This book is based in the one location – the ranch but in a way each chapter could have been its own individually written short story – there is not too much overlap. But where Steinbeck does use the past it is subtly and not in a way that wastes precious lines discussing events that have already happened.
The second third of the book, chapters two and three, covers the second horse that Jody is promised as well as an odd appearance by a man who in almost all respects resembles freedom.
Having promised to look after the red pony that died the ranch hand Billy is reluctant to make a similar promise to Jody when his father lets him take responsibility for a colt that the mare will give birth to. When the birthing time comes the mare is in some trouble and Billy has to perform a deadly caesarean to save the life of the colt. But performing the operation, which kills the mare, leaves him emotionally and physically drained – a high price to pay to keep his promise.
Then an old man turns up who used to live on the land covered by the ranch and he says that he has come to die where he was born. The ranch owner doesn’t like his presence and makes that clear but the old man, armed with a ceremonial dagger, rides off with the oldest horse in the field into the mountains to die and avoid the humiliations that would have been visited on the old horse as well as the old man.
Final chunk tomorrow…