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Mary O'Hara

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Mary O'Hara

Postby timv » 10 May 2017, 09:06

Does anyone remember the Green Dragon edition of Mary O'Hara (US author)'s 'My Friend Flicka'/ Thunderhead' / 'Green Grass of Wyoming' trilogy from the late 1960s and early 1970s? This was on the market at the same time as the later Armada and Dragon editions of Enid's Find Outers series and various pony books, and I read this as a completely different 'take' to Enid's on both the problems of rural/ family life and pony adventures.

In this case it was a US 1940s trilogy by a writer (1895 - 1980) who had lived in the West herself. The first book, My Friend Flicka (Swedish for 'little girl'). about lonely and difficult teenager Ken McLoughlin, son of a bossy and exasperated Rocky Mountain rancher, adopting and raising a half-wild filly (young female horse), is the only well-known one from its adaptation into a 1940s film. (A contemporary of the Lassie film and arguably its horsey equivalent.) The first book was divided into two in the 1960s paperback edition and the other two divided into three each ; they were about the Mc Loughlin family raising horses on a ranch in Wyoming, complete with roaming wolves that attacked the horses, storms, and horses that were meant to be reared for a docile career for human use but often turned wild aka 'loco' due to inheriting 'bad blood' from wild ancestors that lived out in the mountains. As the ranch was short of money and needed to pay its way by selling trained horses for use, the grumpy ex-US Army father, Rob, was forever threatening to get rid of - shoot if necessary - Ken's 'useless' favourite horses, firstly Flicka and then her moody, often wild son Thunderhead. The latter, fast enough to race but unreliable, ended up being unable to be domesticated and killing the presiding stallion of a wild herd, his own grandfather, to take over the herd and live wild with Ken's support. He returned in the third book after the herd died in an epidemic, to win a race for the family and save their finances.
The spectacular mountain setting, with well-described Nature, telling part of the story from the animals' own point of view without any sentimentality (a bit like Henry Williamson's Tarka the Otter novel), and the mixture of beauty and violence made this an unusual contrast to UK nature/ farm novels, with a world I had never encountered, and was all the more fascinating for that. Like Monica Edwards it was often 'raw' and a bit brutal, with a sensitive hero attuned to Nature and animals and often hostile relatives. At the age of around 10 the adult bits about loneliness on the ranch and the failing marriage of rough and inarticulate Rob and his sensitive wife Nell (after whom Ken took) went over my head. Ditto Ken's romance with Carey at the end. But the mixture of Nature, a struggling farm business, and a dysfunctional family made this trilogy one of my favourites, and nowadays it is another of the 'classics' that seems to have sunk out of sight.
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Re: Mary O'Hara

Postby Courtenay » 10 May 2017, 09:45

Hmmm, I remember seeing the Flicka series advertised at the back of some of the many Dragon editions of Enid Blyton (mainly Find-Outers) we had when I was little — I thought it sounded interesting, but wasn't sure I liked horse stories or could relate to an American setting at all, and as I don't think I ever found any copies of those books, I never tried them. I did a few years later become a fan of Elyne Mitchell's Silver Brumby series — classic horse stories from about that same era and my own country (a brumby being the Australian equivalent of an American mustang) — so maybe I would have enjoyed Flicka after all. I must see if I can track them down one day. Thanks for the very thorough and engaging review, Timv. :D
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Re: Mary O'Hara

Postby Kate Mary » 10 May 2017, 14:55

I have the Green Dragon editions of the Flicka and Thunderhead trilogy. I bought them when they came out and still have them but I haven't read them for many years. An ingenious solution to split them into parts, they are long books and Dragon obviously wanted to publish them unabridged. Most Dragon books seemed to be 128, 144 or 160 pages so there was no way they could do them otherwise. My copies have the earlier cover design. I had four of the Silver Brumby books as well but I didn't get on with them and I gave them away.
"I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine."

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