Like the author's Hallapoosa (p. 567), Dukes (1984), and his many other juvenile and adult novels, this tale about a Depression-era, rural Florida rancher's son who proves his manhood via a wild mustang roundup (a kind of trial-by-horse) is another blend of old-chestnut plotting and corn-fed sentiment--but the narrative lopes along easy and there's plenty of peppery talk and rugged action. Fifteen-year-old Ladd Bodeen has gotten no respect from tough older brother Tate--now manager of the Buckle Tee ranch--ever since their father became a blank-eyed invalid after the accidental death of Ladd's mother. Then comes the chance for Ladd to set off by himself to capture a herd of wild mustangs in the South. Along the danger-packed way (Ladd's cherished mule is horribly eaten by a gator), Ladd will meet Cora, a spunky 20-year-old with a fatherless baby who lives in fierce isolation; and Mr. Dodge Yardell, another loner and former chum of Bodeen, Sr. Yardell, a thorny type who carves carousel horses, spouts wisdom about horses and life-as-she-should-be-lived, accompanies Ladd on the roundup, and aims to shoot the great white stallion (""Entirely male""! by golly)--which even in his golden years has been stealing mares. Ladd not only asks for the stallion's life, but insists that he should be the first to ride the animal. At the close, there's a hero's return in a procession that includes Cora and baby (Ladd offers them ""protection"") and Yardell, who reawakens Bodeen, Sr. And of course there's a new sense of brotherly love and Ladd's own proud sense of Being a Man. A rite of passage, thundering-hoofbeats division. Old stuff in familiar and amiable sacking.