Anacondas & Oracles

“Where in the world is Anaconda, Montana?” Mom asks me, peering over her reading glasses.

Do I look like an oracle?

“Wait…” She starts tapping away on the hand-held shiny thingy. Mumbles something about “Googling.”

“Looks like it’s in southwest Montana. Kind of near Butte.”

I have no clue what that means. Do you? Well, Mom’s smiling. She must be pleased with herself. So I’m pleased, too. Can you see my tail wagging?

“What’s up with Anaconda and Montana?” you ask. Well, ya, see, Mom just finished a book she’s been looking to re-read for a long, long time. Not a single library in our entire state carried it. She had to order it through Inter-Library Loan.  I don’t what that means. Sounds like a hassle.

Anyway, her long-looked-for book finally showed up. From one of those book places in Anaconda, Montana. I still don’t know what that means. But Mom finished all 247 pages of that book in one day. So it must’ve been good.

What was it? Oh. You mean the title? Spencer’s Mountain. Published in 1961. By Earl Hamner, Jr. You know, The Waltons guy. Only in this book, it’s not Walton’s Mountain. It’s Spencer’s Mountain. The family patriarch is Clay Spencer. His oldest son is Clay-Boy. Not John. And not John Boy.

But Mom really loves this story about a large family growing up poor in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. They made a movie out of it in 1963. With somebody called Henry Fonda as Clay Spencer. And another someone called Maureen O’Hara as Olivia Spencer, the mom. Some guy name “James MacArthur” plays Clay Boy.

“The movie closely parallels the book,” observes Mom. Even including the Rockfish River, Hickory Creek, and Charlottesville. Of course, the names of all the children are different than in the TV Waltons. But that’s another story.

Speaking of stories, have you ordered your copy of Mom’s latest book? It’s a little bit like this Spencer thing: The Small Things: What ‘The Waltons’ Taught Me About Writing & More.

Find out more at Shushes, Small Things & Plain Vanilla.

Arf! Arf!

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A ‘Champion for the Ages’

Reposting from 2018 in honor of Derby Day and the 145th Run for the Roses!

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“Inevitable.” Isn’t that a great word? Learned it from Mom the other day. As in, the 144st annual Run for the Roses is coming up on May 5. So debates about who was the Greatest Thoroughbred of All Time are… inevitable.

Or so I’m told.

A few other things I learned:

The “Run for the Roses” is also known as The Kentucky Derby. The Derby is always run on the first Saturday in May. It’s the first jewel in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Why do I care about Thoroughbred racing? Well, I don’t. Not really. But Mom does!

She’s been reading a Walter Farley book about one of the greatest champions to ever set hooves on a race track: Man O’War. Along with legendary Triple Crown winner Secretariat, Man O’War is a top contender for Greatest Thoroughbred of All Time honors.

Back to the Farley book.

Man O’War’s remarkable life unfolds through the eyes of fictional stable boy Danny Ryan. Mom says the story is nearly as powerful and compelling as the great Thoroughbred himself. I’m not sure what the means. But it sounds good.

Here’s Mom’s review of Farley’s Man O’ War.

So when Kentucky Derby time rolls around each May, the comparisons between Man O’ War and another great champion, Triple Crown Winner (1973) Secretariat, are inevitable. At least according to Mom. Which horse gets the nod for Horse of the Century? Depends on who you ask. And what day it is.

Both possessed blinding speed. Both ran challengers off their feet. Both broke records. Both have great stories.

So whether your vote for The Greatest goes to Secretariat or Man O-War, a few things are for sure:

1) May is the perfect month for awesome horse stories!

2) Any story by Walter Farley is a great story. Inevitably.

3) Churchill Downs promises another great Run for the Roses this Saturday. (“Run for the noses”? I always kinda thought that was when Mom calls me in for dinner. But I may be wrong about that.)

4) One of the finest athletes to ever set hooves on a race track, Man O’War remains a Champion for the Ages. Just like Walter Farley.

Is it dinner time yet?

Update – May 5: Congratulations to the 2018 Kentucky Derby winner, Justify!