Sunday, March 4, 2018

Rifle Rack Nostalgia


1950's:  Ah! The good ol' days .... When "every pickup in the high school parking lot had a loaded rifle in the rack, and all the kids had knives on their belts, yet nobody got killed there."  (When disputes were settled with fistfights in the parking lot after school.I hear this chorus from people my father's age.

These folks are as stunned and outraged by school shootings as the rest of us, and it seems to me that their solution often sounds like a hopeless wish: "Let's go back to the way it was in the 1950's"; when working class Americans were still infused with the nationalism of World War II, pledging daily allegiance to our banner (whether children understood the meaning of the words, or not).  Back to when America was blessed in the eyes of their(Christian) God, as borne out by our victory overseas, and the fact that the War had never reached our hallowed shores. When white Christendom was (obviously) the American way.

They long for that idyllic America where only fathers worked outside the home (and Daddy's paycheck was enough to support an entire family); when couples stayed married 'til death did them part (regardless of what might go on behind closed doors); and children were taught to respect their elders (not uncommonly, with a belt applied to the gluteous maximus out behind the woodshed.)

It seems to me that maybe they forget what happened next:

The Greatest Generation gave birth to the Baby Boomers, and raised them (us) to be independent, conscientious, and kind .... but those kids turned into "dirty hippies" taking drugs, protesting a senseless and bloody war in southeast Asia and the oppression of people of color in the Deep South, and breaking the taboo against (openly) engaging in "premarital sex".

The Women's Liberation Movement opened opportunities for women to pursue professions that had previously been closed to them. More than any other cultural shift, this development changed our American way of life. 

Although gender roles continued to be restrictive, patriarchal constraints have gradually loosened. Women gained the power to support themselves when necessary; were no longer doomed to remain in abusive marriages, and we could even envision for ourselves - and our daughters - independent lives such as few women had aspired to, up until that time.

  • I often think about my grandmother's lament: She had wanted to become a nurse, but her affluent family discouraged her from pursuing that occupation, as they perceived it as disreputable. So she became a teacher.
  • My mother was a clerical worker, who eventually advanced into a managerial position. She was among the few working wives in our little blue collar town. Mom ultimately took early retirement in order to accompany my father when his profession took him to another region. Her husband's career was always the priority. I doubt that it ever occurred to either one of them that it should ever be otherwise.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cherry Creek Sorrels - FOREVER


I have enjoyed (for the most part) hosting a little Facebook page called Cherry Creek Babbler. It was never intended to be a serious or intense publication, but simply a place for local people to connect with one another (if they so choose), and to share our experiences of this unique lifestyle that is sometimes referred  to locally as "Creeker".

As it turns out, most of the people who live here aren't particularly interested in much of anything I have to say - which is alright with me. I'm a Creeker, too. 

Before the page had been up for very long, I noticed that most of the people that 'Like' the page are those with some kind of former connection to the PLACE, and to the culture that used to exist here. They have a nostalgic feeling for the PLACE it used to be.

As editor of the page, I do try to keep a neutral atmosphere, free from political rantings, and so far, most of our visitors have respected this attitude. We don't have bickering -- not because everyone here likes or even respects one another, but (so far) everyone has been quite appreciative of the neutral nature of discourse here.

Until today.

Many (not ALL) town residents enjoy the existence of wild horses on our steppes. For years and years, one small band has inhabited the narrow swatch of brushy foothills and desert scrub along Currie Road. 

In 2011, many of us were very saddened to learn that the little band of sorrels - along with several other small bands of mustangs - were slated for removal. We figured it was inevitable, and managed to find acceptance.

Then -- by some miracle of fate (call it Divine Intervention, if you like) -- the little band of sorrels somehow ESCAPED capture by hiding in the trees. By holding steadfast among the junipers, while every other horse on the hill was brutally rounded up and hauled away to an unknown destiny. 
There was something magnificent in the brilliant way they had clung to their homeland.

Now, it must be understood that the wild horses of eastern Nevada are not anything like the "park models" found elsewhere. (Don't jump on me. It's an observation, not a negative judgment.)

Horses here are WILD in every sense of the word. The sorrels are used to passers by stopping to take photos, but if you take one step beyond the established buffer zone, they are GONE, Baby. Gone! Better bring a zoom lens. 

