Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Saddle Club #6: Dude Ranch

By Bonnie Bryant. Published 1989.

The girls of the Saddle Club are on their way to Kate Devine’s family’s dude ranch. They meet a somewhat annoying guy on the plane, who calls them dudes disparagingly. It turns out, his name is Eli, and he’s one of the ranch hands.

The girls ride Western for the first time, but finds out horses are horses, no matter what, and they don’t have a difficult time with it. Stevie actually impresses Eli with her mad riding skills and hard work helping out. He shares a secret with her, a litter of puppies in the basement of the barn. Who knew barns had basements?

One day on a trip into town, the girls have ice cream and watch a bank robbery reenactment. It sounds like a real tourist trap of a town. Stevie meets a dog, but he leaves at the sound of a whistle.

Stevie wakes up early one morning after hearing that same whistle. She looks outside, and sees a dog and someone riding a horse bareback. She decides it must be an Indian. She watches the same thing the next morning, and on the third morning, she gets the other girls up to watch. While waiting, they come up with reasons for the Indian’s early morning ride, like guarding an Indian burial ground or something.

The dog senses the girls, and runs up to them. It is the dog from town. When his owner comes up, it is an Indian, but, surprise surprise, it’s a girl. Her name is Christine Longtree, the dog is named Tomahawk, and the horse is Arrow. Despite these stereotypical names, Christine is not amused by the stereotypical questions the girls ask, and she leaves in a bit of a huff.

The girls get to go on a cattle roundup, and learn a bunch of the tricks of the trade. Stevie sees a separated calf in a bush, and goes to bring it back. But as she’s dismounting, a rattlesnake rattles, and her horse takes off, throwing Stevie. The calf gets out of the bush and runs away, too. Stevie is left on the ground, in a staring contest with the snake. Holy shit, that freaks me out.

But then, Tomahawk comes out of nowhere, and gets between the snake and Stevie, and distracts it. Christine arrives, and tells Stevie to back up. Stevie gets away fine, but then the snake strikes, bites Tomahawk on the nose, and the dog motherfucking dies! What? I can’t even handle this.

Fortunately, Christine does not blame Stevie. In fact, she’s thankful for holding Tomahawk while he was dying. I don’t know why she didn’t get off her horse herself, but whatever. Eli has a shovel, so the girls all bury Tomahawk by a creek. They get to know Christine better, and end up becoming friends.

Christine even invites the girls to go with her for her early morning ride. The only caveat is, they have to ride bareback, too. Fortunately, Max has taught them how to do this. It’s not a comfortable ride, but it’s a good one. Christine takes them to a place to watch the sunrise, and then on her house, where her mother cooks them breakfast.

All week, Stevie’s been in a bit of a mood, because nobody seems to care that her birthday occurs on the trip. Of course, her friends actually care a lot, and have been planning and getting ready all week with Kate’s mom. They’ve been sending Stevie on silly errands while they work on decorations and the cake.

On her birthday, Lisa and Carole take her on a circuitous route to what Stevie thinks is just a picnic of PB&J sandwiches with Kate and her mother. But when they finally get to the meeting spot, it’s a huge surprise party with everyone from the ranch, plus Christine. There’s barbeque, using a recipe for ribs from Stevie’s mom that she makes every year for her birthday. And of course there are all sorts of presents.

When they’re back at the ranch, Stevie, with Eli’s blessing, goes and gets one of the puppies, and brings him to show the other girls. And then Christine comes in, and starts playing with him. Stevie tells her she can have him, but not to replace Tomahawk, of course.

The girls have to leave the next day, but they know they’ll be back another time.

o   There is a lot of food in this book. They have steak and eggs every morning, except when they’re at the Longtree's, and have pancakes with honey.

o   I like that Eli is a cute, older boy, but none of the girls develop a crush on him. It makes for a nice change.

o   The girls ask Kate to officially become part of the Saddle Club. She accepts, and she gets a horse pin like theirs. After they leave, they decide they should ask Christine to join as well.

o   I’m kind of surprised there are no animal rights issues in this. I would think someone would have an issue with branding the calves, or what the cows are being raised for. You know Dawn would have a conniption fit.

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