This is a short book, but it took me a while to return to the book after I finished the first story and basically today I just powered through it. There are four short stories within this book, and none of them work off the others, but they use the same people in all stories.
The Gift - young boy (Jody) receives his first horse, a red pony. Boy takes to the horse immediately, and pony is equally enthralled with his new owner. Pony dies from what was essentially equine flu. Boy loses his trust in any of the adults on the ranch for not helping him save his pony from dying.
The Great Mountains - an old man who was born and raised on a piece of land that is now Jody's parents ranch comes back so he can die in the same area he was born in. Old man steals the ranch's oldest horse who is also dying. They ride off into the mountains.
The Promise - Jody sees how horses mate/breed and almost gets killed for being too close to the action. Jody's mare gets pregnant but problems with the delivery caused her death in order for the foal to live.
The Leader of the People - Jody's maternal grandfather visits the ranch. The two of them bond over lemonade and grandpa's old stories about leading a wagon train west across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains to California.
Steinbeck's writing, when it came to invoking a specific time and place, was beautiful. His characters in this sucked. The adults are dysfunctional, which leaves the reader sympathizing with Jody for being stuck on that ranch with these idiots. There wasn't much meat in these stories, and many of the scenes were gruesome (buzzards poking at the dead pony's eyes, details about an equine C-section performed). 2 stars for the writing of a time and place.