These horses do not have names, or Facebook pages, or fan clubs. There is no advocacy group dedicated to their maintenance on the range. We just enjoy seeing them; seeing the new foals that typically arrive in March, watching the young stallions as they find new buddies to hang with (their biological brethren, all), when they come of age and are driven from the tribe.

So, when it came to pass that the BLM once again returned to the narrow stretch of brush and halogetin on the eastern slope of the Cherry Creek range, and we learned that our neighbors had been captured this time, and that none of them would be seen ever again on that tough and unforgiving piece of real estate they had called home, many of us were moved to a feeling of great sadness. An emptiness and a longing for something that is gone forever from our lives.

I posted a photo of the trap containing our captive friends on the Cherry Creek Babbler. The reaction by regular followers of the page were sad emojis, a few comments expressing sorrow for the loss to our community.

And THEN. (I suppose it was inevitable); someone I have never heard of; who has never liked the page, or commented on a single entry before, made a vicious statement regarding the wild horses that (some of us) considered an asset to our surroundings. And then another person, whose name I recognize as a local ranch wife - who, again, has never liked the page, or commented on ANY entry before -- made a similar statement.

I didn't really know how to respond to this sudden vehemence in a situation where that has been such a rare occurrence. I temporarily 'unpublished' the page, because I do not want to get caught up in a battle of words over deep-seated convictions on both sides of this matter.

This has been a mere reminder of the great hostility that exists in this place where I live, toward anyone with a mindset that does not embrace the destruction of living creatures.

I am saddened by the loss of our beautiful town herd. I am mildly disappointed (not the least bit surprised) by the knowledge that I will always be a stranger here 
-- despite deep family roots in these mountains, and the fact that I was born and raised here, among these hard and heartless people.

I think what pains me most, is the abject lack of compassion for the feelings of us -- human beings - who have been moved by the presence of another species, and who feel that loss. I don't ask you to understand it ... or embrace it .... or share it. But how about just a modicum of respect for something that is REAL - whether you like it, or you don't.

Go ahead and do your victory dance. Only, kindly PLEASE, do it SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Cherry Creek Gather


"Hey, Arla!"
My neighbor strode purposefully toward my gate. I usually do my best to dodge this person, but it was too late. I dreaded to hear whatever plot he might be stirring up, this time. I waited.

"We just came from fishing up to Goshute Creek. BLM is rounding up horses right now!" He seemed nearly out of breath as he continued, "When we came down ... they were chasing them out of the trees, and then, when they get out in the open, they just drive them as fast as they will go. They start at the Cordano place and run them full out, all the way to that place that used to be a gravel pit!"

I mean, they are RUNNING them - a full dead run --- ALL THAT WAY! With a helicopter ... "

I nodded, remembering the last time I had witnessed this along the same bench road in 2011. (We clocked one run at 32 MPH for seven miles.) "Yeah." I scoffed. That's what they do."

"And they glared at us, like we were not supposed to even be there ... WE live here!"

"Uh huh. Were there any photographers there? Any people besides BLM?"

"No. Just some BLM trucks and the helicopter."

I did my best to act cool about the shocking news -- It wasn't entirely unexpected, except that I have been following the daily gather reports, and the one for this day indicated that it would be a full day of PZP treatment and release of treated mares, along with an equal number of stallions. That would take place in another part of the HMA. There was no indication of any further roundups to be conducted that day.

(At the time I began this post, the gather report has not been updated since February 6.) 

It was nearly sundown at that point. I thanked the visitor and went inside to try and decide what to do.

One thing that I was absolutely certain I was NOT going to do, was get up at 4 am in order to leave by 5 so as to arrive in Ely (as required if a member of the public wants to join the BLM roundup tour) by 6 am, only to drive 70 miles back to get to the trapsite location.

I have done roundups before. Those in Utah are a lot friendlier than any I've been on here in Nevada, but even those force observers to remain within the confines of whatever observation area they deem appropriate. This allows them to decide what we can see, and what we cannot.

Another sleepless night, wondering if they had gotten all of the wild ones along the bench road, and how that little family had fared.

I drove out this morning expecting a regular gather scenario. Two rangers were guarding a full pen with loading chute - off the main road @ 1/4 mile. No other vehicles. I drove on by and turned around @ 4 miles on. On the way back, I noticed a lot of dust around the pen, and when I got up adjacent to it, could see that it is now surrounded by CATTLE. 

