Maria’s mount is Atlas, a 13.5 hand Percheron-miniature donkey cross of decidedly unusual conformation that I have somewhat generously referred to as a pony. Maria’s parents purchased Atlas a year ago from Reginald Bogy for $20,000 and had him shipped east from Bogy’s Percheron breeding farm located near De Queen, Sevier Co., Arkansas.
There has been bad blood between Clyde and Reginald ever since Reginald accused Clyde of smashing his mailbox and the two got into that fist fight at the family reunion. The reunion had been held annually since 1868 and had assumed elements of a sacred occasion in the minds of the older relatives. The fight offended their sense of proper decorum, and for a time certain people would not speak to either of them. When Reginald began to notice relatives driving new GMC trucks, he began to bad mouth Clyde every chance he got. Clyde, for his part, retaliated by engineering a series of practical jokes with Reginald as his victim. The best known one was the weekend that Reginald was supposed to be at the Baptist men’s retreat. In fact, he was with a friend at the Turkey Point Red River View Lodge. Clyde had followed them out that night and pulled the fire alarm at the lodge. Another guest recognized the well-known auto dealer standing in the parking lot, and pretty soon Mrs. Bogy could not understand why certain people in town made turkey calls whenever her husband walked by.
Maria and Atlas arrived at Greenspring Hollows Academy full of enthusiasm and dreams of equestrian glory. Maria planned to try out for the school’s elite equestrian team. However, the seniors on the team were absolutely horrified that an animal of Atlas’ appearance might end up on their team and appear in the same show ring as their high priced, totally gorgeous mounts. Meanwhile, Mr. Boccamotore made generous contributions to the school and totally ingratiated himself to the headmistress and the board. The night before the tryouts, the seniors led Atlas out of the stables and hid him in an abandoned stone buttery building located on the school property. They left him with a supply of hay and water and wedged the door closed.
Early that morning Maria showed up to groom Atlas and discovered the stall door open and Atlas missing. She panicked and called absolutely everyone on her cell phone. Soon the entire campus was in an uproar. The headmistress organized a desperate search of the campus, calling in most of the faculty, groundskeepers, and other members of the staff. Meanwhile, not knowing what was going on, on the other side of the campus one of the precocious senior girls had arranged to meet her boyfriend for a little get together at the old buttery. The buttery had a reputation of being haunted and most people on campus avoided it. It was the prefect place to be left undisturbed this time of day. They had already pulled off a few items of clothing when they were surprised to find the door wedged closed. On releasing it, they were totally horrified by what they saw. Wide-eyed Atlas, who had missed feeding time and knew it, emerged from the darkness and burst through the doorway, screaming in a high-pitched whinny. The kids were not expecting to see this and that Atlas was a pony did not even register in their minds. Knowing the stories of the haunted buttery, they turned tail and ran down the main campus road in a state of undress and screaming to the top of their lungs. The headmistress would have punished both of them severely were it not for the fact that they would not stop trembling and eventually had to be taken to a well-known psychiatric hospital located in Towson, MD where they are still in therapy.
Atlas, for his part, had all the intentions of heading back to the barn, but the sound of the two kids screaming at the top of their lungs spooked him, and he veered off and ended up in the quiet surroundings of the headmistress’ cottage and in her beautifully-manicured flower bed . Meanwhile, the headmistress had her hands full with the two half-clothed teenagers whose screams had attracted the attention of the entire student body. Someone had called 911 and to make matters worse the Baltimore County Police arrived on campus asking all kinds of questions. While she was thus distracted, the coach of the riding team, the formidable Hildegard von Westenhexe, decided to go ahead and hold the tryouts. She resented all of the political pressure by Maria’s father and the board to put Maria on the team. Maria herself soon became inconsolable. She had lost both Atlas and a place on the team.
About one hour later, the grounds crew found Atlas in the headmistress’ flower bed, which at this point resembled a World War One battlefield. Several of them needed to be cuffed and led away by the Baltimore County Police when they tried to go after Atlas with shovels. The headmistress spent the rest of the day in bed under sedation. Some say that Greenspring Hollows will never be the same, and the events are still a topic of barn gossip all over Baltimore County. The only ones who knew the full story were those senior girls on the equestrian team, and they had the presence of mind to close ranks and not say a thing. While the rest of the campus was in an uproar, they returned to the buttery and erased all evidence of Atlas’ occupancy. By the time the story of the two kids was investigated, the staff was puzzled that the buttery looked very normal and that even the clothing that should have been discarded at the site by the couple was nowhere to be found.
Once Maria was reunited with Atlas, their bond became deeper and now they are quiet inseparable. The irrepressible Maria still hopes for equestrian glory, and maybe some day her time will come.