Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Cavalcade Of Horses In Fact, Fantasy And Fiction (1961)

A Cavalcade Of Horses In Fact, Fantasy And Fiction
edited by Florence M. Peterson and Irene Smith, il. Wesley Dennis
1961, Thomas Nelson & Sons

Must we drag on this stupid existence forever,
So idle and weary, so full of remorse,

While every one else takes his pleasure,
and never
Seems happy unless he is riding a horse?
The Nutcracker and the Sugar-Tongs, Edward Lear

An anthology with a wide variety of topics and themes, with shorter entries than most anthologies, and clearly geared to younger children.  The Wesley Dennis illustrations are confined to small collages at the start of each section.

Horses To Find

The Blind Colt by Glen Rounds (1941)
Hunted Horses by Glen Rounds (1951)
The River Horse by Nina Ames Frey (1953)

Horses To Tame
The Black Stallion And The Red Mare by Gladys Francis Lewis
A Battle For Mastery by Shannon Garst from Cowboy Boots (1946)

Horses To Rescue
Elijah, The Hermit Horse by Bill Hosokawa
The Outlaw Roan by Stephen Holt from The Phantom Roan (1949)
Easy Does It! by Robert L. McGrath

Horses To Ride
Trapped! by Arlene Hale (1960)
Lessons From Holley by C.W. Anderson from High Courage (1941)
Riding Song by Anonymous from Songs Of The Cattle Trail (1919)

Horses To Cheer
Black Gold by Marguerite Henry from Black Gold (1957)
The Good Luck Colt by Genevieve Torrey Eames from The Good Luck Colt (1953)

Horses To Know
Ancestors and Modern Relatives in the Family of Horses by Irene Smith
Justin Morgan, Vermont Horse Hero by Harland Manchester (1954)
The Runaway by Robert Frost (1951)
The Arabian by Robert Sidney Downs from Canyon Fury (1952)
A Horse Afraid Of His Shadow by Frances Carpenter from Wonder Tales Of Horses And Heroes (1952)
Alexander The Great by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon from Heroes And Heroines (1933)
An Immortal Horse by Florence K. Peterson
Cream White Marengo by Florence K. Peterson
Buffalo Bill by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon from Heroes And Heroines (1933)
Jeb Stuart, Boy In The Saddle by Gertrude Hecker Winders, from Jeb Stuart, Boy In The Saddle (1959)

Horses To Dream About
Pegaus, The Winged Horse by Irene Smith
Pegasus In Pound by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Mud Pony by Frances Jenkins Olcott from Red Indian Fairy Book (1945)
The Nutcracker And The Sugar-Tongs by Edward Lear from The Complete Nonsense Book
The Horse On The Chuch Tower by Baron Munchhausen
Carrots And Hay For Saint Nicholas' Horses by Florence K. Peterson
The Three Horses by Ivy O. Eastwick from I Rode A Black Horse Far Away (1960)

Horses To Thank
Comanche Of The Seventh by Margaret Leighton (1957)
Myles Keogh's Horse by John Hay from Poetry's Plea For Animals
General Putnam's Ride by Florence K. Peterson
Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Old Cavalry Horse by Frances Margaret Fox from The Last Run Of Uncle Sam's Fire Horses
Western Wagons by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet from Book Of Americans (1933)
Pony Express Sage by Florence K. Peterson
Stage Coach Days by Florence K. Peterson
Not So Long Ago by Irene Smith
The Last Run by Frances Margaret Fox
Old Doctor Dobbin by Irene Smith
From The Book of Job - The Bible

Horses To Keep
Little Vic by Doris Gates, from Little Vic (1951)
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (intro by Noel Streatfeild), from Black Beauty


"The Blind Colt" by Glen Rounds (1941) from The Blind Colt
10-year-old Whitey convinces his uncle that they don't need to shoot a blind foal to forestall it dying in an inevitable accident; he'll look after it.

"Hunted Horses" by Glen Rounds (1951) from Wild Appaloosa
A crafty mustang stallion narrowly escapes an equally crafty trap.

Glen Rounds (1906-2002) wrote and illustrated many children's books about the West.  His horse books include Blind Colt, Blind Outlaw, and the Whitey books.

"The River Horse" by Nina Ames Frey (1953) from The River Horse
Arana, a Guatemalan boy, longs for a horse that his simple forest family could never support. But one day, he spies a small, striped creature that looks oddly like a tiny horse.

The danta of The River Horse is a tapir, which just tickles me. An excerpt from this book appears in another horse anthology, The Big Book Of Favorite Horse Stories, which seems to indicate a great latitude for what constitutes a horse story than I'd have expected.

"The Black Stallion And The Red Mare" by Gladys Francis Lewis
Donald and his father are baffled by the odd behavior of a mustang stallion who is caught when he refuses to leave a chestnut mare.

Also known as "The Wild Horse Roundup, and also appears in the anthology The Big Book Of Favorite Horse Stories.

"A Battle For Mastery" by Shannon Garst from Cowboy Boots (1946)
Summering on his uncle's Wyoming ranch, Bob idolizes the cowboy Montana.  Montana bets the other hands that he can ride and train the worst bucker on the property, Dynamite.

Shannon Garst (1894-1981) wrote many children's books, often with Western themes.  Among her horse-themed books were Cowboy Boots, Silver Spurs For Cowboy Boots, Crazy About Horses, Tall In The Saddle, The Burro Who Sat Down and A Horse And A Hero.

"Elijah, The Hermit Horse" by Bill Hosokawa
A packhorse named Bugs escapes his corral and vanishes; months later, a pilot spots a horse standing atop a Colorado mountain, stranded in the deep snow. The story catches the public imagination, leading to a rescue effort.

William Kumpai Hosokawa (1915 – 2007) was a Japanese-American journalist at The Denver Post.  His story for Reader's Digest, coming on the heels of a Life Magazine story, made a one-day wonder out of a random packhorse who'd become stranded on a mountain.  The Colorado blog Restless Native goes into the story further.

"The Outlaw Roan" by Stephen Holt from The Phantom Roan (1949)
Stung by the death of his horse, Glenn leaves his uncle's faltering ranch to go work in the city, leaving behind his dreams of becoming a vet. He stumbles across a notorious mustang, a vicious roan, lamed by a sharp rock, and is drawn back to his passion for healing.

Stephen Holt (1894-1987) was a pen name for Harlan Thompson, who produced several Western-themed horse books including Prairie Colt, Spook, The Mustang and The Whistling Stallion.

"Easy Does It!" by Robert L. McGrath (originally in Scholastic Magazine, 1959)
An Eastern orphan transplanted to his uncle's ranch butts heads with the range boss when he persists in gentling his colt, Lucky, instead of breaking him the western way.

 "Easy Does It" also appears in the anthology Favorite Horse Stories (1965)

"Trapped!" by Arlene Hale (1960) (originally in Calling All Girls Magazine)
When bandits kidnap her and her friends, a quick-thinking girl leaves a clue during the confusion.

