SPANISH HOOF by Robert Newton Peek


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Save that ranch and sell that pony: an utterly predictable yet endearingly sweet-'n'-earthy tale of cattle-ranching in Depression-era Florida--narrated by Harry (Harriet) Beecher, an eleven-year-old tomboy on the verge of all sorts of growing-up. The Beechers' ranch is Spanish Hoof; long-widowed Mama runs things, with dedicated help from 16-year-old Dab (a teasing/loving big brother to Harry), from ancient hired hand Poke (who doubles as cook), and from young hired hand Lightning (who works ""at about one step ahead of whoa""). And, though times are hard, Spanish Hoof is getting along well enough for Harry to be given her very own pony--while Dab has enough spare time to start a-courtin' neighbor gal Trudy Sue (about which Harry has decidedly mixed feelings). Then, however, the Hoof is hit with one unlucky mishap after another: a brood-cow gets mud-stuck--and slaughtered by an alligator--while birthing a calf; Lightning gets beat up after a night of shady gambling in town; the whole new crop of calves has to be destroyed after an outbreak of contagious black leg; and Mama's doctor orders her to give up ranch-work forever--on account of her perilously weak heart. Can the Hoof be saved from bankruptcy and foreclosure by the Otookee Bank? Of course it can--but only after the hired hands volunteer their life-savings. . . and after Harry (now starting to like the idea of ""Harriet"") swallows her tears and allows Dabney to sell beloved pony Noble. Plain, sturdy work in Peck's tried-and-true manner--with just enough ranchwork grit and flinty humor to keep the sentimentality under control.

Pub Date: March 21st, 1985
Publisher: Knopf