History Alive

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:16

    Sometimes it's the story behind the book, rather the story in the book that stays with the reader. The readers, primarily young horse lover, have a lot to take away from these two local offerings by noted author Marguerite Henry. Born to Trot was copyrighted in l950 by Rand McNally and Company. The book contains numerous illustrations by Wesley Dennis who also was the illustrator for many other of Henry's books. The book is dedicated to the three main real-life figures around which the story revolves. The man is Benjamin Franklin White, horse trainer, driver and four-time winner of the Hambletonian Stakes. The boy is Gibson White, Ben's son and budding trainer and appreciative owner of a potential trotting champion. The third figure is Rosalind, the world champion trotting mare. Ben White and his family are not native to Orange County, but the highlight of their racing season was the "Grand Circuit" which also meant a stop in Goshen, N.Y. When Gibson comes down with a severe cough and a general rundown condition he is sent to a rest home to regain his health and strength. While there he's given a book by a genial Dr. Mills, once a resident of Orange County. This book, One Man's Horse, tells the story of William Rysdyk and his famous trotter Hambletonian. It's an old book, the dates l849-l876 are stamped on the red leather cover. While the young man regains his strength he reads that "fictionalized history of the horse credited with fathering the standardbred line. So basically there's a book within a book. The author and her editor soon begin receiving inquiries about One Man's Horse. Readers of Born to Trot want to know where they can obtain a copy of One Man's Horse. Of course no such book exists. Finally, in l977, One Man's Horse is published. The copyright page states that it was originally published in Born to Trot in l950. The text of the book is exactly the same as are the illustrations. The author, however, adds a few more chapters detailing Hambletonian's famous offspring and gives a brief history of early trotting races in America. She also includes photos of the Hambletonian Monument in Chester and boulder marking the foaling place of Rysdyk's famous trotter. (That boulder with the bronze tablet has since been moved closer to Hambletonian Road just outside the village of Sugar Loaf.) In Born to Trot after Ben White captures the Hambletonian Stakes in Goshen with Gibson's Rosalind, he and his son make a kind of pilgrimage to that foaling place and both stories seem to come full circle. Both books are mainly for young readers, but there is enough local history to satisfy readers of all ages, especially if they have any interest at all in the well-documented story of the trotting industry in Orange County.