While in elementary school I became a voracious reader. I remember bringing home piles of books (almost all about animals) and reading them over and over again. Because of this my reading level advanced by years and I was soon reading books that were meant for much older students and even adults.
Blanca and Lobo
The other night I started thinking about one book in particular I read while still in elementary school. It had a grey fabric cover with the title embossed on the front cover along with a trail of paw prints along the left side and a wolf's head on the spine. I was actually probably too young for this book when I read it. The story that resonated with me most was about hate, despair, love and the death of a pair of wolves hunted by local ranchers and bounty hunters. The wolf's mate Blanca was ultimately killed in a brutal fashion. Soon after, Lobo is also captured, because of his devotion to Blanca, and dies in captivity of a broken heart.
Um, probably not really appropriate for fourth grade reading but I doubt my parents even realized I'd read it. Inexplicably this book disappeared from our family bookshelf by the time I'd reached the sixth grade, never to be seen again.
Realizing I could stumble upon a used copy, whenever I've walked into shops with old books I've always looked for it, quickly scanning for that grey cover with a wolf stamped along the spine. I had no idea what the book was called or who the author was.
The other night it occurred to me that Google might hold the answer to the question I'd been carrying around most of my life: Who wrote that book? I Googled Lobo+Blanca+Wolf Story and there it was. . .
Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton
It was exactly as I'd remembered it. I also found this video, Lobo - The Wolf that changed America. I watched it and learned, to my shock, that "Lobo the King of Currumpaw" was not a complete story of fiction. Seton was an actual wolf bounty hunter who, in 1893, was hired to come out west and kill Lobo. The longer it took, the greater appreciation Seton developed for the wolves when he realized that the reason they were hunting the racher's livestock was because humans had needlessly decimated the great herds of buffalo. The wolves had no choice but to hunt the rancher's herds which were easy prey compared to wild buffalo.
The transformation of Seton's own views about Lobo and his realization that the settlers created the "wolf problem" show that he wasn't a man with a closed mind. He allowed himself to learn to respect and care about the very wolves he had been sent to kill.
According to the video, Seton wrote that he regretted the deaths of Blanca and Lobo. After Lobo died in captivity the night he was captured, Seton never killed another wolf. In fact, the collection of stories he wrote "Wild Animals I Have Known" which included the story I remembered "Lobo the King of Currumpaw" became a foundation stone in our nation's conservation movement. From hunter to naturalist to environmentalist, Seton spent the rest of his life protecting the wilderness and wildlife through legislation and educating the public that as stewards of the land we had claimed, we didn't have to kill everything. He felt it was our responsibility to protect and co-exist with the wildlife around us. He is also credited with founding the Boy Scouts of America.
This is a photo (from the video) Seton took of Lobo with his legs caught in his traps.
Fortunately, it didn't take being a regretful wolf hunter to teach me empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another). Simply reading about one did. "Lobo the King of Currumpaw" made me want to treat animals with the utmost respect and kindness because in my, impressionable, eyes their ability to feel pain, both emotional and physical, was equal to my own.
This got me to wondering. . . Can reading at a young age be formative in what personality traits a child develops? For instance: If I hadn't read as a child would I still be who I am today? Or would I be different? Are personality traits innate or learned?
This whole exercise made me reach waaaaaaaaaaay back for long forgotten memories. What books did I read that I now feel shaped my character? What books, along with my parents, taught me respect, compassion, honor, courage, personal responsibility and empathy? Below are the titles I could recall. I've placed an * next to my favorites. I'm tempted to read all of them again as they were great stories that I'm sure I'd enjoy just as much today as I did many years ago.
* Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
* Broomtail - Miriam E. Mason
Flip - Wesley Dennis
* Indian Paint - Glenn Balch
My Friend Flicka - Mary O'Hara
National Velvet - Bagnold, Enid
The Red Pony - John Steinbeck
Album of Horses- Marguerite Henry
Black Gold- Marguerite Henry
Born to Trot- Marguerite Henry
* Brighty Of The Grand Canyon- Marguerite Henry
Cinnabar, the One O'Clock Fox- Marguerite Henry
Five O'Clock Charlie- Marguerite Henry
Justin Morgan Had a Horse- Marguerite Henry
* King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian- Marguerite Henry
* Misty of Chincoteague - Marguerite Henry
• Mustang: Wild Spirit Of The West- Marguerite Henry
Stormy, Misty's Foal- Marguerite Henry
The Little Fellow- Marguerite Henry
The Sultan's Gift - Marguerite Henry, Joan Kane Nichols
* The Black Stallion - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion Returns - Walter Farley
Son of the Black Stallion - Walter Farley
The Island Stallion - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion and Satan - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion's Blood Bay Colt - Walter Farley
The Island Stallion's Fury - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion's Filly - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion Revolts - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion's Sulky Colt - Walter Farley
The Island Stallion Races - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion's Courage - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion Mystery - Walter Farley
The Horse-Tamer - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion and Flame - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion Challenged - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion's Ghost - Walter Farley
Algonquin - Dion Henderson
* Big Red - Jim Kjelgaard
Bruce - Albert Payson Terhune
* Call of the Wild (Get the free eBook) - Jack London
Gabriel - Jean Slaughter Doty
Grey Dawn - Albert Payson Terhune
• Irish Red - Jim Kjelgaard
* Kävik the Wolf Dog - Walt Morey
* Lad: A Dog - Albert Payson Terhune
* Lad of Sunnybank - Albert Payson Terhune
Lochinvar Luck - Albert Payson Terhune
Old Yeller - Fred Gipson
Outlaw Red - Jim Kjelgaard
Sounder - William H. Armstrong
* Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls
* White Fang (Get the free eBook) - Jack London
* All Creatures Great and Small - James Herriot
* All Things Bright and Beautiful - James Herriot
* All Things Wise and Wonderful - James Herriot
Charlotte's Web - E. B. White
Jonathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach
Stuart Little - E.B. White
* The Lord God Made Them All - James Herriot
The Trumpet of the Swan - E. B. White
* Watership Down - Richard Adams
* Wild Animals I Have Known (Get the free eBook) - Ernest Thompson Seton