The author, Ralph Moody, writes about his childhood beginning with his family's move to a Colorado ranch in 1906, when he was eight years old. I read a review on the back cover which summed it up for me:
"This is a gallant book--from the first sentence until the last. It is a true story, written in the first person, written without sentimentality but with extraordinary drama." ~Christian Science Monitor
When I first read the above quote I wondered what 'without sentimentality' meant, but I understood by the second or third chapter. Moody writes so matter-of-factly without much emotion. It exudes a young boy's point of view. The author must have had a vivid memory to be able to channel his boyhood in that way.
Ralph Moody, or Little Britches, is an extraordinary boy. Full of spirit, adventure, and curiosity, he gets into more dangerous scrapes than a lion tamer. Brought up with a tremendous work ethic, he contributes to his family's livelihood with hours and hours of hard work.
I loved that his mother had books and poetry and Shakespeare memorized that she would recite to the children during their Sunday picnics. I loved the freedom and responsibility that Little Britches was given by his parents. I loved the relationship between his mother and father. I loved.... well, everything.
His relationship with his father is extraordinarily beautiful. The mutual respect, intelligence, honesty, and character speak loud and strong. His father is quiet and unassuming, but when he talks, Little Britches listens. Somehow, the author brought the messages of his father to life without coming across as preachy, and the book has a strong moral foundation without a religious theme.
I've added the second book in the series, Man of the Family, to our reading list for this next year. I can't wait to begin!
Although the adventures and misadventures make up most of the book, I'll leave you with a few of the lessons Little Britches learned from his father:
"There are only two kinds of men in this world: Honest men and dishonest men. There are black men and white men and yellow men and red men, but nothing counts except whether they're honest men or dishonest men.
"Some men work almost entirely with their brains; some almost entirely with their hands; though most of us have to use both. But we all fall into one of the two classes--honest and dishonest.
"Any man who says the world owes him a living is dishonest. The same God that made you and me made this earth. And He planned it so that it would yield every single thing that the people on it need. But He was careful to plan it so that it would only yield up its wealth for the labor of man. Any man who tries to share in that wealth without contributing the work of his brain or his hands is dishonest."
...I wish I knew how Father was able to say things so as to make you remember every word of it. If I could remember everything the way I remember the things Father told me, maybe I could be as smart a man as he was.
"You know, a man's life is a lot like a boat. If he keeps his sail set right it doesn't make too much difference which way the wind blows or which way the current flows. If he knows where he wants to go and keeps his sail trimmed carefully he'll come into the right port. But if he forgets to watch his sail till the current catches him broadside he's pretty apt to smash up on the rocks. " After a little while he said, "I have an idea you'll find that the current's a bit strong up at the mountain ranch."
"You know, Son, sometimes a fellow has to take a licking for doing the right thing. A licking only lasts a short while, even if it's a hard one, but failing to do the right thing will often make a mark on a man that will last forever."