Dec 28, 2010

of liberty ponies and poor navigational skills

Misty of Chincoteague
by Marguerite Henry

On an island off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland lives a centuries-old band of wild ponies. Among them is the most mysterious of all, Phantom, a rarely seen mare that eludes all efforts to capture her--that is, until a young boy and girl lay eyes on her and determine that they can't live without her. The frenzied roundup that follows on the next "Pony Penning Day" does indeed bring Phantom into their lives, in a way they never would have suspected. Phantom would forever be a creature of the wild. But her gentle, loyal colt Misty is another story altogether.
A long time ago, when my sister and I were but annoying tweens, my parents went to Norway for three weeks. Yes, that's right. Norway. Because this was like 1993 and April, clearly they weren't taking us along for the magical adventure. So they tossed our grandparents at us and inadvertently created a lot of cross-generational havoc while they were skipping hand in hand through eight feet of snow...or whatever. This havoc presented itself in a litter of kittens. My sister and I naturally wanted a kitten (or all of them) and knew there was no way in hell our parents were going to allow this, but maybe our grandparents could be persuaded...

Only all of our deviousness failed, because grandparents are never as easily led by children as they seem in fiction. Our children's book learning failed us. I would have to wait until I was in college to get a kitten, who is now my own personal hell beast/serial killer.

Anyway, I relate this story because I feel like Misty of Chincoteague bears a striking similarity to my life in April of 1993. Paul and Maureen have been thrown at the Beebes because their parents are gallivanting around in China (for what seems like five and a half years), only their parents have made a crucial error. The Beebes own horses. Not only do they own horses, they live on Chicoteague island, an island packed with ponies. An island packed with ponies that holds annual pony festivals where they basically give these ponies away to any kid who mows enough lawns during the summer.

There is no way those parents are getting their kids back.

Anyhoo, time for an introduction! Once there was a ship and it sank and all of its men drowned, but most of its adorable ponies lived and celebrated this navigational failure by rolling around in salty grass. Sweet bliss! 

Enter The Phantom and Pied Piper many, many years later. Everyone wants The Phantom because she's seemingly the only pony in history who hasn't been rounded up at some point. Paul is determined to capture her, and manages this because she's foolishly just given birth to Misty. Then there is drama. Someone else has purchased The Phantom! Except then that person realizes that their kid really wants the sorrel pony, so Paul and Maureen get The Phantom and Misty anyway. How can you not love conveniently knocked down obstacles?

A year passes. Misty is a brat, The Phantom sulks and beats the fastest pony on earth at the next Pony Penning Day, and then everyone realizes that The Phantom is better off wild...after she breaks free and gallivants off to her band to be with that dastardly Pied Piper. But, they still have Misty, that cute little consolation prize, because she likes to chew on hats and do circus tricks or whatever. Later, she would be taxidermically preserved in the seventies. Hooray!

- Does Grandpa Beebe freak anyone else out, or is it just me?

- I get this huge kick out of "map of the United States" description for The Phantom and Misty and the implication that thems there are "liberty" ponies, and don't you forget it! It's like some miracle that the whole breed was never renamed the Liberty Pony.

Classic, solid children's book. Not much more to say about it. I think I have a sixty-year-old copy of Sea Star floating around somewhere I could try out. Also, maybe Misty's Twilight? How do I own all of these books?

(Review of Lord of Misrule is coming, as I have attained a copy! I just have to, you know, read it first.)


DarfurWire said...

I totally swallowed the "based on a true story" line as a kid. A very cute, nice story but a bit ridiculous in retrospect. Also, I'm not sure I approve of driving a herd of ponies through the water and making them swim. Horse politics, just like mustang roundups, I guess. As a kid I was always taken by the description of Misty as silvery-gold, with long lashes and a sweet some heavenly female Savior horse.

Anonymous said...

I'm DarfurWire. Wanted to add a comment, and meant to post under a different Blogger profile. What of giving a horse tobacco as a treat? [Grampa] All horses love tobacco! Eww.