ears ago, the popular genre for entertainment was the cowboy movie. Every weekend, kids would line up at the Bijou, coins in hand, to buy tickets and popcorn and regale in the adventures of Tom Mix, John Wayne and Randolph Scott. Television saw its fair share of westerns: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Davy Crockett, among others. In a less politically correct age, children would wile away the hours playing cowboys and Indians. Horse Sense recalls "those thrilling days of yesteryear," as The Lone Ranger would say in its introduction. Written by Jan Neubert Schultz, the story is based on one of the author's ancestors, whose horse was actually stolen by the James-Younger gang after the famous Northfield Bank holdup in Minnesota. The young fictional hero of Horse Sense, teenaged Will Sasse, wants to get into the horse-breeding business. This attempt at independence does not sit well with his father. The young man's struggle for mutual respect and independence is one that the target readers (ages 10-14) will relate to. Young Will accompanies his father to a horse auction, where the boy meets some cowboys who appreciate his "horse sense" and whom, in turn, he admires. The ensuing conversation leads to a meal at the Sasse farm and more conversation about the town including the security of the bank.
Little does Will realize that his guests are members of the infamous James-Younger gang, including brothers Jesse and Frank. Yet at the time of the meal, their manners are impeccable; not only do they pay for their supper, but they allow their own horse to provide a stud service for Star, a practice that was usually expensive for horse farmers. Sure as shooting, the gang sticks up the bank in what may be an overly graphic depiction for the young reader, given the present climate of gun violence in schools. (Still, this was a reality of that time period.) In their escape, the outlaws steal Will's beloved horse, Star, leaving the aforementioned stud horse, worn out and injured, in her place. In an attempt to get his mare back, young Will joins the posse that hunts for the outlaws. It is a long, cold and lonely business, but Will feels, and his father reluctantly agrees, that it's his duty. The adventures he encounters on the way will prove riveting, as he struggles to decide how far he will go to capture the bandits and reclaim his property.