When I first started researching for my Marguerite Henry biography, I had a hunch she would be a decent human. Her horse books like Misty of Chincoteague and Justin Morgan, Brighty and King of the Wind delighted me so much during my childhood, I knew she was a kindred, horse-loving spirit. What I didn't know was just how generous, humble, fun and amazing of a person she was.
Marguerite Henry always tried to view the world through the eyes of a child. She identified with her young readers. As evidenced by this exchange, which is an excerpt from my equestrian memoir/Marguerite Henry biography, Marguerite, Misty and Me:
“Please pretend that I’m about eight years old and tell me what happens when a stallion is about to be shown at the stockyards, just how they line up and who’s in it. Would you tell me a little bit?”
This was one of many questions Marguerite asked during a 1951 phone interview with Andy Haxton, the manager and driver of the famous Budweiser Clydesdale hitch. Marguerite had typed a transcript of her interview during her research on Clydesdales for Album of Horses.
Mr. Haxton responded in short, to-the-point answers devoid of details. Marguerite peppered him with more questions, perhaps hoping to tease out the lively details she was known for. By the end of the interview, thanks to Marguerite’s determined curiosity, Haxton opened up, describing the art of showing Clydesdale stallions in hand, explaining every aspect from the initial line-up to trotting, and concluding
with the judge’s soundness exams.
As I read the complete transcript, I realized the exchange between interviewer and interviewee highlights one of Marguerite’s special attributes: no matter her age—she was 49 at the time—she viewed the world through the eyes of a child. Her audience was rooted in the forefront of her mind as she researched, which inspired her to collect details that would capture their interest.
In 1960, Marguerite wrote a letter to Roland Lindemann, owner of the Catskill Game Farm, in her attempt to find the locations of all the Przewalski’s horses in the U.S. for her 1962 release, All About Horses. Marguerite wrote, “I am including a chapter on the one and only true wild horse. It seems to me that many of the boys and girls who read the book might want to know where they could actually see a wild horse, and I am planning to mention the places.”
She stated she knew of the two Przewalski’s at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and one at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. She was curious if he had any in New York.
In All About Horses, one paragraph tucked into the 124-page treasury of horse history from Eohippus to warmbloods tells readers where to find the “dull, dark yellow, lighter on the sides than on the back, and almost cream colored on the belly” Przewalski’s horses. Besides Lindemann’s farm, the Brookfield Zoo, and the National Zoo, the wild and wooly horses could be found in Central Park: at
the New York Zoological Gardens. I wonder how many young horse lovers close to New York and Chicago begged their parents to take them to see the wild Przewalski’s thanks to Marguerite’s recommendation.