The following is a journal entry by WHE volunteer Marie Milliman. Maries has been working hard as a public outreach intern for over a year and joins Wild Horse Education (WHE) board in 2018.
Journaling is required of all interns. Journal entries can help navigate the physical, political and emotional journey of advocating in a fast moving interest. They are also very helpful when it comes to self-evaluation; a critical skill.
Marie was part of a multi-person team that covered the Triple B roundup of 2018 for Wild Horse Education (we are not just a camera crew, we do a lot more out there). We have created an E-Magazine about Triple B as a thank you to our donors. You can find out how to get yours HERE. Without public support this vital work can not continue.
The Bermuda Triangle of the Triple B Complex
Bermuda Triangle (proper noun); An area in the North-Eastern portion of Nevada (39.2533° N, 114.8742° W); where many wild stallions, mares and *foals (see below) have been removed, injured or died under opportunistic and profit driven circumstances. Where, transparency, common sense, and respect for the horse simply disappear. (*wild horses listed by the BLM as foals during capture range in age from newborn to yearlings. Foaling season begins in February in this area and numbers are not an appropriate measure of foaling rates or foal mortality.)
Laura Leigh had emailed me, and wanted to see if I wanted to help cover another roundup. Triple B here I come.
Wild Horse gather number 3 for me and each one is more agonizing than the last. This would be the largest roundup I had ever attended; a month long and 1500 targeted for capture.
My drive in to Ely, NV was later in the evening, the last 80 miles I was fortunate to follow a tractor trailer whose more effective head lights further illuminated the approaching landscape. In the dark, before following the big truck, I hadn’t realized what I was missing, this was god’s country. I admired the lay of the lands sparsely covered with snow while my tires made the offensive noise of cattle guard, after cattle guard, after cattle guard. My irritation grew with every passing thud.
“Open range is a myth. Our public lands are a series of fenced grazing allotments and mining projects. BLM will talk about how big these areas are and how hard it is to gather information on the wild horses that live in them. It’s nonsense. All they are doing is combining smaller areas in the real world and creating an insurmountable fiction on paper.” Laura Leigh told me that over a year ago and the more I travel with her, the more I understand, the more it bothers me.
Laura and I arrived in Ely, NV without a firm start date for the gather, but we were prepared to go whenever it was confirmed. We took advantage of the time to experience this stunning area, without a round up, and the opportunity to gather some range data. This was my first experience to just linger with wild horses.
Note: Every round up possesses its own uniqueness of a variety of circumstances; the “justification” for the round up (reason and area(s) to gather from), trap and wing location(s) and how visible they are (or are not), temporary processing location(s) and if they are visible (or are not).
When the roundup began I had noted in my journal (required of all volunteers) how repressed this entire process feels and wondered is it repression, oppression, or suppression? I have surmised it is a combination of all three, a trilogy of unjust processes. 1. using force to subdue,2. in a prolonged period of maltreatment, 3. as the BLM obstructs our ability to accurately observe the humane treatment and inhibiting our overall documentation. I’m referencing both the human and equine experience.
“I have to bite my tongue constantly. Are they treating me like I’m stupid or is this my response to the stupidity we endure? If I don’t keep a lid on it, BLM closes the only door to work for the wild ones and essentially to allow us do their jobs for free as a volunteer. This is hostage negotiations,” Laura Leigh. (I cleared this with Laura before adding it to the article. She said the “ship has sailed,” and options, including collective and intelligent discussion, has been far too crippled by social media and the “accepted alt truths” of the “DC memo.” This is not the direction WHE had hoped for but the choice was made, and not by us, the day BLM ran newborns in the snow at Triple B in frigid temperatures. The line in the desert snow was crossed.)
Stallions displayed dramatic attempts to outmaneuver, outsmart, and outwit the pilot. They tested the pilots thought process, and in the heat of the chase would literally stop to think and evaluate how they could save their herd. They willingly offered their own safety to draw the chopper away from their families, and also tried to take the lead to spearhead an escape. Ultimately, the stallions entered the trap, as they lost their freedom to a human with a $250,000 joystick.
The third day of capture, and three wild horses had already lost their lives, as we moved into another area, one healthier than the first. The first trap location had a lower than average population growth rate, healthy wild horses and food. The range also had mountain lions that were being killed at the same time as the helicopter flew in the grazing allotments with political influence. The second trap had no livestock grazing, smart and healthy horses and a spectacular range; but the mining trucks would not slow down enough and the “mitigation” for wild horses and abysmal its failure as vehicle’s driving the meticulously groomed roads like the Indianapolis 500 mowed the wild ones down and we blame the horses for being a “public safety issue.”
Day three of the roundup and I’m already so mad I could spit. Sitting at the trap waiting for the next round of “POW’s” to arrive, Laura gave me another lesson in grasses and showed me what a “biocrust” is. I soak it up like a sponge.
The chopper does not float like a butterfly today, now day four. It chaotically disperses groups of horses and hovers dangerously close. I am increasingly anxious for their safety and try to will it to not cause any additional stresses or injuries on the already panicked horses. Day four, four horses now dead.
On day 5 we drove to the trap site and spied the families that I had come to “know” on several days of monitoring; misery consumed me. This would be their final morning to be free on their lands of heritage. The intimacy of observing them in their daily life intensified the anger in my heart of the looming iniquity of what was to come, this was a first for me.
An inspection of the trap reveals only one overhead bar is padded, a recognition that they should be padded but like everything else that actually puts the welfare of the wild horse into the picture simply too difficult to accomplish? They will get to that soon, when? Day 5 and a number of issues had already been shown to BLM by WHE at the trap and holding. Do the wild horses themselves matter in any way to the people that carry out the mandates in piles and piles of paperwork, or is the paperwork just to give to the media?
Day after day, hour after hour, moment after moment; repression, oppression, and suppression.
On my last day at Triple B Laura has left for the range pre-dawn. Before heading home, I sat in the lounge of the hotel to review my photos and send them off to WHE. Once completed, I emerged into the glare of the morning light. I was overcome with sorrow in the dawn of this new day.
“If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not respond?” ~ William Shakespeare; (revenge replaced with respond in the original quote).
You can bet on it.
I dedicate these words and experience to the 28 fallen horses of the Triple B round up, and also to our fallen courageous voice and board member; Jean Hehn-Bradley (passed away January 1, 2018). I vow to remain loyal to our mission and honor the effort it took to create the body of work of Wild Horse Education. Laura, I don’t know how you have done this for such a long time.
We have created an E-Magazine about Triple B as a thank you to our donors. You can find out how to get yours HERE. Without public support this vital work can not continue.