Mustang stallion missing from Nebraska ranch

27 03 2009

Go to Pam Nickoles’ blog (http://nickolesphotography.wordpress.com ) for more information about this beautiful palomino stallion missing from a Nebraska ranch. The following information about contacting the local sheriff’s office is on Pam’s site along with pictures and a link to more information on netposse.com.

Morrill County Sheriff’s Office
308-262-0408
Deputy Steve Latin
Case #090728

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Happy hands make light work

26 03 2009

After a day that ended like this …

Dusty rose

Dusty rose

… I awoke to a morning like this …

White as snow

White as snow

That’s what we get in March in Colorado! Both are views of Disappointment Creek, outside the herd area.

It snowed on and off all morning, which left me wondering if we would even be able to get into the basin for the scheduled work day. The sky started clearing to the west, and sunlight hit the far hills, then the sun finally broke free of the clouds and lit the area, revealing dust-free air.

Snowy sentinels

Snowy sentinels

Gotta love that light! That promontory on the left is the big prominent peak you can see from almost anywhere in the basin down to the southeast. (Photo taken from outside the basin.)

Again with the spots

Again with the spots

On the way up the county road toward the basin entrance, I spied the pinto band again! The sunshine hadn’t quite reached their hill (actually their “pinto hill” is across this little valley to the southeast), but you can see it on the hills to the east across the basin.

By now you may be wondering why I was still in the basin at the beginning of the work week. If the wind and dust didn’t run me off, the threat of snow should have (though, as you could see from the photos, it wasn’t heavy, it melted quickly, and it didn’t impede vehicle traffic at all). Sunday’s visit was for pleasure; Monday’s visit was “work.”

Every year for nine years now, Kathe Hayes with the San Juan Mountains Association (nonprofit partner with our local Forest Service and BLM) has led the “alternative spring break” program, which, in our case, brings University of Missouri students to San Juan public lands in Southwest Colorado to do work projects earmarked for them in cooperation with FS and BLM employees. Those folks tell Kathe what projects need done, and she makes it happen with student labor – and hopefully the students get something out of it, too.

Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area falls within San Juan public lands, and students spend a day or two of their weeklong visit in the basin working on various projects, which have included old-fence removal, fence repair, illegal-road reclamation, sign installation and tamarisk destruction. For those of you not familiar with tamarisk, it’s also known as “salt cedar,” and it is a non-native, invasive species, originally introduced to the Colorado Plateau around the turn of the last century for erosion control in riparian areas and as an ornamental plant (like a lot of terribly dangerous beasties, when it flowers, it’s guiltily pretty to look at) – so said BLM weed specialist Mike Jensen (and former herd area manager) when he talked to the students at the work area that morning. It sucks up gallons and gallons of ground water, and that’s not good for the native plant species in the vicinity, not to mention the wildlife trying to find water to drink in this arid country. Tamarisk, of course, likes wet areas like ponds and stream and river banks. It’s a scourge of the West, and a lot of work has been put into getting rid of it. (One of those biological control methods gone awry, eh?)

Our Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association provides the herbicide used each year to spray the stumps of the tamarisk the students cut. It has the deliciously sci-fi-cool name Garlon 4. It works pretty well, but tamarisk is stubborn (Texans might be able to equate it somewhat with mesquite), and it can send up tenacious stems/branches/sprouts/whatever. So the students have been working in the Wildcat Spring drainage area (at least) for a few years, and that’s where they concentrated Monday.

With the help of Mike and three Forest Service folks (acting as sawyers for bigger-than-lop-size tamarisk and Garlon sprayers and reclamation workers), nine Mizzou students and one local high school freshman whose dad is a fifth-generation local rancher (Kathe said “she’s been coming out here since she was this high”), a lot of tamarisk got cut and sprayed, and part of the illegal road to Wildcat Spring was sent artistically back to nature (take that, you nasty littering people whose trash everybody BUT you has carried out!). WOW!

