Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wild Horse Annie and The Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston -

Wild Horse Annie and The Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston 
David Cruise and Alison Griffiths
Copyright: 2010

The product description:
In 1950, Velma Johnston was a secretary at an insurance company in Reno, Nevada. Twenty years later, she had become a national hero, responsible for spurring Congress into passing legislation that protected wild horses, a feat that cemented her renown as "Wild Horse Annie." This stirring biography is the first to tell the story of Johnston's life and her extraordinary dedication to the mustangs that represent the spirit of the West.
Veteran writers David Cruise and Alison Griffiths paint a vivid portrait of this intrepid woman, who survived a cruelly disfiguring bout with polio as a child and channeled her energy and intellect into her career and marriage -- until she encountered a truck of injured, half-dead horses on her way to work in 1950. Those horses, destined for a pet food rendering plant, launched Johnston into a decades-long campaign against ranchers and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to stop the roundup and slaughter of mustangs. At a time when animal rights was barely a cause and women were still expected to stay at home, Johnston embarked on dangerous vigilante missions to free captured horses and document roundups, and began a highly organized one-woman campaign to raise public awareness of their plight, all while continuing to work and maintain a household.
Johnston's courage, determination, and innovative tactics -- she initiated a children's letter-writing campaign that flooded Congress with more mail than it had received on any issue except the Vietnam War -- pitted her against ranchers and powerful politicians, but eventually won her support and admiration around the world, including the friendship of celebrated children's author Marguerite Henry, who fictionalized her story in a children's novel.
In this absorbing and carefully researched biography, Cruise and Griffiths depict the ups and downs of a remarkable woman's life and mission, reveal her lasting legacy, and capture the romance and magic of the wild horses that inspired her. 
As a kid I'd read the Marguerite Henry version of this story: Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West several times. As a result, I picked up this book as soon as I saw it. I thought it was pretty good, and Wild Horse Annie is definitely thought provoking. I'm still not sure if Velma Johnston is a person I'd like, but I definitely admire her determination.

Don't think that you know the whole story just because you've read the aforementioned book by Marguerite Henry. I was surprised by just how much of the story she'd changed for the book she wrote. The basic facts are the same, but she completely changed a lot of the background information, as well as some of the events.

Wild Horse Annie is both an exciting and an ambiguous read. Exciting because there's a definite feeling of danger in some of what Velma is doing to publicize what was happening to the mustangs, and in the way she's chosen to break laws, but also ambiguous because by the end of the book it's still not clear just how well she's succeeded in her quest, even today.

A good read, especially if you like horses, but, honestly, this wasn't my favorite biography read. I'll still recommend it though, as the book is thought provoking to say the least.

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