Friday, July 2, 2010

More Than Courage (1960)

More Than Courage: Real Life Stories Of Horses And Dogs And People Who Have Loved Them
Patrick Lawson, il. Earl Sherwan
1960, Whitman Publishing Company

To all the horses and dogs that have been trying to communicate with dumb humans for thousands of years, this book is affectionately dedicated.

This collection of stories about horses and dogs is undoubtedly dated - the references to Native Americans as redskins and the cheerful statement that bloodhounds are not gay but solemn dogs make that clear. But there's a sort of romance to its sweeping vision of the world.

The horse relieved man of the burdens he had always had to pack upon his own back. It enabled him to plow more land and so produce more food. Its greatest gift, however, was mobility. By carrying man swiftly from one place to another, the horse helped him to increase his area of activity and speed up the interchange of knowledge. Take away the horse and history would have to be rewritten.

More to the point, the author does know animals.

As with all animals, horses have a habit of blithely disproving every statement made about them by experts.

The first chapter sets up the entire book. This is to be an examination through examples of the debate between those who attribute all animal behavior to instinct and training, and those who believe animals are capable of intelligent reasoning. It's quickly evident which side the author is on. When I researched Lawson and discovered he was actually Lois Eby, it made sense. Women, like animals, have often been on the wrong side of the experts when it comes to judging intelligence and reasoning power.

The chapters switch off, one concentrating on dogs and the next on horses. Below are the horse chapters.

The Question
The crowd's roar of admiration suddenly changed to a gasp of horror. The horse had whirled to face his fallen rider. He looked to them now like a maddened killer... Then an astounding thing happened. The horse paused beside the man's prone body, sniffed it, and carefully, delicately, stepped over it to trot unconcernedly toward the arena exit.
(rodeo bucker Midnight)

Drumming Hoofs
...the action of cavalry horses and their courage in battle is all the more remarkable. A horse can be taught to ignore gunfire, but how can he continue to have confidence in a master who deliberately leads him into a situation where he is severely wounded.
(military horses including 19th century Indian fighters Prince and Two Bits, General Sherman's horse Sam, General Meade's horse Baldy, and Alexander the Great's horse Bucephalus)

Pegasus Without Wings
Kincsem's approach to the post would have shamed a milk wagon plug. Where the proud thoroughbreds paced and pranced, she plodded. Having arrived at the starting line, she just stood there, tail drooping, head down. In race after race she was left behind, while every track fan in Europe held his breath and chewed his nails. Yet somehow she always managed to win.
(a blind pacer named Sleepy Tom, the jumper Snow Man, the Hungarian racehorse Kinecsem)

Enter - A Star!
Fury is definitely a camera hog. On the set, he keeps edging forward to get close to the camera until he is practically hanging over the human actor's shoulder. One harassed director finally set up a dummy camera. Fury, unaware that there was no film in it, posed before it happily while the real camera shot the scenes with the rest of the cast.
(The Lipizan stars of the film Ben Hur, Roy Roger's Trigger, Gene Autry's Champion, TV stars Fury and California)

About Lawson
Lois Eby grew up in California, where she fell in love with Arabian horses and nature. A writer for film, she also wrote mysteries and novels.

Other books by Patrick Lawson
Star-Crossed Stallion

Star-Crossed Stallion's Big Chance

Patty Lynn: Daughter Of The Rangers

Patty Lynn At The Grand Canyon

"Hard Luck Stallion" - a short story about a boy trying to tame an Arabian stallion named Ajaz. July 1954 edition of the magazine Boys' Life. Basically the Star-Crossed Stallion story.

About the illustrator
A native and lifelong Michigan resident, Sherwan specialized in nature and dog pictures, writing and illustrating many books and producing a popular line of canine-themed notepaper.

Books written by Sherwan
Mask, The Door County Coon by Earl Sherwan (1963)
Bruno, The Bear Of Split Rock Island by Earl Sherwan (1966)

"Hard Luck Stallion" (Part I) at Google Books - Sam Savitt illustrations
"Hard Luck Stallion" (Part II) at Google Books
"Hard Luck Stallion" (Part III) at Google Books
"Hard Luck Stallion" (Part IV) at Google Books

Jane Badger Books bio of Lawson
(The comment about the book's physical limitations is spot on - I basically destroyed my copy doing this review. It is now a collection of loose yellow pages within a fragile carcass of covers and spine.)
IMDB on Lawson
Lawson's mystery series
Standard Printing - Earl Sherwan info

Thoroughbred Heritage - Kincsem
Show Jumping Hall of Fame - Snow Man
Greene County, OH - Sleepy Tom
Sam Savitt poster of famous Standardbreds with Sleepy Tom

Other material about featured horses
Dwight Akers wrote a 1939 book about Sleepy Tom.
Sam Savitt wrote a book called Midnight: Champion Bucking Horse about Midnight.
Rutherford George Montgomery wrote a book about Snow Man; there was also a movie and a Breyer model.
Fury, of course, was a TV show based on a book, Albert G. Miller's series. He was also made into a Breyer model.

1 comment:

Jane Badger said...

It is utterly depressing when books just disintegrate! Just opened what I thought was a perfectly decent copy of A Day to Go Hunting, only for the pages to shower out in a cloud of old dusty glue.