I covered their story last spring, and I was back to do the same this spring. Gotta tell ya, those kids are my heroes. And check this out: Two were back for their second year, and one was back for his third! Did you all read the posts and see the pix of younger-than-now Raven and Kootenai sent by Amanda Conner, Mizzou graduate? Mr. Third Trip is Miss Conner’s hard-working fiancee. 🙂 I’ve already used her name in conjunction with those pix, but to protect the innocent in case they want to be, I won’t use the students’ names here, but if ya’ll read this, know I’m grateful for the work you did!

I took some pix, too, where the students are not identifyable, but they show a little bit of what they accomplished – and with great attitudes despite the cold temperatures and intermittent waves of snow that came with welcome sunshine!

Below the spring

Below the spring

Here, a couple of Mizzou students are working as a team to cut and spray tamarisk just below the old dam site below Wildcat Spring. You can see the stumps of alternative spring breaks past! Most of the sprouts the students were cutting in this drainage were no bigger than a fat finger. The water collects naturally above the students and toward the center of the photo. Above that, it runs into a tight canyon upstream. This is in the east side of the herd area.

Road work

Road work

Here’s the “road” at the start of the reclamation work. Students also cleaned up the campsite at the end of the “road” toward the spring by scattering rocks that had been arranged into a fire ring and collecting wood and old tree stumps to use in the reclamation process. Students in the photo are digging a shallow hole so they can “plant” a stump like the one in the foreground of the picture.

The picture I most loved to take all day is one I can’t (won’t) use because it shows faces, but it’s of one of the Forest Service guys hauling out a “toilet box.” Seriously! Can people be any more disgusting?! When I cleaned up the site last fall after the hunters spent their time there, two rolls of toilet paper that had been left on branches right beside that horrible box were among the items that went into the five bags of trash I carried out. Believe me when I tell you it made my YEAR to see that box being carried away, and the FS guy who carried it out is my new favorite FS guy. 🙂 (In case you wondered, they have trucks; as much as I hated that box, no way it was going in my Jeep!) New favorite FS guy also buried the, ahem, “leftovers” from that box AND a handicap toilet chair that had been left standing above a bucket-without-a-bottom over another hole filled with “stuff.” They hauled those items (chair and bucket) away, too.

Thank you for letting me rant. (YAYAYAY – good riddance yucky box!)

On the road to reclamation

On the road to reclamation

Huh!? Whaddya think now? Road no more. Thanks – you know who you are – for the “artistry”!

Doaneventhinkaboutit

Doaneventhinkaboutit

New sign to reinforce the message. And later this summer, one of our National Mustang Association guys and our herd area manager will place a line of boulders across the “road” in front of this area, and then the stretch between the sign and boulders and the real road will be reclaimed. Good stuff!

The good trail

The good trail

Job well done, guys and gals! Thank you so much for choosing Colorado for your spring break. I hope you all had a great time here; I sure enjoyed having you here.





Dust bowl basin

25 03 2009

“If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes and it will change.”

I’ve heard that phrase spoken by locals in different states, and it’s true in all of them. Weather is especially changeable at the cusp of seasons, and as Friday was the first day of this year’s spring, was it any wonder that although March purred into beginning as a pussycat, by the second day after the beginning of a new season, the winds were roaring like a lion?

Sunday started with blue skies and fluffy white clouds and a wind howling like a … what howls with more power than a banshee? I’d never felt it so terrible. The wind was rude and pushy – literally. I do believe it carried and deposited half of Arizona into (at least) Southwest Colorado. By mid-afternoon, there was about 300 pounds of dirt per square air inch. One of the freakiest things I’ve ever seen.

Within minutes of driving into the basin, I spied Kreacher and his multi-color girls in their current favorite haunt along Spring Creek north of the first crossing. Compared with the wind, I was a creature not worthy of much attention.

Into the wind

Into the wind

Raven, Mona and Kreacher at ease. Is that a belly I spy …?

Napsters

Napsters

Kootenai snuck up behind Raven, but she didn’t seem to mind.

Outward bound

Outward bound

Not even when Kootenai drove Mona away did Raven get involved.

Wind in her hair

Wind in her hair

The epitome of innocence (not).

