When I was a child I was fascinated by stories about early explorers and pioneers of America. I was even more intrigued by stories about Native Americans. My obsession was probably first ignited by stories my Daddy told me that he heard from his father and grandfather. Growing up in the fifties and sixties the western genre was popular in TV shows and movies. By the time I was in the third grade I’d read everything our local library had, fiction and non-fiction, about Native Americans and the pioneer days.
While all this reading was going on I was growing up just an hour’s drive from the Outer Banks. My parents loved to fish, so we made frequent trips to the coast with that purpose. I became more infatuated with the history of the area as I grew older.
I was an adult before I made a career of horses. I had already raised three children when the opportunity came for me to enroll in the equine tech program at Martin Community College.
So, it is only natural that I combined those three loves: Native American history, the Outer Banks and Horses, when I wrote Pale as the Moon. Gray Squirrel and Heita Hoonoch are childhood playmates put in a different setting and time, but close friends all the same.
I didn’t know we had wild horses on the Outer Banks until much later in life. I hadn’t even given it much thought that people fished and lived on North Carolina’s coast eons before a white man ever set foot on our shore. I guess I learned that in elementary school when we were taught North Carolina History. It was reinforced the first time I saw the outdoor drama, “The Lost Colony.”
Forty some years later while reading Daniel Barefoot’s Touring the Backroads of north Carolina’s Upper Coast I came across a tidbit of information on page 140 that gave Pale as the Moon its conclusion. As far as I am concerned it is the logical answer to the Lost Colony mystery. In 1956, while I was voraciously reading books about Indians, artifacts of English and Native American culture were discovered near East Lake in a common mound. Forever lost to future investigation in the name of progress, the mound was covered back up and the canal digging carried on. I believe the English colony moved in with a lakeside village, but how did they find it? Someone showed them the way. Why not a young Native American girl who had become close friends with one of the English families?
So, a young Native American girl befriends a wild colt. Together, led by a series of dreams and empowered by the speed and stamina of the horse, she rescues a motley crew of English invaders. Along the way she rides like the wind with the sea spray on her face and the sea gulls laughing with glee. What an adventure, to be the first American to ride a horse. What an adventure to meet a boy her own age who sailed to America from across the vast Atlantic Ocean. Who better than a young child to realize the need for peace between two peoples whose cultures were so different.
I like to picture a much younger version of myself on vacation with her family at the Outer Banks. She sits on the cottage porch in a wooden chair, big enough to curl up in, with a book that will transport her back into a different century. She hears the whinny of a lost foal through the roar of gale force winds. She sees a vision of white sails when she glances up from her book to look across the breakers. Between the screeches of sea gulls she hears the soft voice of a Paspatank girl, just about her age. She turns the pages and joins in the celebration of the corn dance. She dreams. Her heart races with anticipation as Heita Hoonoch stretches his neck to take the ear of corn from her lap. She smells the sun and sea in his mane.
More pages turn, more adventures await. She IS Gray Squirrel. She knows the secret of the Lost Colony.