Wed 20 Jan 2010
Since my mom is a botanist, she gets contracts from the BLM to find, identify and document rare plants. This year, she got a job looking for a few species along a creek and a road. Its official name was Road Creek. That was the name on the signs.
I went with her on a similar project the year before and my data sheets and photos that I took of the rare plants she spotted were not bad. So she enlisted me again. I wanted to go not only because she would pay and I wanted to spend time in the hills, but because Road Creek was part of a large range where wild mustangs roamed.
I believe it was the second day that the real story begins. First off, I think its important to mention that the BLM had just completed a gather of the mustangs; most of the horses were being kept in the holding corrals back in the valley. They will do this every few years to manage the range. The horses can be adopted out, turned loose once again, or hauled off to another set of corrals.
There is a smaller stream that runs into Road Creek. The draw where the stream comes down broadens to form a basin, which, ironically, though I didn’t realize it then, is called Horse Basin. In the basin there is a cabin, a remnant of the Anderson Ranch Homestead. The meadows around the stream that flows there are filled with rare plants. We wanted to check it out.
The Horse Basin meadows.
We drove first to the cabin. It was an interesting structure. Though the roof was gone, the carefully hewn logs remained. I was amused by the door. Apparently the owners, long since moved on, had been short. My forehead brushes the top.
Finding nothing else of interest from our vehicle, and wanting to cover more ground, Mom decided to head off down the basin again. About halfway, we stop and she gets out, preparing to climb up a small hill in search of elusive species.
I notice something across the creek. “Look,” I say, pointing. I squint my eyes, trying to make out what it could be. “Is that a calf? Or a pig?” No kidding, it looked, for a split second, like a wild pig. But our hills are not home to wild pigs. “I think its a horse!” I say excitedly.
“I think so too.” Mom turns toward the hill again. “Go look and see why he’s out there.”
My superb tracking skills (yeah, right!) switch on high as I sneak across the meadow. Ducking out of view behind a screen of willows, I notice that the wind is blowing in my favor, down from the horse.
The ground under my feet turns mushy. Then one foot plunges down into the mire. I move quicker to avoid sinking.
Soon, my feet touch the solid ground. I drop to my hands and knees and crawl into the sagebrush. After some time, I run into a barbwire fence. This serves as cover for me. I ease myself into a standing position, and am surprised.
Not thirty feet off a little colt grazes. He’s black and matted looking. I can see every rib. Before this, we never had a foal, so I can’t age him, but I think he must be too young not to be on a dam. After watching him for a bit longer, I walk away.
Back in the truck, Mom listens as I tell her what little I know. “I can’t call the BLM now,” she tells me. “But I’ll call them when we’re done here today and see if they think they could catch him.”
The rest of the day I can’t stop thinking about that little critter. There must be coyotes and wolves up there. He wouldn’t die of thirst with the creek, at least.
A poor, hungry little guy
Mom calls the BLM.
For the next few days, I wait. We are all hoping that they call back and tell us if they got him. I jump for every phone call. Finally the one I am waiting for comes. Mom answers it. I listen. “There aren’t any strings?” Mom asks. “We’ll get a trailer up there in a few days when you’re sure he’s stable.”
“So we can have him? They’re going to let me raise him?”
Mom nods. “He needs round-the-clock care and his chances aren’t great. They thought he would have more likelihood of making it if he went with us. But know that this is going to require a lot of care and time.”
That didn’t matter to me. The orphan was going to be mine to raise.
The wild mustang today.