Dear Linda Gregerson,

I am Jersey I am in 6th grade in Butternut, Wisconsin. I love your poem “The Horses Run Back to Their Stalls.” It is an awesome poem because it easy to understand and it makes sense. I personally love horses and this is such a great poem because it reminds me when I had my first two horses, and I had to sell them because the one was getting to old. The other one I had to sell to a place in Minocqua WI the place has over 100 horses! Her name was Firey the elder one Pete lives in Mellen, WI and he is moving away so I won’t see him anymore. I love going to visit them and helping around the barns.

The one sentence I like is “I’ll never forget the morning after: ash / in the air all the way to town and the smell of those / poor animals, / who’d never harmed a soul.” This is my favorite part because it is like all those animals that get abused or hurt, or for instant burned in a forest fire or a fire at home. It is very sad when you hear about animals dying. I have had a dog die who was my favorite, His name was Colby, he was favorite animal I ever had. If I was ever sad lying in my bed he would always comfort me. This poem is also one of my favorites poems I ever read it is sad but it lets your feelings out as you are reading through. I personally love poems I also love typing stories, books, and letters like this one I am writing to you. Is this a poem about you and how you had horses and hated Chicago? I love how the poem is writing kind of like in a sequence order from when you were a little girl. It says in the 7th line Kentucky Derby Winner, 1928, I have went to the Kentucky Derby race before It was one of the best places I have been in my life. Have you ever traveled to a school to meet a person that has wrote a letter to you? If so it would be awesome if you could visit my school?! You seem like a very kind woman. My parents have heard about your poems before. Are you famous or well known? If so what is it like being interviewed all the time or perhaps being on TV? I hope to hear back!

Your Friend,

Grade 6
Butternut, Wisconsin

Dear Jersey:

Thank you for your letter! I loved hearing about your horses and your dog Colby—animals can be so compassionate toward “their” humans, can’t they? I think they have a special talent for comforting us.

I was especially excited to get a letter from Wisconsin—you live way up north! When I Google Butternut on my computer, I’m told that the total population is 375 people! But perhaps that has changed—the last census seems to have been in 2010. I grew up in a small town too (more about that below), but it was getting larger all the time. By the time I was in ninth grade, we had our own high school!—a source of considerable pride. But back to Wisconsin: 172 years ago, my great-grandfather bought a farm just outside Wisconsin Dells, which was then called Newport. My grandfather lived in that house his whole life and, after he married, raised his  children there, including my father, two uncles, three aunts and two other children whose parents couldn’t take care of them. People did that for one another back then. I’m happy to say that the farm is still in the family, and I have wonderful cousins and second cousins and third cousins all over central Wisconsin.

OK, the poem you were so kind to write about: I didn’t have horses when I was growing up and I didn’t hate Chicago, but you’re right that both horses and Chicago play a big role in the poem. Just outside my home town of Cary, Illinois, was a very fancy horse farm owned by John D. Hertz, a racehorse owner and breeder, and founder of the Yellow Cab Company and the Hertz Car Rental Company. Wealthy people from Chicago would come out to the farm for polo and grand house parties. Ordinary townspeople, including my family, would never have been invited to the farm as guests, but many of them worked there and they took great pride in the racehorses bred and trained there. The poem is spoken in my mother’s voice, as though she were speaking to me (the grandfather in the poem is my grandfather), and the story, sadly, is a true one. Labor strife had risen to quite a pitch in Chicago in 1932 (it was the height of the Great Depression and times were hard), and when the horse barn at the Hertz farm was deliberately set on fire, it was assumed that hostile strikers from Chicago were to blame, though no one knows that for sure. Eleven horses died in the fire; it was very sad.

Please tell your teacher that I’m very grateful to her (or him) for including a unit on poetry in your sixth grade classroom. It is so important for readers to be introduced to poetry early in life—I hope reading poems will become a lifelong habit for you.

And thank you for your question about visiting schools.  I *do* visit schools sometimes. Butternut is very far away from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I live, but maybe it could be made to happen sometime.

I’m sending my very best wishes to you, Jersey, and to your teacher.

Your friend,

Linda Gregerson

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