Do you notice the abundance of sunshine? The blue sky?

I headed out toward Round Top, having seen many of the northern horses in that area in recent visits. Bounce and his lovely girls were at the east end of the (south)east-(north)west hill, open to the punishment of the wind. No one else was exposed to the fury. I kept driving.

By the time I got to the double ponds, I hadn’t see another horse. The wind was howling. It was – obviously – dry. The road was amazingly dry.

I thought I might find horses back in the east pocket. Nope. I did check the pond there. Water? Check. I thought I might find horses around every bend. Nope. The road was never bad enough to turn back. Dry. So dry. Where on Earth were the horses??

Finally, almost to the cutoff road to Horse Park, I spied Steeldust and his band and hangers-on below the long east-west hill, maybe somewhat protected from the worst of the wind. I turned around and headed back to a place closer to hike out.

The wind was enough to actually push me backward when I stopped to look around when I topped a hill farther south than where I had thought the horses would be. I thought I caught a glimpse of them around the bend, below the hill, but I decided to cross the little valley and see if Bounce, Alegre and Gaia were still in the same place I had previously seen them. When I topped the next hill, I found Bounce facing into the wind, watching … Steeldust’s band heading down the hill toward the far road.

Bounce at attention

Bounce at attention

I sat down in the wind (the better to be steady in the gale) to watch Steeldust’s horses through the binocs, and when I looked back at Bounce’s band, he was bouncing up to me, trying to figure out where the heck I had appeared from.

Alegre and Gaia

Alegre and Gaia

Let me tell you, shooting with the barrel of my lens straight into the jaws of the howling beast was, uh, not impossible but difficult as hell. Pretty, pretty girls.

I didn’t stay with them long. It’s hard to even describe the power of that wind, so I’ll let the next couple of pictures illustrate it.

Dust bowl

Dust bowl

Do you recognize Filly Peak? Do you even see the outline of Filly Peak? I promise, it’s out there like a whale beached in the fog of the sea.

Brumley in the dust

Brumley in the dust

The wind was out of the south, so (I guess) that’s why there was still some visibility to that direction. Meanwhile, it was all settling in the north of the bowl, err, basin. 

Exit plan

Exit plan

You might be able to barely pick out the road down to the trap site in the upper middle part of this photo. Straight out is the first hill you drive in past the cattle guard and interpretive sign.

The road to oblivion

The road to oblivion

Filly Peak again, a little later but a little more visible – at that moment in time.

Renegades

Renegades

The (at least) two cows and calves still in the basin. Their time was up the end of February. At least two other trucks were in the basin Sunday, but I don’t know whether they were related to the bovines.

Not in Oz anymore

Not in Oz anymore

This photo of Mona, Raven, Kootenai and Kreacher was taken about four-ish hours after the blue-sky pictures of Mona, Raven, Kootenai and Kreacher. Don’t adjust your monitors. These pictures were sharpened only – no other tweaking for contrast or color (I usually only boost contrast and sharpen anyway). That’s what it looked like. Spooky as all get out. This is from the road in the “flats” just below the water catchment looking north.

My Grey/Traveler boy and his family were down in the valley south of the catchment where it opens to the valley that runs southeast between what I called “bachelor ridge” last year and the hill above (east of) the hill above the corral off the county road. Did you get all that? They were hunkered down finding their own protection from the wind.

It was still daylight – sort of, in an eerie, horror-film kind of strange Hollywood-film way – so I headed out of the herd area and south on the county road with the idea that I’d park and hike back into the basin to look for the pintos and/or David and Shadow and/or Cinch and Bruiser – whichever came first and/or at all! This brings up another question for photographers: What white balance setting do you use when it’s not cloudy or shady or sunlit? Or otherwise? When it’s like looking through dusted rose-colored glasses – except the only reason you’re still wearing your shades is because your eyeball sockets are now the repositories of about 13,000 pounds of grit – each. I set white balance to auto. I never set white balance to auto.

Guess who I found right beside the road??

