Photos by Carol Walker music by Opus Moon (available on iTunes)
The next cold morning I head into Adobe Town before dawn. The light is starting to color the sky pink in amongst the blue, and it is silent and still. I pass a wooden ramp used to load cattle and sheep into big trucks, and it is a reminder of the fiercely dominant livestock interests in this area.
It is Sunday, and I see only a few other vehicles today in the area.
I continue driving, looking for wild horses. I pull over and pull out my binoculars as I see a flash of white over a ridge. I see several horses, but have to hike out to them to get a closer look. My boots crunch on the snow, and I am grateful that the wind is still for now. As I get closer, even though I am hidden from their view by a small hill, the horses know I am coming. It is a familiar band which I saw in the summer just after the little sorrel colt was born. He looks healthy and very fuzzy, and his red roan mother who had been thin after his birth has filled back out. This band has two stallions which is uncommon, the older grey stallion, and a younger bay who seems to be his lieutenant, staying alert for intruders. The two stallions get along surprisingly well. They look up as I slowly approach, but go back to grazing as they realize I am not coming any closer.
I walk back to my car and keep driving. Next, I see another familiar face – a gorgeous sorrel stallion with a flashy splash of a blaze on his face. I had watching him dogging a grey stallion’s large family in the summer, and here he is still waiting for an opportunity to steal a mare or two. The grey stallion is unconcerned by his presence, and moves his family across the road and up the hill as I watch and enjoy the sight of them moving out in the early morning light. There are several greys in this family, which is a common sight in Adobe Town. The two stallions peek over the hill at me as I drive away.
When I drive to another area of the range, I see fresh sheep droppings all along the road and on the sides, and I also notice that the ground has been stripped bare by the sheep. The hundreds of sheep I had seen a day ago must have been moved out of the area. All they leave behind is their droppings.
The landscape in this area is incredibly dramatic, especially with a fresh coating of snow.
As I turn and pass the reservoir, I see a group of horses, and the stallion is a sorrel. Can it be? I have not seen the gorgeous sorrel stallion with the distinctive markings for over a year and half. This is the area I used to see him in, and the area where I first encountered his family and his son Mica, the weanling colt that I adopted after he was rounded up in 2010. It is indeed Mica’s father, and his new family. His gorgeous grey mare has a long flowing mane, and she wants nothing to do with me. He also has a sorrel mare and foal, and an older black colt. The group stares at me before running into the sagebrush. I actually get a second look at them the next morning, and Mica’s father moves protectively between me and the mars and foals, and after they move away, he wheels around and stares at me, bringing up the rear, before following them over the hill.
I am thrilled by the sight of them, by the proof that they are still wild and free in Adobe Town, after the 2010 roundup as well as after the roundup of two months ago. They are healthy and strong and beautiful, uniquely suited to their home in the Red Desert.
As I leave the area, I see more antelope, and two bachelor stallions standing together in the wind. One is white, clearly older, his hide littered with scars from many past fights. The other stallion is much younger, his coat is still a dark grey, not yet lightened with age. I wonder if they are father and son, or simply two bachelors keeping each other company. I drive away knowing I will be back tomorrow.
IN THE HANDS OF KILL BUYERS! When horses are purchased at auction by buyers intending to kill them, they're hauled away in double- decker tractor trailers where they are beaten and often blinded with baseball bats to mollify them. After crossing the border into Mexico, the animals are stabbed on each side-an act to tenderize their meat-and immobilized. Workers, then saw the horses legs off, at the knee and hang them to bleed out-all while the horses are ALIVE! (This is an excerpt, from an article written by Missy Diaz, crediting Victoria Mc Cullough and Sen. Joe Abruzzo for bringing awareness of horse slaughter, to Florida. In 2010 Florida Legislation unanimously passed the Horse Protection Bill, making it a felony to slaughter horses for personal or commercial use.)