So first of all, I sincerely apologize for my lack of updates these past months. I have this tendency to take September and October off. I think it has something to do with how busy summers are and the challenges of being an extreme introvert to the point it is borderline ridiculous. Whatever causes it, I spend these months relaxing with my own horses, watching football, catching up on my reading, etc. and forget to do basic things like read and respond to emails, log on to Facebook, blog, etc. So if it seems like I’m a total jerk and I didn’t answer a question or reply to an email, well, I am a total jerk. I am also really really sorry. I either never saw it or meant to answer but completely forgot.
(Actually now that I think of it, I do think Puller sent me an email. I’ll look for that after I’m done with this!)
The next thing I need to briefly address is the Divide Basin and Salt Wells roundup. I did try to write about that a few times, but the words would not come out. They still won’t. It’s hard sometimes, forever opposing an enemy that plays with a stacked deck. It isn’t quite fair, how the wild horses (and their advocates) can never quite catch a break, – even a well deserved one. But the concept of fairness is nice, but it doesn’t really exist in the real world. I am surprised and disheartened, but it is not time to give up the ghost just yet.
I received a request to write about my visit to the Pryors in early October. It was a quick in and out visit, which means that the only real way to talk about the trip is chronologically. That … isn’t exactly my strong suit. I have a computer folder filled with no less than 6 failed attempts at chronological stories, but hey, 7th time is the charm?
It was a warm Wednesday morning, and my vacation was winding down to a close. I had to be home in Colorado by Friday morning to help take care a menagerie of dogs, cats, chickens, and horses while my Pa went to Nebraska. Coincidentally, my journey home meant passing through Cody, Wyoming and really, the Pryors are only an hour from Cody so what was the harm in a brief stop in the Dryhead?
As a general rule, if you find yourself asking “what’s the harm?”, it’s probably a good sign that you shouldn’t do the thing. Do it anyway.
I had little success in the Dryhead. It was a very warm day, and everyone was hiding from me. I scoped and scoped and scoped to no avail. Figuring the trip was a total faiure, I drove back towards the entrance grumbling about the so called “greeters” who were never around when it was my turn to be greeted.
…You can probably see where this is going.
About a foot off the pavement, Kitalpha was lazily grazing in the afternoon sun, looking for all the world like she hadn’t moved from that exact spot for days. At long last, success! I’d always wanted to meet Hightail (which is probably why she was always hiding from me!). I have so much respect for her, and she really is a lovely mare.
Now this is the part where I should feel satisfied and ready to start for home to relax and spend a couple days with the kids, right? I had accomplished my goal and seen horses. The sun would be setting in a couple hours which would be plenty of time to get over the Big Horns and find a place to settle down for the night.
Except… the mountain was right there and at the top of that mountain (which really was more of a big hill if I thought about it) were the two foals I had been anticipating most of all.
To Crooked Creek!
An hour and a half later, I was sliding through the gate to the horse range. As a public service announcement, I should add that I do not recommend driving up that fast because there were several moments where I thought I was going to die. I blame sleep deprivation effecting my ability to look down at my speedometer before entering into a fishtail on some of those tighter corners.
Baja and Hernando were grazing by the fence, but quickly decided to head into the trees for the night. I found the core topside bands a little further up, and chilled out with them in the fading light. Everyone seemed pretty happy, though Jasmine was not impressed by Duke’s attempts at saying hello, and a bored Jasper & Missoula were goofing around while the older and wiser horses focused on eating.
So far so good, but the pressure was on. I knew that I would have no more than four hours of daylight in the morning before I had to start heading down the mountain.
By the time dawn hit, I was pretty groggy. Lack of coffee will do that to a gal. Lucky for me, horses appeared quite readily, with no bleary eyed squinting required. Now of course I wanted to see everybody, but the countdown had begun ticking down steadily in my head. The dreaded final countdown. Yep, it’s not just a really annoying 80’s song. It exists.
While wandering over to say hi to Garay and company, Cloud appeared to the west. One down!
As I followed Cloud’s band into the trees, I started to notice how much more skittish all of the horses were compared with my previous visits. I backed off a little, keeping my distance at more of a White Mountain yardage. Even with that adjustment, most of the bands eyed me warily, and some of the horses even walked away. Cloud’s band was doing the latter. It was clear they were headed to water, but it still didn’t feel quite right. It wasn’t until Ohanzee visibly jumped and took off, pausing briefly to glare back at me suspiciously that I figured it out. My pants were making a swishing noise… Awesome.
By this point I was about ¼ of a mile from Maggie the Mustang Mobile whom I left by the T. Maggie’s backseat did contain some pajama pants which probably would not swish like a drunken sailor with every step. But walking back to Maggie, changing my pants, and then returning to Cloud would require at least a half mile of walking. Not the greatest thing when you have a strict schedule to keep on a fly by night visit.
Clearly there was only one logical solution.
I spared Duke’s band a quick glance, concerned that my white legs would blind them, every bit as terrifying as noisy pants. After confirming they did not seem to care, I threw my pants by a semi-memorable rock and carried on, catching up with Cloud at the watering hole (I don’t know how to spell Krugers Pond, but clearly it’s that one, yeah?)
