March 4, 2010
Whenever I picture the American West as it was at the turn of the 20th century I always picture wee homesteads, rocky country, trucks with curved fenders, and big herds of wild horses. After watching the Misfits, starring Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, I assumed that every last feral horse in the west had been rounded up long ago and shipped off to dark ends.
However, to my surprise, I learned this week that feral horses are a protected animal population in the United States. They have safe haven in many western states and are allowed to live unfettered. In Nevada (the setting of the above mentioned film) there are over 16,000.
There are also populations of wild donkeys roaming the empty spaces of the American West, which, unlike the horses, I knew about first hand. I met a small heard of them in the cascade mountains once when I was a little girl. They could smell a sucker from a mile away and would wait outside of our cabin until I would come out with a bag of carrots. They’re shaggy, friendly beasts and always happy to trade a pat on the nose for fresh produce.
They aren’t as numerous as wild horses and don’t have the same protections, but they still manage to get by on their charm. Yes, there is such a thing as burro charm.