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On May 1, 1982, eighteen-year-old Martin Oliphant watches a horse drown off the shore of Lake Michigan--the first of four equine corpses marking the trail that will lead Martin out of the small-minded small town of Pierre, Michigan, onto the open ranges of Elko, Nevada, and into the open arms, or at least open mics, of the cowboy poets who gather there to perform. Along the way, he nurtures a dying mother, who insists the only thing wrong with her is tennis elbow; corrals a demented father, who believes he's Father Christmas; assists the dissolute local newspaper editor; and serves stints as horse rustler and pet mortician. For thirty years, Martin searches for an escape route to the West, to poetry, and to his first love, the cowgirl Ginger, but never manages to get much farther than the city limits of his Midwestern hometown--that is, until a world famous cow horse dies while touring through Pierre, and Martin is tapped to transport its remains to the funeral at the 32nd Annual Elko Cowboy Poetry Confluence.
KT Sparks is a writer and farmer whose work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Pank, and elsewhere. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, dog, a fluctuating population of barn cats, and no horses, dead or alive. Four Dead Horses is her first novel.