Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rectifying Injustices

This is the story Excy and I worked on that he told on 'Tales From the South' last night. It was very well received. We all had fun.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!

We had slipped into ‘Nigerian time,’ – which is a cross between regular time and the Twilight Zone. As we sat in a booth at the Cheesecake Factory in Kansas City, my friend Nola waved over the restaurant manager, a short, balding man in his fifties. I shifted uneasily in my seat as he made his way towards us through the crowded restaurant. We had met Nola and her husband Ade and their son Seun for dinner on our 800-mile road trip, and, knowing her as I had for the past ten years, I knew this was going to be good.

Nola had just ferreted out from our waiter, who had done an exceptional job of serving our party of five, that it was company policy he would have to share his substantial tip with the other waiters. And, when he was given a break to grab a bite, he was expected to eat in the employee’s lounge, but pay full price for the food just like any other customer.

As we ate our dessert, cheesecake, of course, Nola talked with the manager about how he could correct these injustices to their wait-staff.

Sitting in the restaurant parking lot was an empty 30-foot gooseneck stock trailer attached to a super-duty truck primed to go to Lawler, Iowa, to rectify another injustice of an entirely different nature.

Two years before, I adopted two mustangs through a program run by the Bureau of Land Management. A friend who works for the BLM Colorado office handpicked these two special wild horses for me. I drove to Canon City, Colorado, to pick them up at the BLM holding facility, which is interestingly enough located in the Colorado State Prison. The prisoner who helped load the horses was named Coronado, who was so kind it made me wonder why he was there in the first place, though you aren’t allowed to ask. Coronado, not lacking a sense of humor, suggested I just leave him in the trailer and he would come home to Arkansas as a hired hand. The armed guard standing beside me thought less of the idea

Those two mustangs came back to Arkansas to live on the land my wife and a partner and I had set up for a horse facility. Since wild horses have a different attitude, a different nature, than domestic horses, my friend Lona from Colorado said if I needed any pointers dealing with them I should contact a group in Nevada with the very unlikely (but highly descriptive) name of Least Resistance Training Concepts (LRTC). I did get lots of pointers from them, but also learned of two large horse herds in the Reno area that have no federal protection and are controlled by the State of Nevada. The State was removing horses from these lands on a regular basis and the LRTC folks helped try to find homes for those captured mustangs.

Ironically, those two herds, the Comstock and Virginia Range, were the horses best known to Annie Johnston (no relation), the woman most responsible for wild horses and burros on federal lands being protected. Known as ‘Wild Horse Annie Johnston,’ she was famous in the ‘60s and ‘70s for her diligence in protecting these animals, spearheading one of the largest letter-writing campaigns on record to get legislation passed to protect the mustang and their rangeland.

The call came less than two years after the first two mustangs came back to Arkansas. The folks at LRTC asked if I’d take in some wild horses from the Comstock that were in a particularly perilous situation. These horses had already been picked up by a ‘killer buyer,’ – a buyer who pays for a horse based on its weight and what he can sell it for to a slaughterhouse. At the time there were three slaughterhouses operating in the US. They have subsequently been shut down, largely due to public pressure, but as of just a few days ago, the US House passed legislation that would allow the return of slaughterhouses in this country. For now, though, the trade has simply moved on to Canada and Mexico. The horses are killed for human consumption, the meat mostly going to parts of Europe and Asia. This particular buyer had already taken the horses to his farm in Iowa, but agreed not to take them to slaughter right away as long as he was compensated for feeding them.

After hearing the hard-luck plea from the LRTC, I said yes to rescue as many as our pasture would support. It seemed natural to turn our place on Wye Mt. outside of Little Rock into a sanctuary for wild horses. We named it WING SPUR after my family crest, which is a flying spur. WING SPUR WILD HORSES also has a nice ring to it, as well as a sense of freedom. We were ready to take in some horses.

The one positive note in all this was that through capture records we could determine which families (also called bands), each horse was in. Although they had been separated by sex and age, we were able to reunite the ones we could take, and it was a real joy to watch them as they came together again.

My friend Jacque, who shares my love of all things horse, agreed to make the trip, along with Alicia, a gal who then worked for me caring for the mustangs we had and our recently adopted wild burro. (Taking my wife Amy to a BLM adoption to help a friend pick some horses ended up in our adopting a burro she befriended from across a corral panel).

And that’s how we ended up at the Cheesecake Factory in Kansas City as our friend Nola outlined the staff injustices to the manager.
The manager looked sheepish as we finally stood to leave. He obviously didn’t know what he had walked into. We finally said our goodbyes to the Adebos and piled back into our truck. The plan was to drive straight through to northern Iowa, and it was already 9 p.m.

We arrived at Lawler about 1 a.m. (You know you’re in a little German hamlet when the hardware, lumber, and feed store is called Teissens, you know, like the chicken folks, but spelled TEISSENS).

By mid-morning the next day we were at the farm to pick up the horses. When Jacque discovered this farmer was a killer buyer (no, I had not told her), she immediately got into the cab of the pickup and stayed there until we left. Normally friendly and outgoing, Jacque does not talk to killer buyers.