Arlene Hale appears to have specialized in romance novels and their sub-genre of nurse romances.

"Lessons From Holley" by C.W. Anderson from High Courage (1941)
The black groom Holley tells Patsy endless stories of horses, and the two prepare the horse Bobcat for timber racing.

Clarence William Anderson (1891-1971) wrote and illustrated many classic American horse books, including Billy And Blaze, Afraid To Ride, and The Blind Connemara.

"Riding Song" by Anonymous from Songs Of The Cattle Trail (1919) Poem
Take the life of cities -
Here's the life for me.
'Twere a thousand pities
Not to gallop free.

"Black Gold" by Marguerite Henry from Black Gold (1957)
Al Hoots gets himself barred from racing when he refuses to turn over his mare after a claiming race.

Marguerite Henry (1902-1997) wrote several classic 20th century horse books, but her most famous was Misty of Chincoteague, a Newberry winner for 1947 and one of the few older horse books still in print..

"The Good Luck Colt" by Genevieve Torrey Eames from The Good Luck Colt (1953)
Martin's beloved harness colt, Good Luck, is stolen by thieves.

Eames wrote several horse books, including A Horse To Remember, Pat Rides The Trail, Ghost Town Cowboy, and Flying Roundup.

"Ancestors and Modern Relatives in the Family of Horses" by Irene Smith
A very brief look a tthe history of the horse.

"Justin Morgan, Vermont Horse Hero" by Harland Manchester (1954) originally appeared in the January 1955 issue of American Mercury.
There are in America some twenty breeds of horses, but in the Green Mountain country only two breeds are recognized: Morgan and "other horses."

"The Runaway" by Robert Frost (1951) Poem
Once when the snow of the year was beginning to fall/We stopped by a mountain pasture to say "Whose colt?"/A little Morgan had one forefoot on the wall,/The other curled at his breast.  He dipped his head/And snorted at us.  And then he had to bolt.

Robert Frost (1874-1963) is simply too well known to bother summarizing.  I did come across an interesting essay about the horse in American poetry from literary magazine The New Criterion.

"The Arabian" by Robert Sidney Downs from Canyon Fury (1952
A very brief scene in which Jeff rides his mare, Mecca, around his uncle's ranch and muses on the heritage of the Arabian horses they raise.  The author's true name was Robert Sidney Bowen,

Robert Sidney Downs was one of several pseudonyms of author Robert Sidney Bowen. He was most famous for his WWII-set teen adventure series starring Dave Dawson and Red Randall, and a host of sports-themed books for boys. Under the name James Robert Richard, he published several horsey titles in the 1950's: Phantom Mustang, The Purple Palomino, The Appaloosa Curse, Snow King, Lippizan Horse, Double M For Morgans, and Joker, The Polo Pony.

"A Horse Afraid Of His Shadow" by Frances Carpenter from Wonder Tales Of Horses And Heroes (1952)
The story of Alexander, and his taming of the stallion Bucephalus.

"Alexander The Great" by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon from Heroes And Heroines (1933) Poem
Cheerful sillines about Alexander's lack of worlds to conquer.

"An Immortal Horse" by Florence K. Peterson
A brief tribute t oTraveller, the gray horse who was the favorite of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

"Cream White Marengo" by Florence K. Peterson
Another brief tribute to a soldier's horse, this time the favorite battle mount of Napoleon.

"Buffalo Bill" by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon from Heroes And Heroines (1933) Poem
I say! What a thrill!/Here's Buffalo Bill,/The King of the Cowboys in valour and skill,/With his fringes of leather, his cowpuncher's hat,/His lasso and pistols and boot and all that!

"Jeb Stuart, Boy In The Saddle" by Gertrude Hecker Winders, from Jeb Stuart, Boy In The Saddle (1959)
James Ewell Brown Stuart was a famous scout for the Confederacy, and this excerpt is from a children's biography that chronicles his beloved first horse, Bayberry.

"Pegaus, The Winged Horse" by Irene Smith
A retelling of the myth of a flying horse trapped by a magic bridle.

"Pegasus In Pound" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Poem
Once into a quiet village,/Without haste and without heed,/In the golden prime of morning,/Strayed the poet's winged steed.

"The Mud Pony" by Frances Jenkins Olcott from Red Indian Fairy Book (1945)
A poor Indian boy is visited by a dream that promises him Mother Earth will give him a horse.  In the morning, he finds a fast, clever brown pony with a white face.  The only catch is he must cover the pony each night or the dew will turn him back into earth.

"The Nutcracker And The Sugar-Tongs" by Edward Lear from The Complete Nonsense Book Poem
Must we drag on this stupid existence forever,/So idle and weary, so full of remorse,/While every one else takes his pleasure, and never/Seems happy unless he is riding a horse?

A pair of utensils go racing in this nonsense poem.

"The Horse On The Chuch Tower" by Baron Munchhausen
A tall tale by a man famous for them.

"Carrots And Hay For Saint Nicholas' Horse" by Florence K. Peterson
The story of the German and Dutch Christmas tradition of putting out hay and carrots for the horse who in their legends carries Santa Claus on his rounds.

"The Three Horses" by Ivy O. Eastwick from I Rode A Black Horse Far Away (1960)
I patted the white horse,/I stroked the tgray,/and I rode the black horse far away.

"Comanche Of The Seventh" by Margaret Leighton (1957)
The story of Little Big Horn, from the perspective of the sole U.S. Army survivor, the horse Comanche.

"Myles Keogh's Horse" by John Hay from Poetry's Plea For Animals   Poem
On the bluff of the Little Big-Horn,/At the close of a woeful day,/Custer and his Three Hundred/In death and silence lay./And of all that stoof at noonday/In that fiery scorpion ring/Myles Keogh's horse, at evening,/Was the only living thing.

"General Putnam's Ride"  by Florence K. Peterson
Peterson retells what is evidently a favorite Connecticut tale of the Revolution, when 59-year-old  Israel Putnam, already respected as a daring and courageous soldier, escaped a British raid by riding breakneck down a flight of stone steps.

"Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Poem
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

"The Old Cavalry Horse" by Frances Margaret Fox, from The Last Run Of Uncle Sam's Fire Horses
A old Army horse becomes a milk wagon plug, but one day hears the bugle call.

"Western Wagons" by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet from Book Of Americans (1933)
There's gold in far Wyoming, there's black earth in Ioway.
So pack up the kids and blankets, for we're moving out today!
The cowards never started and the weak died on the road.
And all aceross the continent the endless campfires glowed.

"Pony Express Sage" by Florence K. Peterson
Peterson gives a brief description of the short-lived but long-remembered Pony Express.

"Stage Coach Days" by Florence K. Peterson
A one-page tribute to the stagecoach drivers and horses.

