Over a decade ago my co-conspirator and library supervisor, Jackie McFadden told me not to roll a particular bookcart back to the stacks for re-shelving. This time for sure we were going to commit and complete a manuscript on a chosen topic. It was 2006. (Here is a hint, it is still a work in progress – we hope to complete it this year!)
Little did we know that bookcart would soon turn into small libraries in each of our homes, multiple plastic containers filled with interviews, newpaper clippings, a small grant, but still no book. We would excitedly get a rental car to visit the coastal side of South Carolina only to wake up in nearly hurricane-like conditions to meet horses and their owners in gusty winds pelting us with rain.We listened to the old-timers, we pulled hair for DNA samples in that weather on Johns Island. We met so many people I went through three notebooks in one weekend. I still have them.
I even met the owner of a horse I would one day call my own a decade later. Jackie McFadden eventually became a board member of the newly founded Carolina Marsh Tacky Association. And nothing slowed down long enough for us to write. There was always another interview, another mystery horse, another test result or another stash of historical papers uncovered. The bill loomed over our office and was written and re-written. Through countless re-writes it went until two important things happened, South Carolinians were assured they would not need to pay for it and that the bill was listed as “South Carolina State Heritage Horse”.
Marsh Tacky horse owners traveled hours to come to events across the state to show people this amazing little horse that was such a lowcountry secret it was almost extinct. They didn’t ask for money to travel, they did it on their own dime. Thats how much they believe in this little horse. They believed it needed to be the South Carolina State Heritage Horse. Four years later in 2010, (and who knows how many miles on rental cars or personal vehicles) Jackie McFadden met with Governor Sanford of South Carolina to sign the South Carolina State Heritage Horse, the Marsh Tacky, bill into law. Without a single cent to taxpayers!
As researchers, every nugget of information we found turned into another question about the Marsh Tacky. The most important one however was “How will anyone know we have a State Heritage Horse?” Truly a grassroots program – a volunteer with a horse (Janson Cox), a volunteer with a camera (Jackie McFadden), and a volunteer with a notepad(me) got together and dubbed ourselves, “Team Molly”in 2010 at the second annual Carolina Marsh Tacky Association beach race.
Molly sized up the competition that year and did not take home the trophy. The next year 2011, Molly showed the young horses how it was done. If she could rock the Marsh Tacky world being the oldest horse on the beach and out-run stallions, we had some more work to do. We pulled together a self-published book,“Beach Race Champion” and got to work.
We visited schools, historical sites, events, festivals,4-H clubs, businesses. The book sales provided some gas money to haul a horse on occasion but we still filled up our tanks and got our meals on the road. Molly’s jockey, Brittany would visit the schools and talk about riding a beach race horse!
We soon realized one horse, even if it was the magnificent Molly, could not possibly cover the entire state of South Carolina. So we reached out to owners who cared about educating our state about its new South Carolina State Heritage Horse, the Marsh Tacky. And they did, they traveled wherever there was a need to have a horse so people would know about them. And they still do.
I would like to take a moment to thank some of the horses for the visits:
Molly, a mystery mare Marsh Tacky, who pretty much owns Janson Cox and reminds him that all calvary cannons will go uphill in any weather, despite the riders discomfort.
Gator, a shiny grulla Marsh Tacky Stud, owned by Jim Brown who graciously showed up at my own local school district in Clover, SC as well as in schools in Chester, SC with the toughest group of teenagers would could not resist petting Gator until it became “totally awesome” to do so.
Blueberry, a blue roan Marsh Tacky mare owned by Lee McKenzie, that hung around in a parking deck in Charleston, SC while we lectured. And also for giving my daughter a love of blue roan Marsh Tackies.