When the wind died down, I found the courage to go outside. There was only one place I wanted to go. Something I really needed to do. I went to see about a horse.
One of the best things about driving in Wyoming is, the highways are empty. You can totally check out the scenery in every direction, while belting out some Sara Jarosz song, and do a little drumroll on the steering wheel while going 70 mph. It's so freeing.
Sailing past straw fields and cattle ranches, I sneer at some cows close to the road, safe behind their barbed wire fences. Oh, I know it's not their fault. It's just that, every time I see a cow, I see a helicopter. And a horse.
Main Pony Road guided me through a windswept and lonely prairie today. The sage wasn't blue, the once bright, ochre yellow of the rabbitbrush was grey. For now, the Indian Paintbrush scarlet petals have been drained. Summer wildflower colors have been snatched by winter. I glassed the pines of Green Mountain, the Ferris Range and to the west, Crooks mountain, that is home to some rare, pure blooded Indian ponies. The prairie clings to the edges of these hills and peaks, but nothing can be a barrier for the harshness it endures from December to May.
Clusters of pronghorn dominate the prairies right now. They aren't quite so nervous; I can tell they know that hunting season has passed. Some lie around, as lazily as lopers can, which is seldom, as they watch me from afar.
I've come prepared for any kind of weather. As the wind picks up, just as I knew it would, I begin to cover myself with gear from head to toe. Wind proof this, wind proof that. Now, I'm ready. I found what I was looking for, out there in the distance about half a mile away. I've had to learn to walk slowly, softly to get to wild horses. I call it "the Joe Hutto walk." He's the deer and turkey whisperer, remember? I pay very close attention to that man's ways.
There are seven horses grazing together and one off to the side. The watcher. The protector. He sees me and raises his head. I always try to appear nonchalant, by looking away or looking down, making sure he sees that I am not that interested in moving in on him or his family. A few minutes later the stallion curiously walks toward me and then he stops. I breathe in deeply. I want to smell him. His winter coat is thick like shag, a cross between chestnut and cinnamon. I want to sink my hands into that velvet, gleaming in the sun. He's got old scars from gashes in his face. He looks young with eyes so gentle. I stare at him. He stares at me. Our eyes see inside each other's. We are locked in a moment. The connection between this enormous, beautiful animal and I is the most unique experience, and if I try to describe it, nothing I say can capture the magic and the sweet mystery it brings to ones' soul.
If you've never seen a wild horse before, I hope that every one of you will have at least a day in your life, that pristine moment to be close to one, to feel what I feel. And as you hang back and then finally turn and walk away, I bet you will open your heart and confess, "I have a crush on Velvet."
Or Beast, or Muzzle, or Ghost or Dragon or Jigsaw or January. And if you're lucky, maybe you will feel something for Pony Boy. Wherever he may be.
Keep in mind, we just may be the last generation to see wild horses in the wild if things continue as they are. If you want to see Wyoming's wild horses, I will be happy to show you in person where they live or I can draw you a map of where to go, where they like to hang out. But, now is the time. We don't have forever.
God knows, they don't either.