"Not So Long Ago" by Irene Smith from As We Were (1946)
A tribute to the horse in the building of America, which concludes with the sentence: In the building of this country they gave service beyond all measure.

"The Last Run" by Frances Margaret Fox
In 1925, the last 3 fire-horses in Washington, D.C. were saved from auction and sent to an honorable retirement.

"Old Doctor Dobbin" by Irene Smith
In 1930, a horse named Doc Dobbin was honored with a party for his role in protecting 30,000 children against diptheria.  Doc was one of around 150 horses at the drug company E.R. Squibb & Sons; the horses were used to produce serum which could be used to fight and prevent diptheria.

From The Book of Job - The Bible
He goeth out to meet the armed men.
He mocketh at fear, and is not dismayed.

"Little Vic" by Doris Gates, from Little Vic (1951)
Pony Rivers is there when the Thoroughbred foal Little Vic is born, and when he is sold Pony is determined to follow him.

"Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell (intro by Noel Streatfeild), from Black Beauty
Excerpts from the famous horse classic about a black horse and his many masters.

Tapir Specialist Group

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Rocking Horse Secret (1977)

The Rocking Horse Secret
Rumer Godden, il. Juliet Stanwell Smith

There still was horses here then," Jed went on, his brown eyes shining.  "Blackberry, only a big old cob, he was, but she had Flamingo, her hunter.  See m'hat," said Jed, "and this feather?" - only he said "fevver" - "Went all the way to the London zoo for that, I did, and worn it ever since for Flamingo."

Pomeroy Place no longer has horses, unless you count the rocking horse in the long-deserted nursery.  The estate has fallen into decay, old Miss Pomeroy withdrawn and not quite right in her mind, the outdoor work handled by the young man Jed and the indoor by Tibby's mother, now a live-in housemaid.  Tibby herself is a study small child, fascinated by her new home and particularly by the rocking horse. 

He was black, instead of dapple-grey as are most rocking horses, which made him look more real.  His mane and tail were black, too, and silky, and he had a red saddle, a red bridle with reins.

Tibby feels sorry for all the abandoned toys and longs to ride Noble, even dreaming of it.  And slowly, she realizes that someone is riding him.  The old lady herself, terrifying and regal, is visting her old friend in the nursery and one day comes face to face with Tibby.  The reprecussions of that chance meeting will disrupt quite a few plans, and give Tibby and her mother a real home once and for all. 

About the author
Rumer Godden (1907-1998) was born in England but grew up in India and spent much of her life traveling.  A prolific writer, she wrote novels, children's books, nonfiction, and poetry.  A common theme in the children's books were dolls and toys - The Doll's House, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, and Little Plum are a few of these books.  Religion, specifically Catholicism, was another common them - Black Narcissus, In This House of Brede, and Five For Sorrow, Ten For Joy are three of them.  Many of her books were made into movies; her 1946 novel The River became a Jean Renoir film in 1948.

Several of her books involved horses, including: The Dark Horse (1981), about an English racehorse in India and his English groom; The Diddakoi (1972), about a Gypsy girl whose adjustment to non-Gypsy life includes her beloved horse; and Mr. McFadden's Hallowe'en (1975), about a little girl and her pony.

Rumer Godden website

Other editions:

1977 Scholastic paperback; cover by Veronika Hart


Saturday, December 22, 2012

That Donkey (1954)

That Donkey
Georgianna, il. Dorothy Grider
1954, Whitman Publishing Company

Summer hurried by, and then the cold winds blew the leaves from the trees.  His master threw an old blanket over him - it warmed his back and his tummy - but no one ever thought about That Donkey's lovely long ears.  They were cold!

A picture book about a donkey who finally finds a sympathetic listener in Laura.  She sets out to knit him a solution, which becomes his Christmas present.

About the author and illustrator
The author, with the one-name pseudonym, proved impossible to locate.   The illustrator (1915-2012) was a Kentucky native who wrote six books, illustrated many for other authors, and did designs for playing cards and paper dolls, among other products.  The collection of her work at the Kentucky Library and Museum includes Kim Novak paper dolls; per

Whitman's Tell-A-Tale books were little square board books published between 1945 and 1980. 

Wiki Muppet

Kentucky Library and Museum

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gallant Colt (1954)

Gallant Colt
William Campbell Gault, il. Pers Crowell
1954, E.P. Dutton and Company

I remember that the first time I saw Jeff, I thought he was a hobo.  I was down in the south pasture checking the gate that opened on the road there.

Denny Nolan is the 16-year-old adopted son of Colonel and Mrs. Randall; Jeff is the young veterinarian who’s too handsome and too electric to for his own good.  As Mrs. Randall says, “Everybody likes him, and I guess that’s not always good for a man.”   These two, and the golden dun colt called Earnest Endeavor, end up on the road together, seeking to launch the temperamental Endeavor on a racing career. 

Jeff was shaking his head and smiling.  “A great horse and a good boy aboard and a big stakes race.  Can you think of anything more exciting than that, Denny?”

At first, under Denny’s steady gaze, Jeff manages to work hard and stay straight.  But after their first victory, his weakness for good company and cards pulls him into a ruinous game.  Denny, shattered despite everyone’s warning and his own innate understanding of Jeff’s character, struggles on with one hope of getting back to his earlier plans of running their horse in the big race. 

The drawback of writing a charismatic character is that by definition, charisma is unaccountable and needs to be experienced in person to be felt.  Jeff’s wastrel charm is unconvincing, but Denny’s blunt understanding is very believable.   The action has the relentlessness of your average sports fiction, but moves well, and the characters are sometimes surprisingly fleshed out.   It’s worth a read.

About the Author
Gault began in pulp novels, used at least two pseudonyms and was extremely prolific in two genres – teen sports novels, and private-eye detective novels.  A complete list of the latter can be found at the links below.  None appear to be horse-related.  Originally from Milwaukee, he ended up in California.  He was married with at least two children.

While researching the author, I discovered he has a good reputation for his mysteries.  This was one of a long list of teen novels Gault wrote about various sports, and it shows in the droning on about the details of the game.  It seems to have appeared twice as a short story in magazines in the late 1940s, and I wonder if that contributed to the sense of disjointedness about it. 

The art is by Pers Crowell, but there's only a cover and a frontspiece, and my copy lacks a cover, so you will need to search online for that image. 

Wiki page
A forerunner of Gallant Colt appeared as a short story in the August 1949 issue of Short Stories magazine.

About his mystery work
The Thrilling Detective Website
Allan Guthrie’s Noir Originals
Mystery File – Bill Pronzini on Gault

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bea Dare, American Saddle Colt (1946)

Bea Dare, American Saddle Colt
Pers Crowell, author and illustrator
1946, Whittlesey House, McGraw Hill

This short book, lavishly illustrated, follows the early life of an American Saddlebred colt, Beau Dare.  

Although it is framed as a fictional story, this is basically a nonfiction book aiming to educate children about horses.  I didn't find it very interesting as fiction, and somewhat awkward as nonfiction.  The artwork is lovely.

The oddly sepia tone of the drawings was the only drawback.

The copy I read lacked a cover.  The inside covers more than made up for this.

Also by Pers Crowell (as author)
First To Ride (nonfiction)
What Can A Horse Do? (nonfiction)
Cavalcade Of American Horses

Illustrated by Crowell (horse)
Cherokee Bill, Oklahoma Pacer by Jean Bailey
Wild Horse by Glenn Balch
Lost Horse by Glenn Balch
The Christmas Horse by Glenn Balch
The Midnight Colt by Glenn Balch
Skylark Farm by Joan Beckman
Golden Lady, The Story of An American Show Horse by Eleanor Brown
Wendy Wanted A Pony by Eleanor Brown
A Horse For Peter by Eleanor Brown
Golden Mare by William Corbin
Silver by Thomas Clark Hinkle

The Whistling Stallion by Stephen Holt
Phantom Roan by Stephen Holt
Rain Cloud, The Wild Mustang by Margaret Kraenzle
The First Book of Horses by McLennan McMeekin

Midnight by Rutherford Montgomery
Big Red, A Wild Stallion by Rutherford Montgomery
Nez Perce, Buffalo Horse by William Sanderson
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (abridged by Alice Thorne, 1962)
Golden Cloud by Leland Silliman
Golden Cloud In Texas by Leland Silliman

Horses, Horses, Horses (short stories, editor Phyllis R. Fenner)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Mystery Of Plum Park Pony (1980)

The Mystery of Plum Park Pony
Lynn Hall, il. Alan Daniel
1980, Garrard Publishing Company

It was heaven, Susan thought, to ride once more.  The ponies trotted happily down the gravel roads and paths of the park.  They seemed to enjoy the riding as much as Susan and Kent did.

Susan and Kent live across the street from Plum Park, a small amusement park.  In addition to the Tilt-O-Whirl and the roller coaster, the park attractions include a pony ride.  On this spring day, Susan and her pal have followed up on the pony rider operator's promise they can exercise the ponies before opening day.  Susan is puzzled that there's an extra pony in the herd, and the kids soon discover that the newcomer is a runaway from a nearby show barn.  By the time they're figured this out, the runaway has vanished, and the tracks lead to the Tunnel of Terror.

There was no light anywhere.  Susan fell over an electric cable on the ground.  Kent ran into a corner of a scary scene.
"I don't know about you," Kent said, "but I'm lost."
Suddenly there was warmth and movement beside them.  Susan could hardly see the outline of the pony.  She she knew the pony was standing very still.
"I think she's caught on the track," Susan said.

A short tale for beginning readers, with very 1970's illustrations. 

Ponymadbooklovers on Lynn Hall
Jane Badger on Lynn Hall

Other editions
It was reprinted in paperback as The Mystery of the Phantom Pony by Random House, il. Marie DeJohn, cover by Ruth Sanderson.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Word Of Honor (1964)

Word Of Honor: A Story About Thoroughbreds
Ruth Adams Knight and Claud Garner
1964, Ariel Books; Farrar, Strauss and Company

Until now he had taken the family's genteel poverty pretty much for granted.  Kentucky had many run-down farms.  But he had been made suddenly aware that his life, which had evolved naturally from the land he lived on, from being a Matten of Louisville, was a boy's life no longer.

Mimms Matten Parker, or Rusty, is 18 and looking forward to the summer and then his first year at college when his father dies suddenly. Lee Parker wasn't much of a worker, content to let their Kentucky bluegrass farm fall into disrepair, along with his own financial fortunes.   His mother, Hope, has always been the stronger parent, with a firm belief in the integrity of her family, the Mattens.  Her stepson, Howard, is a sulky, rebellious double for his dad, always in search of a quick buck and with no family loyalty.  He splits before the body is cold, taking the family car and leaving the Mattens to search for a way to keep their land.

Luck is with them.  Rusty happens across a drifter, a Mexican with a face disfigured by smallpox but a warm smile and a deep understanding of farming.  With his help, the family begins to think they might succeed.  But some neighbors, including the brisk manager of a nearby Thoroughbred farm who's got his eye on Hope, think that Arturo Cardenas de la Garza is suspicious. 

While the horse sequences have a rote, distant quality, this book excels at making you feel the challenge of rehabilitating a neglected farm and has a realism about the setbacks faced by the Mattens.  Less likeable but still realistic are Rusty's troubled romance with pretty, shallow Lita and his struggle to decide whether he entirely trusts Arturo, who everyone called Padre.  Rusty's essential problem is that even if he distrusts Padre, what can he really do about it?  Just a few months after the drifter moved in, the family is dependent on him for help and advice.  And Rusty has a bigger dream than just hanging on.  As he says late in the book:

"A year ago I had a dream about raising Thoroughbreds on this old farm, and not one chance to have it come true.  Now there he is!  Our family's past and present is in him, and he's a pledge to our future."

This plot has its own complications.  Saving a savagely injured young racehorse and turning her into a broodmare - a plot designed to give the second half of the book the hope that her foal will turn the Matten fortunes - rings false.  The injury is so dire, it seems unlikely that making the horse carry foals would be plausible or humane.

Horses frequently have ridiculous names, but Knight has a positive talent for making you cringe - Purple Sage, Hot Shot, Black Star.  And worst of all, Miss Flighty Fleet.

Ruth Adams Knight
While she didn't write any other equine books, she did write quite a few dog books.  Born in Ohio, she got her foot in the door with journalism during WWI, moved to New York in the 1920s and became an early writer and show runner for radio soap operas.  She was married three times and had two children.

Dog books
Halfway To Heaven: The Story of the Saint Bernard* (1952)
A Friend In The Dark: The Story of A Seeing Eye Dog (1937) il. Morgan Dennis
Luck Of The Irish (1951)
A War Dog (1944)
Brave Companions (1948)
Valiant Comrades (1942)

excerpt in Dog Spelled Backwards by Mordeccai Siegal

Other Books - Nonfiction
Opera Calvalcade: The Story of the Metropolitan (1938)
Sky High In Bolivia (1942)
Stand By For The Ladies: The Distaff Side of Radio (1939)
Lady Editors: Careers for Women in Publishing (1941)

Other Books
Case Histories (1944) (with Jean Hersholt)
Dr. Christian's Office (based on the radio program Dr. Christian) (1946)
First The Lightning (1955)
The Treasured One: The Story of Rudiovravan Princess of Siam
It Might Be You
Search For The Galleon's Gold! (1956)
Fare By My Side (1948)*
Queen Of Roses (1966)
Certain Harvest (1960)
Day After Tomorrow (1952)
The Land Beyond (1934)
Women Must Weep (1953)
Top Of The Mountain (1953)

*also in the February 1948 McCall's magazine

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Driving home from work in early November, I was electrified to see a flock of wild turkeys milling in the front yard of a house in my small town.  Enchanted, I circled the block and took photos.  They'd noticed both the car and the small child emerging from the front door of the house, and began streaming out of the yard.  They ran around my idling car, over the sidewalk opposite and vanished around the corner of the nearest house.  Bemused, I drove on, careful to avoid the trick-or-treaters running through the streets.  Weird year.

Thanksgiving gratitude for a four-day weekend, a hairy dog, and the ability of wildlife to show up in unexpected places.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wendy Wanted A Pony (1951)

Wendy Wanted A Pony
Eleanor Frances Brown, il. Pers Crowell
1951, Julian Messner, Inc.

 If only there were some way to wave a magic wand and transport the whole Farwell family from the dirty, smoke-filled city to quiet green fields, peaceful living and clean fresh air for mother!

10-year-old Wendy Farwell longs to leave Chicago and live on a farm, where her father can farm, her mother (who suffers from some lung ailment) can get strong and she can have a horse.  She's prime horse girl material; a random encounter with a loose cow on a city street leads to a friendship with the local mounted police and a spotted Shetland named Polka Dot. 

"Getting you a pony was not our main reason for going," he called reprovingly.  "Our main reason still stands.  We need farm life for your mother's sake."

The Farwell family find it difficult to finance their move, though.  Hopes rise and fall, opportunities come and then fall through, and through the misadventures and uncertainty, Wendy clings to her hopes of a pony.  The family finally moves west, to join Jim's brother in Oregon, but their plans of a farm fall through and they end up back in apartments.  Along the way, she falls in love with her cousin's pony, White Sox, and acquires a beautiful dog -

Although very much like a purebred collie, she was much smaller and had a slightly different type of muzzle.  Her artistocratic head, with alert, cocked ears falling forward at the tips, held deep-set dark eyes with a look of unusual sweetness and intelligence.

who nearly makes up for the lack of equine opportunity.  And she befriends a cranky rich man. 

Wait.  A cranky rich man?  You know that's a good sign. 

This is a solid older children's book.  The plot has a slow but satisfying pace and a realistically difficult path to sucess for the heroes.  It also features the classis sickly mother, morally overbearing father, sulky male child who must be understood and, late in the game, a slightly creepy level of guilt from the heroine when she bends some rules to get her pony.

There isn't much in the way of horse scenes, oddly.  It's a book more about longing for a horse than about actually owning/riding/fussing over one.

Other books by Author
A Horse For Peter
The Colt From Horse Heaven Hills
Mountain Palomino
Golden Lady: The Story of an American Show Horse

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Proudest Horse On The Prairie (1971)


The Proudest Horse On The Prairie
Beatrice S. Smith, il. Laurel Horvat
1971, Lerner Publications Company

Every day it is like meeting a locomotive head on," Fred complained.

A bay colt born on a South Dakota ranch grows into the headstrong, unbreakable Tipperary.  Sold from owner to owner, experiencing bad and good people, he eventually becomes a superlative bucking horse in the rodeos.

A short fictionalized version of a real horse and rodeo star, this book features basic but attractive illustrations and a limited, somewhat sentimental text.  The bio in the back of the book says this was the author's first published book. 

The author
Beatrice S. Smith wrote a variety of children's fiction and nonfiction.  A teacher, she lived in Middleton, Wisconsin, and owned a farm with her husband and children.

The illustrator
Laurel Horvat worked for Hallmark and for the Augsburg Publishing House before becoming a freelancer.  She lived in Providence, Rhode Island, and rode horses.

Tipperary's background
The real horse was possibly a Thoroughbred, who began to attract attention at South Dakota auctions where European buyers were shopping for cavalry mounts*. 

The only one to successfully ride the horse was Hollywood stuntman Yakima Canutt, and he did it twice.  If you've never watched the 1939 film Stagecoach, in which Canutt did amazing stunts as a stand-in for fledgling star John Wayne, then go watch it now.  Wayne wasn't a rider and famously enters his film career walking, but it's an excellent film.  And you can watch if free on YouTube.

*I was taken aback by this, thinking that South Dakota to Europe seems a heck of a long way to ship a horse back in 1914, but according to Wikipedia, equines were in short supply and nearly 1 million were shipped to Europe between 1914 and 1918. It was expensive and dangerous; horses took up far more space than men or supplies, and perished when the ships were shelled en route. 

Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (scroll to bottom of page)
Wikipedia - Horse in WWI

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween hurricane

If it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bed sheets around corners. But one strange wild dark long year, Halloween came early.
Something Wicked This Way Comes  by Ray Bradbury (1962)

Mother Nature's massive trick has gone, blasting west in a hurry after a leisurely approach.  A long, warm autumn closed suddenly in downpour and wind, uprooted trees and snapped fence posts.  That was if you were lucky.  The storm also killed dozens of people, crushed and burned and flooded homes, and simply minced the plans of millions, from the commuters struggling to reach Lower Manhattan to the workers left without a job in damaged businesses.  Not to mention the uneasily watching candidates.  A mix of powerful mythmaking and brutal destruction, the hurricane was a true Halloween story, which makes it all the more bittersweet that the affected areas have mostly postponed the traditional holiday until at least the weekend, citing the substantial cleanup of broken trees and downed wires.  No trick-or-treaters came to the door tonight; there was no town-wide festival of children in costumes, no elaborate home decorations, no hovering parents trying to take photos in the twilight.  Halloween night passed quietly, in the new cold temperatures, in darkness.**      

I wrote a post in 2010 about the barrier islands of the East Coast. This week, Sandy pelted those vulnerable sandbars with wind and rain and waves, cut them off from the mainland,  drowned their streets and smashed anything in reach of the tide. In New Jersey, where Sandy made landfall on Monday evening, oceans and back bays met in the center of Long Beach Island, long sections of the Atlantic City boardwalk were ripped off their moorings and flung blocks away, and Seaside Park lost a chunk of its amusement pier. The storm had lost its hurricane status by the time it hit the shore, but the waves its low pressure pushed onto land have swamped both the shore towns and the southern tip of Manhattan.  

He opened the door, and the old man and the boy stepped out into a terrifying seventy-five-mile-an-hour gale. The sudden pressure half-knocked Paul's breath out. The rain blew into his eyes faster than he could blink it away. He felt Grandpa thrust a strong arm through his, and linked tight together they flung themselves against the wind, floundering ankle-deep in the choppy water. Paul's heart hammered in his chest and he cried inside, "Please, God, take the sea back where it belongs. Please take it back."
Stormy, Misty's Foal (1963)

Marguerite Henry's sequel to Misty of Chincoteague chronicled the Ash Wednesday Storm, a massive nor'easter* that stalled over the East Coast for three long days in March of 1962.  Like Sandy,it came about through the actions of three colliding weather systems.  Like Sandy, it was a freak storm for the Northeast. 

Lone horsey note:

My 2010 post was about the feral equine herds that inhabit some of these islands.  The early word is that the Chincoteague ponies have likely survived.  There's no news, as far as I can find, on the Banker Ponies.

*A nor'easter is a low pressure system with a cold core that forms over the East Coast in the winter; a hurricane is a low pressure system with a warm core that forms over the Atlantic Ocean in the summer.  I think. 

** Realizing I should clarify, given the huge number of people without power.  We were lucky - no power outage, no trees fell, no damage done.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Upcoming books

So after a weekend spent dutifully stocking up on bottled water, refilling prescriptions and battening down all the outdoor flotsam, we're just waiting.  Hurricane Sandy, the largest part of what the thrilled-to-their-toes weather media has dubbed Frankenstorm, is churning steadily north and is still, the last I heard, on course to make a sharp left at New Jersey and head inland, drawn in by a low-pressure system, where it will move straight into a winter storm from the north.  At which point, I believe, we all die horribly.  I may be wrong about that, but it's the definite impression left by the news.

In the event we do not all die, there are some interesting new horse books coming out this winter.


Darcy, the 10th installment of the Horse Diaries series will be released on January 8, 2013.  This one stars a grey Connemara mare.  In other words, the childhood fantasy horse of everyone who wasn't in love with the The Black.  The last installment was Tennessee Rose.

A new edition of the Narnia ponybook installment, The Horse And His Boy, is due out December 4, with the Kindle edition released the same day.

A horsey installment of the Rainbow Street Shelter series, Stolen! A Pony Called Pebbles, is released November 13.

Another of the teen A Circuit series, Off Course, is out November 13.

A New Friend and A Special Wish, the first two books of an English series for a younger crowd, Magic Pony, are being released in the US on January 10, 2012. 

Canterwood Crest 17th installment Jealousy is due out February 19.  I've never read these books, but I kind of love the website .

New in paperback

The nonfiction Eclipse: The Horse That Changed Racing History Forever by Nicholas Clee, is out in paperback on December 24.


Many of Jean Slaughter Doty's books have just been re-issued in paperback.  Titles include The Valley Of The Ponies, If Wishes Were Horses, Can I Get There By Candlelight, and the dog story Gabriel.  It appears they stayed with the original covers.  No news about what is arguably her best and best-loved book, The Monday Horses.

(And as a little extra, here's a scifi/fantasy blog that does a short (and spoiler) review of Can I Get There By Candlelight.

Another version of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, this time by Oxford University Press

And (sigh) ebooks

I don't own an e-reader.  They're cute, they're handy in certain circumstances, but I don't like them.  I suspect that they will, as technology tends to, eradicate their predecessor.  And since I love books, the physical reality as well as the content, that's going to annoy me.  However, it may be nice for some to hear of new ebooks.  So here are some of the more interesting ones I've come across recently.

C.W. Anderson's Billy and Blaze series went into e-editions over the summer.

Marguerite Henry is getting a mass Kindle/Nook release.  Her 1945 fictionalized bio of the foundation sire for the Morgan, Justin Morgan Had A Horse, will be released as an e-reader edition on December 11, 2012.  Misty of Chincoteague will be out in that format on December 11 also, as will King Of The Wind, Brighty, and Stormy, Misty's FoalSea Star is out December 18, as is Misty's Twilight , Black Gold, Mustang, Brown Sunshine Of Sawdust Valley, Born To Trot, San Domingo.

Pam Munoz Ryan's 2007 Paint The Wind, is due as a Kindle edition on November 1.

Books from Bonnie Bryant's Saddle Club series are also making e-reader appearances on December 19.  These include: Sea Horse, Team Play, Horse Games, Snow Ride, Ghost Rider, The Fox Hunt, Horsenapped, Racehorse Horse Trouble, Starlight Christmas, and Pack Trip.


R.A. Macavoy's 1987 fantasy novel The Grey Horse is being released as an audio book on October 21, 2012.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Old Tangle Eye (1954)

Old Tangle Eye
Ralph E. Johnston, il. William Moyers
1954, The Junior Literary Guild and Houghton Mifflin

John Merrill was an Illinois farmer bound for Colorado, where there was fair, fertile country lying at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains.  The grass gew tall and thick and there his plow would turn up, for the first time, the heavy black soil to the warming sunshine.

John's 12-year-old nephew, Steven, is along for the ride.  His father, George, had gone west a year earlier and written home that he now had a ranch and had even found gold.  Steven's mother died years earlier, so he and his father had lived with John and his family - wife Cynthia and daughters Mary and Margaret - and now it's natural that everyone should follow George west.

But when the family arrives in Cheyenne, the end of their train ride from Illinois, George Merrill is nowhere to be found.  They set out alone for Colorado only to be waylaid by Musgrove, who tries to strongarm them into selling the ranch for far more than it's worth.  He's driven off by Dan Curtis, a young man who lives near Merrill's ranch.  He helps them travel there, and re-establish themselves when they discover that the ranch buildings have been burned.  His friendship consoles Steven somewhat for the mysterious absence of his father.

The title comes from the name locals have for one of the few remaining buffalo in the area, a man-killer whose shaggy forelock has grown so tangled it obscures his vision.  Tangle Eye will leave a man alone if he's mounted on a horse, but will chase down and try to trample a man afoot. The pioneers tolerate him largely because his presence is good luck to the local Ute tribe. 

At any rate, Steven is given a pony, the roan mare Strawberry.

No matter how many tasks he had, Steven found time each day for a long gallop upon Strawberry.  The better he became acquainted with the gentle little mare, the more he loved her.  He brushed her until her coat glistened, he combed her mane and tail until they hung in a glossy, rippling splendor.  Strawberry returned his affection; she would come trotting up to him when he called to her from the corral fence.

In time, Musgrove is explained, as is the mystery of George Merrill's disappearance.  Written capably and with good pace, this book also has a more even treatment of female characters than many Westerns, and maintains a more realistic view of the young hero.  It's really a western with a few specific horse scenes rather than a full-out horsey book. 

About the Author
I found almost nothing about Johnston.  He appears to have written a few other Western/cowboy books, but that's it.

About the Artist
Moyers, like Steven, moved west to Colorado as a kid.  He worked at Disney, illustrated hundreds of books and ended up specializing in cowboy art.

And a photo borrowed from the US Fish and Wildlife's National Digital Library, of bison grazing under a very big sky.

