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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Horse for Henry — Kaye Spencer’s memories of a favorite childhood book

When I was eight or nine years old, my parents gave me a hardback book called A Horse for Henry. I identified with Henry, because he wanted his own horse, and so did I. What my parents wanted me to take away from this story was the theme of responsibility and that you could earn certain privileges by demonstrating responsible behaviors.

Somewhere in the years of growing up, I not only forgot about the book, but as Kris Kristofferson wrote, I lost it somewhere, somehow along the way. So, a couple of years ago, I decided to search for the book. It took patience and time, but I located three paperback copies, which I have tucked away as treasured keepsakes.

You’ll notice the author’s name is not on the book's cover nor is it identified anywhere within the book, which makes me sad. On the bottom left in the next illustration, you’ll see the publisher is Whitman, and the Roman numerals translate to a 1952 copyright date.

The illustrations certainly pigeonhole the book as classic 1950s/early 1960s style. They also bring up fond reading memories, since I am of the generation who learned to read with Dick, Jane, and Sally and “See Spot run.”

A Horse for Henry goes like this…

What Henry wants most is a black colt named Shine, but he hasn’t shown that he’s dependable enough to take care of a horse. He leaves a saddle out in the rain. He forgets to load the salt in the chuck wagon. He leaves the corral gate open, and the horses get out. His dad tells him, “Son, when you can do a man’s work and do it right, you can have a horse.”

Just when it looks like Henry will always have to ride the family’s pet mule and never get a horse of his own, through some quick thinking on his part, he saves his little brother (and himself) from a cougar.

The next morning, Henry wakes to find Shine tied outside his window, and his dad says, “You’re a man now, Henry, and a man can’t get along very well without a horse of his own.”

Now, from my adult’s perspective, I look back on the popularity of the traditional western novels, television show, movies, and perhaps even some of the country music during the era when A Horse for Henry was published, and I see this story as a post-WWII children’s slant on the Old West theme of “what makes a man a man”.

This story, and its message, has stayed with me all these years and, every time I reread it, I remember why love it so much.

When I was ten, I got my first horse. The picture on the left is me with my Welsh pony named Corky. I was riding in the Howdy Days Parade in Fort Morgan, Colorado in August 1964.  The picture on the right was at the Morgan County Fair in Brush, Colorado in August 1965 (4-H).

What is a favorite childhood book of yours?

Until next time,


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  1. Corky is beautiful! Love those old childhood books. My favorite was 'Betsy and Tacy'. I can't remember the author. It was about two best friends and their adventures. I had my mom's hand-me-down-copy, and I still have it somewhere. I would never willingly give this book away.

  2. Kristy,

    I'd forgotten about the Betsy & Tacy stories. I never owned copies, but I checked them out from the library. (Unless I'm thinking of a different set of stories) I sort of remember there were several stories.

  3. Oh, the memories of the stories of my youth. I grew up on "Have Gun Will Travel" (yes, there was a book), The Walter Farley, Stallion stories and then graduated to Phyllis Whitney, and others at about the age of eleven or twelve. Doris

  4. I was also a Trixie Belden reader, but not Nancy Drew. I didn't know about the Have Gun Will Travel book until just a few years ago. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I am shocked that the author's name was omitted from the book. What a delightful story for a kid.
    I wanted a pony (what kid didn't), but I never got one seeings how we lived in a city and all. Still...
    You were certainly a lucky girl to get Corky. He/She was a beautiful pony and I know you must have been so happy when you got it. Wow!
    I loved THE STORY OF A BAD BOY (a funny account of a boy who is sent to live with his Grandfather Nutter for several months to escape the malaria outbreak in New Orleans) and FINN MACCOLE AND HIS WARRIOR BAND (the magical adventures of a Scottish warrior and his trusty band of friends against monsters, witches, and trolls.
    I so enjoyed this blog, Kaye.

    1. Sarah,

      The absence of the author's name saddens me. What if I'm missing out on other wonderful stories by this author?

      (Corky was a gelding.) ;-)

  6. I used to love the Billy and Blaze series by C.W. Anderson. Billy rode English, but I forgave him because he had such awesome adventures! And the illustrations were beautiful!

    1. I'm laughing at 'forgiving him because he rode English'. I rode western and English back in my horse-showing days. I'm curious about Billy's adventures. I'll have to look for the books. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Kaye, I always wanted a horse soooo much. I begged for one every Christmas, every birthday...but we lived in city limits and had a TINY back yard. My dad would always say, "Where would he run? You know horses like to run...he wouldn't be happy in our back yard. It's too small for him." I had to agree. And I didn't want any animal to be unhappy! He always got me with that argument. I never read Trixie Belden, but did read Nancy Drew. I remember when I was about 10 or so, in the library I discovered an entire set of books about twins. The Irish Twins, The Scottish Twins, The Whatever Twins...I think there must have been 20 or 30 of them. I devoured those! They were always getting into some kind of adventures and of course, they had each other--always a boy and girl twin. LOLLOL

    My favorite Little Golden Book was The Color Kittens. I think I still have my original copy of it up in the attic. Great post! Love going back down memory lane.

    1. The Twins stories would be fun to read. I still have my original copy of the Little Golden Books book The Four Little Kittens. I 'blame' this story as a contributing factor for why I take in stay animals.