Another nice animal story, the kind that would have really appealed to me in as a kid (and I’m glad can still appreciate now). Wild horses are being round up by helicopter in a canyon area of Wyoming. A boy of the Arapahoe tribe who lives nearby with his family, watches from hiding and is appalled at how relentlessly the helicopter chases the terrified horses, many which fall aside broken-winded or collapse from exhaustion. It turns out the helicopter pilot chased the horses at the wrong moment, and people on the ground aren’t there to help corrall the horses (wayyy pre-cell-phone era!) so the boy subtly helps them escape the canyon. He finds a colt lying on the ground, its mother nearby dead. He takes the colt home and tries to raise it, names it Wildwing.
Things go well for a while but then Wildwing becomes listless and unwell. Going back to the wild herd, the boy finds a mare that has recently lost a foal, and manages to get the two to accept each other. He is broken-hearted at leaving his colt with the wild mare, but knows it has the best chance of recovery that way. Through the weeks and months that follow, he often goes into the brush canyons to re-encounter Wildwing and his adopted mother. The colt still recognizes him and being calm, encourages the mare to accept the boy’s presence too. Back home, the boy’s family has difficulties because the father traded their pinto horse for an unreliable car, and they move residences with the change of seasons each year so need good transportation.
While the parents are absent (father off doing who knows what- he seemed unreliable- and mother gone into town to sell some beadwork she made), the boy and his twin sister coax Wildwing and the mare to the house, hoping to tame the mare and have two horses for the family. They run into problems trying to feed the horses (no good grazing nearby) but then an accident on an adjacent road provides them with a windfall of hay and oats (long story short, a truck hauling it crashes, and the men don’t want to bother climbing down into the canyon gorge to retrieve the spilled load). The ending was kind of ambiguous- the family is making progress taming the mare, but then there’s a vague description of a wild buckskin stallion in the future- suggesting that Wildwing was eventually living free? or maybe just that his spirit always was free, I don’t know. It was nice, though.
I liked how the horses were described- their actions felt very real, down to the little things like body language gestures. The people were all interesting- the boy and his sister described as level-headed and relatively calm, with a serene mother and rather irresponsible father. There’s a grandfather in the story too, who refuses to learn or use any English. The others speak a mixture of English and their native language, they switch depending on the situation. The only characters who felt comical were the white men, portrayed as rather foolish and inept, and full of misconceptions about the Arapahoe- which the boy pointed out to them at one point. It felt very well-rounded.