Loving an Animal at First Sight

 In these exercises the student is asked to vizualize a situation and then write what might happen next. I include a sample from one of my novels that speaks to the same situation. For reluctant writers, it’s possible to read my sample first and ask the student to continue the adventure or to come up with an alternative outcome. In any case, the point is to get imagination juices flowing and to jump start storytelling skills even if they’re verbal rather than written.


The scene:

Have you ever seen a dog or cat or horse for the first time and immediately felt like you knew them and wanted them to be part of your life? Here’s a scene from Wa-Tonka, camp cowboys where Nick first meets the horses the campers will be riding all summer. There is also a picture of the actual horse, Prince, that he immediately picks out as his favorite.

 After lunch, while Rob and Nick chalked the foul lines of the baseball field, a stake truck drove into camp. The heads of four horses swayed over the sides of what looked like a fence. Nick caught glimpses of tan, brown, and pinto between the slats. “Looks like he brought the best of the bunch in the first load,” Rob remarked.

The first horse down the ramp was a buckskin with black mane, tail, and stockings. She resembled a greyhound with her slender legs, curled-under hind quarters and delicate, tapered muzzle.

“He looks fast,” Nick said.

“That’s Tara,” Rob said “and she’s a mare.”

“How do you tell?” Nick asked.

“All these horses are either mares or geldings. The geldings are males that have been castrated. If they were left to be stallions, they would be too wild and dangerous around kids.”

“Yeah, but,” he was still confused, “how do you tell?”

“You know what male dogs look like, right? Well horses are the same, only bigger. A lot bigger. Wait till you see a gelding take a leak. It looks like half a fire hose fell out of his belly.”

“Really?” Nick tried to imagine. Meanwhile, Tara galloped for a short stretch. “She’s fast.”

“Nah, she’s okay but she’s not as fast as Jamal or Prince. What she really is, is easy to ride. She has the sweetest trot. Single-foot it’s called. It means you don’t bounce at all when she trots. I like that. It’s easier on the buns and you don’t have to learn to ride Western. Tara’s my favorite.”

Next, a big, black-and-white gelding pounded down the ramp like a giant football player. “That’s Jamal,” Rob explained, “the fastest and strongest horse in the whole bunch. Period.”

The next arrival was a small bay mare, almost a pony, that tugged at her halter and tattooed her tiny black hooves across the floor of the truck bed.

“Cutter is fast, but real nervous. She’s always fussing with the bit and tossing her head. Not my favorite,” Rob said.

The last horse was a magnificent white and reddish-brown pinto. Almost as big as Jamal but not as muscular. He pranced – ears forward, head high. He scanned right, then left, nostrils flared scoping out his new surroundings. The gelding nickered loudly, bowed his head almost to the ground and galloped out of a sharp right turn to join the others.

Nick was stunned. It was love at first sight.

“What’s his name?” he asked.

“Prince. He’s the next fastest after Jamal.”

“That’s going to be my horse this summer and I’m going to learn to ride him like he deserves,” Nick vowed.