It didn’t take very long before the farmer, his wife, and Alicia and I loaded 13 wild horses – more accurately – two wild horse bands – and one extra male into the trailer. The trip back was a little slower and lasted through the night, as plenty of stops were necessary to give the horses a break, and us too.

Sometime around mid-morning the next day, the horses arrived at WING SPUR, their new home. Their families were intact, and they had free run of the place, with a large pond to splash in and mud to roll in to escape the flies and heat of the summer. However, it took months for them to feel secure and to calm down. Slowly, you could tell they looked less nervous as they settled into the idea that no one was going to mistreat them.

It’s been seven years since that trip to Lawler. The oirginal 13 are now 15 horses They are much calmer, though they still get ‘flighty’ at times. At roundup when they are vaccinated and wormed each year, they seem to think they are being mistreated. But no one is going to eat them.

Each morning I walk over to the pasture and lean on the fence, and thank God we were able to rectify that injustice. Safe and protected for the rest of their days, they are home.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Back with a Warning...Not a Vengeance

Goodness, has it really been one month shy of a day?? Quite the bloggie break.

I no sooner began to recover from fistula surgery, than I (thought) I sprained my ankle, but it has gotten worse over the weeks and the usual MO wasn't working. I ended up at the damn ER yesterday after my whole foot swelled and turned red and wouldn't go back down, and the chronic pain grew unbearable, despite pulling out 'big gun painkillers' and after bouts of acupuncture. It turns out the drs and I suspect pathologic neuropathy -- I had this pain when I developed RSD after spinal surgery and it was becoming eerily familiar. Don't know if it's from a tumor or the disabilities accumulated from the way I walk, until we delve into it further. Hell'va way to delay cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Excy's daughter and our grand daughter are driving here from Austin this week, but since her BF can't join us until Sat., to allow him to join the feast (and give myself more time to slowly make dishes), I made the executive decision our 'big meal' will occur Saturday afternoon.

I have also been busy with the fundraiser. Excy wrote his story for 'Tales from the South,' taping this Tuesday evening, about how we came to start the Sanctuary. He was interviewed by the local NPR last week for a 4-minute spot to be aired soon. He will also be interviewed on a local TV station this week. Two local magazines will write up the fundraiser after it occurs (because of their long lead times for deadlines). We are writing a video segment to accompany the footage of our wild ones, to be narrated by a local celebrity. The catering and a guitar player for 'background music wallpaper' is in place. Our wine guy fell through so we are still working on that. To make sure that it was a good copy, we watched the documentary we will premiere, 'Wild Horses & Renegades.' It's rough viewing. Excy never cries, and even HE was in tears at the end. U2's song, Who's Going to Ride Your Wild Horses didn't help matters. Though it's lovely and perfect for the film. The documentary is showing at film festivals around the country. I urge you all to try to see it.

With dramatic footage, Wild Horses & Renegades documents how the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is using millions of taxpayer dollars to corral the few remaining American wild horses left in the west through aerial roundup. These wild horses are separated from their band (families), underfed, and forced into inhumane and diseased conditions. Captured horses are either sold for adoption, illegally sold to slaughterhouses, or held in long-term holding facilities. Too many of them are going to killer buyers. Slaughterhouses were shut down in the US (though there is legislation to reopen them), but the horses are easily slipped into Canada and Mexico. The BLM won't be satisfied until every wild horse is off the land. They are falsely stating the horses are detrimental to cattle grazing.

The film lays bare the corporate benefits of the inhumane roundups, including clearing land for uranium mining claims, oil and gas pipelines, and corporate cattle grazing. The BLM estimates it has more than 40,000 wild horses in holding facilities at a cost to taxpayers of $120,000 a day. People suspect the numbers are inflated as to how many wild horses actually remain in the wild, but the BLM is trying to prohibit people from monitoring them as well as the roundups so numbers vary. One reviewer of the film says one of the best things about it is how the director lets the BLM shoot themselves in the foot by their weak actions and explanations. Even harder to stomach is seeing frightened, hurt horses in corrals, and actually viewing a horse at slaughter (with gleeful shouting in the background as the horse is repeatedly stabbed in the neck). Most older horses and the young ones don't survive the roundups, which force them to run wildly for miles over tough terrain. One roundup proved disastrous when the BLM forgot about them and the trapped horses died an agonizing death of starvation without food and water. Another BLM employee, who quit in frustration, was reprimanded for taking matters into his own hands and having a water tank and trough installed after discovering no water at another holding facility.

The roundups threaten one of the most beautiful US-specific natural living resources in the world.

The film features cameos by Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Viggo Mortensen, Daryl Hannah, and other literary and government celebrities. It has been awarded Honorable Mention in Cinematography, Investigative Journalism, and Music Editing/Sound Track at the International Wildlife Film Festival in May. In addition to its screenings, it has received notable national press from Horse Back magazine and Outside magazine. The film’s director, James Anaquad-Kleinert, has made several environmental films including Spirit Riders, an award-winning documentary that aired in part on
It's also a great film. For more information, visit web site:

If you'd like to make a donation to Wing Spur bless you! We could really use it. Not only do we have a huge hay bill (and winter hay bills to come), we are trying to find more land to help out more horses. Wing Spur is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and all donations are 100% towards the horses.