Did they deliberately push those cows up?

On the road back to Cherry Creek, I met another vehicle that turned out to be the brand inspector. That truck was followed by a silver Dodge pickup (not BLM)

.... AND NOW ... As of 3:25 pm 2018.FEB.08, The BLM Wild Horse and Burro Triple B Gather site looks like this:


There was no public observation for the Triple B Gather today because the trip site location is being moved. A meeting time and location for public observers hoping to view the gather operations on February 9, 2018 has not yet been established. If you are interested in viewing the gather operations please continue to check this webpage for updates or call Greg Deimel at (775) 388-7078.
Cherry Creek Sorrels - November, 2017

They are claiming there was no public observation yesterday, because they were moving the trap, AND showing NO HORSES GATHERED.

February 8, 2018

Summary: The trap site location was moved on February 8, 2018 and because of this, there were no horses gathered. Gather operations are expected to pick back up tomorrow. 
Cherry Creek Sorrels - November, 2017
Animals gathered: 0
Mares treated with fertility control: 0
Animals released: 0
Animals shipped: 30 (7 Studs, 18 Mares, and 5 Foals)
Total Deaths Today:  0

------------------  AND NOW --- they have corrected the"oversight"
which had initially  OMITTED 30 horses gathered  -----------

February 7, 2018

Summary: Gather operations for Feb. 7 included releasing back on the range studs and treated mares and a small gather at a new site. Today the gather and temporary holding sites are relocating to new sites. 
Animals gathered: 30 (7 Studs, 18 Mares, and 5 Foals)
Mares treated with fertility control: 28
Animals released: 29 mares 27 studs
Animals shipped: 104 (36 Studs, 45 Mares, and 23 Foals)
Total Deaths Today:  1
   Acute: 1



Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Spirit of the West


This morning, I received yet another email from American Wild Horse (formerly 'Preservation') Campaign, asking for a donation. These requests come once or twice every week, and I tend to glance through and file them away. This one was slightly different, in that the 'worthy cause' mentioned, happens to be both of my local herds: Triple B Complex and Antelope Complex, which encompass miles and miles of open territory in eastern Nevada. (This is NOT in 'southeastern Nevada', as the letter describes.)

I have never responded to the weekly plea before, but this one got me bristled ... I hit Reply and typed quickly:

Triple B Roundup - Butte Valley, 2011
"Guess what?

SHOW ME the action. THEN I will consider donating. The roundup is underway NOW. They have already taken nearly 500 from Triple B. Hundreds have been shipped to PVC ... your timing ... could have been a lot better."

Thursday, January 25, 2018


So I dash up to Dad's for just a few minutes.

When I get back, Ruby greets me at the door with the empty peanut butter jar in her mouth. I take it away, survey wreckage in the kitchen (could've been much worse), and begin to deliver the standard scolding, "You know better than that!"
Sure, she's shame-faced .. but somehow she has a feather from my down jacket stuck on her nose, and it flutters every time she takes a breath. It's all I can do to remain stern, trying not to burst out laughing.
It was what my grandma would have called a ticklish situation.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Stray


I felt a little bit guilty as soon as the snarky comment passed my lips ... but that only lasted a flicker.

A stranger came up to my gate ... my dogs going berserk, as usual.... "Ma'am," he nods, "Did you by any chance find a border collie around here?"

Victor - Arrived October, 2015
"Yeah." I smiled, pointing to the furry border collie bouncing around on the other side of the fence. "About two years ago."  
(I'm thinking: "If a you are
 now coming to look for Victor? Hah! Well, good luck with THAT, buddy.").

No. The young gentleman politely explained that the dog he lost on the day before Christmas, is a registered smooth coat border collie. Not Victor. 

(Dog's been missing for weeks and they're  just now coming around to make inquiries.) 

He went on to tell me that he is the manager of "such and so ranche", and he hadn't missed the dog until he got home later. It could have happened on the other side of the mountain, or on top of the summit, when he got out to "push some cows".

