Little Lunga

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


The sun was shining bright and through the window it seemed to create a warmth this old house has been needing, not to mention the ones living here. The sun and the heat is a long lost friend welcomed home to the Valley. Looking out at the sun, I held a mason jar full of marbles up to the light. I was curious about how marbles were made. I looked at the swirls within them, the bright colors, the dark colors, ribbons of stories trapped in glass. I sat down on the hard wood floor, twisted the lid to open the jar, hearing the all familiar sound the metal ring sliding against the glass rim. I set the jar down and layed it on its side. Marble rushed out of the old jar and rushed across the floor in all directions. I tried to follow just one, but as I watched it roll, another cut in front or bounced off a book laying on the floor. It was like all of the marbles were racing to display their own uniqueness, their own shine or lack of. I stood up as they settled down and decided from my view that I would simply look at every marble in my sight and study it. I realized that this is life, this is our story. You cannot control a lot of things in life, you simply roll until something stops you or you change directions. We all have ribbons of stories and life lessons within us, and as long as we do not crack into pieces, we will trade those stories and lessons for others. And, sometimes we are that whole jar of marbles......our lives and stories rolling all over the place.

The other day, Cecilia and I ventured out into new parts of the Red Desert. We had the opportunity to travel into places full of horse history and this made me realize how lucky we are. The sun was shining and we were finally convinced that spring had arrived in the Valley as well as the Red Desert. We could look straight up for miles and the only clouds in view were the wispy mares tails slowly drifting by, if moving at all. We had a slight breeze blowing which only made the 65 degrees feels even better. We had the fortunate opportunity to be escorted deep into the country by some old cowboys and horse chasers. This, to me was a priceless chance to see not only the horses in the wild but the men who understood them, who knew them from their hoof marks in the ground clear up the clouds of dust they stirred as they ran across the desert soil. We followed the dusty two track road about 20 miles in and crossed through a wire gap guarded by the Man and the Boy(rock formations leading into the box canyon)and I was feeling the anticipation of rounding the bend and coming upon something I was not sure of. Sure enough, we rounded the corner of the canyon, and there we saw our first impressions of a horse trap over 60 years old. We got out of the truck and walked around this large, very interesting fence. I needed to get my hands on it to see if I could understand how things were done 60 years ago or even earlier than that. The fence was made of a soft cable woven and connected with barbed wire, but for some reason it was safe, almost like rough, callused hands, not intimidating at all. The post, which were railroad ties, stood steadfast and loyal to the wire it held, as if they had been set only the day before. I was fascinated by this, all the while listening to this old horse chaser tell me a story of when he was a young man and the horses he followed. He told me of the piper airplane they used to survey and herd the horses. How they let the horses lead and they simply followed. How the cowboys on horseback would wait patiently for the horses to top the ridge and then file into the canyon. The preparation of the gathers was thoughtful and efficient. I began to realize how these men and other men and woman of their time and place understood horses, especially the feral horses of our country. Back then, ALL were horsemen in some fashion or another. People had not been jaded by government issues or activist who had no understanding of the horses. Horses were gathered for their use as well as maintaining the herds. The horse chasers managed the land and the livestock, including the horses. Wherever you went in the West, this was daily work, like checking windmills and water gaps.

We moved on a little further into the canyon and soon we had arrived to the place I had been told about and I had read about in books. These were the corrals where many horses had been roped, sorted, loaded and even turned back into the desert. We were standing where many had stood before, man and beast. I walked in silence and ran my hands across every rail, every post and every gate latch. I was hoping to hear the holler of Desert Dust or any of his brood still very much alive within these traps. I stood back just to picture how it must have been decades ago. I moved an old gate latch as if to turn out the souls of those horses waiting for the chasers to come back. It was hard to leave this quiet place without actually hearing the sounds of men and horses and even a baying dog, but this was another time and things have changed too much. It was time to go.

I think much about what a horse chaser told me that day in the desert. He told me that with a little bit of work, you could sure enough catch some horses. He made it sound as if I should have a go of it. I took this in two ways. I felt honored first and foremost for having him give us the time and the thoughtfulness to take us and secondly, I felt as if he had faith in me that I could do something as daring, dangerous and something of the old ways that he and his fellow horsemen had done. It is sad to think of how it used to be and how it is today. So many people with thoughtless missions of self reward. I know times change and we must evolve, but is our evolution actually going the wrong way? We have the most beautiful resource in the world at our fingertips! In the same country we have wild horses, we have oil wells drilling deep into the ground, we spend billions of dollars just looking for the stuff. It takes fractions of that money to see what is standing right in front of our eyes, on top of the ground.......If we can bottle up oil and gas and sell it off, what is wrong with collecting some of our feral horses out of the wild? I am not saying scoop them all up from the land and cage them up, because that will never happen. I am saying that the horses we do gather are well fed, well managed and in some cases, sadly not enough, find a true purpose under saddle. Yes, the wild horse is a romantic figure of the west, that I am not denying, but this modern feral horse is not the mustang of centuries ago, he is a product of evolution just as we are, but the feral horse is also a product of our doing. We can take a little responsibility or a lot, you choose........if someone knows a horse is cold and hungry, wild or domestic, what is the good thing to do?

Now that I am beginning to have a relationship with every one of the horses down in the paddocks right now, I could not imagine ever turning my back on it in the wild. That is something to think about.

This is simply one of the ribbons in my marbles. If we do not have an edge, we will always roll.

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