Category Archives: Airedale Terriers

A Ride in the Sun, or Gasoline Gypsy, by Peggy Iris Thomas

A Ride in the Sun, or Gasoline Gypsy, by Peggy Iris Thomas

I’ve mentioned before that my husband Jason and I have combined our love of books with our love of dogs (Airedale terriers in particular) by building a library of books in which Airedales have starring or supporting roles, or at least appear in all their handsome splendour on book covers. Jason and I also, by the way, regularly enjoy sharing our books by reading aloud to each other. We combined all of these pleasures when we read together A Ride in the Sun, or Gasoline Gypsy, by Peggy Iris Thomas, earlier this year.

This book has many charms. The author recounts the myriad adventures she and her Airedale, Matelot, enjoyed as they embarked on a 14,000-mile motorcycle trek through Canada, the United States and Mexico from 1950 to 1952. As an unassuming paean to a considerably more innocent time, it’s a delight. At every hairpin turn along the way, Peggy miraculously finds a trucker who will pick up her woefully underpowered and overloaded motorcycle and transport it to the next garage. With only one or two comically villainous exceptions, those garages are staffed by resourceful mechanics willing to figure out the vagaries of her unusual model of bike and get her back on the road again – often no charge. At times fearless and self-sufficient, at times naively hapless, Peggy is always captivating, and Matelot is the epitome of canine patience and fidelity.

We relished all of these charms and they seemed to shine through most brilliantly when we were sharing the book together, reading it aloud, laughing, pausing to comment on Peggy’s misadventures, close calls and feisty spirit, and to stray into our own stories. When we paused to stumble just a bit over yet another repetition of Peggy’s stock phrases or stilted prose, the fact that we were reading it all aloud helped us to compensate, laugh it off and carry on. The few times we tried to read portions of the books to ourselves, the story fell calamitously flat, freighted under the words of someone more comfortable riding a motorcycle or training dogs than capturing any of it in sentences. And hence the glory of reading aloud to redeem great stories somewhat awkwardly told.

See also:

60th anniversary edition of A Ride in the Sun, or Gasoline Gypsy, by Peggy Iris Thomas

Benefits of reading aloud
(While there is much to be said about children reading aloud, adults reading aloud to children, and adults reading their own prose aloud to remedy problems in expression, it’s hard to find much about the joys of adults reading aloud to adults. Leave a comment on this post if you find anything, OK?)

The Money Tree, by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small

My husband Jason and I are dog lovers. We adore dogs in all shapes, sizes and breeds, but our hearts were especially captured by and we have shared our home for over two decades with devastatingly charming, handsome, rambunctious Airedale terriers.

We’re as passionate about books as we are about our companion beasts. What better way to combine the two then, than by building a subset of our library to focus on Airedales? Thanks to Jason’s particular eye for and terrier-like tenacity for researching and seeking out rare, obscure and offbeat books, we’ve amassed and are constantly on the lookout for books that feature, depict and even just mention Airedales in passing, in pictures and print. (1) One day, we aim to publish an annotated bibliography of what we’ve gathered.

Through that search for all things both bookish and Airedalian, The Money Tree, by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small recently came our way … and I am besotted.

The Money Tree, by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small

The Money Tree tells its story through deceptively simple, almost circumspect text and rich, endlessly evocative illustrations. Miss McGillicuddy shares a pastoral life on a lush piece of land with a warmly appointed farmhouse with three dogs (one of which, of course, is an Airedale), a cat, some birds (including a parrot) and farm animals, including a horse and some goats. Miss McGillicuddy is quietly self reliant, planting and harvesting and caring for her animals, and finding time to quilt, read, fly a kite and make a Maypole for the neighbourhood children. Over the course of a year, she discovers a strange tree growing on her property, watches as it yields a puzzling but compelling bounty, shares that bounty with her community, and then wisely brings the bounty to an end, clearly with much thought and no alarm or rancour.

David Small’s illustrations are rich in colour and detail, and offer character and storytelling details that deepen Sarah Stewart’s understated, poetic text. How do we know that over the seasons, the enigmatic Miss McGillicuddy has made her decisions with such benevolence, tempered with such prudent moderation? Small’s particular strength has been to focus on this independent woman’s face, throwing beams of the subtly changing seasonal light on her musing, absorbed and absorbing expressions.

The Money Tree movingly captures the enduring beauty and reassurances of and in the changes of the seasons. The book simultaneously pays tribute to personal resilience and communal generosity.

This is a sweet and gentle tale for young children. There is also much to entrance and, evinced in Miss McGillicuddy’s Mona Lisa smile on the last page, to ever so softly provoke adult readers, too.

Notes:

1. Here are some of our Airedale books that I’ve previously mentioned on this blog:

See also:

The Money Tree by Sarah Stewart, from the Experiencing Nature blog

Useless Dog, by Billy C. Clark

Useless Dog, by Billy C. Clark

This sweet-natured story of a boy and his dog is distinguished by its authentic-sounding voice of the farming and hunting communities of the Kentucky mountains. Published in the early 1960s, it captures a time, place and people, but avoids being a dated read. The bond between young teenage Caleb and Outcast, the part-Airedale hound who everyone else initially rejects but who proves himself to be a wily and reliable hunting dog, is genuinely and sensitively traced without becoming maudlin. It’s an affecting and timeless tale.