Painted ponies

Painted ponies

And Copper, who suffers from being boringly solid (but shhh, don’t tell him!). Bonus points: Can you pick out the other boy in this image? Right to left: Spook, Reya, Kiowa and … Corazon … BETWEEN Copper and the girls?! As far as I know, Copper-nicus is still king among the spots, but he wasn’t at all worried about Corazon there. In fact, while I was watching them, it occured to me that no one passing by on the road who stopped to watch would know that this modern, dysfunctional family contains four boys, two mature ladies and two young ladies, let alone who was who or which or what. It works for them, eh?

Mesa

Mesa

Ty

Ty

Auto white balance in a rose-dust world. Weeeeeird.

Girl between boys

Girl between boys

Stallion Corazon, left, Chipeta-girl and stallion Ty.

Flirty girl

Flirty girl

Chipeta chooses Ty.

Rejected girl

Rejected girl

What is he, nuts?!

Copper and Kiowa

Copper and Kiowa

Easy-going.

Kiowa and Spook

Kiowa and Spook

The trouble with weaning your babies is that you then have to compete with them for every blade of chow on the ground.

I’d like to interrupt the progression of photos for just one minute and say that this was my best visit ever – bar none – with the pinto band (and their boys). For whatever reason, alpha-Kiowa-girl was cool as steel in the face of that blustering howler, and so was everyone else. Crazy wind isn’t usually the kind of weather where you expect your horse to be calm as a cucumber – am I right? Thank you, painted ponies!

Sissies

Sissies

As in “sisters.” As in ain’t scairt of a huffy little wind that hides the sky and tangles the hair. Reya, big girl of almost 2, nuzzles baby sister Spook, who has a first of May birthday coming up.

Lookin-good girl

Lookin-good girl

I wanted to include this pic of Kiowa because she’s looking good with baby weaned and winter (almost) over. She has some fat over her ribs, which were visible just a few weeks ago when last I saw her.

So it took a little longer than 10 minutes for the weather to change from blue to rose, but by the time Monday morning rolled around, it would change again – to white. 🙂 Stay tuned.





Celebration

15 03 2009

Until I got to this point, I thought I had a lot to say about my most recent visit with the horses. Now, again, I’m speechless. The last time I was in the basin with them, I felt like I had walked into a painting, a place with the most lovely light and subjects so heavenly I could only weep with joy. The weather last weekend wasn’t so great, and I was still riding the high of the gift that was the previous weekend, so Saturday was my first visit in two weeks – it felt like forever.

Last weekend, I saw all the horses; this weekend, only the northern horses with the exception of Bounce and his girls. But – again – it was one sublime experience. It was sunny; it was cloudy. It was warm; there was a nip to the air. It was calm; it was breezy. The horses were as relaxed as I’ve ever seen them, I was the only two-legged for miles, and it was a day beyond treasure. Yes, again. I’m doing my best to spread the karma.

Piedra, Baylee and Aspen

Piedra, Baylee and Aspen

These ponies were the first I saw, in the flats by Spring Creek where Kreacher had his girls the last time I saw them.

Hollywood

Hollywood

Yep, he’s still with ’em.

Bored Baylee

Bored Baylee

Leggy girl got bored watching me with the others, so she started grazing.

Come on over

Come on over

I guess Hollywood thought he was being ignored, so he trotted over.

Come closer

Come closer

Which, of course, made Aspen get a little closer to the girls.

Hanging out

Hanging out

One little happy (kinda) family.

Horses and clouds

Horses and clouds

And there they stayed while I walked back to the Jeep.

At that point, the only other four-leggeds I had seen were two cows – black and black baldy – both with tiny calves – in the valley below the water catchment, so I hooked down across Spring Creek again and up onto the road headed toward Round Top. Beyond eyesight, I caught sight of Mona, Kootenai and Kreacher way out on top of the east end of the east-west hill. Raven was out of sight. Also from the road, I spotted Grey and Houdini and Jif and the kids out toward Flat Top … and farther out between Round Top and Flat Top, Seven and his girls. I parked at Round Top and hit the trail. I decided to go find the threesome first because they were farthest away. By the time I got to the far trail, they had dropped down to the valley below the saddle.

