2,900 Miles From Home


Albert, May 30, 2013

My sister recently reminded me that after our grammy died in 2007, I didn’t write for a while, either. She’s right about that. Then, I withdrew to my garden and spent the summer weeding in my nightgown.

I miss my pony and think about him every day and night. But, it’s awesome to consider the outpouring of support from people who knew and loved this horse. Some of them for longer than I knew him.

People have sent embroidered pillows, bright flowers, uplifting cards, and generous donations to horse research and rescue charities. Friends offered to hold a wake for Albert and make a video tribute of his life. Folks prayed for and honored him in some incredible ways. So many good people called and emailed and shared in the joy of his life. Hundreds of people.

I like that a lot better than weeding in the garden alone. Though, I reckon each response is valid and healing.

When Albert passed away, just about three weeks ago now, I immediately left town for a business trip to Portland, which brought me home ten days later via Oakland and Phoenix.

While I was out West, during the week after Albert’s passing, my colleagues and family members let me cry and tell them about how much this horse has meant to me and my family. Folks back East checked on me by phone, listening while I recounted his courage and resolve.

In Portland, I even had help plotting a goofy memorial of tying up a stuffed pony to a historic horse hitch in Albert’s honor.

Old horse hitch, Portland, Oregon

Old horse hitch, Portland, Oregon

I didn’t just make this idea up. Portland is an enchanted city. There are all sorts of magical things to discover in the streets of Portland, such as Mill Ends Park, the world’s smallest park .

Admiring Mill Ends Park in Portland

Admiring Mill Ends Park in Portland

And, the Portland Pony Project.

So…when in Rome.

pretty pony

Pretty Pony at 10th and Stark, Portland

The afternoon that I hitched up this pretty pony, I offered up a silent thanksgiving for Albert and knelt to take a photo. As I stood up to leave, from behind me a man asked, “Do you mind if I take a picture, too? We have four at home.”

“Of course!” I tried to sound, I don’t know, extra chipper. “I have two horses!” Then, I burst into tears. “Well, not anymore. My old horse died the day before I came out here. I live in Virginia.”

His eyes welled up, too. “We have a thirty year old Arabian mare at home. We’re going to euthanize her this weekend.”

And, now, we both stood at 10th and Stark, crying in the sunshine.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I told him. “My horse, Albert, was almost thirty.”

He said, “She’s completely blind. Our mare.”

I nodded. “Albert was blind.”

So, us two strangers stood there taking pictures of a stuffed pony that I bought at Powell’s. We talked about Albert and talked about his mare, Kentucky. She was the first horse that his sixteen year old son ever rode.

And, that’s it. No big revelation. Except  2,900 miles from home when I was feeling so sad, I met a nice man named Ed, who loved his horse as much as I loved mine. And, he knew the day had arrived. Time to thank her for her service and let her go. And, time to remember.

Yah, Boy!

Just before Thanksgiving I spent an afternoon with the 4th grade at Bettie Weaver Elementary School in Chesterfield County. Bettie Weaver is a community of serious readers and writers, a school that prides itself on a high level of literary engagement.The school principal, a horsewoman and fellow boarder at Campbell Springs, invited me to share some thoughts about reading and writing with her students. The 4th grade prepared for my visit by using Chancey of the Maury River as a read aloud title.

What a joy to spend a few hours with them! I left Bettie Weaver feeling so thankful that my life offers opportunities to talk with young readers and writers and very thankful, too, for the passionate educators and librarians I met that day. Here are a few of the drawings the students made of scenes from Chancey:

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All of the pictures from the classes were awesome! The best part, though, was reading their notes to me:

That was my favorite book that my teacher has ever read to us. The most tearful part in the story was when Trevor was sent home.

I didn’t know you were coming today. I thought you would come on the first day after Thanksgiving break. I really liked this book and hope you did too.

I love your book Chancey. I think it’s kind of funny.

Thank you for sharing your ideas with us fourth graders. Your book was painting wonderful, detailed pictures in everyone’s mind. I was surprised and impressed at the same time.

Your book CHANCEY OF THE MAURY RIVER was spectacular.

Thank you for coming. You taught me lots of things about characters and how to write a story about anything.

I’m still so sad about Trevor. I loved your book.

Now, if I ever write a book I know what to do.

Chancey is a majestic pony and loves people. He’s not a mean pony.

I love to ride to and I have a white horse named Buddy. I like to ride him but sometimes he will get bossy.

I think the mountains are very cool.

I love to write!

My favorite part is when Trevor passed the boy and his fat pony.

I love the blue ridge mountains too!

I have one question wich is how long did it take to write the book?

I wanted Mrs. Payne to read two chapters a day.

My dream also is to write a wonderful book just like you. I love to ride horses.

Our class was intrigued by the part where Claire fell off Chancey.

Is your real horse’s name Chancey?

I wanted to cry when Claire got hurt. I hope you continue writing the great books you do. Ya boy ya!

Great Books for Horse Lovers

Have you discovered this wonderful website, Great Horse Books for Horse Lovers, yet? Here, Vanessa Wright has curated one of the most comprehensive, helpful, and interesting online collections of horse books. You’ll want to bookmark Great Books for Horse Lovers and Vanessa’s other project, The Literary Horse, so you can easily return and explore the resources there. Whether you crave fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, instructional, or children’s books, Vanessa’s site will guide you to some great titles.

I’m so grateful that she has included Chancey in her collection. Thank you, Great Books for Horse Lovers!

Great Books for Horse Lovers: Fire Star: An Interview with Gigi Amateau about Chancey of the Maury River.