The Black Stallion. Walter Farley. My First Author Crush.

Elizabeth Bastos

Staff Writer

Elizabeth Bastos has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and writes at her blog 19th-Century Lady Naturalist. Follow her on Twitter: @elizabethbastos

When I was ten I was given The Black Stallion by Walter Farley for my birthday. Rapture! O turf-writer rapture! I was already a horse freak, the more so because I was allergic and could not ride, or groom, or curry-comb, or braid daisies into the hair thereof, or have one live in the bike shed out back as I wanted one too. My dad said no.

the black stallion cover walter farleyBut I lived vicariously through Alec Ramsay (the boy in The Black Stallion) whose mother is incredibly understanding and permissive (one assumes, because The Black saved her son from a shipwreck) and lets the horse live out back, and lets her son train for and ride in a horse race. An actual horse race! Be still my tween horse-freak heart!

I used this a lot to my mom: “But Alec Ramsey’s mother would say yes.” To which my mom would reply, “Alec Ramsay is a fictional character.”

I figured I’d take my hand to the pen, with a bubble-heart-i-font fan letter to Walter Farley, the author. This was how I thought of him: Walter Farley, the author. Of course I understood that people (a vague idea at best) had written other books I liked, picture books, baby books, but this was the first time I realized there was a person, a mind, an author who had made up the story I wanted to renact in my yard, every chance I got with my plastic Breyer horses, and my younger sister in the supporting role of The Black’s pal Napoleon, a old gray.

I could write to an author! And he wrote back, on letterhead that had on it (Vapors! I felt faint!) a silhouette of a stallion, rearing. Walter Farley wrote back, “Dear Elizabeth, I’m so glad you like my books!” He spoke directly to me.