Seven

Seven

Seven, if he was aged correctly by the contractors at the roundup, is coming on 9 this year. The wind was brisk by this time, so I dropped off the saddle on the calm side of a ridge and hunkered down where I could see the boy around the corner. I had seen the girls from the top, so I figured he’d go toward them and I could inch out to the end of the ridge and sit there and watch them. But no, he decides to walk in the opposite direction, which put him right down the hill from me – and me in plain sight. I sat there long enough in an uncomfortable position on the side of the ridge that my right leg and foot went to sleep. Ugh. Can you feel the pins and needles? It finally did wake up as I shifted weight as slowly as I could so I wouldn’t startle him. Finally he walked back toward the mares, and I could wake up my leg and move down to where I could see them all. He went behind some trees, so I went down the hill and over another, lower ridge, where I got in position among the roots of a gnarled old pinon (or juniper; I didn’t actually pay attention to which), which gave me a nice little frame to shoot through, though I was still pretty much in plain sight.

Roja, Molly and Seven

Roja, Molly and Seven

I kept thinking they’d hear my shutter click, at least, but the wind must have blown the sound away.

Seven going on 9

Seven going on 9

(Any Star Trek fans?) I think I know why Seven didn’t see me – he grazes with his eyes closed.

Molly and Roja

Molly and Roja

You can see old Molly is a bit on the thin side (she should NOT have a foal this year), and you can see just as well that pert Roja is as chubby as a fall apple (should be a baby in there).

I watched them for a bit then quietly got up and walked back up the nearest ridge to the saddle. Seven saw me and watched me walk away, but if the mares saw me, they never even looked up. Great visit with these wary ponies.

I picked up the trail to the yucky water hole to pick up the trail to the other water hole which leads on out around Flat Top. Got a yucky surprise.

Yucky from a distance

Yucky from a distance

It’s almost dry! Just two weeks ago there was more water. It’s never been a big puddle, but now it’s almost just mud.

Yucky close up

Yucky close up

There is water to the top of that awful pipe, which is jagged all around its top edge. There’s more water at the next puddle, but there’s also another pipe – under the surface of the water and also jagged. All you horse folks out there are cringing just like I was. I can’t believe a horse hasn’t stepped on or in that pipe yet and sliced his or her pastern open (good karma! good karma! good karma!). At the rate things are drying up out there … well, please help me pray for rain – or more snow. March is typically our wettest month, but it’s been dry and windy so far. No pix of the other water hole because I had put my camera back in my backpack.

When I got down (up? north) to Grey/Traveler and his band, only Jif was above the arroyo, and she was headed into it. If she saw me coming, she didn’t acknowledge me. So I waited until they came up to graze, then went down to investigate what they’re drinking. I didn’t take pix, but it will look like the picture where Bones was drinking later in the program – from muddy hoof prints. Dry, peeps; it’s damn dry out there.

Are you ever so happy, so in love, the emotion spills out of you in waves of tears? Guys, you can stop reading; I know this is the equivalent of a chick flick. Girls, am I right?

Rose-colored hills, silver stallion

Rose-colored hills, silver stallion

Is he not gorgeous? He amazes me.

The light was crazy. Clouds were low on the southern and southwestern horizon when I got there in the morning, but during the day, they covered the sky, they parted, they played tag with the ridges and hillsides, they turned Spring Creek Basin into a painter’s canvas, and the horses moved through that light like angels. I swear to you, it was unbelievable.

Grey and rose

Grey and rose

He came to stand at the edge of the arroyo while I stood in the bottom. He cocked a hip and listened to me ask for just a little more wild horse medicine for my friends (one of whom came through surgery last week with flying colors and a great prognosis). He stood in the wind and made my heart sing.

Grey and youngsters

Grey and youngsters

The babies tried not to act very curious – Twister at left, Two Boots at right.

Twister and Traveler

Twister and Traveler

A little land, a lotta sky.

Comfort

Comfort

Twister, right, adores Two Boots and doesn’t mind telling her so.

