Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ventures in Fall

From the Great Salt Lakes of Utah
To California's golden shore
Colorado and Nevada
Through the deserts burnin' door
While she's circlin' through the canyons
Can't you see that mountain stream
It's the California Zephyr
The Union Pacific Queen

The month of September I shared some of what's in my heart with our small community on the prairie. Chad and I worked hard hanging an exhibit of photos of the wild horses from Green Mountain in Central Wyoming. Eighty people showed up to view the documentary, The American Mustang, that we premiered in the basement of the public library. Everything went perfectly. But, the next day, I was glad it was over. Fighting for what you believe in takes a toll. Along with having pictures of carefree mustangs on display comes difficult conversations and controversy. Especially in Wyoming. I could not stop thinking about the dismal future of the wild beauties I had photographed and hung up for all to see. It kept me up at night, knowing that these might be the very last pictures ever to be made, of the Mustangs of the Sweetwater Rocks.

If there was anything I needed more, it was the train trip that I was about to go on.

We spent the night in the Silver Moonbeam, high up in the Rockies at Red Feather. At 4:00 a.m. when the alarm went off, it was pitch black. I mean, there was NO light anywhere around us. Just spooky old Pine trees looming over the canned ham. We used only our headlamps to dress and rummage through our packs and move about the trailer. I hadn't slept very good, my mind was in a million places. I was both anxious and excited about my trip. I wanted a cup of coffee so bad. Disheveled and dragging myself up the pathway to the top of the hill where our car was parked, I proceeded to have a teeny tiny meltdown, right there in a clump of juniper bushes. Chad wrapped his arms around me and listened patiently as I sobbed in anger about the horses. He's a good place to lean.

We said goodbye at the train station, the whistle blew and I was on my way to California. Nestled in my seat, with my blanket and my books, I stared out the window and tried to think of things that make me happy. I thought about how nice it will be to see my parents again. I thought about all the interesting places and scenery I'd get to see on this rail route. I'd be going through four states; Colorado, Nevada, Utah and California, all in two days. I tried not to, but, I found myself thinking about Beast and Jigsaw and Bliss and Tuffy. I saw the Neopolitan band rolling in mud on a bright summer day and Silver chasing away Dragon from his mares. Trying to hide my tears, I just kept my nose to the window, but then I smiled when I thought of a horse named January. These, I realized, are the things that make me happy.

October filled up with train travel, which to my delight, included learning the ways of the Amish. I traveled from Salt Lake City to Glenwood Springs with three Amish couples from Indiana. They kindly answered all my questions and they were eager to join me in the search for mustangs outside of Reno. I met a freight train engineer, who, get this, knew my dad! In our brief introduction, he almost fell over when I told him I was Guitar Whitey's daughter. My very own father is a celebrity hobo. At one of the stops, while out stretching my legs, I threw a dollar bill in a dingy old hat of a "Deadhead" harmonica player. I ate expensive waffles for breakfast. Mostly, I enjoyed myself.

Back in Colorado, yellow leaves were still hanging on the trees, the temperature was warm and the sky was clear. We enjoyed hanging out with friends and their giant gypsy horses and mini donkeys, and MANY doggies. We got sandwiched in by all of Janet's horses, with their hot, sweet horse breath and head butts and sniffs and nudges. I never smiled and laughed so much. My cheeks hurt when we left the farm.

****************************

November.

It had been ages since Chad and I had gone to the Big Horn Mountains to play. For three years we didn't even think about going anywhere else but to Green Mountain to camp with the wild horses. It was time to get re-acquainted with some old places, complete with moose marshes and brookie streams.

Just south of Kaycee, there are ancient looking canyons and cliffs, castle-like rocks. We stopped alongside the road because of some horses we noticed high up on a Mesa. What an assortment of colors and types! They sure looked wild but we knew they were not. About a quarter mile off the highway, we walked to the fence line. We stood there and as soon as those horses saw us, they lifted their heads and arched their necks and one by one, ran down the rocky ridge to greet us. I scratched their Velvet muzzles, ran my hands over their necks of winter hair. They all took turns to hear my whispers. I told each and every one of them how much I loved them. I'm pretty sure they were disappointed I didn't have any grain in my pockets.

Ten Sleep Creek was clear and cold. Hiking along the shore, I examined the work of a beaver. One summer, we had witnessed for hours, a beaver building this very same dam. I see he or she, was still at it.

I got out my Sweetheart fly rod. Many years ago my husband picked it up for me at an old bait & tackle shop in Wisconsin. I brought it along to see if I still knew how to use it. I flung a line out and promptly caught a Pepsi can. Now you know the reason why you will seldom find me fly fishing. I'm just no good at it. Instead, I prefer to pick up colorful rocks in a creek bed or look for beavers.

Before sunset, we headed back down the mountain and drove another back road towards home, stopping once more to ogle another group of pretty horses. Again, someone else's horses.

***************************

I had made a promise to myself after returning home from my train trip, I wasn't going to fall in love with any more wild horses. Ever again.

Chad, on the other hand, kept going out every Saturday to spend time with the horses we've come to know. He performs magic behind his camera lens. https://www.flickr.com/photos/124575998@N04/

At night, we'd cozy up and he would give me a slideshow of the images he had taken from that afternoon. Oh, I could barely stand it! They kept getting more achingly beautiful! They looked so peaceful and content, and they belonged out there in the wind on the prairie.

