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David Grew

Many thanks to Christina Wilsdon, who wrote this piece.


Beyond Rope and Fence by David Grew

David Grew’s novel about Queen, a buckskin mare born on the western prairies of Canada, tells the story of her capture, treatment at the hands of humans, and quest for freedom from a distinctly equine point of view—not in first person á la Black Beauty, but definitely from Queen’s vantage.

My edition of the book, which I got as a child in the early 1970s as part of the Famous Horse Stories book club, was published by Grosset & Dunlap and bears a copyright date of 1947. (In looking online it appears the book’s recently been reissued.) Google Books has the entire contents published online now and when looking at it I was thrilled to see that it contained an introduction, a long one, by the author about how horses are loosed on the prairies to fend for themselves in winter. This was not included in my edition of the book. Nor was the charming dedication that Grew had in the original, in which he acknowledged the book was inspired by one of his own horses:

“To you, dear old Dora, who inspired this book, I dedicate it. I regret most poignantly that life has ordained that you may never know, despite my caresses and quart measures filled to overflowing with oats, how deeply I have sympathized with you in those moments when you stood motionless before me and I could see by the strange sad light in your eyes that you were dreaming of long departed happy years of freedom on the plains.”

Online research reveals that the book was originally published in 1922 by Boni and Liveright, a New York firm. There is a review published in the New York Times of September 17, 1922, that for the most part simply retells the story’s high points and concludes thus with remarks that made me, for one, roll my eyes: “The difficulty in telling a tale of this sort is to convince the reader that animals have the same feelings and emotions that humans have. It is quite possible that they do have them, that they love and hate, experience joy and sorrow just as we do, even if to a lesser degree, but it is not easy for us to put ourselves in their places as we can in a story that deals with human beings. There are, perhaps, individuals whose insight into animal psychology is sufficiently keen for them to be able to do this. To such persons David Grew’s story will appeal.”

Apparently American journalist Heywood Broun had comments about the book, or at least the publisher tried to whip up some frenzy about alleged criticism, for in an ad they ran they claim, “David Grew and his publishers have unsuccessfully (to date) been trying to draw Mr. Heywood Broun into a printed controversy anent his comment that Mr. Grew makes his hoses sentimental and articulate. We herewith challenge Mr. Broun to print Mr. Grew’s letter to him.” (As far as I can tell, Mr. Broun did not respond.)

Grew wrote other animal books such as The Sorrel Stallion, The Buckskin Colt, The Ghost Mare, and The Wild Dog of Edmonton. The Sorrel Stallion got a review in the New York Times on April 10, 1932, and clearly this time a more sympathetic reviewer was given the task, as he or she writes that the story is “an interesting essay in animal psychology told in the form of a charming animal story that will hold the interest of anyone who loves that noble animal, the horse.”

Christina Wilsdon


Finding the books: Beyond Rope and Fence is very expensive as a first edition; but reasonably easy to find in its Famous Horse incarnation. It is available as a print on demand title. The Sorrel Stallion is reasonably easy to find as a Famous Horse edition. The Ghost Mare is findable in both British and American printings, but not terribly cheap. The Untamed is not terribly common, but not generally expensive. The Mare of Pandora is very difficult indeed to find. I suspect that this is Beyond Rope and Fence, re-titled, but the British Library does not say so. It seems unlikely that the author would have a book published only in the UK.


Links and sources
Terri A. Wear: Horse Stories, an Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press, 1987

Many thanks to Lisa Catz and Alison MacCallum for their help with the photographs.

Beyond Rope and Fence

Boni & Liveright, New York, 1922

D McKay & Co, Philadelphia, 1947, 180 pp
Teenage Book Club, New York


Queen is born into a herd of ranch horses. Even after she is taught to carry a rider and work on
the ranch, she still longs for her freedom.

Bibliography - horse books only

The Buckskin Colt

D McKay & Co, Philadelphia, 1962, 180 pp
Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1967, 180 pp


Russell’s pregnant mare Daisy has gone missing, but when Russell’s father looks for her, he is
injured in a fall from his horse. Russell feels guilty, and thinks it is all his fault, but even when he is
offered a good price for his colt, he refuses to sell him.

The Mare of Pandora

Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1925, 317 pp.


The Sorrel Stallion

Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1932, illus Paul Brown

Hutchinson & Co, London, 1933, 288 pp

Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1951, 216 pp


A young woman sees a sorrel colt, and wants to capture him. She then loses
him, and he experiences life as a wild horse until he returns to the rancher and
his wife.


The Ghost Mare

Coward McCann, New York, 1949, reprinted 1952
Frederick Warne, London, 1952, 241 pp


The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are going after the ghost mare which
caused Bob’s death. When Bill learns this, he decides to go after the mare
himself.

The Untamed: Horses of the Wild

T Fisher Unwin, London, 1923, 255 pp


Quite possibly non fiction rather than fiction.