Book Review: The Eighty Dollar Champion

Sometimes a book is so interesting to me that it takes less than two days for me to read it through.  THE EIGHTY DOLLAR CHAMPION: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts is one such book.

This is the story of the horse who came to be known as Snowman.  He was purchased off the slaughterhouse truck by a horseman, Harry de Leyer, who saw something in the beat up old gelding’s eyes that caused him to think that he needed to take this horse home in spite of his underfed appearance.  The old gray gelding came to be his children’s favorite mount, the horse on whom this instructor started the most timid backward riders.  A good tempered work horse the whole family could love and enjoy who also earned his keep.

I won’t ruin the rest of this really amazing true story.

For those who home school, if you are doing early 20th Century history, this book touches on the experiences of Harry de Leyer, Dutchman, during WWII, and his experiences of being an immigrant to the United States with his wife just after WWII, and the culture of the eastern coast of the United States during the post-war period.  There are comments about the cold war, and about the changes in the economy, and about the various layers of American society, and in short, a good wide view of the historical setting for the story of Snowman.

The people in this book and the horse demonstrate virtues lived out in the real world and the living of one man’s vocation enhanced by the contributions of a good horse who the man did not fail to recognize as a gift from God. Courage is demonstrated in various portions of the story as are honesty, hard work, kindness, dedication, independence and love of liberty.  Further, this is a great story to use to demonstrate a can-do work ethic and how to apply it in one’s life.  No preaching and no victim mentality, just a life well lived given as part of a good story but which also serves as an excellent example of how to succeed in one’s vocation.

Oh, and the trainer/rider/family man who bought Snowman off the slaughter house truck? He is Catholic and would go to a very early Mass before taking his students on the Sunday cross country ride and thus demonstrating that one need not neglect the Sunday obligation in order to participate in activities that fall on the weekends.

I think for a horse crazy young person this story will double nicely as enrichment for 20th Century History and as a morality tale for virtue bringing its own rewards.

The down side to the book is that some of the writing drags and while the information is valuable, especially those portions that tie the story into the historical period, the drag did dampen the thrill of the tale a bit.  Still, in spite of this drawback, the story was so compelling I found myself plunging through to enjoy the whole story.

Yes, I recommend this book. It has so much GOOD (virtues, vocation, Mass, hard work, family, historical period details) in it that the problem of the dragging writing in spots is overcome by the volume of good.


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