Two Boots

Two Boots

Houdini’s daughter Two Boots will be 2 around April 21. She was born black.

Greasewood buffet

Greasewood buffet

Twigs, that’s all that is. How do they get nutrition from twigs? Iya and Jif snack on twigs and look great.

Iya

Iya

Big baby girl will be 1 on April 27! She still has a glint of red in the right light, but from a distance, she looks black.

Shades of grey

Shades of grey

Houdini and Grey/Traveler

Expectant mothers

Expectant mothers

First (that I know of) for Jif, many-th for wise girl Houdini.

Sunlight and shadow

Sunlight and shadow

See what I mean about that light? This is looking to the north, maybe slightly northwestish.

Youngsters

Youngsters

Iya, Two Boots and Twister follow the adults to the arroyo, which they crossed.

Pyramid

Pyramid

On the other side. I like their arrangement, even though not a one of them is paying attention to me anymore.

It was a good walk back to the Jeep from where they were, and I had spied glowing Alpha up by the roller-coaster ridge, so I walked on toward them. They were out in the open when I got to them, grazing and moseying toward-ish Round Top, with the boys bringing up the rear.

Duke and Chrome were standing together again, and Hook was a short distance ahead of them, toward the band. These boys are the remnants of the Bachelor 7. Kreacher won the new girls; Aspen hung out with Hollywood until he stole those girls; Mouse slid into Hollywood’s old lieutenant spot reporting to Steeldust; Comanche, who was with Aspen until Aspen won the girls, is sort of Mouse’s sergeant now. So Duke, Chrome and Hook stick together loosely, wandering after the big band. And they’re all still hanging out down there in the roller-coaster ridge area, probably because there’s still water in that pond. It’s shrinking like the wicked witch, but it’s the best source of water out there now – still.

Boys

Boys

Duke, left, Chrome and Hook when Hook got nervous and ran back to Duke and Chrome.

Play time

Play time

When I was walking toward them, before I had the camera out, I saw Chrome and Hook mix it up. A few minutes after Hook rejoined the boys, he and Duke had a little talk. Who’s the common denominator there? Although in this case, at least, Duke was the instigator.

Back to normal

Back to normal

Knife Edge getting the sunshine as I left the boys to go see the family.

Hook

Hook

Almost forgot this one of Hook. He really did have a little hook at the end of his snip once, I promise. Still has a hint of his rosy shade.

Mahogany

Mahogany

Looking for a mid-May baby from this gal.

Pinon

Pinon

Tall, dark and cute as a bug! He’ll be 1 around May 13.

Pinon and Daddy

Pinon and Daddy

Steeldust was pretty content … but just wait.

Belly-rific!

Belly-rific!

Luna-girl was first to foal last year.

Ember

Ember

Old-soul girl will be 1 around April 18.

Luna and her babies

Luna and her babies

Kestrel, right, will be 2 this spring.

Storm snack

Storm snack

Do you see the crazy-light beauty I was blessed with?!

Storm and Alpha

Storm and Alpha

Our little Storm-chaser is closing in on his 8-month birthday. Big boy.

Hey, look over there

Hey, look over there

This was immediately after Steeldust had a little chat with Comanche – a little reminder, really. Steely Dan is looking back at the bachelor boys; Comanche may be looking at deer (I saw them later).

Taking action

Taking action

Comanche may have missed the message, though, because right after that, Steeldust took off after him. The butt just at the edge of the frame is Mouse’s.

Frustration

Frustration

Then Steeldust left Mouse in charge of putting the point on the argument; Comanche at right.

Back again

Back again

And Steeldust moved the band back in the direction from which they had just come. (Again, that light!)

Now a little visual story:

Just walking along

Just walking along

Kestrel and Sundance. All looks well so far, but note the ear.

Perturbed

Perturbed

Now she’s feeling crowded – you know how boys can be – so Kestrel pins her ears and shakes her head at Sundance (who might, maybe be her brother).

Intervention

Intervention

And that’s when mama Luna steps in.

