I found Assateague a while ago now, and it has always been (one of) the places I could go to if I needed to think. I’ve hiked many, many miles on the island and discovered some of the most beautiful scenes my eyes could ever take in. Sure, it’s not the top of Mount St. Helens, the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the Tetons, or the beauty of the desert southwest, but in the far reaches of the island discovery of unseen landscapes has, at times, literally taken my breath away.
The week leading up to New Year’s I had a couple of extra days off and explored the island in beautiful weather. As I was hiking I found a new place. It was hilly with tall hardwoods instead of pine trees. The morning and early afternoon sun shining through the timbers cast light and shadows that chased each other in a gorgeous game of tag. The air was perfect and still, and it was just so quiet. I found a tree that had fallen over some time ago as it was bare, and it had fallen in a place that overlooked the marsh. A large branch met the trunk at the perfect angle, and I climbed on finding an absolutely perfect bed that held me. I laid down; It was so very quiet so I shut my eyes. Peace. Absolute peace.
A few days later was New Year’s eve. It was now cloudy with on and off showers with no sun to speak of. The water was high in the marsh so I put my hip waders on and was off exploring my way. I should have taken heed, though. My friends posted about coastal flooding, and I stepped into a mosquito ditch before I pulled my waders up. I sank to my upper thighs but was able to pull myself out and continued on. I had a goal that day and was headed to Pope Island, and I’ve always had a real problem backing out once I get an idea in my head. The water was high, but I trudged on and crossed over to Pope Island with 3 inches of water height to spare on my waders. Fortunately, the tide was falling, and it was much easier coming back.
The rest of the last day of 2021 was awesome albeit a dreary day. My best friends and I found some Chincoteague horses near the state line, so we paid them a visit. One was a large framed but elderly stallion. We had no idea who he was, just that his outward appearance was elderly, and he was slow. We didn’t know until later that the old stallion was an absolute stud. His name was Wild Thing, and rightly so. This old, slow stallion was the father of so many Chincoteague ponies (see http://chincoteaguepedigrees.com/pedigree/pedigree.php...) that I can’t count them all. And he fathered two foals in 2021. Wild Thing, you’re dang right he was. I guess he was just sleepy when we saw him.
Later in the day my wife came down, and we met so I could take her for just a quick ride on the OSV that turned out to be much longer than we had planned. We ended up hiking to a lodge she had never been to. The walk to it is hidden, and the scenery is just beautiful. Anyway, she also had never seen Dewey, but once we arrived at the lodge old blue eyes himself was there waiting for us. I texted my friends and the day ended with a wonderful group photo that I will treasure for quite some time. Unfortunately, one more person needed to be there to make it perfect, but hopefully next time as the weather was not appropriate for long distance travel.
We soon parted ways for the evening. Actually we were going to grab a bite, but I think we were all just exhausted. I personally had been out since 5 that morning, and I never made it to midnight. It was just a fantastic day, fun-filled day.
I rested on New Year’s Day. It was raining and a stay-at-home day. But, my world changed on New Year’s afternoon when I got the news that someone that was a part of me had passed away unexpectedly. Forgive me if I don’t say exactly who. Although it might seem ironic with a page like this where I unleash my most inner-thoughts sometimes and one that is followed by many people, but we were private souls, identic-in-nature. When we were together, we sometimes just sat together. Nothing needed to be said. We just knew. And, I am going to miss that very much. But, I am doing my best to respect their wishes for privacy. And, maybe in time as I try to understand and make sense of it all, I will say more. But for now I am at peace, and so are they. That is all that really matters.
New Year’s ended in a wrath of questions and pain. But, I’ve always been logical and tried to think things through. Families have been torn apart lately by the pandemic. It didn’t make my loss easier, but I started to grasp on to a ‘normal’ loss or death. I am not sure if that even makes sense, but it did to me. Sudden and unexpected hurt. And still does. But, dying is a part of life, and that will never change. But, I'm so thankful for the years we did have.
As I made more sense of the situation for myself, the area was hit by a snowstorm. It wasn’t safe to go out, but I did anyway. I needed to. I made my way, slowly, to the island in near blizzard conditions as the mix of precipitation here changed to heavy snow in mid-afternoon. The wind was howling and things were quickly piling up and turning white. But, I needed this in the worst way. I love the weather, and I needed the invigoration to recharge, and honestly, think.
I made my way to South Beach without seeing any horses. I decided to get out and hike a bit along the Life of the Dunes trail and down towards the bay on a hunting trail. That decision wasn’t wise as the winds were fierce bayside. No horses in their right mind would be here. As I made it back up to the Life of Dunes trail I made note of how much less wind there was there. The horses will stay in the thickets during storms as some thickets are impenetrable by winds, rain and snow. They are much smarter than you think and very good survivalists. So, I hiked along the trail out to the first road on the OSV. I thought I might run into Bodacious Bob, but I did not.
I returned back to my vehicle as quickly as possible as the light was really getting dim. Returning fast was not fast, though, as I fought the howling winds and stinging snow. But, I wanted to find horses in the worst way. I thought to myself how much this island has changed and taught me as I was never into horses before moving here.
Once I got back to my vehicle I drove up Bayberry and around Oceanside looking and didn’t see any bands. However, on my return trip up Bayberry I glanced over at the Life of the Forest parking lot… HORSES! Oh, thank the good Lord, I thought.
And not just horses, but Chip and Susi’s family. I couldn’t have been happier. They were covered in snow and the baby, Chief, was trying to play while biting everyone. It was his first snowstorm. And even though it was getting dark, it was perfect. It was what I needed in the worst way.
I certainly know the horses are not mine. I don’t even know how to identify most of them, just the ones I see all the time. But, if you are still reading this… This particular band is special to me. Something that has never been said before is… I named TJ Hollywood. And even though he doesn’t know his name or me, he just happened to be right where I needed him at the right time. Of course, he has no concept of what I was dealing with but to me, it was just perfect.
I've been told over and over again the island heals. And, now I know what that means.
Thanks pal.

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