

Edited by Karl Beckstrand

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This kindle book was promoted as a free e book. For some reason, I was drawn to it, and I am very glad that I picked it up. The book is largely autobiographical. It tells the story of Ransom A. Wilcox who was born a Canadian, the sixth of seventh children. Because he was a sickly child, the family relocated to northern California where they farmed, fished, hunted and struggled to make a living.

Wilcox is a gifted writer. He has the ability to draw you into his story with a combination of simple language and homespun charm. The stories have a bit of everything, adventure, melancholy, joy and a sense of pride. The book consists of short stories and poems. They cover such scenes as Ransom’s hard work being rewarded with his very own horse, and his dramatic escape from a wild boar by climbing a pole that he cleverly stuck in the ground. There is a touching scene with the family dog named Old Blue.

Many of his poems are included. The subjects range from those dealing with family like “To A Granddaughter” and “My Little Girl”, a group that talks about nature like “To The Redwoods!” and “Quiet Waters,” and some that talk about personal issues like “Character,” “Friendship,” and “Immortality.” These are not complicated verses; they are written with both common sense and pathos.

The editor says that the work is for all ages. I think that children age ten and up would be able to handle independent reading. Local dialect make it an authentic read. The few black and white photographs included of family and surroundings fit perfectly with the mood of the story. It is classified as a multicultural book by the publisher, Premio Books. Teachers might want to consider using the book as part of a study unit on American life in the early twentieth century. The kindle as well as a paperback version is available on Amazon. I find it difficult to explain why I like this book so much, but I recommend that you give it a try.

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