Punishment

Punishment

Swift and sure are mama’s teeth! I don’t know if you can see it in this small pic, but she actually has a hunk of hide in her teeth! I don’t know if Luna had a goal in mind, if she went for Sundance because daughter got out of the way, but it sure put an end to that mischief!

At some point while I was with the band, I had spotted Poco farther eastish, so when the band swapped directions, I went on out to say hi to P, B & R – couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Copper in a cloud of dust

Copper in a cloud of dust

Roach apparently thought I was one of the bachelors when I first approached because he came trotting out to greet me (they were some distance away but visible). I wish this photo even began to do justice to the scene, but Roach was just glowing like he was in a spotlight from the heavens. Once he realized it was me, though, he turned around and walked back to his pals.

Guardian

Guardian

See them all? Bones through Roach’s legs; Poco at right.

Eh

Eh

Bones went down to get a drink, and Poco turned to watch after her.

What do you see?

What do you see?

Lemme tell you what I see. She’s so relaxed she’s not even looking at me while she drinks down in an arroyo (where I’m standing is low, but in front of her is a big “wall”). I see muddy water filling sandy hoof prints (this is what it looked like where Grey and family were drinking). I see a big belly … And you can see how her right hip bone sticks up.

Show is over

Show is over

Just for laughs. 🙂

See ya

See ya

Soft light on the big red boy.

And that was the end of that visit. I didn’t know if Poco and Roach had been down to drink yet at that point (I didn’t think so), so I left ’em to it and headed back toward the Jeep. At this point, I was on the northeastern side of Round Top, kinda near where that weird guzzler is, if you know where that is.

When I got back up on the  flattish area where the band was (flat as in no arroyos for at least 100 feet), I spotted a group of muley does and last year’s fawns moving north in front of me. They were totally backlit by the sun, and I must not have been visible to them because they had their heads down and I was “behind” a high spot in the ground. I didn’t think I’d be able to get anywhere close to them to take pix before they took off, so I kept walking. But they didn’t see me, so when I got to a shallow arroyo, I hopped the line and moved north to come out a little ahead of them.

I see you

I see you

The big girl on the left may have been an alpha doe – if deer have such rankings. She froze like a statue and didn’t take her eyes off me – and what beautiful eyes she has! She stood like that so long – and I stood like I stood so long – that most of the others got bored and went back to browsing. Finally I stepped out from behind the camera (on my monopod), and they decided that was enough of that. Looks like they wintered as well as the horses.

It took me about four hours to visit those four bands (counting the bachelors with Steeldust’s band). Had a snack when I got back to the Jeep and just rested a bit to marvel. The temperature may have inched into the lower 50s. I saw 60 once on the Jeep’s display, but I don’t believe it for a second. Cool enough for a sweatshirt; warm enough to work up an arroyo-inspired sweat. You really just have to take time to sit back and take it all in while you’re out there. It’s not all picture taking and getting from point horses to point other horses.

I spend a lot of time thinking in practical terms – how old the foals are, when which mare might foal, how dry it is, how much we need more precip – but I also spend quite a bit of time wondering how to balance all I GET from the horses with how to give back. Is it even possible? What do they want from me? What can I give them that even comes close to comparing with all they give me? So I share with them, and I share them with you, and if you take a moment in your day to thnk of them and bless their wild hearts, maybe that’s a little bit close to enough. Maybe. 🙂

Looking for Bounce and his lovely ladies, I drove the roller-coaster ridge road to where it drops off the east side, then turned around and headed back without seeing them. Driving back toward the dugout, I looked for ’em; never saw ’em. They might have been feeling crowded and gone to the east side of Knife Edge. I also looked for Kreacher and the girls as I drove along the east-west hill (I suppose it’s probably more a northwest-southeast hill), but I didn’t see them, so I had started to think they had dropped down into that little valley between Knife Edge and Lizard Mesa (I think Bounce may have been down in the eastern end of that valley, but who knows).

