Thursday, January 1, 2015

Wildness In The Black Hills

"In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World"

Henry David Thoreau

Seven hundred wild horses run free on a sanctuary in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Some were rescued from a slaughter truck, some were given a second chance from having to live their lives in crowded, bone bare feed lots because they were too old, too ugly or too independent to be adopted. Some Choctaw Indian Ponies were also given to the sanctuary. Their bloodlines are purest of all the breeds in this country and to the Choctaw people they were a symbol of wealth and honor. The Choctaw Pony is considered to be very rare. Now, this small herd from Oklahoma get to live among the tall grasses and let the wind tangle up their manes in these Black Hills. Spanish Mustangs are sometimes seen high up on the ridge as the sun is sinking or drinking from the Cheyenne River that flows through the canyon down below.

Have you heard of Dayton O. Hyde? He's the man with a dream, the heart and the desire and a whole lot of determination to save these broken spirits. In 1988 he put a down payment on a sanctuary in the Black Hills and convinced the BLM to send him those unadoptable horses. That dream became a reality and today you can see those wild horses run free across endless prairies! They share their home of dark pine forests and rocky canyons with mule and white tail deer, coyote, cougar, elk, eagles, falcons and hundreds of wild turkeys. Since then, more rescue horses have been added to the bunch. There are Curly mustangs who needed a home and Dayton took them in, too. They all have a story, every single one of them. And now they are loved and cared for as they should be.

A cozy log sided cabin sits on the sanctuary overlooking a rusty yellow canyon and a frozen-over Cheyenne River. This would be our home for four days. No cell service, no internet connection or crowds. (Yay) We had 11,000 acres and wildlife to ourselves. There was a land line phone in the cabin, however, and that I was actually happy about. Here's why.

On Christmas morning we got a phone call from "the lead mare" of the sanctuary, asking us if we would like to go out on the 'feed truck'. Remember, these are rescued horses, and wild as can be, but they still need to eat. We had been invited to go feed the horses! Every morning Dave makes his rounds with hay and grain and special supplements for the older horses, and there we were, riding along in the feed truck on Christmas morning. Can you imagine! Plowing through wind and blowing snow we covered hundreds of acres of prairie pastures and four separate herds of horses, getting out now and then to stand alongside some hungry mustangs. In each group, there were always one or two older horses who needed some extra cake, some vitamin enriched grains, a pat on the neck, or a scritch on their forehead. All of them got enthusiastic praise and kind words, spoken through the wind and snow and ice and I wonder if they had ever heard before, a woman laugh with so much joy.

Feeding mustangs takes about four or five hours. It was quite a process and a lot of hard work but mostly it's a loving, daily routine and an experience more thrilling than I can ever describe. With the last buckets empty I watched a sad-eyed Josefina and 30 year old Henrietta move away from the truck. We were finished feeding all the pretty horses.

Custer State Park was coated in hoar frost. Bison wore it like armor. A million tufts of tall, rust colored grasses were frozen still while the prairie dog towns were bustling with friendly socializing. A herd of Pronghorn, the purest of the Plains animals, were clustered together in the middle of the road, easing their way along and casually licking salt from the ground. Being in no hurry whatsoever, it was a pleasure for us to witness these blessed beasts in such close proximity and surprised to see them less skittish only because their home is protected land. Slowly and silently we drove through the park. Strangely enough, the landscape felt closer to my heart than all the countless times I have spent in Yellowstone. I felt inspired, a feeling so powerful and yet vague. I thought for a moment I would never leave. I really and truly felt as if this is where I belong.

Early evening we started to make our way out of the park. It had begun to snow as we followed behind a wall of fog. A coyote crossed the road as we watched him disappear into the black forest. And then in the last shroud of fog we stopped the car. What stood before us was the most impressive and majestic stag in all the land! That Elk had antlers that touched the stars. His stance was tall and proud, an entity all his own. He watched us watch him. After a few brief moments, he swung his enormous neck and rack and walked away so dignified. What an honor.

Back in our little cabin on the Cheyenne River, we heated up leftover enchiladas, jabbered on and on about our day, drank hot tea and watched a John Wayne movie called The Cowboys. I stayed up late that night. But when 6:00 in morning came around, I was pulling on my boots, slurping a hot mug of coffee and leaning on the fence behind the cabin. It became a habit, leaning on that fence. Because, behind that fence were twelve little feisty foals. All of them Mustangs.

 

 

 

29 comments:

  1. Geweldig mooi om zo het nieuwejaar te beginnen ook wij wensen je een mooi liefdevol gezond nieuwjaar.

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    1. het was! het was een geweldig begin van het jaar te komen! een wild Gelukkig Nieuwjaar aan u ook !!

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  2. Sweet potato pie! Look at you in the Sanctuary - putting your heart and hands to the horses you love. Precious Choctaw ponies from Oklahoma :). May this feed your own spirit for a long time, Prairie Sister.

    May 2015 be holy for you. xo...

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    1. Sweet potato pie!!!!
      My spirit has been fed, forever and ever amen.
      I appreciate you, prairie sister.
      x

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  3. Your excitement and happiness shines through this post and your photos, Lynn. What an experience! You probably already know the "Pioneer Woman" of cookbook fame (near Tulsa, OK) lives on a ranch where they also take care of wild horses like this. I'd never heard of Curlies before - had to read up on them - fascinating! I love all these photos, especially the ones with snow blowing around the horses an the turkeys trotting up the road!

