A book set in Mexico.
I'm guessing I bought Silver Saddles when I was in fifth grade, maybe fourth, so in the late 1950s. It's a horse story, you know, so that was right there enough to attract me. But this book had something extra that made it stick in my mind from then right through another almost 60 years: It's set in Mexico and there's a whole lot of Spanish in it.
I lost my original copy years and years ago but it was one of those things that I just had to replace. A few years ago I found a copy on Amazon and added it to the collection, but I didn't read it right away. Las Posadas seemed a good reason to spend an afternoon getting reacquainted with an old friend.
Flint Ryder's dad has been given a palomino quarter horse stallion, Cimarron, and the horse needs to be brought from Torreon, Mexico to the Ryder ranch 300 miles away. Fifteen-year-old Flint beats out his brother Bill for the job of picking up the horse, then riding him overland back to the ranch. It's a week-long adventure filled with danger and excitement, including murderous bandits and a rattlesnake and a rodeo.
Whether such a story was plausible when it was written in 1943, I don't know. It seems pretty far-fetched today that a teenager not yet old enough to drive would be sent out with a machete and a rifle to deliver a highly valuable horse, but it was a fun read when I wasn't old enough to think about plausibility. Now it's kind of eye-rolling.
So was the racism. It's a patronizing, colonial, kind racism, but racism all the same. There's little doubt that blond, blue-eyed Flint will outsmart and outfight and outride any Mexican because, well, because. I didn't see it that way as a kid, but well, we live and learn. I doubt Silver Saddles would make it onto any current recommended reading list without plenty of disclaimers!