Jesus Rode a Burro

Jesus Rode a Burro

There’s a massacre of sorts going on in Texas.  While at the Virginia conference, I met Marjorie Farabee, founder of the Wild Burro Protection League, among her many other titles.  I spotted Marjorie just as she arrived at the Equine Conference; she was easy to spot.  She was wearing a magnificent, hand-made sort of pauncho-vest, the kind you’d only see in Texas, or maybe New Mexico.  When I complimented her on it, she replied:  “Well, I’m from Texas, after all….”  Right on.  Texas is an almost iconic state among the many in the States.  (How many Westerns did you watch as a child celebrating the mystique of the West, the cowboy, and a love of the land and all its indigenous critters that made the Lone Star state into what it is today?)  That’s why I was horrified to learn

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International Conference on Equine Welfare: Two More Sleeps

International Conference on Equine Welfare:  Two More Sleeps

I will be at the International Conference on Equine Welfare in Alexandria, Virginia, in just “two more sleeps”. (See prior blog, International Conference on Equine Welfare). I adopted that phrase from my spouse’s golfing partners; I guess it’s the phrase parents use when their kids are excited about going somewhere–“just two more sleeps and we’ll be at DisneyWorld”!  I like it.  I’ve been counting the hours until I leave for Virginia where I will meet up with crusaders for horse safety, some of whom I have been communicating with for at least two years–in some cases, longer.  I will finally, after much tongue-lolling, be able to view the Humanion documentary, “Saving America’s Horses” http://www.savingamericashorses.org (which, btw, is now in Canada as of this very weekend, in Huntsville, Ontario).  Crusaders may not be the best noun to describe what these people do, what they believe in, and how devoted they are, but I must say, that, in my silly, childlike mind, I’ve often harkened back to images of Crusader Rabbit and Mighty Mouse when I think about the enormous burden placed on people who fight for horses’ lives and security–a veritable David-and-Goliath scenario.  As a child, I watched Crusader Rabbit and Mighty Mouse, despite their diminutiveness, triumph over evil.  Myself being just (only just) 5’2″, you can understand why their successes meant so much to me…and why, in my personal life, size has never been an obstacle to me.  As here, as now…no matter what, we, together with our American colleagues, will bring down the slaughterhouses, the killbuyers, the overbreeders, the minions of a corrupt industry.  Sceptical?  Just how many crusades have you undertaken recently?

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Saving our Mustangs in Canada

Bob and Doreen Henderson head up WHOAS, the Wild Horses of Alberta Society, devoted to stopping the government-sanctioned cull of mustangs in the Sundre region of Alberta and parts of BC.  I can’t recommend their site too highly–and not just for the wealth of information available on what’s left of Canada’s mustangs (Bob’s History of the Horse in Alberta stands out in particular)–but also for the stirring photos which Bob features on the site.  A few years ago, I was involved in lobbying the Alberta government (and the federal, and COSEWIC, and the David Suzuki Foundation) to change the designation of these horses from “feral” to “heritage species”.  Despite DNA evidence and archeological finds that point to these horses as the last surviving descendants of the conquistadors’ mounts, the Alberta government persists in its wrong-headed view that these magnificent creatures are merely strays who’ve escaped from domestic herds.  The WHOAS site provides much more detail on this government-abetted theft of an integral part of Canada’s history and legacy to future Canadians. Once there, I hope you sign their petition even as you relish the exceptional photos of these iconic animals.  http://www.northernhorse.com/wildhorses/index.php

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Wild Horse Annie (Velma Johnston)

I‘ve never been a big reader of biographies except for Margaret Forster’s who has covered everyone from Thackeray to Daphne du Maurier.  Forster’s skill at drawing the reader into the life of her subject and exposing the dramas, big and little, which fill out that life without exaggeration, without embellishment, is unparalleled.  Alison Griffiths and David Cruise, authors of Wild Horse Annie & The Last of the Mustangs. The Life of Velma Johnston have met, if not surpassed, such high standards–not only for the voluminousness of their research–but also for the quality and flow of the writing. There is no hint of sentimentalism in their account of a woman scarred early on by polio who took on the US Bureau of Land Management long before animal or horse advocacy groups were part of our culture. It’s a true David and Goliath story in which a seemingly nondescript American citizen (1950s homemaker, secretary) chances upon a horse transport and is so horrified by what she sees that she determines to stop it.  As it turns out, she changes the course of american law with regard to the treatment and slaughter of the American mustang. I can’t say enough about the authors’ handling of the many characters who flow in and out of Velma’s messianic mission, nor their deft presentation of Velma herself.  As a child, I was a great reader of Marguerite Henry’s classic horse stories for youngsters:  I loved them all.  But like most young horse-lovers, I didn’t know anything about the underbelly of the horse culture nor anything about how their slaughter came about initially to feed protein to our pet dogs. As the fast food burger outlets grew during that period, more and more land was taken over by cattlemen who claimed the mustangs were pests, using up pasture they needed for their cow herds. I learned a lot about the american mustang’s displacement from natural corridors which for centuries had been his home.  As my own novel, Ground Manners, approaches its publication date, I’m glad I didn’t come across Wild Annie before now:  I never would have finished my book.  And the few grisly scenes of slaughter in GM are more than matched by disturbing descriptions in Wild Annie.  I had polio as a child–a very minor case compared to Annie’s; and she died on my birthday. Another reason I feel close to her and her passion to save the mustangs.  But mostly, I am part of a readership grateful to Griffiths and Cruise for bringing Velma’s courageous mission back to the table.

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The Misfits

They changed things around, dam’em…they smeared it with blood.  I’ve just gotta find another way to live, that’s all,” says Gable in the last movie he ever made.  Almost by default in order to be the counterpoint to the three men’s lifestyle, Monroe champions the mustangs who Gable and his pals used to capture so they could be trained as riding horses, and now, as the naive Marilyn finds out, they’re captured to be sold by the pound for dog food. 

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