Brown, Freida K (F K Brown)

About the author

Many thanks to Christina Wilsdon, who wrote this piece about Last Hurdle.

This lovely book about a 12-year-old-girl, Kathy Nelson, and her devotion to the rehabilitation of an aged, sick horse was originally published in 1953 by Thomas Crowell. It was reprinted in 1988 by Linnet Books, an imprint of The Shoe String Press, Inc.

The cover and scattered interior pages feature black-and-white illustrations by renowned children’s-book illustrator Peter Spier. The paperback edition that I took out of the library (back in the 1960s) had a vivid yellow and orange-red cover; the hardcover reprint has a white dust jacket, with a few details in the black-and-white cover illustration picked out in red.

According to the back jacket flap of the Linnet reprint, “Last Hurdle rings true because it is based on truth. Author Frieda K. Brown, like Kathy Nelson in this story, startled her family by bringing home a thirty-year-old horse she had bought for $20.00. The details that make Last Hurdle special—the homemade bridle, the ‘wrong’ kind of saddle—are real, too. Nowadays, Frieda Brown lives on a tree farm in North Carolina with her husband, and true to her childhood affections and loyalties, she runs a ‘rest home’ for old and abused horses.”

Further research elaborates on this brief biography.

Frieda Kenyon (later Brown) was born on July 2, 1920, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her childhood was, in her own words, “idyllic,” despite the Depression looming over it in her early teens: she grew up on an apple farm and went to a one-room school. After high school, she attended Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.

During World War II, she joined the American Red Cross. She worked in field hospitals in Germany and France, earning a Medal of Freedom in honor of her service.

She married William Douglas Brown, an infantry lieutenant, in 1945 in France. Back in the United States, they raised two children, Douglas and Jean, and eventually settled in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. (This location boasts mountains, a national and a state forest, and, according to Wikipedia, “lies in an area noted for its many waterfalls and white squirrels.”)

In this beautiful landscape, she tended a farm shaded by hemlocks with a stream threading through it. She cared for many elderly, neglected, and abused horses as well as dogs and cats. In an article in the Transylvanian Times (a North Carolina newspaper), her granddaughter fondly recalls Brown using a tractor to cut grass.

In 2004, the land came under the protection of a land trust, The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, an organization that aims to “protect wonderful places for nature and people.”

According to the article, Brown often read aloud to her grandchildren from Last Hurdle. She also wrote novels for an adult readership under the name Frieda. K. Franklin, including Combat Nurse (a World War II era story, based on real life experiences, published as Road Inland in the U.K.) and None But the Brave (set in mid-1800s Kansas).

In addition to writing fiction, Brown collaborated with allergist Dr. Claude Frazier, of Asheville, on writing projects. Together, they wrote Miners and Medicine: West Virginia Memories and Insects and Allergy and What to Do About Them.

Brown died at the age of 91 on July 8, 2011. 

Christina Wilsdon, 2023

Finding the book
Reasonably easy to find, particularly in its later printings. First editions in very good condition can be expensive.


Last Hurdle

Crowell, New York, 1953, 202 pp, illus Peter Spier
Thomas Y Crowell, 1970, pb
Linnet Books, Hamden, Conn, 1988, 292 pp,
Illus Peter Spier, 202 pp

Kathy dreams of owning a horse, and when she hears of one that can be bought very cheaply, she buys the thin old black horse and develops him into a healthy jumper.