By Tiffany Amber Stockton
Last month, I wrapped up the year's focus on Colorado history featuring a historical marker honoring the very first Christmas in this state. If you missed that post, you can read it here: https://www.hhhistory.com/2020/12/by-tiffany-amber-stockton-last-month-i.html.
Today, it's a new year, so we have a new theme. I'm in the process of writing a 3-book series set on a little island called Chincoteague, just off the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It will feature the stories of my family on my mother's side, many of whom grew up or spent a lot of years on the island.
For me, there's an even more personal connection, as my grandfather (mom's dad) grew up on the island. His father owned a barbershop there where he first learned to cut hair. In 1961, Marguerite's book was made into a movie, and the barber shop was featured in one scene. That shop was sold just prior to WWII when my grandfather's family moved to Washington, D.C. and a Father & Son barbershop was opened on Pennsylvania Avenue. In the early 1950's, my great-grandfather retired and returned to his beloved Chincoteague where he died in 1956. When my grandfather left D.C. to also return to Chincoteague in 1978, he took over ownership of a barbershop and continued cutting hair until he passed away in 1982.
I grew up hearing the stories of Misty and the BeeBee family on which Ms. Henry based her book. It wasn't until I was in my late teens when I realized there are several streets on Chincoteague island named after members of my family. There's no doubt in my mind that this connection is the primary reason for my love of horses as a little girl and even to this day.
This event has been taking place since 1925, and the men who do the roundup are called "saltwater cowboys" as they often have to get into the water with the ponies to keep them swimming toward Chincoteague or help the yearling foals swim.
They weren't much taller than I was, and their bodies appeared to be rather plump. I learned this is because of their diet consisting mostly of the grass from the saltwater marshes surrounding Assateague. The salt actually stunts their growth and causes their bellies to be slightly bloated. There have even been times when these ponies have been connected to the Shetland Ponies, located on the Shetland Isles to the northeast of Scotland, but there is no tie between these two breeds.
For years, I was so enamored by Marguerite Henry and her stories. I've read every single one of her books about horses, and even one about a donkey named Brighty in the Grand Canyon. Once I began writing my own historical fiction, it never dawned on me to use Chincoteague as a setting in any of my books.
So, that's what I intend to do this year. That editor is interested in a series set on the island and including some of the stories of my family intertwined with the stories of the primary characters. Over the next several months and possibly through this entire year, I'll be featuring various aspects about Chincoteague and Assateague Islands as they pertain to the research I'll be doing for my newest series. Grab your reins and saddle up with me as we travel along this journey and engage in a little horseplay. *smile*
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN:
* Have you ever read Misty of Chincoteague? Had you even heard of this book before reading this post?
* What is your favorite memory from childhood, and has that memory inspired anything you do or love to this day?
* Do you have any historical connections like this that beg to have their story told? What are they?
Leave answers to these questions or any comments below. Next month, I'll delve more into the history of Chincoteague Island.
Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an award-winning and best-selling author and speaker who is also an advocate for literacy as an educational consultant with Usborne Books. She loves to share life-changing products and ideas with others to help better their lives.