Montana-based writer Groneberg (The Secret Life of Cowboys, not reviewed) combines a memoir about acquiring a colt after one of his twin sons is diagnosed with Down syndrome with the story of a 19th-century cowboy.
The ranch hand/author and his pregnant wife, Jennifer, were stunned but happy to learn that she was expecting twins. Their world turned upside down, though, when the babies arrived seven weeks prematurely and with health problems: Bennett had an umbilical hernia, and Avery, far more seriously, was afflicted with Down syndrome. As the parents struggled with altered expectations, Groneberg turned to a fantasy he’d had for a long time, of breaking and training a colt. In between midnight feedings, diaper changes and hospital visits, he scanned the paper for horseflesh. An ad caught his eye, and he found himself the owner of a quiet, dark-brown colt. Groneberg boarded Blue, as he named the animal, at a friend’s barn, and took his training very slowly: Weeks passed before he placed a saddle pad on Blue’s back, much less the saddle itself. After he finally rode Blue, he toyed with the idea of turning the colt loose on Wild Horse Island, former Flathead Indian land and failed resort for the wealthy. Meanwhile, Groneberg attended physical therapy with little Avery, whom he came to recognize as a hero for the simple reason that Avery never gave up, even when the exercises were horribly difficult. These personal chapters alternate rather jarringly with the history of Teddy Blue, who began running cattle as a ten-year-old boy, had a chance meeting with Billy the Kid, and in the 1880s hired on with the DHS ranch near the Musselshell, where he met his future wife and gave up his roaming life. For a memoir ostensibly about finding one good colt, the book contains surprisingly little about Blue or about the art of breaking horses.
Heartfelt, but very little giddyup and go.