Black Storm : A Horse of the Kansas Hills by Thomas C. Hinkle ; Illustrated By J. Clinton Shepherd
New York : William Morrow & Co., 1929. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. 234 pages ; Illustrated ; 21 cm. Missing dust jacket. Raspberry color cover with black title on front and spine. Sunning to spine. A little bit of soiling to the back cover. Lean to spine. Scattered foxing to the side page edges. Foxing to half title page and rear endpaper. Pages are age toned and unmarked. Binding is firm.
BLACK STORM was a real character.
The late John Campbell, one of the most skilled horsemen of the old West, often told me the story of Black Storm when I was a youth, herding cattle in the hills near Fort Riley and Junction City, Kansas.
Joe Bain, under a different name, was also a real character more of this splendid youth later.
It will be seen that a great part of Black Storm's story is in Kansas, and it will be seen also that he traveled, after getting free from the men who stole him, far into the West. It was known by many old horsemen that he was seen at one time as far as Montana, but I have shortened his history, from several years, to the space of little more than one and a half.
Black Storm was never successfully ridden until that dramatic day when Joe Bain mounted him with fully fifty men gathered about the horse corral to watch the event. Black Storm pitched for a full half hour as I have related, for when it was seen that Joe Bain might stay on, the event was timed. That scene is set down as it actually happened and was told to me by Mr. Campbell, who saw it all.
The complete change of mind of Black Storm toward Joe Bain after that dramatic incident can be explained, I think, in only one way. I do not think it was merely because he felt he was conquered, for he threw many men after this—threw them with all his old light¬ning-like quickness, when they mounted him, as he had of old.
No, Black Storm gave in to Joe Bain with all his heart because he wanted love and kindness—he was starving for it. And for the first time in his life that day, he found a man who would not hurt him. There is no doubt but that exhaustion itself, in that hour, at last brought the horse to the full realization that Joe had not hurt him, and once this was realized, he longed with all his soul to love the youth who dismounted, holding his old red handkerchief to his own nose to stop the flow of blood.
My love for Joe Bain has made it hard for me to keep him in the background in Black Storm's story. I asked Mr. Campbell, who was one of the men who timed the pitching of Black Storm—that day with Joe Bain—how it was that Joe remained on the horse. Mr. Campbell said, "We never saw anything like it, but as near as we could tell the youth kept time with the pitching."
At the time he was, for his age, one of the most skillful, resourceful and trusted cattle foremen the old West ever knew.
I have taken only one real liberty in the story—that was the actual place where Black Storm battled with Joe Bain. It was near a town in Montana in the days when the Texas Longhorns were being driven into the Far West from Abilene, Kansas. Every incident in this story is based on a fact. Some of them I have seen myself while living with horses and dogs on the plains. For instance, I saw a horse roped, and saw him meet death by rearing and falling backward in the tragic incident I describe of the wild stallion.
The incident also is true of Black Storm being able somehow to sense the treacherous quicksand in the river. Many horses of that day learned this and one summer, while herd¬ing cattle near the sandy Republican River near Junction City, Kansas, I rode a horse on the river bed that would never step in quicksand if allowed to pick his way.
Mr. Campbell told me of many incidents in the life of Black Storm as he knew them and said that more than once some irate man, who had bought the horse only to learn he could not be tamed, wanted to kill him, but always his sheer beauty saved him.
It was known that he survived not only the savage winter in the wild, as I have described, but others also, and there were scars on his hind legs, near the hamstrings, scars that those who saw them said could have been made by nothing but gray wolves; so it is most certain he battled and won in his battling with these beasts.
Mr. Campbell, inured to the feats of horses as he and others were, marveled at the endurance of Black Storm in his amazing races across the plains, when he ran down two and even three sets of horses while men were trying to rope him—it would have been unbe¬lievable unless one had seen it with his own eyes.
The incidents at the cow town of Wichita were real, and so likewise was the prairie fire in which two men lost their lives.
I have been caught on a horse in one or two of the fearful dust storms that now and then sweep over western Kansas, and I also know what it is to be on a horse and caught in a hail storm. My description of what Black Storm did in these storms is what I have seen a horse do.
The tragedy that came to Black Storm by getting a piece of flint in his foot is also based on a fact—and I have not half described the pitiful condition to which I have seen a horse reduced by such an accident.
Some years ago I made a trip West to see an old cowman who, in his day, was a great rider and who drove one of the first herds of Texas Longhorns from Abilene, Kansas, to Wyoming. It was my extreme good fortune that as a boy, I worked for this man, herding cattle. I had seen many horses pitch, of course-but it had never occurred to me to think of the length of time even the strongest horse would pitch. This man was no moving-picture cowboy—he was one of the real ones of the old West I knew he would know about this if any man would and I asked him the length of time the strongest outlaw pitched hard and incessantly with a rider.
He said, "About ten minutes—now and then fifteen minutes, but not often, and mighty few ever went twenty minutes—but Black Storm " the old cowman mused, his eyes suddenly lighting with a far-away look—"he was a wonderful horse—we all knew him; yes, he pitched that day for the full half hour—that was a wonderful horse and a wonderful boy that rode him—we always called Joe a boy— always something so nice and quiet and kind about him. I remember that when he wanted one of the men to carry out some order, Joe would tell him so easy, always smiling. When he gave his order like that, he never had any trouble with the boys, and, young as he was, none of the older men ever had envy toward him, but were only too glad to have him for a boss." The old man paused for a moment, his eyes narrowed, looking far into the hills beyond to the West and for a moment seemed to forget my presence; then dropping his el¬bows on his knees, his head in his hands as if better to shut out all that interfered with the memory of his days in the old West, he said slowly, reminiscently, "I've known many men and many horses in my day, yet never but one Joe Bain, and never but one Black Storm."
T. C. H.
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