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    1. I have seen Pioneer Woman cookbooks,name I know her story only a little bit. I had no idea she cares for wild horses, too! Will definitely be more interested in her, now. Thanks for that.
      Those turkey's Diana! You should have seen them! They were EVERYWHERE. They hung out with the foals and it was the cutest thing, they all played together. There are hundreds of them there.
      Notice the curly mane on Henrietta. It's like little twisted, crimped strands.
      I love it when you drop by. :)

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    1. "too old, too ugly or too independent" hmmm..."Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye." ;)

      "Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde" - A must see!!

      "We had been invited to go feed the horses!" ! ! ! Wow!! *sigh* :D Kiss them for me, prairiegirl :)

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    2. You've seen the movie!!!!!
      I forgot to mention in this post that there is a documentary on this man and his sanctuary! Thank you for adding it for me. ;)
      Yeah, I don't see anything but beauty and love in these horses. I am heartbroken that I cannot see them for awhile.
      xx

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  5. Lynn, what a beautiful batch of photos and words. Your joy and love for this space shows beautifully. Custer Park is amazing, I visited on a road trip some years back, and I fell in love with it also.
    Happy New Year, beauty.
    xx

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    1. Thanks B. I not only fell in love with these horses but that Custer State Park and the little town of Hot Springs!! I grabbed real estate guides before we headed out of town dreaming of a yurt on a plot near that town!
      Haha I know! Everywhere I go, I want to live there!
      xx

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  6. oh. i would have fallen over dead to be asked to go on the feed truck. the feed line.

    those shots.
    that snow.
    those horses.

    "it became a habit, leaning on that fence. because, behind that fence were twelve little feisty foals. all of them mustangs."
    lean on, little red dirt prairie girl. lean on….

    xO



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    1. The best comment in the world, Bernard. The best.
      "I would have fallen over dead to be asked to go on the feed truck."
      And how.
      I knew you'd feel that way.
      And those foals behind the fence. I'd wake up, I'd look out my window and I'd see them bucking at each other and nipping at each others necks, all frisky like, waiting for their breakfast.
      I could not get my boots on fast enough.
      You can go out there with me, ya know...
      xxO

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  7. The perfect getaway, complete with ponies and bison, and oh, those turkeys!! Everything about this post, this trip, absolutely warms my heart. So glad you spent some time in the wild and wonderful Black Hills. So glad you had the Christmas morning ride in the feed truck. Santa was good to you!! ;)

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    1. Oh, Sagey. Thank you for sharing in the joy and excitement of the sanctuary times! It's so important for us all to do things that make our hearts sing. And to have such a great batch of gals to tell stories to and the sharing of all our life's adventures and ups and downs, well that is just the icing on the cake, so to speak.
      I treasure your presence.
      xx

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  8. Now that is the perfect way to spend Christmas. What a wonderful experience, thank you for sharing it with us. Could you have got any closer to heaven?
    Visiting from Sage and Spirit's blog, hoping to connect with more like minded people this year. xx

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    1. Hello mate!
      Chrisy, I have been roaming around your site off and on for quite a while now, due to Sage and Spirit's domain. I am going to try to get on board with Reconnect to nature! "Get Outside!!!" ;)
      Thank you for stopping by from down under!

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  9. I was nearly holding my breath the entire time reading this from excitement! What a beautiful, soulful experience. Your telling of it is magical, and your photos are sublime. I can't get over how close you got to those saucy Pronghorns, and your description of the elk just took the breath right out of me!

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    1. Soulful experience!! It was. IT WAS.
      The prongers were sweet as could be. Pure and clean and bright eyed. And gentle! I had tears in my eyes over them.
      So good to have you here, always Clare.

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  10. Your pictures tell a story. I could almost feel the cold, the wind, the snow. What a fabulous experience, and recounted beautifully in your writing. Your passion and love just shows through. How I would have loved to have been with you on that truck xx

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    1. That feed truck Aud. Once in a lifetime dream. And it was a total blast.
      xx

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  11. well now, if THAT wasn't a Christmas morning surprise!! yee haw, girl-- you must have been exceptionally good last year! it makes me very happy to know that there are people and places that will care for our wild ones. i would be better at that myself if i didn't already have to care for so many tame ones! you look euphoric in the photo with the old gray! all of it-- the blowing snow, the tangled manes, the rangy beasts-- just stunning! i'll bet those 4 or 5 hours just flew by as your smile grew wider and your chilly fingers clicked away!
    happy new year to you, my friend!
    xoxo

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    1. That old gray! I may have exaggerated her age. I think she is only 30. Lol.
      Boy, did you get it right. I couldn't feel my fingers. I had to take pictures with some woolen mittens at one point and if you've ever tried to work camera settings with your hands in mittens, well, it just doesn't work.
      Five hours flew by. I wanted more. More!!
      It was the best time, Janet. Thank you so much for stopping by here. I know you're busy with your own hooves and manes and feedings! Yep. :)
      x

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  12. Wow, what an amazing story & magnificent photos!!! Truly magnificent!!!

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    1. What a compliment and I appreciate so much your enthusiasm and support, Sally. It means a lot. Thanks!!!

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  13. Your posts are always so interesting, with gorgeous photos. I love reading about these beautiful ponies and I am so happy that places like this exist in the world where these stunning animals can be wild and loved. Lovely post! - Tasha

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    1. Dear girl, you have brightened my day. Thank you for stopping by here. I've missed you. I will see what you're up to now that you've graduated! Exciting, eh? xx

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    2. You're welcome and thank YOU for the kinds words you left on my blog! It's been a long time since I had a big blog catch up, so I'm checking in with everyone! - Tasha

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  14. Those pics of horses in the snow are so wonderful. May I come right over? This is like my dream come true :)
    And it's so amazing you got to feed the horses at that sanctuary. What a wonderful place. Love the idea behind it. Thank you for sharing this incredible experience with us!

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