“(She) finally understood the sound of the wind after all these years:
The winds were a chorus of the prairie’s ever-present heartaches.”
~ Andrew Galasetti
One morning, a few weeks ago, I had a bad case of cabin fever. I checked the weather forecast and it was going to snow in town. Again. But, it was looking a little drier and definately sunnier where the wild horses live. So, I stuck my camera, a Nalgene of water and a banana in my backpack and headed south. I grabbed a 'road cup' from Starbucks and hopped on Hwy 220. I was on my way. Destination: Stewart Creek. Mustang country.
I hadn't been anywhere for awhile. I was so tired of being limited as to what I could and could not do with a cast on my arm. Everything took so much effort. I felt drained. My eyes wandered and my thoughts were foggy as I drank my coffee and thought about the wild horses I might see. Sure enough, the further south I went, the sky opened up to patches of blue. Then I saw the sun! It was shining on red dirt hills and yucca shoots to my right and I guess I got caught in a trance. Lost in the beauty of the drive, I failed to yield to a State Trooper, who was issueing another driver a ticket on the side of the road. I swerved way over, but, apparantly, not soon enough for his liking.
Mister state trooper, please don't stop me. Please don't stop me, please don't stop me ~Bruce Springsteen
Dang it! I pulled over, rolled down my window and the first thing he said was "Were you on your phone?"
Mister State Trooper would laugh out loud if he saw my phone. I still use a flip-phone! So, no sir, my phone is actually turned off and buried somewhere deep in my messenger bag. I do not txt and drive like everybody else does.
After a short lecture we both came to the conclusion that I was sight-seeing while trying to juggle my coffee cup and steer at the same time with one hand while looking at the scenery, not paying attention to the road. Which is true. I said I was sorry as he handed me a $210 dollar ticket.
Turning North onto Mineral X Road, everything changed. My shoulders relaxed, I took some major deep breaths, I was no longer tense or nervous. I was alone and far away and I felt safe. All I could think about was how much I needed to see some familiar mustang faces. I drove slowly, my eyes peeled at such wonder that surrounded me, taking it all in. I was HOME. Five miles later I pulled over to the side of the road, walked out into the sage, sat down and cried.
Stewart Creek is a herd management area (HMA) for wild horses. It is also a conservation home to raptors. On this day I had the pleasure of seeing some hawks flying in and out of stormy looking clouds. I must have counted a million meadowlarks and horned larks zipping around the sagebrush that I was lingering in. This part of the Great Divide Basin is said to be harsh, dry and barren. It is also rich in cactus flowers and rare flora and it's full of fauna. Pronghorn antelope are everywhere. I've seen sage grouse camouflaged in the brush, burrowing owls, plovers, Long-billed curlews and plentiful jack rabbits, pygmy and cotton tails. On this particular day I saw a coyote and piles of scat on my walk. It's not unheard of for mountain lions to come down from Green Mountain and prowl this desert, as well.
And every time I go out looking for wild horses in this region of the Red Desert, I am reminded that this basin was the home of the last known herd of wild buffalo in Wyoming.
I spotted six horses grazing in the distance. Some unfamiliar faces. Leisurely, I hiked out about half a mile to them. This small family band was skeptical. The closer I got the further they went. I didn't pursue them anymore but just stood and watched them from a good distance. Out of nowhere, like a gust of wind, all together they took off in a gallop, heads bobbing, manes and forelocks flying every which way. They all followed one another in the same manner, charging around, lunging and spinning together, round and round they went.
After their performance, they all stopped for a minute, gave me one last look and took off running down the hill at high speed until they were out of sight. I doubt they heard me clappping.