It's been six long weeks since I've driven that road I had grown accustomed to, past the Sweetwater Rocks to the vastness of Green Mountain. I had to go again. Just one more time. So, I did.

From early morning until sundown, I happily spent all the hours of the day watching horses. I drove every dirt road I could find looking for a friend or two. Where's Pony Boy?

I sat in the sage flats with a sleepy family band of blacks and a protective dapple gray stallion while I ate my lunch. At one point I parked the Subaru toward the prairie and had my own tailgate party with some familiar bachelors. With a thermos of hot Peppermint tea, I raised my plastic cup to the sky and toasted to all the wildlife. I shouted Long may you run!

As I was taking the last sip of tea, I looked out at something new appearing in the distance. I grabbed the binoculars and lo and behold, a matching pair of white mustangs were slowly making their way toward the prairie where the group of bachelors were hanging out. I watched and waited.

And then I did it. I went and fell head over heels in love with these new wild horses.

 

19 comments:

  1. Delightful...I did what I could protesting and putting in my two cents worth to BLM. I wanted to suggest that we should do the same to the ever expanding city dwellers but I did not.
    Your images are becoming stronger and stronger...the horses are amazing! you have bonded

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. Just when you think SoCal can't get any more crowded...they just won't stop building and the continued influx of people, my gosh!
      Thank you for your constant efforts and support with the horse issue.
      I appreciate that and you so very much, Mona.
      x

      Delete
  2. Never stop loving those horses, because your love is contagious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really?? What joy flew into my heart after hearing you say that!!!
      x

      Delete
  3. Love is something that is not meant for moderation.
    The cost may be great, but the rewards greater.
    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so right. I shouldn't limit it.
      That would be so crazy of me to NOT give those animals the love I feel for them.
      I am rewarded, now that I've given in.
      Thank you ever EVER so much, friend.
      x

      Delete
  4. "Love like you've never been hurt" is all I can say. Not many have the chance to experience the connection you have with the wild horses. It's a beautiful thing to read of your journey with these magnificent animals. Love with all your heart, dear woman.
    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will love them!! And my journey with them shall go on and on and on....
      Thank you Sagey, for always being there for me.
      x

      Delete
  5. sometimes, in hurt and in fear, we tell ourselves "never again...."
    and then, something grabs our hearts and squeezes hard....and we feel the love begin pulling us in, much like fly-fishing, you know??....the throwing-out of the line, the catch, the whip-and-tug....and then we are caught. again. and again.

    i love you, red dirt.
    don't give up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah! Those wild beasts pulled me in. (No catch and release going on here!) haha.
      with your genuine encouragement and faith behind me, Bernard, I won't give up. Love you!!!!
      xO

      Delete
  6. i know that ache in your heart over these lovely beasts, but you need each other. you may not be able to control the outcomes in this world, but you sure do make it a better place. love freely-- that's what we need more of. you are good at that.

    i'm glad you had the opportunity to lighten up sharing a few jokes with the horses. laughter is a good companion for love-- they make a rather unbeatable team.

    your train journey is epic. i love that you met someone who knew your dad. now you can add train hobo to your own resume. you just never know when that might come in handy, especially when you start traveling around to do promotional tours for your wild horse book. it lends a certain authenticity. tame people tend to crave the experiences lived out by the wild ones.

    the horses send hot, sweet-breath kisses, the donkeys send head butts, and the dogs leap around crazily wagging their tails. now that meadbh has a 'thing' for beards she's really looking forward to the visit next month from that jolly guy with the curly white beard. she's hoping he will bring her a pair of Crocs.

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me and those Red Desert horses- WE NEED EACHOTHER!!
      "tame people tend to crave the experiences lived out by the wild ones."
      I'm going to post that in every room in my house!
      As for Crocs at Christmas for one special pony...we will send a very special pair I'm certain she will love!
      You're the best, Janet.
      x

      Delete
  7. "They all took turns to hear my whispers. I told each and every one of them how much I loved them."...well, lost it. Cry and sobbing, etc. Horses, lovely wild horses!!! *kiss*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You and I would make a fine team...sobbing & crying and carrying on about the horses. Thanks for feeling it too, Steph!
      x

      Delete
  8. This whole post is beautiful. How amazing your train trip was, especially meeting someone who knew your dad! I got tears in my eyes reading about how you feel about the horses and their unknown future - staying away and then having to go back one more time, because I would be the same way. Just wrote you a letter today!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, going out there to hang with the horses feels different now that I know what's going to happen to them possibly next summer.
      I feel a deeper admiration and concern for them more than ever. I want so much to protect them from harm and wrongdoing by the man.
      We're working on a plan to change the way the BLM does business. Ginger stopped by our house last week and we had a wonderful talk around the table. What a woman. You'd love her, Diana.
      Looking so forward to hearing from you, as always.
      x

      Delete
  9. Such love. All of these wonderful pictures are another exhibit of your heart and soul.
    Hugs and love,,,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You always know what to say to make me breathe a little deeper and to look a little closer with my heart.
      x

      Delete
  10. I too feel sad for these magnificent beasts and fear for what happens to them. I am so far away but my heart is with for the difference you can make. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't know about their plight. Keep writing and keep taking the pictures it keeps me with you my dear sweet cousin xx

    ReplyDelete