Title: Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers
Author: Ralph Moody
Series: Little Britches series, book 1
Major Themes: Ranching, Farming, Colorado, Family Read-alouds, Autobiography, Biography, US History 1900-1950, Books for Boys
Synopsis: Ralph’s father’s wisdom guides the family through one disaster after another, making their years on a ranch in Colorado the best years of their lives.
Our copy of Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers is looking pretty tattered. I wonder how many times it has been read! I bought it used 15 or 20 years ago, and I’ve read it to my children at least twice, besides loaning it out a time or two. This is a well-loved book. I have read it aloud at least three times, and still find it a great story.
Ralph was only eight years old when his family moved to a ranch in Colorado, from New Hampshire, in 1906. His father was suffering from lung problems, and they were hoping the different climate and being away from the woolen mill would help him. When they arrived at the ranch, they discovered it was a far cry from what they had been led to expect, and they had to build it up from nearly nothing. Ralph helped his father with everything—from building the barn and the privy to helping earn the money the family needed to survive.
This book tells the story of a couple of years in a family’s life, as they work together to make a living and to survive. They endure a wind that blows away buildings, stock their farm with the animals they need for food, and fight the neighbors for their rightful share of water from the irrigation ditch. Ralph learns lessons about getting along with other children, and he learns some valuable lessons about honesty and integrity. Probably one of the best chapters is the one in which Ralph tells a lie and his father talks to him about building his character house.
This book will appeal to a wide range of people. Children who love true stories about other children will enjoy it, as well as those who love stories about cowboys and the West. Adults will enjoy this book, as well. I remember the first time I read it aloud. This was about 25-30 years ago, and I was reading it to my younger brothers and sisters as part of our homeschooling morning. They were telling Dad about the book, and before long, he started organizing his day so that he could be there to listen in, too! My husband enjoys the series very much, also.
Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers should be enjoyed by all children, in my opinion. In the words of my daughter, Ralph’s father’s wisdom is the shining part of this book—with life lessons for everyone. However, there is some rough language used, so I prefer to read it aloud, rather than have my children read it themselves. That way, I can edit “on the fly” and leave out the expressions I don’t appreciate. These are all noted below, in the warnings section. Anyone who enjoys the Little House books will also enjoy these, although Ralph Moody’s books are written for a slightly older audience and feature boys, rather than girls.
WARNING: Chapter 1: this confounded rule, a horse gets caught in a railroad trestle and it is a bit gruesome. Chapter 2: Hell. Chapter 3: boys fighting at school. Chapter 4: Ralph lied to Mother. Chapter 5: for God’s sake. Chapter 6: raised the dickens, what the hell, a hell of a lot, that’s the hell of it. Chapter 7: Aw shucks. Chapter 8: pounding the dickens out of my behind, sting like blazes. Chapter 10: giving me heck. Chapter 11: men admiring girl’s physique. Chapter 13: darn cheap butter. Chapter 14: lie like hell, this is the hell of it, every damned one, worth a damn an acre, by God, shoot hell out of, For God’s sake, fight like hell. Chapter 16: for God’s sake, a damn fool, raising Ned. Chapter 17: By God, pitching like Old Harry. Chapter 20: I’ll be damned, this damned panic, all the damned water. Chapter 21: damn fool three times, learned a hell of a lot. Chapter 24: By God, Damn you, For God’s sake twice, you damn fools, Hell Len, I don’t give a damn, You’re damn right, by God three times. Chapter 25: By God, where in hell, Spikes be damned, God, By God three times. Chapter 29: damn bull-headed Yankee, too God damn proud, What in hell.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults