Friday Fun: A Little Horsing Around
It is the first weekend in May and that can only mean one thing in the world of sports and pop culture: Derby Day is here. 2008 marks the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. The hats. The mint juleps. The red roses. The strains of "My Old Kentucky Home" that fill the air at Churchill Downs. And of course the horses. Always the horses.
When I was a kid I watched Secretariat on TV win the Kentucky Derby (track record), and then the Preakness (track record), and finally the Belmont (world record) winning by 31 lengths in 2:24. I was so taken with this amazing horse that I was inspired to pick up my pen and write a fan letter addresed to "Secretariat, Kentucky, USA." A short while later I received a small post card from Mrs. Penny Tweedy of Meadow Stables and two photographs: one of Secretariat and the other of Secretariat racing with stable mate Riva Ridge. Needless to say I was thrilled. I soon began reading everything I could about Secretariat, which included the sports pages of the New York Times. It also spurred me to go to the library and read a lot of books about horses, which inspired me to write a lot of stories about horses, which sent me back to the library for books about how to draw horses in order that I could illustrate my own stories. You could say it was my love of Secretariat that began my love of reading, writing, and drawing.
Do I owe my literacy and ability to draw today to a childhood interest in Secretariat? Probably. Remember, dear librarian friends, that when a child comes to you with an interest in horses, or dogs, or bugs, or baseball, or any of a myriad of things, that YOU may change their life with a simple, "Why don't you try this book?" My librarian placed the book the "Black Stallion" in my hands. I read the entire Black Stallion series, Misty of Chincoteague, Smoky the Cowhorse, Black Beauty, non-fiction and encyclopedia articles, and anything else I could find about horses.
However, my greatest discovery at the library was the work of writer and illustrator C.W. Anderson. One day I got lucky and bought a set of C.W. Anderson lithographs titled "Turf and Bluegrass" from a garage sale for 50 cents. This was a lot of money for a little kid. I practiced drawing by copying Anderson's drawings which included "Seabiscuit," "Man O' War" and other famous race horses. If you are unfamiliar with C.W. Anderson and love horses you are in for a real treat. His illustrations are gorgeous. Check out Librarything for a glimpse of Anderson's work and also eBay. Hint: include "horse" as a keyword when you search for "C.W. Anderson" or you may find the wrestler by the same name instead.
So put on your best hat, grab a mint julep, and tell me about your favorite horse books or movies from when you were a kid...or perhaps even a grown-up.