I have a long association with the nationally recognized King County Library System of Washington state, so it was no surprise to receive a call from the head of programming and be asked if I could create an innovative way to promote literacy throughout the county and to help people become aware of the programs and services their local libraries provided. After some thought, I submitted a proposal to bring a Curly to the libraries and give a program about rare breeds and breed preservation. The tie-in would be a display of horse and conservation books provided by the library. After checking insurance, assuring we would remove all manure, and promising there would be no rides given, the proposal was accepted. We decided to take our mare Arwen, ABC-P-1595, a buckskin, because she's the most people-friendly horse we own.
The county particularly wanted to get the more rural libraries involved in this program, so on a clear and sunny day, we set off for the most rural library in the King County. The Skykomish Library is a three-hour drive north and east from our farm and is a small community nestled in the beginnings of the Cascade Mountains. The library is a very small, one-room building that typically sees little use. We arrived and set up a portable corral using our trailer as a fourth wall, then we hung our stall decorations and farm banner from the trailer. Next, we set up an information board against the truck with a nearby table of information sheets and handouts.
Arwen was very curious about her surroundings and showed no anxiety even though this was her first trip off the farm. Like a true trooper, she loaded and unloaded from the trailer as if she always went for rides. Then we waited, but not for long. Like the circus coming to town, word spread, and soon there was a crowd waiting to enter the corral to pet Arwen. She took the time to greet each person and sniff him or her like old friends. Then, as I was talking about the calm disposition of Curlies, both Jim and I became aware of a growing rumble.
We hadn't noticed that the library was across the road from the train tracks, nor were we aware that Burlington Northern still used those tracks to haul freight over the mountains. As the train drew near, we asked the visitors to leave the corral, clipped a line on Arwen, and stood with her facing the tracks. Her eyes got wide, but she trusted us when we told her the train would stay on its tracks and not come into her pen.
Then the conductor laid on the very loud horn, something he must do whenever he passes through a town. Arwen snorted in response, but that was her only reaction. After the train passed, one of the parents remarked, "She must live near train tracks." We calmly told him that was the first time she'd ever seen a train. Talk about a prime example of Curly calmness!
The children returned to the corral, and Arwen returned to basking in all the attention. One small boy, who'd been begging for a horse for years, spent a great deal of time stroking Arwen's soft coat and curly mane. He was the last to leave, and, as he and his mother walked down the road, Arwen stood at the fence and whinnied to him. The boy turned and waved good-bye, and Arwen, right on cue, whinnied a final farewell before turning to her food and water.
All in all, it was the biggest turnout in the library's history, and they checked out more books that day than they had in the last six months combined. The small community of Skykomish will not soon forget the day Arwen, the Curly, came to town.