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Choctaw ponies draw texas teens to Antlers

March 4, 2013

photo taken by Tracy Steffenson

Over the weekend a group of drama students from L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, TX., traveled the 170 miles to Antlers to participate in a bonding weekend to prepare for the University Interscholastic League One Act Play Competition.

Along with their Theatre Director, Candace Hooper, they were set for a weekend of fun and adventure as they were to spend the night at the Chahta Isuba Ranch, just east of Antlers. They would be able to take part in camping, volleyball, camp fire and pretty much anything else they could think of to do in the mountains.

While on their trip, it was mandatory for them to do a run threw of their play. The play they chose to perform for the UIL is, “Tell Me You Love Me, Junie Moon.” This play started off as a book by Marjorie Kellogg, became a film in 1970 starting Liza Minnelli and later became a play by D.D. Brookes.

The play is about Junie Moon, a girl whose face and body was scarred in a vicious battery acid attack by her boyfriend. Later in an institution, she meets an a man with epilepsy, and a gay paraplegic who uses a wheelchair. Disabled, but not down, they live together in an older, rented house and bond, determined to prove themselves and to help each other.

The students presented a fantastic performance for a small, private, crowd, complete with hilarious, spur-of-the-moment, improvisation as they incorporated the Wildlife Heritage Center Museum’s rustic decor and preserved wildlife into the play.

The highlight of the trip however, was the Choctaw Ponies that live at the Chahta Isuba Ranch, owned by Jim Stevens, who had help from Michael and Francine Bray in hosting the group.

The Choctaw Pony, a rare strain of colonial Spanish Mustang, has grazed on Blackjack Mountain since the removal of the Choctaw Indians from Mississippi to the indian Territory. In 1832, the first emigrants came to what is now known as Southeastern Oklahoma. The Kiamichi Mountains, with Blackjack Mountain as the backbone, has been their home for over 170 years.

Bryant and Darlene Rickman, in the early 80’s became stewards of the few remaining 100% Choctaw ponies, working to insure that this then endangered strain of Spanish Mustang would not become extinct. Throughout this period they worked closely with the renowned equine geneticist, Dr. Phil Sponenberg. Through uncountable trials and tribulations, heartache and loss, the Rickmans have dedicated their lives to the preservation of the Choctaw pony and now is sharing taking the steps to share their majestic beauty with others.

The University Interscholastic League was created by The University of Texas at Austin to provide leadership and guidance to public school debate and athletic teachers. Since 1910 the UIL has grown into the largest inter-school organization of its kind in the world. The UIL continues to operate as part of the University of Texas, under the auspices of the Vice President for Diversity & Community Engagement. The UIL exists to provide educational extracurricular academic, athletic, and music contests. The initials UIL have come to represent quality educational competition administered by school people on an equitable basis. *


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