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By: Wayne Brown
A snorting breath steams vapor into the desert morning air
He runs upon the mesa, tramping; his hooves do tear
Sniffing, snorting, nerves a twitch, ears pointed and alert
His mouth has never felt the bit; hip never touched by quirt
The herd hangs back down below waiting for his sign to move
Once he knows it is safe, he’ll put them on their hooves
They will move in a cantor, manes and tails flying in the breeze
Their muscles flexing, nostrils flared, moving with such ease
Their presence is so majestic against the scenery of the west
True ambassadors of American freedom, some of the best
Their heritage is a long one, going back to the early days
All these centuries they roamed holding on to their ways
Their freedom is mankind’s envy, nothing else even comes near
For all of their strength and courage, man is the one they fear
They ask nothing of anyone except the freedom to daily roam
They are painted on the west and it is here that they belong
The morning air of the desert floor is still, almost without sound. The air is cool still waiting for the warming of the sun. Nothing moves as if braced for that moment just before a major storm erupts. Everything seems frozen in time awaiting that sound. The sky is bright blue without one cloud in sight so the coming of the storm is hardly the reason for this quiet and solitude. The desert is awaiting the first sounds of day just as it is awaiting the arrival of the sunshine each morning.
At first the sound is a low rumbling. One has to listen close to pick it up but then it begins to build in amplitude much like that of an approaching freight train as it nears the station. The sound grows and grows as it come straight toward you. Then it is apparent where the sound is coming from as the rising dust from the desert floor begins to give it away. A cloud of dust moving with a rumbling sound across the wild mesa of the desert. As the sound comes closer, suddenly the source springs into view. A herd of wild mustangs crest the rise hurdling across the desert as one; literally running in unison to nowhere but each intent on getting there with the others.
Out front of the striding herd runs a magnificent stallion that appears almost perfect in every way with its long muscular legs outstretched in full run, tail and mane blowing wildly in the wind, and sharp hooves cutting clods of dirt from the path upon which it runs. The rest of the herd is focused singularly on this one horse. More than fifty horses are running behind him as if he were the Pied Piper on his way out of town with the mice. He is the leader, the unquestionable leader and they would follow him off a cliff if he chooses to run there. His strength and fortitude is unmatched by any other horse in the herd. The stallion knows it as does every one of the other mustangs in the herd. These ponies belong to him and for that he takes care of them finding food, water, and shelter on a daily basis and leading them on care-free jaunts across the desert such as this morning’s run.
The herd is filled with mares mostly although there is a sprinkling of younger colts not yet feeling their oats for the stud. The stallion allows them to stay in the herd knowing that the day will come when their challenge will confront him for the leadership of the herd. It has happened time and again. Each time, he has survived the challenge and sent the challenger away to find his own herd. Instinctively, the stallion will continue to face these challenges until one day, with age, he will be the one turned away as a younger and stronger stud takes the lead role. It is the way of the mustang. It is in their blood.
Within this body of running wild horses is an array of color and muscle all dancing together in a slow-motion beauty much like paints being spilled across a canvass. The muscles flex with each running step; the light reflects off the hairy coat of the horse giving off a glow such that the horse appears to shine in the sunlight. Paints, buckskins, sorrels, roans, and every other cross variety one can imagine is running in the blood of this herd. The wild streak is ever present and visible as some of the horses kick and bite at each other without so much as missing a step in this run across the desert.
As fast as they came, the herd is gone with only the dust rising from their track over along the rise. Their trek will take them first to a familiar watering hole to quench their thirst. From there, it's off to find grazing ground for the afternoon. By evening they will once again move back to the shelter of their desert draw for rest. The herd has developed a familiar routine in their daily movements. Their natural enemies watch from hiding hoping for that opportunity, that weak moment when one moves away from the protection of the herd and becomes a lone prey.
Man comes to watch the mustang as well. The romance of these strong and beautiful animals roaming the wide open world of the west pulls at man’s soul making him want to run with them. Spying humans, the herd will stop and a safe distance and for a time observe man. There is fear and respect in their eyes. The distance provides safety but the way they stare back at man makes one feel there could be room for a friendship of sorts. It is if there is some natural part of each mustang that knows it has a bond with mankind. At the same time, the call of freedom runs wildly through the heart and soul of each mustang and quickly overrides their curiosity of man. But still they stop and watch. Once their curiosity is satisfied, the stallion pushes them on their way, sometimes running behind the mares and colts and directing them, shoving them, with his nose. Man stands and watches in amazement and joy.
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