Credit: Ryan Haggerty/USFWS.  From the US Fish and Wildlife National Digital Library at

Friday, September 21, 2012

Riding lessons

I began taking riding lessons a few years ago, having belatedly realized that now that I had a real, grownup job and my own money, I could finally get myself on a horse. As of this moment, I can now (mostly) tack up, retrieve a horse from a field despite said horse's uncanny ability to vanish behind a blade of grass, mount with the use of a mounting block (I did once achieve the top of the horse sans the block, but it was ugly and I believe it may have traumatized me, the horse and my instructor equally), stay aboard reasonably well and in something vaguely resembling equestrian form at a walk and a trot, and, with varying degrees of success, canter. I can even, when my blood is up and my instructor is armed with a longe whip, canter cross-rails.     

This only took years, a pair of extremely long-suffering horses and a series of valiant instructors to accomplish.  But somehow, this direct experience of the awkward fact that riding a horse is actual hard work doesn't detract from my enjoyment of horse books and their untutored but effective little riders whose light hands, natural seat and perfect sympathy with all things equine are forever being applauded by hard-bitten stablemen and wealthy old ladies who just happen to need someone to ride Corinthian in the upcoming show. I think the reason for my lack of resentment is that I secretly believe that had I had the opportunity when I was 10, I'd have ridden off across the moors on my magnificent wild stallion too, just like all the fictional heroines who never experience a moment's qualm but enjoy a Perfect Bond with their pony. The Perfect Bond issue must be why so few horse books even mention lessons. I've trolled through many books, searching out lesson scenes, and have not found much. The most vivid and realistic actually were in memoirs, and I'm going to have a different post about them. Below are some of the fictional lessons I've found, and a particularly appealing illustration from Panky In The Saddle. Panky's expression is just as confident and happy as my own felt, the first time I attempted to transfer myself from the top of a mounting block to the top of a horse.

Panky In The Saddle interior

As the colt trotted steadily around he would release the mane and raise his arms to shoulder level. Then, to the moorman's orders, he would swing them from side to side, up and down, together and alternately; touch his toes, one at a time and both together; lie back until his head touched the pony's rump; then he would pick up the reins, knotted over the colt's withers, and take a gentle contact, learning how to keep his wrists supple so that his hands could move with the colt's head and keep a "living" contact on the bit.
The White Colt by David Rook (1967)

Yes, this is exactly how my lessons are: private longe sessions where I do gymnastics. I find Jinny more appealing:

"I don't know enough," Jinny thought desperately. "I don't know the right things to do. My riding just isn't good enough. I've never had any proper lessons and sitting on Bramble isn't really riding. Not like riding Shantih. Books are no good. Reading them it all sounds so easy, but they're no use when I'm flying through the air."
A Devil To Ride by Patricia Leitch (1976)

But then again, Jinny and her Shantih are also a bit off-puttingly magical, albeit in a grungy, socially aware 1970's way.

Try as she might, Marcy could not find the posting rhythm again and slithered and slathered around in the saddle.
Everyday Friends by Lucy Diggs (1986)

Now that's more like it. Then there's the competitive kids and their trainers:

"You will please to remember you are not a passenger. You will please to remember that you are the boss. You will grip. You will be firm in the saddle. You will hold the reins and give your commands with authority."
The Colonel And Me by John W. Chambers (1985)

Ruth heard the hollow booming noise of falling poles behind her like the tolling of a funeral bell; she turned Toad in a large, wild circle, in no hurry to face Mrs. Meredith again, and certainly not Peter. The Team by K.M. Peyton (1975)

At first everything I did was wrong. "Sit down in the saddle. Sink into it. Let your weight sink down through your heels. Relax. Relax. How can you be with your horse unless you can feel its every breath through your seat?" I couldn't answer. I could only nod and go on trying.
Dream Of Fair Horses aka The Fields Of Praise by Patricia Leitch (1975)
Far more common than the official lesson are heroines who wing it, often with the help of what their horsey bibles have said.

I remembered what the Book said. I pressed in with my heels. At the same time, I lifted the reins in one hand. "Tluck-tluck," I said, feeling foolish. The result was amazing! Bonny lurched forward. Between those ears, I saw the meadows rolling slowly toward and under us. We were walking straight ahead.
The Rain-Cloud Pony by Anne Eliot Crompton (1977)

Or, even worse, just their instinct.

But she felt a piece of fear, realizing that her skill at riding was nothing and she had no saddle or bridle to give her superiority.  All that held the mare to her was a slim leather line; if she broke loose, not yet knowing home and barn, the mare could canter for miles and be lost and gone.
Blueberry by Helga Sandburg (1963)

And always, of course, the horse is the ultimate teacher.

But she had never yet felt reins that had a trained mouth at the end of them, and as she cantered up the slope of the sunny field with the brow of the hill and the height of the sky in front of her, Sir Pericles taught her in three minutes what she had not known existed.  Her scraggy, childish fingers obtained results at a pressure.  The living canter bent to right or left at her touch.  He handed her the glory of command.
National Velvet by Enid Bagnold (1935)


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A "Blue" For Illi (1954)

A Blue For Illi (aka Blue Ribbon Winner)
Nancy Hartwell, il. Don Sibley
1954, Henry Holt and Company

This was the spot where Illi liked to linger when the horses were out.  She would stand, one foot on the rail, watching the sleek brown or gray or black bodies stretch and arch themselves in the most beautiful curves in the world.  Was there anything more beautiful than a horse in action?  Was there a better friend anywhere than a horse?

Ilona Horvath is standing in the lushness of Philadelphia's furthest suburbs, the gently rolling countryside of Chester County.  Walking down a country lane past a sprawling gentleman's farm, on her way to the snug home of her second family, the Enrights, Illi's come a strange, hard distance from her birth in Budapest.  The daughter of an artist and a lawyer, Illi had a happy childhood and even when she was evacuated from the city in 1943, she continued briefly to enjoy a snug middle-class existence at the government horse farm (the real Kisber Stud, which bred Thoroughbreds) her grandfather manages first for the Hungarians and then for the invading Germans.  But by 1945, the 10-year-old's childhood is effectively over.  Her parents, opposed to the invading Germans, have been arrested and killed, her grandfather dies protecting her from a guard, her older brother's run off to join the guerrillas, and even her beloved young stallion Vidam must be left behind.  As Illi expresses it herself in an essay, that was the end of the "well-bred little girl;" she "became one of the lost children of Europe who lived from day to day in the best way they could."  In her case, she fought her way to a Children's Camp for displaced people and managed to get herself sent to America, to be a companion for a middle-class couple's disabled daughter, Ardis.  She's been there a while now, and is happy enough, but still unsure of her future.

Whew.  To her credit, Hartwell presents all that information in a natural way and not in the action-packed paragraph format I just used. 

Back to the horses.  With the unerring instinct of many a less-challenged horsey heroine, Illi manages to attract admiration and help from the Major, one of those invaluable wealthy neighbors who own quality horses and has a soft spot for spunky girls.  Illi and falls in love with his horse Hocus-Pocus (aka Pokey), who reminds her painfully of the lost Vidam.