Bada-bing. Up ahead, split on either side of the road: Mona and Kreacher on the west side, Raven and Kootenai on the east side. Black and apricot joined dun and grey, and I found them taking in the view …

Ever so soft

Ever so soft

The sun was heading toward the far horizon by this time, below a cloud bank. I’ve been there when the sun heads to California behind the clouds the whole way, and I’ve been there when it drops out of the clouds and floods the basin in gold so pure you wish you could bank it. Guess what happened? Just a little longer … The above pic is looking southwestish from right off the road close to the dugout intersection.

Against the fingers

Against the fingers

Just a tiny bit east (of what I call the finger hills), really. They had decided they wanted to re-cross the road (don’t ask why the horses cross the road).

Kreacher

Kreacher

Mr. Big, looking all kind of handsome.

And then …

Light and light and light and grey

Light and light and light and grey

That light … Kreacher-feature never looked so fine!

Apricot and turquoise

Apricot and turquoise

Spin me a story about complementary colors, and I’ll tell you the perfect complement to a blue-bird sky is a horse wild as the wind.

And just when you want more, I have to disappoint you. Sure, I took more photos, when I remembered to hit the shutter for enjoying all that amazing light on the horses, but the horses were (are) very uncooperative, showing me mostly butts as they wandered off over the hill to graze and nap. Kreacher actually walked away out of sight! Meanwhile, the girls let ‘im go; Kootenai nibbled, and Raven and Mona stopped to enjoy the sunshine with cocked hips and closed eyes. Imagine it. … Believe me, no picture could be better than what you can imagine.

OK, one more. Just before I dropped down the last hill on the road to cross Spring Creek, guess who surprised me? I took this from near the dugout, I think, to get the background:

End of the day, laddies and lasses

End of the day, laddies and lasses

Can’t end on a much better note than that, eh? 🙂

Wild horse magic! Pass it on!





Celebrate what’s right with the world

13 03 2009

http://uk.video.yahoo.com/watch/1598539/5397639

This incredible video isn’t about wild horses … or is it? It’s a fairly long video (20 minutes or so) by former National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones, who lives in Hawaii. He’s still a photographer, and he talks a lot about his experiences with National Geographic and how his assignments and travels affected him – affect him still – but I think you might be moved as much by his photography as by what he says that applies not only to photography but to the world and to our place(s) in it.

Our incredible wild horses are right in this world. It’s up to us to acknowledge that, to celebrate it, to be open to all their magic in every form in which it is offered … and to give back whatever we can. They celebrate every day, and for my part, I treasure that lesson as much as I treasure the horses themselves.

Celebrate your world.





Following the magic

8 03 2009
The following photos are from my time last Sunday in Spring Creek Basin. When Grey/Traveler’s band and a stunning red-tail hawk are among the first things I see, I know it has to be a great day. And it was.
Red-tail with La Sals

Red-tail with La Sals

Mona, Kootenai and Kreacher

Mona, Kootenai and Kreacher

Kootenai and Mona

Kootenai and Mona

Kreacher and Kootenai

Kreacher and Kootenai

Raven

Raven

Mona

Mona

Slim belly

Slim belly

Bulgey belly

Bulgey belly

Kreacher

Kreacher

One more Raven

One more Raven

 

Two boys, two girls

Two boys, two girls

Piedra, Baylee and Aspen

Piedra, Baylee and Aspen

Hollywood

Hollywood

Piedra, Baylee, Aspen, Hollywood and Filly Peak

Piedra, Baylee, Aspen, Hollywood and Filly Peak

Seven

Seven

Seven, Molly and Roja

Seven, Molly and Roja

Seven and girls at yucky water hole

Seven and girls at yucky water hole

Molly, Roja and Seven

Molly, Roja and Seven

Molly and Roja

Molly and Roja

Grey/Traveler and band

Grey/Traveler and band

Napping

Napping

Traveler

Traveler

Sleepy in the sunshine

Sleepy in the sunshine

Peaceful ending to a peaceful, magical weekend.





More Sand Wash Basin photos

8 03 2009

For those of you interested in seeing more of Amanda Conner’s photos of wild horses from her time last summer in Sand Wash Basin, follow this link to her Flickr site:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/29241356@N04/

See if you can spot Raven’s face in one of the pictures!