Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Horse Sense

I really wanted to like this book which I bought at the Westlake Library sale a few weeks ago:

In fact, I did like this book.  I really liked this book. Until I got to page 274 and read about Traveller, Robert E. Lee's horse.

Why would a Pultizer Prize-winning author refer to the most famous Southern horse as a she? Everyone knows that Traveller, originally named Jeff Davis and then Greenbrier, was a he—a gelding. (I once heard a noted Civil War historian refer to Traveller as a stallion, but I held my tongue). I think the author might have gotten Traveller confused with Lucy Long, a mare that Lee owned. 

You'd think, though, that the publishers (Pantheon for the hardcover, Vintage for the paperback) would have had the horse sense to use a fact-checker.

After page 274, I was skeptical about everything else I read. What else did the author get wrong? I wondered.

This picture, scanned from the photo that hangs on my wall, shows Traveller displaying a particular anatomical part that a mare would not have.

I have been a Traveller fan for a long time. When I was in fifth grade, my class took a field trip to Lexington and I actually saw Traveller's skeleton that Horwitz refers to on page 274. That, of course, was over 50 years ago. When I went to college in Richmond (also a long time ago), I often admired the statue of Traveller on Monument Avenue.

A book about Traveller that I really liked—all the way through—was Richard Adams' novel, Traveller. In it, Traveller tells about the war from his own viewpoint. And Traveller never once refers to himself as a mare.

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Blogger Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

Richard Adam's novel sounds interesting.
I think we would all be surprised at how many "facts" presented in books are actually wrong.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Feathers in the Wind said...

I rest my case:


Heh heh heh...

If people intend to me a book about a horse well-known in history, they need to know that I do, as a reasonably intelligent (I hope) reader, know the difference between the (cough) sexes [of horses, in this case]. To do otherwise insults the reader and looks a lot like a standing ovation of rotten tomatoes on the author, the publisher, and everyone who was responsible for making sure that the work of literary art was also a realistic and genuine article down to the last punctuation mark.

Of course, none of us is perfect. But be-darned if I'll call a mare a gelding or vice-versa. Which reminds me of an old fella who once told me he had a new filly-colt out yonder in the pasture... as you may imagine, that spawned quite a heated 'discussion' until he finally realized what I was getting at in picking at him over it. From there, we shared a good laugh.

~ R.L.M. Tipton

6:16 PM  
Blogger Sally Roseveare said...

Proof again that a writer should research, research, and then research again.

8:06 PM  
Blogger R.M. said...

LOL - we must be sisters!! I love stories, and I do love a yarn full of embellishment, but also am a stickler for the true facts. How hard was it for her to look at the picture and not notice he's a he?

9:17 AM  

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