|What book or author supplied the spark|
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I held on to his mane, feeling the power of his body under me. He fought the ocean with all of his might, buoying us both with that incredible force of will, that spirit which could never be broken. By the time we reached the island's shore, I was almost insensible; and when I could finally stagger to my feet, he was gone. But I would find him.
For I was the one saved by The Black Stallion and destined to become his cherished and trusted friend, not Alec. At least it was so in my dreams.
Books were a large part of my childhood, but the ones which I read most avidly were the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley. I read them until they fell apart, until I could recite whole passages. They fueled my passion for horses, for writing, for adventure. They taught me history, horse racing, and about overcoming odds.
My grandfather and his wife had retired to Florida when I was small, but we kept in touch and I sent him letters, many of which contained drawings of the Black Stallion and his offspring. One Christmas he had a very special gift for me - a signed copy of The Black Stallion's Ghost. It said "for Lisa - Merry Christmas from your friend Walter Farley 1971".
I was eight years old and nearly beside myself. The great man had chosen a book especially for me, and not only signed it but called me "his friend". It was almost as good as my cherished dream of having him adopt me. (I was convinced that he lived somewhere with a gigantic herd of beautiful horses freely roaming the grounds.)
My grandfather kept in touch with Mr. Farley, and in 1975 when we visited, he arranged for us to meet the author at his house. There were no horses, but the Great Dane Thor (star of a book by the same title) was on hand.
I was 12, and my social awkwardness was in full bloom. Add to that my worship of Mr. Farley, and you can imagine the state I was in. (My older sister, a very mature 15, was less than impressed with the proceedings. I think she resented giving up beach time.)
I wish that I could say that he had profound words and insights to offer. He probably did, but I was so tongue-tied and twiddle-brained that I don't remember. I know I wished that I could tell him how much I loved his books and the horses he imagined, but I was too embarrassed. And yet I felt like he understood. I imagined that we were communicating just as Alec and The Black did, without words.
The actual conversation doesn't matter.
What does matter is that he was kind. His love of writing and animals shone in his face. He had taken the time to sign a book, to invite us to his home, to make a child - as well as a fan - feel special. When I got home a week later, there was a letter for me; gentleman that he was, HE thanked ME for visiting him.
I can't say that the visit inspired me to be a writer; at that time, I was still underweight and determined that I would be the first female professional jockey.
It has, however, inspired me through my later years.
Write what you know, and what you love.
If you ever become a writer of any renown, be gracious. Be kind. Be patient with your fans.
Words are powerful things, but sometimes the unspoken can be more so.
You live on, Mr.Farley, through your books and in my heart. I have never forgotten you.
I miss you, Pappy; you searched out someone who was important to me and made it happen.
Wonderful men, both of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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