Hi! I’m not-even-a-little psychic photographer Rachel Reeves and this is my partner, Wendy Cloudcakes. Enjoy!
Hi, everyone! I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time, but I finally sat down long enough to actually type something. I met the author of this earnest – albeit sometimes sardonic – blog six years ago, mere months after being exposed to the wild horse world. A couple months later, just before the 2011 roundup, Rachel took me to White Mountain (that was a weird car ride). It was incredible, to say the least. Most of my wild horse time in those first few years I spent in the Pryors, but the past three years have been more of a White Mountain sage party.
Of all the trips we’ve taken to White Mountain, this one felt a little different. We were more zen, more chill (which is more than I can say for Frankie, more on that later). Maybe it’s because we’re dressed as adults (for the most part) and sometimes must comport ourselves as such. Maybe it’s because we have a rhythm to these trips we’ve learned not to mess with (we know where we’ll camp and can set up our site in mere minutes without speaking). Who knows.
At any rate, there were a lot of changes and discoveries we made this time around that seemed to give this trip an extra dose of that special sauce. In the spring, there are certain bands that are easier to see. As late summer and fall roll around, those bands become harder to find. Conversely, bands that you don’t see in the spring start to appear. It’s wonderful how that shakes out! I’m for sure not going to walk you through step-by-step of everything we did and every horse we saw on this trip. Nobody wants that. But I promise to give you the highlights.
At dawn on Saturday morning, who should appear but everyone’s favorite Roman-nosed party bus, Praetorian. He managed to get a hold of Belle and her kids. Over the years, Belle has been with a lot of stallions, and she’d been particularly hard to see lately. In May, she was with an unknown stallion and they were swarmed by a party of rabble-rousing bachelors. A couple months later, the bachelors were still there, but she seemed to have a lot more chill. Which is ironic, since she now had a new wee filly beside her.
Maximus, Belle’s two-year old who we’re pretty sure was sired by Gladiator, was looking fly AF along with his little bro, Maui, who is the son of anyone’s guess. Belle’s latest baby daddy will also probably remain a mystery. I maintain Belle’s a recurring guest on White Mountain’s version of “Maury.”
I made a comment in such a vein to Rachel later back in the car. She responded, “You know there’s a ZZ Top song about that.”
“Of course there is,” I said, rolling my eyes as she changed the song on her iPod to make her point even more evident. If I had a quarter for every time she said that…
In addition to the resident party squad of middle-aged bachelors hanging out with Praetorian, there was the young fledgling squad of two-year olds out on their own for the first time, plus Mambo. I think Mambo was enjoying his time as the fun uncle. Over the hill trotted Symphony, *finally* a bachelor, and his new crew of Lego and Sultan, who also just joined the trend of being recently kicked out by their band stallion and/or sire.
We briefly saw Foxtrot and his band of skittish ladies, but Frankie did not say “relax” and she quickly led the group off into a draw and they disappeared.
It’s at this point in the post that I should say Rachel now thinks I have magic summoning powers. I’m almost inclined to admit as such to her. After a spell of being completely skunked, seeing no one past our morning posses, we discussed horses we hadn’t seen in awhile. I’m not even supposed to mention Condor anymore because if I say his name, we for sure won’t spot him.
“You know who we haven’t seen in a long time?” I asked Rachel, turning down the latest ZZ Top song she put on the radio.
“Who?” She replied, shaking her hand to get it free from the can of Honey Mustard Pringles it was currently stuck in (It was 8 AM. And no, it’s not a disgusting Pringle flavor, it’s actually a gift from Odin himself).
“Renegade. Frankly, we haven’t seen Marty’s band in awhile either.” I answered, holding the canister so she could pull her hand out.
Renegade, a blue roan bachelor, was a rarity in White Mountain, being the only horse of that color in the herd we’re aware of. He was a transplant, probably from the not-too-far away Divide Basin herd, and was put here by the BLM after the 2011 roundup.
I turned onto another two-track. Minutes later, who should crest the sage-strewn horizon than Renegade. And he had a band. Maybe. TBD. We looked to our right. More bands were dotting the sagebrush: Fermat, Big John, Brego, Marty, and – of all the bands – Condor were in their full regalia. Here are some highlights from this display of White Mountain glory:
- Renegade and/or Anansi was now a band stallion.
