ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Boy Scout Troop 290 of Ocracoke, North Carolina

Updated on October 18, 2011
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is a published author, freelance writer, and photographer. She also specializes in horses.

Captain Marvin Howard

 Captain Marvin Howard retired from the military and settled on Ocracoke Island. He believed the young boys living on the island would benefit from joining the Boy Scouts of America. In 1956 he organized Troop 290. Besides young boys the island was also home to wild horses. Banker ponies, as they were called, descended from Spanish horses brought to the New World in the 1500s by European explorers and colonists. In the four hundred years since the first arrivals the horses adapted to the sandy barrier islands, surviving by eating tough marsh grasses and drinking what fresh, or sometimes brackish, water they could find. By the 1950s the horse numbered in the thousands up and down the North Carolina coast.

Troop 290

Made available courtesy of Earl O’Neal, from the Elizabeth O. Howard collection.
Made available courtesy of Earl O’Neal, from the Elizabeth O. Howard collection.

Catch a Wild Pony

 

Captain Howard saw the boys and the ponies as perfect matches. Troop 290 became the first mounted troop of the Boy Scouts of America in the whole country. In Ocracoke the ponies were owned by various residents and rounded up on July 4th – pony-penning day. The foals were sorted with their mamas and branded according to their owners. The boys had to pay a $50 fee for their pony, but they had no problem earning the money working for the fishermen on the island or other odd jobs. The whole community supported the scouts. Once the boy had his pony broke to ride he could join in the many community service projects, camping trips and other riding team activities.

 

Mr. Rudy Austin was a member of Captain Howard’s Troop 290 when he was a boy. In a 2001 interview with Mr. Austin, he shared his memories with me of training his wild horse, Diablo. Rudy and Diablo performed with the troop in the Buxton Pirate Jamboree every year.  They had to take their ponies to Buxton by ferryboat, which is still how folks go from Ocracoke to anywhere else.  Mr. Austin said they went on horseback camping and hunting trips, and as a service to the community they rode into the marshes and bogs to spray the area for mosquitoes.

 

Many boys trained their horses Indian style according to Mr. Austin. They led the pony out into the sound or ocean until it was deep enough the boy could float onto the pony’s back. The pony really could not buck in the water, but even if it could falling off in the water didn’t hurt. Once the pony was used to feeling the weight of a young boy on its back the two of them moved onto dry land.

Sidebar - A Horse or a Pony?

Are they horses or ponies? A pony is a small horse. The Banker Ponies are sometimes also called Banker Horses. Both terms are correct. Most Bankers are small horses, measuring under the 58 inches, which is the official maximum height of a pony. Over 58 inches and we classify it a horse. Whether we call it a horse or pony has nothing to do with the breed or age, just the size. A baby horse or pony is called a foal. Young horses and ponies are called fillies (females) and colts (males.)

Ocracoke Banker Ponies

Horses Ordered to be Removed from Islands

Sadly Troop 290 had only existed a few years when the NC State Legislature ordered the removal of the horses and other wild livestock from the islands. The numbers had become so large experts warned they would eat all the grass on the sand dunes and cause beach erosion.

Captain Marvin and other local citizens convinced the lawmakers to make an exception for the boys’ horses. Thanks to Captain Howard the Boy Scouts could keep their horses, but under the new law, the boys could no longer let their horses run free to graze. They had to keep them corralled to prevent them grazing among the dunes. This meant the ponies had to be fed grain and hay. Fewer boys were able to afford to care for the horses and the troop eventually disbanded.

“It was a fantastic boyhood,” says Mr. Rudy Austin, “We knew it then, but appreciate it even more looking back.”

National park Service Takes Over CAre of the Ponies

Since the 1960s the National Park Service of Cape Hatteras National Seashore continues to manage a small herd of the horses, which almost became extinct after Troop 290 disbanded. Those horses you can see today are the result of the work of Park Ranger Jim Henning and his wife starting in 1973 to study and preserve the herd. Today the park service keeps the horses on 180 fenced acres on the north end of the island. They are sheltered when weather dictates the need and their grazing is supplemented with hay. Visitors can see the horses from an observation deck just off highway twelve not far from the Hatteras – Ocracoke Ferry landing. Some of the horses are trained and rode by the park rangers to make their rounds.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      9 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Yes, Rochelle, there are four more herds on NC's Outer Banks. The others are free ranging: Corolla herd on Currituck Banks, Shackleford herd on Shackleford Banks, and a small herd on Cedar Island.

      The two herds you refer to are in Virginia. There are in fact remnants of wild horses all up and down the eastern coast. The Corolla horses are the most intact genetically because they have stayed more isolated. Their gene markers match the Prior Mountain horses in Wyoming and a herd of wild horses in South America, linking them to the same roots - the Iberian horses of Spain.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Very interesting article. Do any of the other islands still have ponies? I remember hearing of the ponies of Chincoteage and Assateague.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 

      9 years ago from Central United States of America

      Very interesting piece. We need more of the 'good stuff' deeds like that today too.

    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      9 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Were you ever a Boy Scout?

    • pacwriter profile image

      pacwriter 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      really great hub Donna

      Thanks for sharing

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)