By Patti Lehman
Project Patron started as a dream plan in 2005: an expansion for the Antlers Public Library highlighting Antlers as the Deer Capital of the World and Pushmataha County’s Choctaw heritage. The plan conjured pictures of a Barnes and Noble bookstore decorated like a Bass Pro Shop. Seven years, 3 major grants, and many fundraisers later, the construction of the 1,620 square feet expansion was complete. Time for the renovation and redesign phase to begin.
The children’s area was to mimic a corral like the one featured on the grounds of the Choctaw Nation Capitol Museum in Tuskahoma.
It was to include a small fence to close in the area created by the bookshelves, a custom green carpet to simulate grass, a hollowed out log as a horse trough to hold board books, a Hasbro Fur Real Smores toy pony, a storyboard featuring the Choctaw story of the corn, and a storyboard about Choctaw life.
After a story in the Biskinik (July 2010) on the story of the Choctaw pony, plans changed. Instead of a storyboard about Choctaw life, a storyboard on Choctaw ponies seemed to fit in better with the “corral” design.
After meeting with Francine Bray, author of the article, about live Choctaw horses and the similarities with the Smores horse with its long mane and painted coat, the search to secure the toy pony became a priority.
The search began at the original source identified in 2005, HasbroToyShop.com, but soon spread to the Internet at large. After several emails to retail stores, it seemed the Smores pony was no longer available at retail outlets. A listing on EBay brought hope, but all of the listings were “pick up” only, until communications with a New York seller in August 2012. The seller thought that the item could be shipped at a local UPS outlet for around fifty dollars. The library won the auction on an excellent condition Furreal S’mores Pony for $119. Unfortunately, when the seller took the pony to the local UPS store in Bellmore, NY to ship it, her estimate was a bit off. Not only did the UPS store not have a box big enough in stock, but they estimated the cost to be approximately $200 to pack and ship the pony.
Now the library was the proud owner of a toy pony, but it had not budgeted $200 for shipping costs. The library had a grant for renovations, but all the money was allocated to other projects. In a panic to get the horse out of the hands of the EBay seller, the nearest local public library, Bellmore Public Library, was contacted to see if they would be open to “babysitting” the pony until the Antlers Library could figure out how to ship the pony to Antlers within the $50 budget.
Bellmore Library Director, Maureen Garvey, graciously accepted delivery of the pony, noting that it was definitely the strangest request she had received as a librarian. The call went out to Antlers Library friends requesting transit ideas. One patron suggested placing the pony on USHIP.com to garner shipping quotes, which the library did to no avail. Another patron offered to ride her to Antlers from New York. He was informed of the pony’s eighty pound weight limit and “stuffed” status. Others offered to start a collection to fund the freight costs.
In the meantime, Bellmore librarians enjoyed their babysitting stint. Maureen, Bellmore Library Director emailed, “What about putting something on Craig's list to try to get people to bring Daphne (that's what we're calling her) across county, dropping her off in libraries along the way, until she gets there? OK - maybe not - she could wind up the worse for wear, or even get lost! Or worse, pony-napped, because she's pretty irresistible! Let me know how you are doing. Meanwhile, rest assured that she is doing just fine here in Bellmore.”
After sending out the word of the donation collection for Daphne’s trip home, library patron Jennifer Davis thought she might have a solution. Her daughter, Jessica, is a flightattendant for jetBlue and regularly travels to New York from her home in Boston. Jessica just happened to a have a trip planned home to Antlers the first week in September.
Jessica spoke with the librarians in Bellmore to facilitate a trade. Maryann, a clerk in Bellmore ’s Children’s Room, was heading to JFK to pick up her son who was flying in to see an injured friend. Not only did Jessica fly to New York in time to meet with Maryann, but also arranged a “buddy” pass for her son to fly on. The exchange went without incident until the JFK airport security denied entry to Daphne in an unwrapped state. Thankfully, Jessica had brought a friend along to help. They were able to get Daphne shrink wrapped and on the flight back to Jessica’s home in Boston.
Jessica and Daphne made the flight into Dallas and the drive to Antlers on September 7, 2012. The library wished it could have had a homecoming parade and a finished corral for her to live in; instead, many well wishes and smiling faces welcomed her to Antlers. Daphne arrived with Jessica, her mother Jennifer, and her two sisters Jessalyn and Skylar.
Daphne has been renamed Anya (aw-ya), which is Choctaw for traveler. Daphne was a cute name, but not quite Choctaw enough for the Choctaw pony. She is the first piece to arrive of the new Children’s Corral (Vlla Aiapitta in Choctaw). She has been oohed and aahed over by children and adults alike. In reality, a toy pony may seem frivolous in the big scheme of things, but this pony has become a symbol: a symbol of a dream come true, of libraries working together, and of a community’s active interest in their public library.