- We finally found Ariadne again, and Sil had a Marty yearling! Sidenote: I’m going to throw a brick at Makenna if she keeps having flaxen sorrels with just a star (not really, but girl throw a foal that isn’t identical to your last!).
- Big John reclaimed his band from Bernoulli, having now recovered from his injury last year.
- We finally figured out the bay mare with Brego was Nauti’s 2014 foal, and Nauti had likely passed on.
- Marty had so many bachelor friends that he might actually have been on an episode of “The Bachelor.”
- Carlos still has perfect hair.
Later in the afternoon, I used my powers for good, mentioning Cloudy McMillan. Twenty minutes later, Cloudy and his band showed up.
Steadily throughout the day, Rachel got twitchier and twitchier. I knew why. We still hadn’t found Colonel’s band. Last May, we spent a lot of time with Colonel, as it was clear Verity was incredibly close to foaling. Fib had already had her kid, but Verity was as big as a barn door. If we were both unemployed, we would have stayed out there until she had that darn baby. Now we were back on our quest.
“I really think we should see Colonel’s clan this trip.” I mentioned helpfully as I turned down another side road.
“You say that, but now we’ll find them and they won’t be accessible!” She chastised me.
Minutes later, my prophetic posterior had to eat its words. We spotted Verity, Fib, and crew. Spoiler alert: we couldn’t get to them.
“Two foals. She must’ve have had her kid not long after we left,” I said, looking through binoculars.
*Insert all the rather creative expletives* said by Rachel at this point.
The next morning, we were Graham Chapman’s King Arthur and Patsy (your guess as to who’s who there), pursuing our White Mountain Holy Grail for the trip. One two-track south of “Sleepy Time Road,” we spotted them. The two foals were nibbling at one another. I thought Rachel might pass out from excitement, but then she jumped out of the car before I had barely parked.
We spent the next couple hours with the band, now run by Gladiator. Colonel was nowhere in sight. The roguish sorrel stallion was already pretty beat up and limping last time we saw him. Now, Gladiator was sporting some new big marks on his already mottled roan coat. Even Hawkeye, our resident dose of adorable, had some new scrapes. Something clearly went down. Stay tuned as we find out more on that front.
Meanwhile, Verity’s itty bitty Colonel baby was sporting a face just like his missing pop’s. Next to me, Rachel was seven kinds of twitter-pated. So was I, but she was really a hot mess.
“Goonies never say die!” she whispered.
We watched as Kevin the bird flew from horse to horse, trying to be symbiotic in his relationship with the horses, but he kept landing on their polls, much to their dismay. I might have fallen down at this point to keep myself from laughing. Fib gave me the side eye, but quickly went back to eating.
I remained seated, watching as Verity napped. Every 15 seconds or so, her locked knees rocked and she shook herself to keep from falling backward. Silently laughing, I got literal ants in my pants from sitting down in the sage, which Rachel probably considered payback for the time I laughed nonstop at her when she got infested with ants while we were in Sand Wash Basin years ago.
As the morning grew late and we had to leave the Island of Misfit Toys that was Gladiator’s new band, I turned to my compatriot as we drove down the washboard county road and casually asked, “Where do you think Orion’s band is these days?”
“Dunno.” Rachel answered, changing the music to a Dire Straits track.
We pulled over to walk out to Praetorian, who graced us with his presence again. Nearby were the bachelor squads, Zinc’s band, and Cloudy McMillan’s crew.
Another band moved into view.
“You’re kidding me.” Rachel said, astonished, looking at the arriving band through her giant camera lens.
“Oh hey, Orion!” I waved, looking through my binoculars.
Several hours later, just a few minutes west of Laramie on our way back to Colorado, we were listened to our “Ultimate White Mountain” playlist and discussing the finer points of some of our more harrowing car mishaps while visiting wild horse herds, when I heard a “thump, thump, thump” sound from outside the car. Minutes later, as Rachel stomped on the tire iron, loosening the bolts on the flat we incurred, and I worked to unravel the spare from under the car, I commented, “Three years ago we put your car up on three wheels. Now all we do is get a flat on the interstate on our way home? I think we’re losing our edge.”
“Nah.” She replied, brushing the dirt off her driving uniform (Nebraska Husker PJs, in case you were wondering), “We actually just might be getting smarter.”
Now that, I refuse to believe.