Monday, July 4, 2011


Chincoteague is what you call a one-horse town. The one horse is Misty, from the book Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. The story of a family determined to raise a filly born to a wild horse, the book won the Newbery prize and was made into a movie. I remember seeing the movie as a child, and I read the book to our girls when they were young.

The book put Chincoteague on the map. It popularized the herds of wild ponies that roam the island. It lent its name to dozens of shops, restaurants and tours. The Chincoteague High School team is — you guessed it — the Ponies. Hardly a fearsome name but, as Claire pointed out when we passed the high school yesterday, an artist has tried to make the ponies look fearsome. There is steam coming from their nostrils and they have a tough, no-nonsense gaze.

Tom and Celia chanced upon Misty herself the other day; she is stuffed and on display at a local museum. Ghoulish and over the top, to be sure. (Even in Kentucky, where horses are king, we bury our famous ones.)

But the hype is gentle as hype goes. It makes me feel tender about this place and, above all, glad to know that a book still has the power to change a place.


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