Friday, September 4, 2009


Like the wild icons of the west they were, the mustangs would appear in our neighborhood in Nevada and most of us were moved by the romance of it all... "The herd is over on Vickie".... "Hey, did you see? We have two foals this year". After a day or two of grazing and nibbling the forbidden fruit of the non-native species planted by city-folk, they would disappear back into the foothills of the Pinenuts to our east.

In the eleven years we spent in the high desert, we saw four or five herds come and go, the victim of civilization. In general, they were not unattractive horses, almost entirely sorrels, with white blazes and/or socks. We did have one severely sway-backed mare at one point but we also had a gorgeous buckskin (picture Ben Cartwright's steed-tan with black mane, tail and stripe up the back). The buckskin was rumored to have been a renegade domestic with stories varying from a voluntary release by an owner unable to care for it to a 'hot-to-trot' party girl that jumped the fence when the gypsy herd passed by like a teenager climbing out the window to meet her leather-clad boyfriend.

We lived in Johnson Lane, an area seven miles south of Carson City, an unobstructed view of the Sierra Nevadas from our front window. Roughly fifteen hundred homes, mostly on one-acre plots though a few ten and fifteen acre parcels remained. Most of us had livestock of some sort. I had my chickens and we would raise a couple pigs each year. Neighbors had horses, mules, turkeys....Then came the developers, make that Developers, capital 'D'....They wanted to tweak the general plan that required one house per acre so that they could build, say, five hundred houses on five hundred acres but on quarter-acre plots with a golf-course. And we shall name our development "Wild Horse Meadows" or some such. Lets just say that the people moving in to these homes didn't have horses, chickens or turkeys. In fact, they didn't like the smell or horses or the sound of chickens, never mind the peacock. And those mustangs walked all over their pretty lawns and nibbled their petunias. The nerve!

Eventually, the copters would come - the BLM called to duty by a complaint that demanded they "manage" the herd. Those helicopters had the same affect on our neighborhood as CAMP does in SoHum....we knew what was coming and we all hoped the quarry would evade capture. They wouldn't because the helicopter cowboys have big scary machines to chase the frightened creatures. Soon, the trailers filled with nervous mustangs experiencing their first taste of captivity would drive out of our neighborhood. They would head north on Highway 395 to Palomino Valley where they would be stored and fed at taxpayer expense. A few would be adopted, the others euthanized.
Months would pass and, sure enough, another herd would be spotted wandering through an open parcel, nibbling on sagebrush shoots and spring wildflowers. Likely led by a young stud, having lured a few fillies away from another stallion, they would settle into the void left by the previous herd. And, like their predecessors, they would venture into civilization looking for food, babies in tow. Then, neighbors in another pristine little corner of our dusty chunk of sand would forget why they moved to the "country"and place a call to BLM....and bring back the helicowboys.

BLM is in the news this week, rounding up similar herds on the Montana/Wyoming border in the name of 'management'. There are protesters but not the "save the horsies" kind of animal lovers. These people want the horses left alone to survive (or not), on their own. Instead, dozens of horses will be stored and miserable, and fed (on our dime).


Indie said...

I've never lived in a place where wild horses were neighborhood pests; I can't even imagine.

My brother in law used to raise Arabians, I guess as a hobby or investment or something. At some point he just let them go on my cousin's acreage where they probably still run. Last time I went out there (we're talking west Texas desert/sagebrush/ cactus land), they were sooo beautiful running as a herd with their long manes and tails flying.

Monica... That One Girl said...

I was thinking about that... and the biggest feral creature we get around here is a raccoon that knows where the cat food is (unless you count the feral hippy with the goat).

For all the good (wild horses) that Nevada had, it's too bad the bad had to more than balance it out.

You should write about Cookie sometime, Mom. :-)

Anonymous said...

Whoa, this is a wonderful post. I'm feeling sad for all the wild things (people, too) that we have to control in the name of public good.