My first proper glimpse of Orielle found her inspecting the water, unsure if she really cared for the feeling of water against her dainty little hooves. I would accuse her of being a wee little lady, but she quickly proved me wrong, scampering after her mama with gusto.
For her part, Ingrid is quite the proud Mama. She has wanted a baby for ages (her last was Lynx in 2011) and Ingrid positively dotes on her little one.
I stayed with Cloud’s band for nearly an hour, mostly ignoring the other band members to coo over how adorable Orielle was (Sorry,Feldspar).
Unfortunately, there was a tiny little problem creeping up on me. The gentle breeze wafting through the trees was making my knees ache with the cold, and it wasn’t too long before I started losing feeling in my thighs. It would seem that pants were invented for a reason.
Trudging back up the trail, I ignored Aurora’s judgmental expression and relocated my pants with a renewed sense of respect for this all-important article of clothing. I am now debating the wisdom of buying yoga pants, which are not really pants at all, but probably less awkward than the risk of finding myself pantsless at a time of year where other people might be around. Hmmm…..
Not far from the car, Indigo Kid’s band was napping while Morning Star and Flint relaxed in the shade of a copse of trees. At some point Doc showed up too, though I was not paying too much attention. Again, there is not much to add other than everybody looks really fantastic heading into winter. Red Raven’s old mares seem to all be okay with Indigo Kid taking over, though Dove does not let him get too friendly with Morningdove.
Seeing all these bands was fantastic, so of course I had to hang out for a while. I love these guys! But … still no Gringo. The crew started towards Mystic Pond, which seemed as good a place to try as any. They took their sweet time walking over, so I had a chance to say hi to Galaxy and Custer’s bands first.
Indigo Kid’s band showed up first, but quickly had to relinquish their ground to Doc and crew. Doc’s mares drank quickly, but took their sweet time leaving. Flint, Morning Star, and Mescalero’s bands watched anxiously from the top of the hill, waiting their turn, while Doc’s mares… stood there. I know that being the top dogs has its advantages, but I’m calling a party foul for abuse of power on that one. Rude!
Finally, Brumby started to lead Doc’s band away from the water, albeit at a snail’s pace. Flint’s mares started inching closer when a dark head appeared from the tree line below.
A very determined Galadriel emerged, heading to the water at a steady clip. Her body language was all but shouting “MOVE HEIFERS! I just had a baby and you are all going to have to wait and let me have my drink whenever I darn well please.”
Flint’s band seemed to visibly deflate while Galadriel walked right over and drank her fill. Gringo and Chance both seemed hesitant, but they didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Gringo did allow Flint’s band to share the space once Galadriel finished and moved away, though. I am not going to go all anthropomorphic and claim that Gringo looked embarrassed but… well, let’s just go with saying that any horse within a half mile radius of Gringo’s band can tell that Galadriel is not going to put up with anyone’s nonsense for a while.
Oceana is a tiny little thing – all legs and neck, but makes up for it with her big personality. Even when settling down for a nap, she had a mischievous look in her eye. It could be an interesting winter in Gringo’s band, especially if Oceana can drag Ketchikan’s new little one into her shenanigans.
Chance, meanwhile, has taken yet another beating or two. I am glad that Chance has been able to stay with his band, after a fashion, and given the body type I seriously suspect that Oceana is his daughter and not Gringo’s. At the same time, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Chance. Even when he “wins” the poor fellow can’t catch a break.
While Galadriel very assertively staked out “her” grazing spot, Oceana settled in for a nap. I enjoyed the quiet moment with her, but that stupid clock was still counting down. I knew I had to leave soon.
Just as I was about to walk off, I noticed that Oceana was breathing rather rapidly for a napping foal. I watched her a little longer, feeling concerned that something might be wrong with her. But then, after a few minutes, her back legs started twitching. The little booger wasn’t sick, she was dreaming! And clearly it was a very exciting dream to boot. It’s a shame she wasn’t born in a T year, really. I suspect she is going to be Trouble.
And … that’s about it. I drove off, stopping one last time to bid adieu to Cloud and company while Orielle investigated the different noises rocks make when she hits them. By 11 p.m. that night I was still driving. I was out of it enough that I wasn’t 100% sure what leg of the journey I was on, but I couldn’t bring myself to regret taking the time to meet the new members of the Pryor family. Clearly I didn’t die so it all worked out the end!
So there you go. There’s a brief “What I did on my fall vacation” report. Nothing terribly exciting or noteworthy happened, but then, most of my time with the wild horses is spent just like this – sitting quietly while the horses graze and live out their everyday lives.
I, for one, also spend much more time focusing on eating breakfast than living out some witty romantic comedy storyline. Why should horses? There is something so wonderful in the quiet moments – a mare feeling a little cranky, a stallion loving his mare even when she’s in a bad mood, a thirsty foal nuzzling against momma, good friends grazing together through all sorts of weather and the changes that come. That is where the true beauty lies.