Searching for God in nature, photography, whiskey, books and art…. whatever rant I am compelled to voice

Posts tagged “ranchers



The Range Riders Museum is in Miles City. It is probably one of the best museums I have been to for the reason that it is so personal to the community. All towns have little museums but I have never seen such a community effort. This museum was a lot of work and although the displays leave little to be desired as far as modern displays. …or design in general. Probably most was done by men. What amazes me is ( having worked with displays)  how labor intensive this museum is. This museum didn’t order fancy displays and cases they built and designed everything themselves. I doubt they hired a professional consultant either. I didn’t even have time to see the whole thing and could easily go through again the things I did see! I love the personal touches and character of this museum.

They even put the brand in the sidewalk….

…with shotgun shells!

Even the rattles are not exempt!

Nor rope…

This the Range Rider hall that you can rent for your functions. The walls are covered with people that live within, I think, 25 miles of Miles City. To be in this room you have to have been born before a certain year but I can’t remember that either!

Look at all of that history!

Here are some of the photographs that caught my attention….

Each one of these is a frame on a plaque that has been painted, branded if the person had one, a metal plaque with their name and dates, and that black pipe at the bottom. Who would put a pipe at the bottom of each plaque. And each piece of pipe has the ends covered. As I said some man had to design these. I could picture my dad designing this very thing. I love them for their character and that someone put A LOT of time and effort. This was my favorite room in the museum and where I spent most of my time. I wish there was a story about each person!

More of the museum when I have time!



What the Hell is a Wild Horse?

            I know many Voice readers lay awake at night trying to answer this question. Apparently, some scientists have found an answer; but it’s complicated.

Wild horse detractors say that wild horses running on the open range are not really wild at all, but descendants of domesticated horses. Bureau of Land Management genetic testing confirms this. Even the oldest continual abiding horses in North America are descended from Spanish horses brought here in 1519.

   Oregon’s Kiger Mustangs are thought to be some of these horses.

In fact, the horse is native to North America. Sometime between 35-56 million years ago horses emerged on the continent, gradually evolving into the modern horse, Equus.

During the Pleistocene epoch, horses started to migrate over the Bering Land Bridge and into Asia, Europe, and even Africa. Zebras and wild asses are evolved descendants of North America’s Equus.

A photo comparison of color and markings of Somali wild asses and the Oregon/ Spanish Kiger Mustangs show startling similarities.

According to the latest DNA evidence, the last horse in North America died around 7600 years ago, victim of changing climate patterns and man. Yes, early Native Americans ate horses. This is proven by DNA testing on ancient Native American hunting tools.

So skip ahead 9000 years or so. In 1519 the Spanish Conquistadors bring the first horses back to their “native” land. What happens? Some horses escape into the deserts of Mexico.

As more horses are brought, and escape, they start breeding –and breeding. Within 300 years, it is estimated that more than 1 million horses roamed the American continent.

These became the horses used by Native Americans and cowboys all over the west. It is this horse that defines the west for many Americans.

As the west was settled, the horse herds were crowded out of much their range. They still ran free on some U.S. government land and some ranchers culled the herds for personal use. Others, called “mustangers” rounded up mustangs to sell as bridle horses—or meat.

Until 1971, that is. Wild horse and burro herds had dwindled down to about 23,000 head. Thanks to the efforts of Velma Johnston (aka Wild Horse Annie) and the American public, The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 was passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate.

All well and good, right?  No, ranchers say they need the range for grazing, and the horses are no longer wild, but feral. They don’t deserve protection.

Molecular biologists disagree. In a 2005 written statement to congress, scientist Jay Kirkpatrick, holder of a Ph.D, in reproductive physiology presented evidence showing DNA comparisons between the remains of the last known ancient horse in North America and modern showed the two were virtually indistinguishable. He cited additional evidence showing horses reintroduced into the wild quickly revert to ancient behavior patterns similar to plains zebras.

He concluded that thousands of years of domestication had not altered the horses’ behavioral instincts.

Kirkpatrick said that scientifically speaking, wild horses fit the scientific definition of a reintroduced native species.

I hope that settles it. I need the sleep.

-Steve Tool

(after watching this video how could you sleep?)


JOHN WAYNE IS A LITTLE SICK (and so is his horse) by Steve Tool

My brother Steve used to  cowboy on ranches in Oregon and Nevada in his post-Navy days but with  marriage and children he sought stable employment in the lumber mill industry. A few decades later, divorced and all of his children married he has been back in college working on his degree . Until he transferred to LaGrande he donated his time once a week to a special needs youth program teaching riding. While he does not have time to cowboy and ranch with his school priorities, he is a walking encyclopedia from Old West to New West and everything in between. This is the first in a series of articles he has written about wild horses and true to his personality the article is filled with humor and his passion for horses.

Well so much for the Code of the West, the cowboy ethics of honor, virtue, patriotism, fair play, etc. When it comes to the real law of the range, “what’s best for me” seems to be the dominant paradigm. The cowboy’s best friend, the horse, is one of the immediate victims of this mentality.