And that's when I spontaneously let slip what I really think about ranchers and their working dogs"And you actually CARE  about a DOG?" I murmured (with incredible subtly).
The reality is that MOST working dogs on the range are treated like livestock, at best.
They are expendable, disposable, and generally have little contact with humankind,
apart from their masters. My dog, Victor, is the product of that type of handling.
He came to me starving and terrified. To this day, he does not allow anyone else to touch him.

"Yes. I do." He seemed to choke up a little, and I felt that little twinge of guilt, and sympathy for a fellow dog lover. Perhaps it was wrong of me to rush to judgment. And then, he ruined it for me as he continued, "Well, this one, anyway.  My best cowdog. Registered smooth-coat border collie".

It was obvious to me that the dog meant more to the guy than just any old working dog; high-tone breeding stock, or not. It struck me that the instant the tough hombre revealed his emotional connection with the canine, he evidently felt compelled to nullify that, and to justify WHY he values this animal. He just had to put that value into economic terms.

Herein lies one of the most fundamental differences between agricultural folk and animal advocates: 

·         Ranchers and farmers maintain extremely rigid boundaries between themselves and their stock, including most dogs and horses. The capacity to compartmentalize [another's suffering] is a necessary defense mechanism for anyone who intends to profit from the death of animals, in whatever form that may take.
·         Conversely, those of us who develop very close personal relationships with our pets tend to extend our feelings to other sentient beings. We could no more butcher a cow than put a price tag on the heads of our darling furry friends.

I believe this core issue is the one insurmountable obstacle between us.
Compassion cannot be taught with words, or even video. It will never be developed through vitriolic contempt.

So long as compassion is a detriment to profitability, there is little hope of consensus between factions.

PS -- If anyone in the Cherry Creek area has seen a smooth-coat Border Collie wearing a camo collar, please call Jack: 775.296.3366. Otherwise, I sure hope Juan found himself a good home.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Mustang Story


I was recently visited by a long-time friend who is politically conservative (like the majority of voters in my community), and quite vocal about her belief that America was a much better place in the 1960's. 

  • (On some items, I might agree -- but then again, we were white girls growing up in a blue collar town out west; untouched by the civil unrest that prevailed elsewhere, at the time.)

The conversation turned - as conversations nearly always do, in my house -- to the "wild horse situation". 

My friend informed me (presumably because I don't know much about these things) - that the wild horses were thriving in Nevada, right up until 1971, when a bunch of outsiders got Congress to enact the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, through which wild horses are managed today, under the authority of the Bureau of Land Management.

I was (AGAIN) reminded that, up until that time, the ranchers were guardians of mustangs on the range: 

"They cared for them! They turned out some of their best stock to breed with the wild ones,  improving the genetic characteristics of those horses, and in return, each year these ranchers would go out on horseback, round up a few ponies to train for ranch stock, culling a few 'bad ones'," (And presumably, turned the rest back out, to live the rest of  their natural days in wild independence.) 

It's a lovely story! 
(Well, what else a would a good daddy tell his little girl!)

It is the story that continues to prevail here in the rural west, where we still love our cowboys, and sadly lament their struggles to maintain a 'lifestyle' that doesn't mesh very well with contemporary thinking. 
Home On The Range - 1948
  • Most of the old family ranches are gone; having been consumed by large corporations. Cattle production represents a minute fraction of Nevada's economy, while rancher politicians continue to dominate the political landscape - thanks mostly to local sentimentality, and Big Ag lobbies, like the Cattlemen's Association and Farm Bureau.

My friend's version of the story does not quite match my own understanding of the original issue; probably because I heard about it from my close relatives, who were active participants in the decimation of wild horse herds in the west. 

Butte Valley cabin where my mother's family lived
during mustanging days (1940's). As a teenager,
she stayed here with her brother and his wife, and
their two little girls 
During the lean years, my grandfather and an uncle sustained themselves and their families by capturing wild horses in water bait traps. Some mustangs were taken and trained for ranch stock, while most of the rest were shipped off to be slaughtered and made into chicken feed or dog food, and sometimes, fish bait.

The mustang trade was a brutal business, and humane standards were scarcely a consideration. Demand for ranch horses declined, as machinery took over as the primary means of transport and labor on ranches. 

Americans stopped buying dog food made with horse meat in the 1960's.

Later, I heard tales of horses with severely elongated heads, short legs and stocky bodies. That was the result, they claimed, of ranchers having stopped turning out breeding stock to improve the genetics. 

