When I was a kid, my parents sent me to visit with my grandparents for a week every summer, presumably so we could get to know each other better as we lived a few hundred miles apart. It didn’t really work, as my grandparents were busy people with their own personal lives and I mostly only saw them at meals. The rest of the time, I wandered around the house and tried to amuse myself. Keep in mind, this was long before video games, digital music, or even cable TV. So I raided their bookshelves, which was also pretty boring because they really weren’t readers. Even at 10 years old, I knew Readers Digest was the pits. However, I did find a stash of my dad’s old books, which included several of Terhune’s doggie adventure stories, and I read those to tatters.
In honor of my dad, who passed away last month, I’m reading books that are all connected to him in some way. Buff: A Collie is one of those that were tucked away on my grandparents’ bookshelves, and I have both a vintage hardback copy and an ebook copy from the Gutenberg Project to read.
The collection of stories, originally published in 1921, is a little spotty overall. The strength of all Terhune’s books is how he writes his dogs. They are not overly anthropomorphized, but are given emotions and ability to reason that are (for dog-lovers) not a stretch of the imagination, as are their relationships with their people. Terhune has been criticized for his elitist attitudes, and this is evident in some of his stories – there is an annoying use of vernacular, and “hill people” often feature as the villains in these stories. His female characters exist mostly to serve as lovely, gentle inspirations, but at least one does get to wield a shotgun with skill as she attempts to protect her own.
The title story is terrific and heart-wrenching, with a little bit of everything: heroism, loyalty, criminal acts, life-threatening situations, bloodthirsty revenge, love, romance, and pathos. Another, “Chums”, had me in floods of tears. It's the story of a boy who runs away and is homeless for a while, but befriends two stray mutts who become his whole world, and what happens when they are picked up by the dogcatcher one day while he's out working for dinner money. The others were okay to pretty bad, and the author loves to wallow in detailed descriptions of dog fights, which spoiled several stories for me.
2/3/18 - 2%