Using the December 2010 Western Horseman article titled “The Mustang Dilemma”, I intend to show public lands ranchers appear to be willing to distort or ignore facts in their quest for complete dominance of public lands. I will pick apart statements by the article’s author A.J. Mangum, Nevada rancher Demar Dahl, and the Bureau of Land Management to prove my point.

The article examines the current mustang dilemma from the perspective of Dahl, Kathi Wilson, adopter of a wild horse, and wild horse documentarian Ginger Kathrens. (Also from a ranching family)

Mangum is obviously on the side of Dahl, as Dahl is given more space than Kathrens and Wilson combined. (stacking the deck) In the second paragraph the author tips his hand saying “mustangs compete with cattle for precious grazing”. Let’s see, 2.2 million cattle competing with 38,000 horses and burros. Hardly a competition, is it? The author also mentions taxpayer costs for the wild horses while failing to mention taxpayers financing public lands ranching. (Sin of omission)

The article gets up to speed by telling the story of Ms. Wilson and her adopted mustang “Snickers”. All well and good, no complaints.

Then we get to Dahl, and the fun begins. “Dahl has spent years trying to keep wild horse populations in check.” Huh? Cattle outnumber horses 60-1. Who needs to be kept in check?

According to Dahl, before wild horses became federally protected, he saw wild horses as a resource. He turned out his own stallions to improve the herd, then “culled” the herd (read as: took the best horses for himself and had the others turned into dog food, glue and Eurasian cuisine) Of course this was done to keep the horses within the range’s grazing capacity. Most of Dahl’s ranch consists of public range.

Public range means the land is actually owned by every American citizen and administered by the BLM or the U.S. Forest service. Typically, Mangum constantly refers to horses running on Dahl’s outfit, again failing to mention most of Dahl’s ranch is public range. All he does is lease government-owned grazing land for his cattle—at a substantially discounted rate. That is, $1.35 AUM (Animal Unit per Month or grass for a cow and calf for 1 month) versus the public rate of $15-$25 AUM. (Blindly ignoring facts)

Without so much as a protest, Mangum allows Dahl to say, “I like having some mustangs on the range. Their numbers just have to be controlled. In overpopulated areas, they’re a detriment to wildlife, riparian areas, livestock, and the people who make their living out there.” What? Cows don’t eat grass or trample riparian areas? What do they do? Float in the air? Overpopulated according to whom? Again, cattle outnumber horses nearly 60-1 on PUBLIC RANGE. Mr. Dahl, IT IS NOT YOUR LAND! Jesus, if I had known that journalism consisted of blindly accepting a businessman’s pronouncements as fact, I’d of quit school in the 3rd grade and went to work.

The BLM estimates the range can only hold 26,600 mustangs and burros, but is currently supporting 38,000. (Wild horse and burro advocates say this number is wildly exaggerated) They say 12,000 head need to be removed. Why? What about the 2 million cattle? (More sins of omission, perhaps appeal to authority as BLM administers range reports)

The BLM and author also complain that 70 percent of the Horse and Burro budget is spent feeding 34,000 horses and burros taken off the range and not adopted by the American public. So put them back! Of course no one mentions the $120 million+ dollar loss the government sustains (read taxpayer) subsidizing cattle grazing on public lands every year.

            One of the proposals to deal with the “problem” involves creating wild horse preserves. Not in the west, according to Demar, “Wild horse preserves in the west would turn cow range into horse range.” Who says its cow range? IT’S NOT YOUR LAND, MR. DAHL!

Dahl would like to see the excess horses slaughtered. He says it will mess up the gene pool. “We’ve been trying for hundreds of years to improve the quality of our horses. Now we take inbred horses (did he do genetic testing on them?) that are removed from ranges (whose ranges?) and inject them into the national horse herd. It’s certainly not doing anything for the general quality of horses.” What? He’s not happy seeing the horses taken off the range so he can have more subsidized grazing. He won’t be happy until everything he doesn’t approve of is slaughtered. I have news for Mr, Dahl: No horse slaughtering plants are left in the United States. You must be very sad.

Ginger Kathrens the documentarian seems to be the wisest of the bunch. She suggests a complete revision of the horse and burro program which includes them being considered as wildlife with a place in the ecosystem and foodchain. She suggests working with fish and wildlife agencies to import predators such as cougars (wolves!) into the range to help keep herd populations down. She also cites the Government Accounting Office 2005 report which states it costs taxpayers $144 million to administer the grazing program but takes in $21 million in revenue. (Mangum did not ask Dahl about this, of course.) Kathrens feels some ranchers should be bought out of their public grazing permits (especially corporate ranches) Bravo!

I would like to add A Modest Proposal. How about slaughtering all the whining public lands ranchers and feeding them to the wolves and cougars. That way, neither cows nor horses would get attacked and everyone would be happy. Especially the taxpayers.

(Do not copy unless you have written permission from the author Steve Tool.)