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Horse People


Cary Holladay

Publication Year: 2013

Set in the pastoral horse country of Rapidan, Virginia, the stories in Cary Holladay’s Horse People chronicle the lives of the Fenton family through the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II. At the center of these interconnected stories is Nelle, a northern debutante who marries into the Fenton family and establishes herself as their stern and combative matriarch. Nelle’s arrival in Virginia sets up the familial conflict: The Fentons, though well-respected millers and horse-breeders, remain yeoman farmers, whereas Nelle grew up in a wealthy, urban environment. Her high-brow sensibility creates animosity within her new family and fosters resentment among the rural poor. Headstrong and contentious, Nelle relies on an almost supernatural connection with horses to escape the hostility that surrounds her. As Nelle ages and experiences the sweeping cultural changes and hardships of early twentieth-century America, she comes to symbolize everything she once challenged in this community. Through these multi-generational stories, Holladay draws on the folklore and history of her native Virginia and examines the cultural, racial, gender, and economic tensions that pervaded the entire nation. As a result, Horse People considers a particular place and the life of an exceptional woman as indicative of the struggles of all.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Series: Yellow Shoe Fiction


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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p. vii-vii

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The Bridge

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pp. 1-23

Bonnie Hazlitt can’t remember how it ended, her stint as bridge guard. Like the others, she was hired by Henry Fenton, who was directed by the Orange County Court to employ “four to six discreet persons” to defend the span over the Rapidan River. Strolling along ...

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A Summer Place

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pp. 24-40

Rich people. Bonnie Hazlitt will never understand them. Their money could set them free, but seems to Bonnie they’ve got less mind on them than her canaries do. A canary’ll fly out a door, into the world, and good luck trying to catch it. Bonnie has chased many ...

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Seven Sons

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pp. 41-74

In April 1908, Nelle Scott Fenton, pregnant with her first child, felt a fist of pain in her stomach, discovered blood like roses on her underclothes, and realized she had miscarried. She recovered rapidly. Within three weeks, she once more rode daily, and by Thanksgiving, she ...

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pp. 75-101

Because Nelle Fenton is who she is, her lawyer, Willie Ambrose, comes to her house whenever she needs him. He is there on a hot Friday evening in September 1920, with the papers necessary for Nelle to bring suit against her father. They are locked in a bitter dispute ...

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Nelle on the Grass

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pp. 102-118

Nelle can’t do it anymore, can’t cross the space between stable and house. Her own yard has become the hardest part of her affair, that distance to cover after a visit with her lover, Ben Burleigh, and after turning her horse over to Stanton, the stable boy. Just ...

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The Colored Horse Show

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pp. 119-137

After a long dry spell comes a rainy season of creatures that slither and spin. Spiders crochet over Nelle’s doors. Richard says, “Run into a spider web, and you’ll run into a friend.” Frogs glory in the rain that falls on the yellow grass and the brick terrace baked by ...

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Two Worlds

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pp. 138-155

Nelle takes the jump and is borne aloft in that pleasure that she lives for, herself and her horse riding the curvature of Earth. These swooping green moments are hers and Granite’s. Woodsmoke fills her head; her rushing vision finds a distant flock of sheep. Why, she’s ...

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pp. 156-170

Every one of Dudley Fenton’s six older brothers is married, and when Dudley is drunk he can’t remember the names of their wives. On nights when Dudley is locked out of the house, head buzzing, the harder he tries to remember, the more the names elude him. The only ...

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Horse People

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pp. 171-186

Barrett Fenton believed his father really did love all his sons the same. By October 1927, the oldest, John, was eighteen, and the youngest, Dudley, was two and a half. Barrett was next to last, almost eight. One Sunday, when church and dinner were over, Barrett was ...

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pp. 187-188

I’m grateful for financial support and other assistance provided by the University of Memphis and the National Endowment for the Arts. For their valuable suggestions, I’m indebted to the editors of the journals where these stories first appeared: Ronald Koury and Paula Deitz of ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780807150955
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807150948

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Yellow Shoe Fiction