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The (mostly) true story of the magic pink pony

Evan Archerd raised his kids around horses in Ashland, and he long wanted to tell the touching story of how his daughter, when she was a child, got her first mount — and how it opened her heart to a shower of love as she grew into adolescence.

Archerd, 57, a former Hollywood screenwriter and songwriter who moved 30 years ago to a ranch on Eagle Mill Road, decided to use the COVID-driven break time to write a children’s book about it. Titled “Anna and the Pink Pony,” it was just recently published.

It’s a charming “read-to” book, a mostly true story filled with endearing, hand-drawn illustrations by Hannah Stern. It covers the search around the Rogue Valley of Anna (Tessa) and her dad Charley (Evan) for a pink pony, which is a fantasy, because Anna loved everything pink.

Finally they find Duke, who is adorable and has an endearing high whinny, which he sounded every morning when he heard the screen door slam, meaning Evan was on his way to feed him, says Archerd, choking back a tear.

“I really miss that.”

He adds, “The kernel of the story is that, in reality, she wanted a pink pony and was determined to find one. We came close. We found a red roan pony, just her size, 14 hands high, and we brought her home in a magical lavender autumn light and she looked pink as pink can be,” he says.

The book carries a deep emotional punch from the fact, he notes, that “there’s such a connection between horses and little girls. It’s quite empowering, and they feel it. To ride, care for, train and love — and to be loved back. It’s really sweet, and I’ve seen it so many times.”

The tale is given special poignancy by the cataclysmic experience of the family performing a harried rescue of seven horses when the Almeda fire blasted in from its starting point just across Bear Creek. Fire savaged Archerd’s 26-acre ranch and burned down the family house, and the flames roared right up to the door of the barn, then the wind shifted and spared it.

His was only the second home to burn. The first was west of them. No firefighters came, but he says they had much bigger fires to fight at Valley View Road.

The drama of rescuing the horses, plus cows, goats and a mule will fill a book to be called “The Great Escape,” and “it’s going to be a good one,” he adds.

Archerd, who has been a developer and appraiser here for 25 years, says he finally got the “depressing” ruins of the foundation of his house excavated, so he doesn’t have to look at it anymore, but he’s still trying to decide whether to rebuild.

He advises: “That insurance policy you have? Read it. If it’s not what you want, get one that is.” Luckily, he did all that not long before the fire. He’s now renting in town, and that’s insured for 18 months.

The book, published by Pony Press, is on sale for $10.95, available at Bloomsbury Books and Treehouse Books in Ashland and on Amazon.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Evan Archerd and his daughter Tessa walk with one of their horses in a riding pen near trees burned by the Almeda fire at their property off Eagle Mill Road in Ashland. The family lost their home in the fire, but they rescued their horses, cows, goats and a mule.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
"Anna and the Pink Pony" was illustrated by Hannah Stern.