I'm going to depart from my typically serious posts to share a humorous incident which I included in my latest novel, A PASSING MIST. The “Chincoteague pony incident” in Chapter 12 was inspired by the story my father tells of the pony his aunt and uncle transported in their Oldsmobile sedan to their farm in Delaware when he was a boy.
The real account is almost worse than the fictional story. His aunt drove the car, and he sat in the passenger seat. In the back seat, his uncle and two cousins held the pony. Another cousin stretched out on the ledge in the rear window. My dad was about ten at the time, and when he saw the pony lift its tail next to the baby, he turned around and caught the excrement in his bare hands and hurled it out the window.
You would think his aunt would have applauded this act of heroism, but she was shocked and disgusted that he had been so quick to catch the horse poo!
One foal caught her eye, a little golden filly with a white mane and tail. She stood on spindly legs, with a round belly and her tuft of a tail wagging up and down in excitement. Gloria leaned into the rails of the fence, wishing the filly would get close enough to be touched.
“I wish I could buy that one, right there,” she told her friends. What she didn’t tell them was that Gloria wished she could take one of the ponies home to show Franz, since he was unable to share this experience with her.
“I hope you’re joking!” Gaby replied. “It’s awfully cute, but we didn’t bring a trailer.”
A couple standing beside her overheard their conversation and the man interjected, “We didn’t come planning to buy, but decided to after all. We’re going to take it home in our Oldsmobile, with our children.”
The three women stared in shock. “Really?” Gloria asked, unsure if he was teasing.
He grinned. “Sure enough. We have a farm in Delaware, with plenty of space for a pony. Might as well get one here as anywhere.” Realizing his manners, he stuck out his hand. “Mr. and Mrs. Hazzard.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Gloria said, shaking their hands in turn. “If I’d brought my farm truck, I could have taken one back without any trouble. But these girls,” she jerked her thumb at her friends, “they aren’t farm girls. They aren’t about to let me put an animal in their car.”
“Absolutely not!” “You’ve got that right,” the Saulsbury sisters agreed emphatically.
Gloria looked back at the golden filly with longing. She had a feeling Franz would have loved her.
“What are you going to do if… you know, the pony needs to…” Gaby’s eyes narrowed as she tried to imagine a road trip with a pony in the backseat.
Mr. Hazzard shrugged. “It’s organic material. It’ll clean up.”
“Oh…” she replied.
On Thursday, after the auction, Gloria and the sisters were walking back to their bungalow from the carnival grounds when they spotted their new friends from Delaware. True to their word, they were loading a foal into the backseat of their sedan, positioning it across the laps of three children. Two girls and a boy, with a capricious gleam in his eyes, were petting the pony like it was an oversized puppy.
“Good luck!” Gloria called, waving as they aimed their car for home with all the windows rolled down.
As they drove down the street, she observed frantic movement within the backseat. Two small hands appeared through the side window and a pile of manure was tossed into the road. The little boy stuck his head out grinned, waving and laughing as if it were a great joke as they turned the corner and disappeared from view.
My father, Leroy Hazzard, as a toothless little boy. Can you see the sparkle of mischief in his eyes?
While this isn't "the" Chincoteague pony, my father has this picture of a pony from the farm which was sired by a Chincoteague Island stallion. He has many fond memories of this pony, and said he was the only one who could ride it since he didn't mind its attempts to buck him off!
Pony Penning is still held in July during the Chincoteague Volunteer Firemen's Carnival. "Salt Water Cowboys" herd the horses across the narrowest part of Assateague Channel at low tide, after which they are examined by veterinarians. After a resting period, they are herded through town to a corral at the Carnival Grounds where they stay until the next day's auction. The Pony Auction not only provides a source of revenue for the fire company, but it also serves to trim the herd's numbers. To retain the permit to graze on the refuge, the herd must not exceed 150 horses.
When I was a girl, one of my favorite books was MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE, written by Marguerite Henry.
If I could have found the album, I might have shared pictures of the summer my parents took me to Chincoteague to see the pony swim... but then again, I'm not sure I really want to share photos of what I looked like as a teenager! So embarrassing!