A horse tells the story of the Overland Westerners’ ride around the United States in this YA historical novel.
Pinto, the equine narrator of this book, has handsome black-and-white coloring and a noble heritage as a Morab (half Arabian, half Morgan). He calls himself “a little horse with big dreams,” and that makes him perfect for accompanying his new owner, George Beck, on his fame-and-fortune scheme. The idea is that Beck and three other men—calling themselves the Overland Westerners—will leave Bainbridge Island in Washington in 1912 for a 20,000-mile trip, the longest horseback ride in history. They plan to visit every state capitol in the continental U.S., taking photographs of themselves with each governor. Along the way, they’ll sell calendars, postcards, and magazine subscriptions to help fund the journey and wind up in California for the 1915 World’s Fair, the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Like many other ambitious stunts, this one runs into severe difficulties: bad weather, arduous trails, and a constant money shortage, especially as the Westerners get farther east. Their promotional items and magazines don’t sell, and many governors refuse photo opportunities. The Westerners finish the odyssey, but there’s no gold at the end of their rainbow, and it’s hard on the animals; it can be upsetting to see them suffer. Happily, though, Pinto ends his days on Bainbridge, “a good life for a horse.” Historical information and photographs are included. In her book, Evans (The Stone of Wisdom, 2018, etc.) deftly brings out the pluck of the Westerners and the variety and verve of America in the early 20th century. At one stop, for example, the Westerners have no success because a stunt stilt-walker has already been through “and pinched every penny out of the people.” Pinto’s lively, appealingly egotistical voice is appropriate to this young, ambitious America: “I am quite aware of how spectacular I am.” But while they are brave, the Westerners’ vainglorious enterprise is hard to applaud because it mainly resulted in poverty for the men and exhaustion, injury, or worse for the horses.
A forgotten piece of Americana brought to vivid life.