There's enough plot here for any fiction-lover, and there are psychological tensions and moral values to spare. But the only thing one an say about this story of a family newly come to East Texas is that, as a mixed bag, it's readable. The Braedens have moved from San Francisco to a small Texas ranch, we learn from 13-year-old Petey, because has officer Dad was wounded in Vietnam. Also, there's a new baby, gurgly Brad; also, Dad and More have adopted a 15-year-old Vietnamese orphan, Taro Chan, who saved Dad's life. (There's also an explanation for Taro Chan's Japanese name.) Insofar as the story bas a central character, though, it's Petey's 15-year-old sister Annie--who's about to purchase the Absolutely Perfect Horse she's been yakking and yakking about, and who somehow resents nice, intelligent, forthright Taro Chan. What's peculiar about this dislike is that Annie immediately proves herself an exceptional sort too: instead of the riding horse of her dreams, she purchases a decrepit old Indian pony, the Chief, to save him from the dogmeat man. . . even knowing that she'll be taunted by the in-crowd at school. The Chief is endearing--a natural baby-sitter for Brad, a substitute mother for some nervous calves; and at the book's climax he holds off a pack of wild dogs, not only vindicating Annie in her choice but dying well. (As Mr. Braeden sagely says in consolation: ""He might have had a few more [years], but he did something for us in a few days that all the future years could never equal."") Meanwhile Annie's also been softening toward Taro Chan, who's a trump about old Chief alive or dead; and at the last she announces (least satisfactorily of all) that having a horse was just something to get her into the group. Scene-by-scene, it's effective enough; as a whole, it's totally forgettable.