Carla had learned to ride and care for horses when we lived for two years in TN. A church member had a horse farm, and one summer we even had a yearling pony living in our back yard. In the morning I would call out “Hello Dolly” and she would whinny back every time. When we moved to Texas, it was almost like Carla moved to heaven! Every morning we were at the ranch she would head for the barn.
As we prepared for our second summer at Sky Ranch, Carla asked us if she could have a Chincoteague pony. She had gotten the idea from reading Misty, Stormy, and Sea Star – books which told about wild ponies on the island. Every year the yearlings were rounded up by the fire department for auction on “pony penning day”. Without too much thought, I told her that the books had been written many years before. We did not know how true they were, or if there were still annual pony penning day auctions. “Can I write and find out?” I said yes. So Carla wrote a letter to the Fire Chief on Chincoteague Island, VA. When he answered, I knew I was in big trouble!!! Bottom line: in July the two of us headed for the island, 1000 miles away, pulling a borrowed one horse trailer, carrying camping gear and a list of people and places we wanted to visit in the next 9 days. Carla and I had lots of time to talk, a special time indeed.
On our way to the island we stayed with friends and stopped at the Seminary where I had studied for three years. When we arrived at Chincoteague, it seemed like every other horse loving child in the world had talked their parents into coming as well. It was truly a festive occasion – the auction would be in two days. I could also quickly see that there would be considerable bidding for the ponies – sinking feeling in pit of stomach!!!
Carla and I found our camp site, set up camp, and then went to see the ponies which would be auctioned. Unfortunately for me, Carla already knew much about horses, and soon had her eyes on one specific pony, a paint that was larger than most of the others. Though I encouraged her to look at other animals, which she did, there was no question as to which one she wanted. Soon she was reaching through the fence and rubbing the neck of the beautiful animal.
In the early evening, when we were out for a walk, we saw a weathered looking man on a large horse…no Chincoteague pony! I asked the man, Walt Clark, if he lived on the island. He slowly answered, “Lived here all my life”. During our conversation I asked him “Walt, you know these animals. Is there a pony we should try and buy?” He smiled slightly and said “sir, buy her the one she wants, or it won’t matter.”
The next day we met a family with several children that were planning on buying four ponies, and my guess was that money was no object. I remember saying to Carla that it was a good to make friends with them – because if they wanted to buy “your” pony, we are in big trouble.
The auction began, and Carla had her heart set on only one pony…that she was already calling Yankey. When the bidding began on Yankey, it was brisk! Not good for us!! As the price went up, the number of bidders got smaller and smaller. When the price got higher than any previous sale, there were two of us bidding. When we got to $500, the amount Sally Jo and I set as our limit, what was I to do? (“Get her the one she wants, or it won’t matter”) So…I kept bidding. When we hit $700, suddenly the bidding stopped…and we owned Yankey! Immediately after the bidding was over, one of the daughters of the family buying four ponies came over to us, all apologetic. “Carla, I stopped my dad from bidding as soon as I realized we were bidding against you! I am sorry the price got so high.”
After the auction was over, and we were preparing to load Yankey, a reporter came to interview us about the pony we had purchased. When he asked why I was willing to pay more than anyone ever had for a Chincoteague pony, I remember telling him, “We did not buy a pony, but an experience.” The round-up, sale and interview were broadcast across the country – including Dallas, where many of Carla’s friends saw us on TV.
Over the next several years Carla trained Yankey to do most everything but talk! Our adventure was a good investment of time and money. Yes, this was part of living In Partnership With God.