I am patient when searching for the truth, aware that many forces can shape a person’s perspective: the need for a paycheck or an emotional tether, the offer of a ride on a political barge…an open wound, an exit from controversy. The possibilities are endless and it was with that single fact in mind that I struggled to present a judicious approach to the plight of the Nevada mustangs in last month’s piece, “Nevada Desert Drought and Our Vanishing Mustangs.” Privately I lamented that I had not personally encountered the mustangs, a fact which both restrained my commentary and further compelled me to write the piece because throughout my travels with my husband in the Nevada desert the absence of a mustang sighting has remained a notable void in our journeys. Until last week.
Last Wednesday morning my husband and I set out for Rosebud Canyon, a favorite destination in the Nevada desert. We had previously identified the overall goal of our journey as an opportunity for my husband, who has been working hard hours of late, to relax. Rosebud Canyon is a place he immensely enjoys. And it is a relatively easy destination for us because we are familiar with the route and find it unproblematic.
The temperatures hovered in the high 80’s. My husband and I packed a cooler with water and sandwiches, loaded the dogs into the Land Rover, and left for Rosebud Canyon.
From our departure point near Imlay, we drove 35 miles over dirt roads into an isolated area of the Nevada desert.
Smoke from wildfires produced pods of indigo in the desert sky and an uncommon painterly effect on my photographs.
After eating our lunch in Rosebud Canyon, we decided to continue around the corner past Rabbit Hole Spring and out toward the Black Rock Desert Playa. No sooner had we rounded the bend than we spotted our first mustang, a young stallion, grazing.
Within a few minutes he began to move at a deliberate pace across the meadow and into the foothills, from which descended another stallion with two mares. The stallions engaged in a vigorous conflict, apparently over the mares.
The young stallion, defeated, drifted back across the meadow.
As we followed him with our gaze we observed him proceeding toward a few other mustangs which by then also grazed in the meadow. He didn’t join them but remained at a bit of a distance.
Eventually we ambled onto the Black Rock Desert Playa and after completing a small navigation exercise, circled back toward the meadow and Rabbit Hole Spring.
We reentered the canyon, only to be confronted within a short distance by an enormous black stallion. Although we couldn’t be certain of the count, it appeared that he was accompanied by four or five mares and two foals.
We wondered at the appearance of all of these mustangs. We have visited this region many times during the past three years and in various seasons, and have never seen them before. I speculated to my husband that perhaps they were surviving fragments of the early summer round-up by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the Jackson Mountains.
In the canyon, the mustangs declined to yield the road over which we had to pass to return home.
As we crept forward for about an hour, we were mesmerized in particular by the enormous and exquisite black stallion which alternately grazed and traversed the road ahead of us, marking his territory in proud defiance. He did not seem intimidated by us and we were careful to make no sudden or broad movements.
When the wild horses did exit the road and we parted ways, I was left to reflect on the BLM’s drive to remove these wild horses from the range, claiming the mustangs’ imminent sickness or starvation as partial justification for their actions.
Admittedly I am not an equine expert and what I witnessed with my husband was simply a snapshot in the long and complex lives of these wild horses.
But to me it appeared to me that what we saw was a picture of health.