Sunday, April 03, 2022

"The Ride of Her Life" by Elizabeth Letts

Margy (12) and Misty in 1960

Ever since I can remember I've loved horses. Mom told me about Grampa's plow horse on the Compton farm in the early 1900s.

My parents worked so Betty was my sitter. She grew up in a French chateau where they raised thoroughbreds. She told me stories about life before WWII and gave me jodhpurs she brought when she came to America.


Margy (15), Dad, Misty and baby Burke in 1963
Dad took me riding at a Los Angeles River stable. "My horse" was always Flash. I remember a movie with my little legs barely reaching over Flash's back.

I begged for a horse. My parents relented by junior high and Misty came into my life. By then the river was a cement channel, but I didn't care. My dream had come true.

This brings me to this month's review. As a kid, I read every horse book in the library. I still enjoy reading them.  I recently discovered The Ride of Her Life, the biography of Annie Wilkins by Elizabeth Letts.

Elizabeth Letts grew up in Southern California, like I did. She began riding at a young age, like I did. But she went the English route while I was a Western rider. Her love of horses has led her to write several well researched books.

The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse and their Last-Chance Journey Across America (Ballantine Books, 2021) is the factual account of the nearly two year journey of 63-year old Annie Wilkins, her horse Tarzan and dog Depeche Toi across America in the early 1950s.

Research included interviews, letters written by Annie to friends she made along the way, newspaper articles and television coverage.

Annie, affectionately called Widow Wilkins, grew up poor on a homestead near Minot, Maine. In her sixties, she had little savings and owed back taxes on the farm. After a hospital stay for severe pneumonia, the prognosis was only a few more years to live. Rather than giving in, she got to work and prepared for the journey of her life to see the Pacific Ocean. 

Credit: The Ride of Her Life page 278

As Annie travels, the author tells the story of America in the early 1950s. It was a time when towns were growing into cities, and roads were becoming highways. The emergence of television helped to broadcast Annie's story and built interest in her adventure.

Annie, Tarzan and Depeche Toi were successful in their quest thanks to many individuals and towns who offered lodging, meals and encouragement along the way. Arriving in Hollywood she was invited to appear on Art Linkletter's "People are Funny" TV show.

I highly recommend The Ride of Her Life to anyone who loves reading about horses, strong women, adventure and historical times. It's available in print, ebook and audio versions at Amazon and many other online booksellers.

The new Misty, Margy, Wayne and Daddy in Pomona in 1985

Before I say goodbye, here are my last two horses. During college there wasn't enough time for riding. That and my teaching career created a twenty year gap until a new Misty came into my life. (Can you guess my favourite childhood horse book?) Wayne surprised me one Christmas morning when we lived in Pomona, a childhood dream come true. And Dad was still with us to share my excitement.

Cowboy, my last horse in Pomona before moving to Powell River

After Misty came the last horse in my life, Cowboy Bich. Life moves on, but my love of horses never will. -- Margy


Visit the monthly Book Review Club for teen/young adult and adult fiction over at Barrie Summy's blog.

Also shared with Your the Star at Stone Cottage Adventures.


Thanks for visiting my post this week. I'm linking up with Saturday's Critters. Check them out for more great animal pictures.

30 comments:

  1. Love the beautiful black and white photographs. I think I knew I'd never be able to have horses so I didn't get into them the way some of my friends did. However, I've always liked them and I remember reading National Velvet and enjoying it.

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    1. Photography has sure changed in my lifetime. My first camera was a Kodak Brownie. - Margy

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  2. Hello, Margy,
    I like the photos of you and your horse. I have never heard of this book, I will check it out. Misty of Chincoteague was my favorite childhood book. Thanks for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, enjoy your day and new week ahead. PS, thank for leaving me a comment.

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    1. As you can tell Misty was my favourite book as well. I think there were more children's horse books when I was little than there are now. - Margy

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  3. What a nice picture of the horse with you in the saddle.
    Greetings Irma

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    1. I haven’t ridden since I sold Cowboy in 2005. I’ll always love horses but my riding days are over. - Margy

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  4. Beautiful photos and the book sounds interesting.

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    1. She was amazing and so brave. - Margy

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  5. What a lovely way to spend your childhood ~ on a horse ~ sweet photos too ~ Book sounds good too.


    Wishing you love and laughter in your days,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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    1. It was a great way to grow up, especially in the big city area of Los Angeles. - Margy

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  6. Lovely photos of the Horses, and you Margy.

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  7. Your childhood experiences are great. I like these photos and those are truly precious moments. Misty and Cowboy, both look great.
    And, this book sounds interesting too..

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    1. I wish I had more pictures of those early years, but the few I do have are precious. - Margy

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  8. Lovely photos of you and your horse. A great way to spend your childhood and adult life.

    -Soma

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    1. I was so lucky to have a non-horsey husband buy me one as a Christmas surprise. - Margy

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  9. I love how your review combines your personal story and the author's. What an adventure, especially as a woman in the 50s! I also grew up reading those Misty books and loving horses. I never had one since I lived in NYC. I rode when I lived in England was hoping to take up riding again in Maine, but back pain makes that impossible.

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    1. I like to read books that have a connection with my life and it’s fun to share that with others. - Margy

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  10. I loved horse books, too, as a child, esp. the Black Stallion series, but we could never afford a horse. Wilkins's story sounds very interesting. Tweeted your review.

    Linda McLaughlin

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    1. Thanks for spreading the word. - Margy

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  11. What an amazing trek!

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    1. It sure was. Times were different then, but cities were growing and blocking horseback travel even then. I remember riding my horse into the small town of Waterford, California, as a teen to go “cruising.” - Margy

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  12. I loved horses growing up too. When my parents divorced my father bought one for me as a bribe. It's been so long since I've been around horses and your review - and your pictures - makes me want to get back into that. Thanks for reviewing.

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    1. You could have bribed me with a horse for sure. - Margy

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  13. Horses are so beautiful! I liked Misty of Chincoteague too. I’ve been to that island and I saw one of her descendants.

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    1. I would love to visit there, especially when they swim them across for the auction if they still do that. - Margy

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  14. Margy - what a wonderful, heartfelt post. I know several women who would truly enjoy this book. Thanks for the review, and have a good weekend!

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    1. Check out the other review about a Canadian women who did something similar. - Margy

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  15. Margy this was so much fun to read. I loved the review and the way you interspersed your personal story and love of horses (and pictures). Great post. I'm not a horse person but I am a traveler and a lover of travel stories (and strong women of course!) so I'm heading to Kindle store to put the book on my TBR list!

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    1. I was lucky and found the Kindle version on sale. I think you can put Kindle books on a wish list but I don’t know if you can get a notice if it goes on sale. - Margy

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We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy