Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Book Review: Dan Patch (finally!)

I've been working my way through Dan Patch's story for the last month now. (For those of you who don't know my reading habits, that's a long time for a book to last.) It's certainly not that this wasn't a well written book - or that the topic wasn't interesting. It's been a busy month!

Crazy Good: the true story of Dan Patch, the most famous horse in America by Charles Leerhsen
Dan Patch, for those of you who might be unfamiliar, was a Standardbred pacer who turned the harness rading world on its ear.

Born in 1896 in the small town of Oxford, Indiana, the horse that was to become a cultural icon was almost put down immediately due to a crippled rear leg. The offspring of an obscurely bred, lame mare and nasty-tempered stallion with a decent harness racing record, Dan Patch went on to become the first horse to pace a mile in 1:56 seconds. He eventually lowered that record, albeit under slightly dubious circumstances, to 1:55.

Dan Patch paced naturally, no hobbles required. (If you've ever seen a trotter race, and it's rare to find a track still in operation anymore, you'll likely have seen horses race in hobbles & assorted other paraphenalia intended to keep them from breaking gait.) He was something of fluke in other ways, too - traveling exceedingly well, handling crouds with equanimity, and taking almost every publicity event in stride.

The story Leerhsen writes is at once less and more than the simple biography of a great horse. It's a chatty, sometimes catty, account of a horse's life, of the lives and personalities of the men who surrounded him, and also a window into another time.
I picked the book up in the first place because I remember hearing about Dan Patch in Indiana (my grandparents lived for a while in Bloomington) and the name rang a bell from lyrics in the musical The Music Man, as well. I enjoyed reading it, even as long as it took me to get through.

If you're curious and would like to know more, check out the Dan Patch Historical Society or check out a brief bio courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society. If you're intrigued, track down a copy of Crazy Good - simply put, if you've seen or read Seabiscuit and enjoyed it, or read Old Bones, the Wonder Horse and felt likewise, give Crazy Good a shot.


Hubba said...

I might give it a spin, thanks!

SunnySD said...

Glad you liked the review - hope you enjoy the book. Thanks for stopping by!