Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Wild Horses


We, a motley assortment of by-marriage family members, spent Sunday at Assateague, a long barrier island off the coast of Maryland. When we arrived just after sunrise, the waters were already choppy from Irene. As the day wore on, the waves grew higher and stronger. For lunch we ate hotdogs and drank beer. The rest of the time we boogie boarded, swam, and took in the sun.

Assateague is home to a band of two hundred and fifty wild ponies, the descendants of either seventeenth century open-range grazers imported from Europe or the survivors of a the wreck of a Spanish galleon. It’s as thrilling as it is surreal to see these feral beasts trot along the sand while going about your beachly activities.

Thirteen months ago, Mrs. Good Reverend and I rode ponies along a Bahamian beach, one of the highlights of our honeymoon. They were small, well-behaved, domesticated horses that obediently sauntered out into the surf and back again, stopping only to relieve their bowels or bladders, and only occasionally breaking into a trot. I beamed because the ride brought out the kid in me—the kid who had never before had the opportunity to ride a real live horse.

The Assateague ponies aren’t that much different in physical appearance than those well-trained escorts, but the way they act, the way they interact, gives off a sense that they are an entirely different creature altogether, closer to zebra than to the domesticated horses we all know and love. When they march down to the water, ignoring the fishers, surfers, and sunbathers, you get the sense that Assateague doesn’t belong to the beachgoers or to the National Park Service. It belongs to the horses.

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9:37 PM  
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