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Steer number 63 is the rump end of the 4-H club cattle-raising lottery, and to Will who's stuck with him for six months number 63 is nothing but a hayburner. But to Joey, the retarded hired hand on loan from an institution, number 63 is Beautiful Mickey, an object of adoration. Joey's ten year-old brain is incapable of learning very much, but whatever tasks Joey does manage to master he performs with complete thoroughness and devotion, so that soon Will's family is living in fear of the day when Joey will learn that all his love is directed toward producing more and better sirloin. As expected, the contest can only end in sadness, though not for Joey who enjoys the steer auction -- and Beautiful Mickey's honorable mention. We never know when (if ever) he realizes Mickey's fate, but Will and his parents are driven to tears by Joey's unfailing loyalty and cheerfulness which they can't help but see as a reproach to themselves. And considering their meager commitment -- a birthday card every year until they are informed that Joe), has ""left"" the hospital -- the reproach is justified. The judgment, like the degree of Joey's understanding, is wisely implicit; it all depends on how much we can see in a hayburner like Mickey.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1974
Publisher: Delacorte