August has been a busy month with lots of shows and time on the road. I love it when I am 'surprised' with 'Favor'. August has been one of those months, and its not over yet! My husband joined me for my Douglas Wy show, we planned to camp in tent to save some travel money. The reception and continuing show was wonderful, the comradity between the 'family' of artists after showing for 20 years was something to witness. As artists to be catered to is always a pleasant surprise, we were fed good thru the entire show and the gathering of creative souls was nothing less than inspiring. The interest in the Wild Mustang Art was evident as I showed off our American Legacy on the walls of the Pioneer Museum. On sunday afternoon, good friend Gabriele showed up to continue on the next treck of our journey to South Dakota's 'Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary'. One of Gabrieles 100 bucket list entries was to meet the man 'Dayton Hyde' an early enviromentalist and mustang preservationist. We pulled out of Douglas and made our way to the Black Hills before dark watching the black clouds as the hills were on fire. The sunset in our rear mirror was incredible as the reds and yellows pushed thier way thru the darkness of the smoke clouds, the landscape before us sprawling with fresh hay bailed for miles across the land. As we arrived at the entrance of the sanctuary, we were entering a magical week that we were clueless about, but already getting subtle glimpses of what was to come. As we pulled in the gate, sun setting and a horizon that depicted the glory of the west, a train of painted mustangs was making its way down the fenceline that followed the road. I had to stop and get a few shots...it was almost dark so they didnt come out real clear, but the ghostly images offered were as magical as the moment. We turned and in more delight the moon in its brightness was like a cylindar into another dimension illuminating the land and its graceful inhabitants as they quietly meandered thru the landscape. It was a surreal moment as the only sounds were the hooves brushing against the sagebrush and the crickets singing as they flew out of the way of the gentle steps of the legends passing us by.
As we drove thru to the sanctuary our senses were coming alive feeling a great anticipation of what awaited us. The accomodations we stayed in were as mystical as we unpacked our gear into the cabin that bordered the canyon and river below...like every little girls dream our heads rested on our pillows with images of painted ponies...
We woke early to the sunrise and rising temps as well...getting a clearer vision of the landscape from the night before. An early meeting with Program Director Susan Watt, a beautiful and passionate soul for the preservation of The American Mustang teamed with founder Dayton Hyde has made for a powerful combination of will and wisdom to save and showcase the land and the mustang.
Our day was filled with a tour of the 13,000 acre sanctuary with herds of pintos of every color, a herd of primitive spanish mustangs, and the vast landscape they roam. We toured the range, and the facilities with barns, arena's, and corrals filled with every whim of equine you can desire.
While we were there we were able to sit and witness Dayton giving an interview for a french documentary film and learn more about the history and his story that envelopes the vision of the sanctuary. He reminds me of a 'John Wayne' in his physical stature and sense of humor. Another living legend walking beside the mustangs with stories inside that have been carried for generations. We sat mesmerized in the vision we saw layed out before us being carried by a pair of devoted preservationists. Over the course of the next few days I took an unrealistic amount of pictures of mustangs that symbolize the early and latter picture of freedom they promise.
The sanctuary is also a very spiritual place as the Lacota Lands are on the back side of the sanctuary lands across the canyon's Cheyenne River. We were delightfully surprised when Susan Watt offered us the 'Wild Side' tour to visit where very few are able to see the rugged wild side of the landscape and the wild horses. The tours are thier way of preserving the landscape from being destroyed and keeping the land in its present state centuries ago. The land is sprinkled with history of indian culture, artifacts and spiritual significance, and you feel it as you drive the landscape. As we drove much like you would through the african plains, we chuckled as Susan so familiar with the land would turn and twist the truck through the rocks and ridges, she is a great tour guide and knows the landscape and its history well. As we came to a high plateau we parked and had lunch with a view that will be forever engrained in my heart and mind. If not for the binoculars and the camera we would never have spotted the wild mustangs in the basin far below us. As Gabriele and Susan continued in conversation I gathered my guitar and walked a ways down the ridge and sat to play as I heard the ancient drum rhythms of a culture long before my time...it was what I call one of those 'sacred' moments we experience in life. The tears flowed as I strummed to follow the rhythm I was hearing...
It was 4 days that have been permantly branded in my heart and mind, time will tell of its impact from our visit there. We had a long morning meeting with Susan and Carla talking of the future and vision that lies ahead for the sanctuary and the Wild Mustangs and what role we may play in that future. As we packed up the truck and made our way to the 'general store' on site we were able to say our present farewells to Susan and to Dayton and get a photo...magical moments...
And so, the journey continued from here for another few days as we made our way back to Douglas for the 'Mustang Days' art show and mustang competition. Mixed feelings after leaving such an incredibly mystical place arriving back to the hard realities of the life we live in. We shared our last few days in Douglas watching the 'Wild Ones' show thier incredible diversity and ability to heal and become empowered after enduring the trauma of helicopter round-ups and being seperated from family structures and the land they call home. A mirade of emotion knowing where we just departed from seeing these Iconic treasures running in thier natural habitat breathing the winds of freedom. A controversial issue as you debate from side to side with each clinging to their perspectives. Bottom line...we must preserve the 'wild' of these American Living Legends. Do they adapt to thier newfound captivity? Yes...thier survival skills give them the remarkable ability to overcome intense adversity and learn to trust 'again'. But the realities of their experiences from the harshness of helicopter round-ups is forever detected. We must come together and find better solutions of preserving these incredible legends without the trauma induced by helicopter round-ups. As I 'ramble' on these pages, my hope is that you will take the time to become an 'educated' advocate for the Mustang, they don't need emotional followers, but they do need solutions to a great problem that they are faced with on a daily basis. Even as we packed up to leave for home, a new round-up begins in Wyoming pulling hundreds off public rangelands. Seperating young foals from family bands, some dying from the intense heat and trauma of running for miles over harsh terrain. Things have to change, methods have to change to protect and save our herds of American Mustangs. I challenge you to become an 'educated advocate' empowered with truth and knowledge to help find solutions that will guarantee that Americans Living Legends will remain for generations to come. Just as we have been graced with 10 days of favor during this trip, my prayer is that the mustang will be graced with a favor that lasts an eternity.