Albert Payson Terhune and Sunnybank Collies
Photo from Sunnybank Collies Website
To Lad the real world was bounded by The Place. Outside, there were a certain number of miles of land and there were an uncertain number of people. But the miles were uninspiring, except for a cross-country tramp with the Master. And the people were foolish and strange folk who either stared at him which always annoyed Lad—or else tried to pat him; which he hated. But The Place was—The Place.
Always, he had lived on The Place. He felt he owned it. It was assuredly his to enjoy, to guard, to patrol from high road to lake. It was his world.
The denizens of every world must have at least one deity to worship. Lad had one: the Master. Indeed, he had two: the Master and the Mistress. And because the dog was strong of soul and chivalric, withal, and because the Mistress was altogether lovable, Lad placed her altar even above the Master’s. Which was wholly as it should have been.
There were other people at The Place people to whom a dog must be courteous, as becomes a thoroughbred, and whose caresses he must accept. Very often, there were guests, too. And from puppyhood, Lad had been taught the sacredness of the Guest Law. Civilly, he would endure the pettings of these visiting outlanders. Gravely, he would shake hands with them, on request. He would even permit them to paw him or haul him about, if they were of the obnoxious, dog-mauling breed. But the moment politeness would permit, he always withdrew, very quietly, from their reach and, if possible, from their sight as well.
-- Albert Payson Terhune, Lad: A Dog, 1919
|My Grandmother's Ramshackle Cabin|
There were many wonderful things to see and do at my grannie's cabin: wander through the woods, pick blackberries or shell black walnuts, swing from the big oak tree or climb the cherry tree, walk to the country store to buy treats, make sandwiches with Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip and just-picked tomatoes from the garden while fireflies flickered, visit the Meadows children at the end of the long driveway, play the many box turtles on the land, collect blackberries, or splash through the small stream, disrupting the crawdads-- but my biggest delight was a bookcase with a long line of books by early twentieth-century author Albert Payson Terhune. Terhune raised collies at an estate called Sunnybank in New Jersey and he wrote books about his wonderful dogs Lad, Lady, Bruce, Wolf, and others. I and many of my cousins devoured them, reading of collies one doing noble and heroic act after another. I loved those books.
|LTR: My Brother Rick, Beauregard, A Dog Whose Name I Don't Remember, and Me (1959)|
In my early visits Grannie actually had a collie. His name was Beauregard. He was big and shaggy and beautiful and, unlike the collies of today which have had the intelligence and broad snouts of traditional collies bred out of them in pursuit of show trophies, the very personification of Sunnybank Lad. I loved Beaury and he passed too soon. I loved my grannie, too.
|My Grandmother in Her Garden. Note the Tomatoes! (1974)|
Those days and my grandmother and her cottage are long gone, but I and I'm sure some of my cousins remember vividly the exploits of the Sunnybank collies.
Somehow across the decades I disremembered Sunnybank was in New Jersey-- but when returning home from Wayne one day a year or so ago I saw Terhune Boulevard. Could it be? Yes! Had to be named after the author of the collie books!
As soon as I got home I consulted The Google and discovered Sunnybank Estate had been preserved as a Terhune Memorial Park in Pompton Lakes. Every time I was in or near Terhune Boulevard I looked for the park but never managed to spot it.
Finally I decided to make a concerted effort to locate the park. It turned out to be right on Terhune Boulevard. The entrance was marked with a small blue sign, easy to miss.
Terhune park is a lovely place, wooded and bordering tranquil Pompton Lake. I could see why Terhune found it so special. It would be a perfect place for an afternoon of reading or quiet contemplation or for a picnic or as a spot to visit while boating on Pompton Lake. There are plenty of benches and I have a book already marked out.
The Terhune home place, by the way, is long gone, razed in the 1960s because it had fallen into disrepair. The parking lot marks its location.
I own a couple of Terhune's books. I recently re-read Lad: A Dog and found Terhune's style hyperbolically sentimental-- a trait non uncommon in 1919, when it was written. Terhune's sense of personal superiority, which was invisible to my childhood self, manifests in my adult reading and when describing an attempted burglarly (foiled, of course, by Lad); his fawning adoration of women is of course sexist, and he manifests the racism of his time. Nonetheless I enjoyed my read and plan to re-read more of Terhune's books. A half-dozen or so are available in electronic format and, happily, all seem to be selling for three dollars or so at Advanced Book Exchange. I think I'll build a set.
Here are some images from my visit.
| Lad, the Terhunes' Most Famous Dog, is Buried Close by the Parking Area
The Terhunes' Beloved Lily Pool Long Since Dried Up
Puppy Yard Photo From Sunnybank Collies Website