Monday, February 25, 2013

BLM And Wild Mustangs

On a sunny, windy, and very cold late morning LC, Jamie and I drove out to BLM land.
We had originally planned to explore parts of the large, flat, desolate bowl that is known as Oregon Basin.
On the way out to the basin my Mountain Boy impulsively pulled off the wide, two lane highway, drove up a dusty and dry dirt road and stopped at the flag at the top of a hill that seemingly overlooked the entire world.
As we climbed out of the truck I hung onto the door as I reached for my pup, trying hard to not let the door swing open uncontrollably.
It was freezing.  
The temperature gauge outside my kitchen window had read 40 degrees when we left the house, but the icy wind was so strong that it felt much colder.
It didn't matter.
What mattered was that we were standing on top of a hill in the middle of BLM land less than 20 miles from the house, but it could have been a thousand miles away from the house for all of the welcome isolation that we had and felt..............
LC grabbed Jamie and slowly walked to the edge of the hill, looking out over a scene that I know he loves very much.
I stood beside the truck looking over at my sweet dog that has been in my life for over 12 years now, and over at my sweet man that has been in my life for a little over six.
We have looked at each other recently and acknowledged that we are best friends, and that we only have each other.
We are close.  Very close.  And every day I am so acutely aware of how glad I am to have him in my life.
He loves this place.
The wide, unbelievably wide open spaces.
The quiet.  The isolation.  The lack of people.  The irreplaceable ability to stand on top of a hill 20 miles from the house and see forever................
A look back towards the truck and the dirt road we had pulled onto.............
And pictures I snapped while standing in one place.
I simply snapped a picture, moved it slightly to my left, snapped another picture, rinse and repeat.
The basin we live in is absolutely huge and is completely surrounded on all sides by mountains.
It is not for everyone, but the sheer vastness and emptiness of Wyoming seems to suit us.
I had assumed (given the elevation of Cody and its location to the mountains) that once winter hit the area we would be wrapped in meat-locker cold temperatures and endless snows for months on end.
That is definitely not the case.
It snows, it melts, it snows, it blows away, it snows.
A never ending cycle of changing weather patterns.
By the end of this week it is supposed to be sunny and around 50 degrees.................
LC and I have only stopped at the flag-pole-on-top-of-the-empty-hill once before and on that day I looked only briefly at the American flag before moving on to taking pictures of the terrain that surrounded me.
This morning I stopped to look more closely at the flag pole and realized that there was more to it than I had originally thought.
In the rock garden surrounding the pole were a handful of flag rocks painted like this............
And attached to the flag pole was this message.
If you click on the picture it will enlarge.
These kinds of messages always touch me deeply.
I always think of LC, and my son Chris, and all of the others who have served and sacrificed for our country.  Always............
The mostly flat two lane Greybull Highway.
Twenty miles west is where we live.
Another 5 miles or so down the highway we would begin searching for the wild horses.
As LC and I stood in the silence on top of the hill we had decided that Oregon Basin exploration would have to wait for another day.
We hadn't seen the horses in a few weeks and it was a good day to see them................
Carter Mountain Range to the south................
Before leaving the hill we stashed Jamie safely back in the truck, walked down the dirt trail a short way, and set up a short piece of 2x4 upright in the dirt bank for target practice.
I joked with LC about setting up a 10x12 (foot) piece of plywood, but happily I hit the little piece of wood.
Ammunition is getting too expensive to spend too much time shooting just for the sake of shooting, so we did not spend a long time.
It was time to go find some wild mustangs................
A brief pit stop for Jamie at one of the many entrances to McCullough Peaks.
For an animal, and for a living creature who cannot speak, she easily manages to get her message across when she needs to stop.
Sometimes these stops are false alarms and she's just looking for an excuse to get out of the truck out of her humans.  But sometimes she means it.
Regardless, my dog happily danced around in the dirt before loading back into the truck and finally heading onto rutted out dirt trails in search of horses...............
There have been times when we have had to drive through endless BLM land for over an hour to find one of the herds of wild mustangs.  
On this particular day we found them within only a few minutes and followed a trail to the left, hoping to close the gap between us.
As we got closer, LC and I both realized that the horses were slowly grazing their way in our direction.
Slowing the truck down we inched forward, watching them the whole time and excitedly realizing that they were for sure coming our way.
In fact, if we were lucky they would wander directly across our path.
On this day we were lucky..............
Quietly climbing out of the truck, LC and I watched as this relaxed herd of 25 or so horses slowly grazed.
For 10 minutes they slowly but surely grazed their way in our direction, ignoring us and completely intent on eating.
And then unexpectedly I looked to my right and realized that a handful of horses had stopped grazing and were walking in our direction.............
Taking this as some definite but unspoken clue, other horses and then even more horses stopped their grazing and also began to walk in our direction...............
The first group (that had been a part of the group but also seemingly separate from the group) got closer and we realized that we were looking at the males.
I wrote it before and the concept still stands - these guys had an air of superiority about them.
They were the studs.  The rulers of the herd and as I watched them more closely I instantly knew which was the ultimate stallion of this beautiful group of horses.
All the males had that same air of superiority, but he was the king.  And he knew it.............
All the mustangs of this herd slowly made their way up the low rise, across the dirt road directly in front of us, and then continued walking in the snow and sage and dirt of the land on the opposite side of the trail.
LC and I watched in amazement, and my pup (who we left in the cab of the truck) watched quietly as these beautiful animals all passed in front of us.
They are always supremely gorgeous.
Free, wonderful, beautiful animals who rule this land.............
He passed by us with the other males, but as the other males in the herd continued their slow walk across BLM land this wonderful animal unexpectedly stopped.
For a few moments he stood motionless and then slowly turned to look back over the rest of the herd that was pulling up the rear.
What was he doing?  Why had he stopped?  What was he looking for?...................
The paints were my favorite..............
I stood in complete awe of the horses, as I always am whenever we come out to the peaks.
There are horses all over Cody.  
Horses all over Wyoming.
But there is something mesmerizing about these guys.
I have never been able to figure out what it is about them that I am so drawn to, and in truth have never taken the time to evaluate my response to them.
They are just wonderful.
Including this growing paint foal.
I remember seeing him months ago when he was only a little guy, staying oh so close to his momma.
He still stays close to his mother, but he has grown so much and looks wonderfully healthy.
And there it was.
As the king of the herd stood majestically on his land I realized that he was watching over his herd.
He had walked with the males up the rise and across the dirt road, had stopped and then turned back.
At the time I didn't know why.
But watching him I realized that he was watching over his females.
He was royalty.............
When the last of the herd had crossed over the road he turned and followed.............
LC and I watched them for a long time as they continued (as though walking with a single mind) up the hill on the opposite side of the road before beginning to graze again.
An outstanding experience.
Eventually we both turned, climbed back into the truck and continued on with our BLM land journey...............

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