While others have been occupying Wall Street, I’ve been occupying my mind with Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. Described by the author as a true-life novel, the book is about an amazing woman named Lily Casey Smith born in 1901.
Imagine Little House on the Prairie on steroids. And that’s putting it mildly.
Lily takes you through her childhood in the West Texas desert where she learned to break and train horses at age five. She spent her teenage years in New Mexico, and at age 15 she became a teacher in a one-room school house 500 miles her parents’ ranch. It took her 28 days traveling on horseback, by herself, to get to her new job and home.
After spending some time learning important life lessons in Chicago as a young adult, she returned to the west and ended up in Arizona. Her passions in life were teaching and ranching. Lily was fearless and tougher than any cowboy around.
Along the way she gets married and has a couple of kids. But don’t get any ideas…this isn’t a love story. If you’re looking for romance, find a different book. She respects her husband and is loyal to him, but I couldn’t figure out if they were truly in-love. Lily tended not to trust men.
(Side note: Lily’s husband was a Jack Mormon born into a very large polygamist family. And Lily herself took a job for a year on the Arizona strip teaching the children of polygamist families. I’ve read several books about polygamy in that area…all written from the points of view of the polygamists themselves. It was interesting to get an outsider’s perspective.)
Lily wasn’t much for compassion or tolerance…didn’t have time for any sort of political correctness or worrying about offending people. She could get a grasp on most any situation, except her wild and head-in-the-clouds daughter Rosemary. (Being the mother of two girls, reading this story made me a little nervous.) I learned at book club last night that Rosemary is the main character in another book, The Glass Castle, by the same author. (Now on reserve for me at the library.)
I thoroughly enjoyed Half Broke Horses. It’s a book full of humorous and life-is-what-you-make-it stories. Lily Casey Smith was one tough broad. I like her.