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Extinction by NAIS


Windt im Wald Farm
Geauga County, Northeast Ohio
since 1995

MISTY, A Chincoteague Pony (1946-1972)

When I was a school girl growing up in a Cleveland, Ohio, suburb and grownups asked me what I would do when I grew up, my response was always, "I'm going to marry a rich cowboy and have a big horse ranch," even though I had no idea about what a "rich cowboy," "marry," or "big horse ranch" really meant. It was good enough to have this answer to fall back on, and a very special third-grade teacher, Miss Elinor Agricola, took me to see a horse farm in Independence during summer vacation.

Nevertheless, it was the author Marguerite Henry who first helped me visualize a real Arabian horse in her book, King of the Wind. After reading about the legendary Godolphin Arabian in King of the Wind, I discovered Mrs. Henry's story about Misty from the islands of Assateague and Chincoteague off the coast of Virginia. It was Misty and her humans, Grandpa and Grandma Beebe and Maureen and Paul, who helped me to know that someday, somehow I might be able to have a horse of my own. It was a childhood dream that I would never give up, especially when Marguerite Henry sent several letters to me in response to the fan mail I wrote in a childish script I was especially fond of her typed response on the back of a black and white photo of Misty with her front legs propped on a round stool. She dated the letter April 12, 1954. She told me how important my thoughts were to her, and she signed it in a big bold signature that I never forgot. In 1997, when Marguerite Henry died at the age of 95, she had no way of knowing that I, as one of her oldest fans, had realized the dream of owning not just one horse, but many horses. Thank you, Marguerite Henry, for sharing the story of Misty, a real pinto pony that became the subject of a movie, a Breyer horse model, and the idol of thousands of school children who desperately wanted someday to own a horse of their own.

Where did the ponies on Chincoteague Island come from? Legend says that they were the descendants of horses aboard a Spanish ship in the sixteenth century. When the ship was torn apart during a storm near Assateague Island, some horses managed to escape and swam ashore. Because conditions were so harsh, each new generation of horses became a little smaller in size until they became pony-sized. Since there were no settlers on Assateague Island and very little forage for the ponies,they often swam ashore to Chincoteague Island in search of food in the form of settlers' crops. Eventually, the residents of Chincoteague Island began to capture some of these ponies and to domesticate them. In 1924 the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department began the yearly event of driving the ponies from Assateague to Chincoteague. The annual event helped raise money to pay for necessary fire and rescue equipment for the residents of Chincoteague Island?

Who was Misty? Misty was foaled in 1946. She and her dam, Phantom, were herded across the narrow channel from Chincoteague Island to mainland Virginia when Misty was still a foal. In 1946 Marguerite Henry, a resident of Evanston, Illinois, attended the pony penning and saw Misty and Phantom sold to Grandpa Clarence Beebe for his grandchildren. After much coaxing, Marguerite was able to buy Misty from Grandpa Beebe for $150 when he learned that Misty would be the subject of a children's book. For millions of school children all over the United States, Misty soon became their dream-come-true pony, especially when Marguerite took the pony to schools and invited children to attend Misty's birthday parties. For years every pony I wished for at Christmas and never received looked exactly like Misty. Misty lived with Marguerite Henry and her husband for ten years in Evanston, Illinois, before she was sent back to Grandpa Beebe's to be bred and to produce her own Chincoteague foals. Although Misty produced three foals, two of them died the same day in a tragic fire on Chincoteague Island, but the third foal, another pinto filly born during a terrible storm in 1962, became the subject of another story by Marguerite Henry. This filly was aptly named Stormy, who grew up to produce foals of her own. In fact, several of Misty's great great grandget, many of them pinto, are helping Misty to be remembered. Though Grandma and Grandpa Beebe and grandson Paul were dead by 1960, Marguerite Henry continued to write stories about horses and in 1992 published Misty's Twilight, the story of Misty’s great great granddaughter.

As for me, I must say that I never married that rich cowboy, although I fell in love with a very special farmer. Looking back over our long lives together, we have always shared a love of the land and an appreciation for the beauty and free spirit of horses. We are blessed to own and love many horses. I was right about marrying a "rich" man, not necessarily one of great financial wealth, but one who has enabled us to have rich experiences. Absolutely none of my fairy tale life might have happened, though, without my first having known Marguerite Henry and Misty of Chincoteague.

Diane Jones
Windt im Wald Farm  

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