She was standing in the road, trying to get up her courage, when she heard the soft clop of hoofs and looked up the lane to see Neal coming along on Rockabye and leading another horse, a stud colt not more than two years old and tacked up for riding.  He was a perfect little chestnut with a white star on his forehead and dark, wide-set eyes, proudly arched neck, and four dainty white stockings. 
Illi stood rooted to the spot.  She must be dreaming, because it was exactly like the dream, the one that still came back to her, the one from which she always awoke with a feeling of keen disappointment.  It was the dream where she saw Vidam coming down from the Kisber stables, headed straight for her.

There are misunderstandings, romances for both Illi and Ardis, and a pair of reunions that are both unlikely and deeply believable.  The action culminates at the Devon Horse Show. 

The author is capable and stylish, and the heroine's complicated life is inherently interesting, but the action - and the various eligible boys - become confusing and the horse material is handled gingerly.  While the heroine's love for horses is well done, the actual riding scenes are few, far between and not exactly convincing.

Illustrations and Covers
Unfortunately, my copy is a battered old former library book without a dust jacket.  The original Holt hardcover cover can, for the moment at least, be seen at Amazon.  There was a Berkley Highland paperback edition in 1963, which can also be seen at Amazon.
The illustrator for the Holt originals was Don Sibley, who was a prolific illustrator of children's books, to the point where I knew I knew that name.  His horses are more like statues than living animals, but the minimalistic drawings throughout the book - often only on half a page - are typical of the time period, and nostalgically appealing. 

About the Author
Nancy Hartwell (1890-?) was a pseudonym for Claire Hartwell Callahan, who also wrote under the name Ann Kilborn Cole.  She wrote several young adult novels, but none of the others had an equine aspect.  She was born and raised in Philadelphia, attended Trinity College in Washington D.C., married in 1921and lived most of her adult life outside the city in the town of Pottstown. 

Other books by Author

Shoestring Theater (1947)
Dusty Cloak (1955)Senorita Okay (1956)
The Hills Of Home (1958)
Wake Up, Roberta (1959)
The Place On Wishbone Alley (1960)
Who Was Sylvia? (1960)
Something For Laurie (1962)

The Golden Guide to Antiques
Old Things For Young People

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pagan The Black (1960)

Pagan The Black
Dorothy Potter Benedict, il. John Groth
1960, Pantheon Books

"Tomorrow's the day," Dad said. "Tomorrow we'll break Pagan."
Those were the words Sandy Seaton had been waiting to hear. Ever since he was nine and the wild black colt had been run onto the open range to grow up alone and Dad had said "Yes, tyke, he will be yours -- someday." Now, this Friday night, with school closed for the summer, Pagan three and he twelve, he heard the words he'd longed for and, instead of whooping and hollering, he sat still and silent at the table.

Sandy's silent worry is that Slim, his beloved mentor and his father's rough but dependable ranch hand, will push the temperamental young horse as he pushed the horse's dam, three years earlier, causing her death. It's not a baseless fear. The first chapter of this book uses an extensive flashback to establish the backstory of 12-year-old Sandy and his black stallion Pagan. Six years earlier, the Seaton family moved West from Washington, D.C., after Sandy's soldier father was injured in battle. Shortly thereafter, a stranger finds their ranch during a blizzard, bringing an orphaned filly inside the ranch house with him. The stranger is Slim Erickson, who becomes Mr. Seaton's right-hand man on the ranch. The filly is Siren, and she becomes the love of young Sandy's life. But after two happy years, his attempt to break her to saddle end in a savage bite and in Siren being exiled to winter on the range. When they bring her in the next summer, she has a colt.

"She wasn't spendin' her winter reformin'," Slim said.

When they try to separate mare and half-grown foal, the young Pagan shows signs of his dam's temper, and Siren herself has a fatal encounter with barbed wire. From then on, it's a struggle between Sandy and Slim over whether Pagan is safe. Their argument seems to resolve after a successful race at the local rodeo, but reappears when Pagan attacks a man.

Also in the mix, rather suddenly, is the family's adoption of a lost girl, Mistie, whose floozy mother dies in a bar fall caused by her latest boyfriend, a villain who holds a grudge against the Seatons stemming from an incident at the rodeo. Mistie, sulky and traumatized, begins to heal with the help of a mare, Sunrise, lent by a neighbor. More adventures follow, including Slim saving Sandy's life, Mistie confronting her past, and Pagan on trial for his life.

I feel like I've come across the akward Sandy/Slim scenario in other horse books. For some reason, the author is reluctant to put father and son in true opposition, so they put in a hired hand, an experienced man with horses but one who lacks sensitivity or education, who's plenty stubborn and loudly opinionated, but often wrong.

The Mistie plot seems to belong to another book. The implication is fairly clear that her mother's all but a prostitute, and Mistie's being groomed for a similar fate. It's similar in tone to the hard-edged breaking scenes, but the content is disturbing for a children's book.

Of course, a boy and a great black stallion starred in another 20th century children's book. Here, as in Farley's series, the boy is at first conscious of not being entirely in control of the situation when he's riding his horse. But as he and Pagan learn, he gains control. As Slim growls,

"A critter ain't a machine... You got to ride him every minute an' I mean ride."

About the Author
Dorothy Potter married Charles Calvert Benedict (West Point, 1915) They had three children - Charles Calvert Benedict, Jr., Patricia and Calvert P. Charles was a West Point grad who served in WWI and died on active duty in a flight accident at Langley Field, VA in 1925. Both sons went into the military and both followed their father into West Point; Charles Jr. followed his father into West Point and died over Manchuria when a Japanese plane made a kamikaze attack on his bomber in 1944. Calvert served for 35 years, including a stint as commandant of the U.S. Army command in West Berlin. Patricia married another career soldier, Col. Harrison Lobdell, Jr., also from a military family; four of her grandsons went to West Point, and two served in Iraq.  Dorothy apparently never remarried, dying December 4, 1979. She was buried at Cold Spring Cemetary, Cold Spring, New York.

This was a challenging project, and I never did really find out too much about Mrs. Benedict. She would have been born at the end of the 19th or the start of the 20th centuries, and anyone born that long ago is much harder to research online. The only reason I found this much was the military connection. It reminded me of researching a Mormon author, where you find out a slew of facts but they're all related to only one aspect of a person's life. It was certainly an interesting military background, but I was unable to dig up anything related to the most salient point from the perspective of this blog - the Potter family's ranch in Montana.

Pagan The Black il. John Groth (1960)
Fabulous il. Joseph Papin (1961)
Bandoleer il. Joseph Papin (1963)

Other writing
Consort: A Comedy in Three Acts     (1934)
One Virginity by pseud. Benny Dick (1938)
Let's Not Drown The Symphony - essay in The Christian Herald?
"Tough Guy Belisarius" by Dorothy Potter Benedict in Ladies Home Journal