  • Science, however, suggests the opposite: Wild equine populations had been so diminished that in-breeding was the only option available to horses on the range.

    Herd health has improved tremendously, yet this 40 year old myth about the inferior quality of mustangs continues to prevail in rural Nevada.

    In my lifetime on the open range, I have never seen a wild horse suffering from dwarfism. Incidentally, I have never seen a starving wild horse, either.

This is the story from which began my personal journey of investigation into the "wild horse situation", starting around 2000, when I returned to my rural roots in Nevada. My concern about wild horses began more intensively around 2005, when my interest was piqued, and I decided to observe a wild horse "gather" in nearby Utah. 

At the beginning, I was sympathetic to the BLM. I thought those activists MUST be exaggerating the brutality of these operations. I supposed they were being unrealistically sentimental, and that others had more expertise than those "easterners" who were raising Cain in my back yard.

I went. I saw. I came away with a completely altered perception of the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program. 

  • I witnessed cruelty on the site of the gather, but subsequent experience proved that the worst brutality occurs beyond the periphery of the gather; out of sight of public observers, who are restricted to tight little observation areas, closely guarded under the scrutiny of fully-armed security officers.

    (Utah's BLM seems slightly less intense, and FAR more capable of managing public observers, than what I have witnessed in Nevada roundups.)

My friend went on to describe the differences between the "overpopulation problem" on the western side of our state, as compared to what's going on here on Nevada's eastern ranges. 

She seemed offended as she described the dangerous situation around Silver Springs, with "horses running all over the roads, getting hit, people getting killed" BECAUSE: "Those people over there PROTECT those horses!" ... and MEANWHILE - "Over here, where they have millions of acres to roam around on, they're being gathered and taken all the time. Why are they doing that?!!" she wondered. "It makes no sense!"

My knee-jerk response to my friend's rhetorical question: "Because nobody over here GIVES A SHIT!

"BLM does whatever the ranchers want them to do, and nobody here bothers to say a word. The horses do not affect them in any direct way, so the people keep on going along with the old 40 year old story line."

Ultimately, my friend and I did agree on a few things: 

  1. That neither the ranchers, nor BLM should be entrusted with the management of wild horses on the range. 
  2. Conditions that prevail in other areas are not the same as those that exist here in eastern Nevada, and cookie-cutter policies will not correct what is going wrong.
  3. Mass extermination of America's wild horses would be a national disgrace.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Change Of Course

I love photography! I will always love photography. I will always DO photography. If the stars align properly, my photography would be inspiring to others, and contribute to humanity. If my work has any meaning at all, that would be a big wake-up call as to what is happening, not only to wild horses, but to our Public Lands.

Over the course of the past few years, I have gradually come to the realization that, as a photographer, I am not destined for greatness. 

Perhaps, that awareness began when, at a local art exhibition, I discovered that my hand-made frames were of much greater value than my prints. 

The quality of my work is good ... professional quality and all that. I continue to strive to capture the essence of the subject, and with all earnestness, to bring the vitality of life in the Great Basin to visual realization. 

I would ordinarily expect to capture at least two or three images of excellence in any given year, but that has not been the case for quite some time.

I look at some of the things that have been achieved by peers who were at the same level as
 I, a few years ago; those who have experienced a level of monetary success, and moved into positions of authority in their field, and I have no choice but to admit that in this genre, I am not going anywhere. At least, not now.

This is NOT a plea for reassurance. I am confident in my capabilities.

I have merely come to the undeniable realization that I haven't the personality or motivation necessary to excel on a professional level in the marketplace. 
My camera has grown cold, and I feel less passionate about developing new photo skills. The field is a high-tech endeavor, for which I lack both passion and tools.

The notification that my website is being dismantled (for reasons that have nothing to do with me), was the final smack upside my head. Up to that point, 
I had continued to feel a nagging sense of obligation to keep on keeping on, even though my online photo galleries have been neglected for a long time. Frankly, when I was informed about the website closing, more than disappointment or regret, I felt relief.

I find greater satisfaction in other, more organic and three-dimensional forms of expression, now. I have held my enthusiasm for those in check; as if pursuing other genres would be disloyal ... to photography?

So, off I go, free at last! Free at last! Exploring new realms and mediums ... I see metal and glass in my future.