Rereading: RED HORSE HILL by Stephen W. Meader

Illustrated by Lee Townsend

Meader wrote a long list of novels for children, many with historical settings, but also books like this that are more about character and setting than history. This was his fourth book published in 1930.

Bud Martin is living alone by his wits on the streets of Boston. His father had been a driver of a team of draft horses before he died, and Bud still has friends at Bull’s Head Stable where his father worked, but when he gets in trouble with the owner, Bud and his dog Tug hide on a freight train and set out into the country to see if they can find the New Hampshire home his mother talked about before she died. They land in Riverdale, a town name he vaguely recalls, but find more trouble there when Tug gets in a fight with a wealthy man’s dog. A farmer, John Mason, witnessed the fight, and defends the boy and his dog, taking them home with him. Before long Bud learns he’s related to John’s wife Sarah, and soon he’s found a new home at their farm, where his eagerness to help with chores and love of the animals, especially their elderly mare Betsy, make him welcome. When Betsy has a foal colt with a brick red coat, Bud names him Cedar, and they grow up on the farm together.

Harness racing is the sport of this time and place, and Bud is soon drawn into that world as well, enjoying the annual races in town, with an idea that Cedar might someday be part of them. Meanwhile, he makes a local friend, and their explorations take them to the abandoned homestead where Bud’s family once lived. There they find an unkempt and starving boy hiding, and soon they’re involved in another side of life in the country, one of human cruelty and stolen horses. When Cedar is stolen, Bud is determined to catch the thief and get his horse back, but how can he do it?

An exciting story with lots of plot but also fine characters. Recommended.

Red Horse Hill by Stephen W Meader

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