Summer in the Sierra Nevada can be hot at midday especially in open space not covered by pine and fir forest. At night cold settles in. By 1909 the high Sierra town of Truckee was a town where all the trees had been cleared to provide lumber for railroad tracks, houses, and mines.
In the novel on a hot summer day, the four Edwards youngsters gain a horse after examining the first car bought by the town’s saloon keeper. Summer luck! Witnesses to an argument, they are offered an old horse in exchange for…what?
“Frowning again for a moment, he [Mr. Faye] said, ‘Listen, since you all’re too young to have a car, how’d you Edwards children like to have a horse? I don’t need old Molly anymore, and she’s not worth enough for me to sell. She’s out there in the field below McGlashan’s house. If your mother says yes, and if you can catch Molly, you can keep her.’….
“They raced to get the bridle from the saloon shed and took off up Front Street toward Church Street and their house. The late summer sun was shining straight down. Dust from the road kicked up and settled on the hairs on their arms. Sweat glistened at each child’s hairline. Raleigh, robust but small, lagged behind, and the three girls stopped to let him catch up. All had opinions about their good fortune, and because Mama had always insisted each child be allowed to put in his or her two cents, Alta began.
“Flicking away a fly that had settled onto the sweat inside her elbow, she said, ‘Mr. Faye’s letting us have that horse so we won’t tell everyone about the fight he was having.’
“Raleigh straggled up. He bent over, putting his hands on his knees to catch his breath. Dust turned to muddy lines and streaked his sweaty neck.
“ ‘And Raleigh, don’t think you’re going to be first to ride all the time. I’m the oldest, and I’ll decide,’ added Alta.
“ ‘I hope Mama lets us keep Molly,’ said Tiny. ‘I don’t care if Mr. Faye’s getting us not to tell. When I get bigger, no one’s going to boss me around either.’
“Mary said, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to buy my own car. Then no one can tell me what to do with it.’
“Straightening himself up, Raleigh said, ‘Go on. That’s fine.’….
“Mary lifted her arms, placed her hands under the long, blond hair framing
her plain face, and flipped it away from her neck to cool off. ….
“Catching Molly was no trick at all, thought Mary. Tiny went first, and they took turns riding on her back with no blanket or saddle all afternoon in Mr. McGlashan’s field. Molly was really a wagon horse for the shay the Faye family used, but she didn’t seem to mind when Mary climbed onto her broad, brown back and clutched Molly’s sides with her knees. Mary leaned forward and held onto Molly’s dark mane and the rope attached to the bridle. Molly walked around the fenced-in field time after time. While Mary gave her a piece of apple, Molly would look at her, an all-knowing kind of peace in her eyes. At least, that’s how she remembered the horse, and she was the one who thought she loved Molly best of all.” -original post 6-2013