The Red Pony is divided into four stories. Each story centers on a boy named Jody; the four together show him in a critical time of his childhood. In the first story, Jody is ten years old. The stories are close together in chronological time; indeed, Steinbeck is careful to remind readers that Jody is a "little boy" at the start of each story.
This story describes Carl Tiflin's family and ranch, which will be the setting of all four stories. Jody is Carl's son. Another central character is Billy Buck, the ranch's single employed hand. While Carl is a stern, unemotional man, Billy is warmer, and spends a lot of time teaching Jody how to take care of horses. The ranch includes several horses, along with cows and pigs.
In this first story, Carl gives Jody a red pony, which Jody names Gabilan. Every morning Jody brushes the horse and after school works on training it.
Just as he is about to teach Gabilan to let him ride him, the horse catches a bad cold in the rain. Billy had promised Jody that the horse would not get sick. Eventually, Billy has to resort to drastic measures to try to save Gabilan, cutting open a sack of puss then carving a breathing hold in the horse's throat. Unfortunately, the horse escapes one night, and Jody finds vultures preying on the corpse the next morning. Jody kills one of the vultures and is reprimanded by his father, but Billy defends him.
The Great Mountains
Jody is bored. He looks with longing at the great mountains, wishing he could explore them. Suddenly, an old Mexican man named Gitano appears, claiming he was born on the ranch. Gitano requests to stay on the farm until he dies. Carl...