Saturday, December 16, 2017

Half Broke Horses

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life NovelHalf Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls is described on the cover as "A True Life Novel".  It is by the author of The Glass Castle and is about the author's grandmother, Lily Casey Smith.  If you have read The Glass Castle, you know that the author's mother had many issues, to put it politely.  Reading about the grandmother's life explains a lot about how her daughter, Rosemary, turned out.  Although, that is somewhat misleading and unfair as Rosemary had rather severe mental health issues that were certainly not caused by her mother.

Lily Casey Smith was quite an interesting woman.  She was born in 1901 in Texas and by age six was helping her father break horses.  Breaking horses  seemed to develop a theme for her life.

"The problem with half-broke horses like these was that no one took the time to train them."
It appeared to me that this was pretty much her parenting style.  She believed in training her children (certainly a good thing), but to the point that she ignored the children's desires, personalities, traits and abilities. She always seemed to be afraid that her children wouldn't be able to make it in the world.

Lily left home at fifteen when she was offered a position teaching in remote frontier country.  She rode her pony five hundred miles alone to take the teaching job in Arizona. Later she went to Chicago by herself to try to attend college to get a teaching degree and experienced hard times in the big city including a marriage that was a disaster.  Lily then returned to Texas, met and married another man, Jim Smith, and together they amassed a large ranch in Arizona. Over the years, Lily learned to drive a car and fly a plane and was a staunch advocate for women's rights.  She was an interesting, strong woman.

The story is written with Lily as the narrator.  The author wrote that she saw the book as an "oral history" and wanted it told with her grandmother's voice.

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