Time Slips By
Coffee cup in hand, each morning I would glance out the back window. I wasn’t expecting to see anything; it was now July, months since I laid eyes on the “Mountain Gang.” I could only assume our journey together had concluded.
I was staying busy with Bryant and my everyday chores. I can tell you not one day passed when I didn’t think about “Samson” and the gang. They had grabbed a piece of this human’s heart, and I couldn’t figure out how to replace it. Or if it even could be.
It was the morning of July 18, five months to the day the band had left out when I had to do a double take. My second glance confirmed I didn’t see apparitions. There she was, standing head held high, “Sister Namaste!” And someone I didn’t recognize.
I ran around grabbing shoes, camera, and phone. Hitting the door, not even attempting to be quiet, I was yelling, “Welcome home! Where have you been?” Scattered here and there, heads began popping up. Oh my goodness, new babies!!
As I started snapping photos, it became clear something was different. My “Mountain Gang” had changed. Oh no!
Out With The Old, In With The New
Immediately the camera came down. I began counting. Eleven. That can’t be right. I counted again. When the gang left, there were thirteen members. Upon further investigation, I discovered I was missing some of the original members.
The 2017 foals were not there. The Appaloosa and Blood Bay young stallions were also gone. Where were they?
It’s likely “Samson” kicked the two young stallions out of his band. When young stallions begin to mature it’s normal for the head stallion to force them out. We call them “bachelors,” and they usually hang together until finding their own bands. We can’t be 100% sure this was the case, but we hope so.
(Note: The blood bay stallion did come back on his own, his story will be coming shortly. However, we have not seen the Appaloosa stallion since February. We’d love to hear from you if you have seen him running your area.)
The foals disappearance left both Bryant and I scratching our heads. We aren’t sure what took place while the gang was gone, but we hope to see them again one day!
The “Mountain Gang” now consisted of, “Samson,” “Muddy Pond” and her Blaze Face Sabino filly, “Delilah,” and her Blaze Face Grulla colt, “Tiger’s Dancer” and her dark Grulla filly, “Sister Namaste” and her Bay Tobiano Paint filly, and “River Tenne” with her Sorrel Tobiano Paint filly.
Oh, what a sight!!
Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away
Talk about bond building moments! Our relationship didn’t seem to suffer at all with their absence. The phases of our connection were racing by.
The band stayed at our home place. They acquainted themselves with the chickens, ducks, and the dog. In the mornings I found them grazing the pasture or visiting with our boys. At times I would spot some of them up at the back patio. Every day I’d open the back door with a “Good Morning,” and “Muddy Pond” following me to the feed room.
I could feel the trust the “Mountain Gang” had put in me. We had grown closer, and now I was able to get hands-on with some.
“Samson” would wait until I was seated and then walk within a foot of me. I think his curiosity would get the best of him. I found it to be a little intimidating. Me sitting on a bucket and him towering over me. Once, (yes, just once) he let me touch his nose. Hey, he’s a proud stallion!
I was touching “Muddy Pond” now. She’d walk right up to me. “Delilah’s” colt would walk up to me and smell of my hair or my hand. He was the most curious of all the babies. The mares would wander off further, leaving their babies with me while I sat among them talking.
“Samson” didn’t worry or tense anymore during feeding time when I would stay. I could even walk around the feeding area while they were snacking. Now, he would keep an eye on me for sure, but he seemed to be okay with my presence.
My heart was overflowing. I had fallen in love!
There was a ruckus happening outside. It was August 27, and my “Poppy” was neighing from his pen in every direction. Running back and forth. Our “Drinker” was standing head high, staring toward the wood line.
I looked in the same direction and saw a horse standing there. One that I didn’t recognize. I started outside, toward the boy’s pen, trying not to scare the other horse away. Uh-oh, there were a few horses, and I didn’t recognize any of them. Then I heard noises coming from toward the feeding and trap areas. That had to be “Samson” and his gang.
I figured the best thing I could do was grab a bucket of feed and get the “Mountain Gang” taken care of. Keep them occupied so that I could concentrate on these new visitors. Walking back toward the feeding ground, holy moly, I almost dropped the bucket! I know my jaw dropped wide open.
It wasn’t “Samson” or any of his band. Suddenly I was surrounded by three mares. “Maria?!” My heart was racing. There was no way this could be happening!
(Background – Maria is my son’s horse. She used to live here until she kept escaping. After discussing with Bryant, we moved her for her safety. We trailered her to Chahta Isuba Ranch where she took up with Darlene’s Last Chance. Several years they ran there together. Darlene’s Last Chance is one of Darlene Rickman’s mares. A plain colored bay she will never get rid of so don’t even ask, LOL. She goes back to one of Darlene’s favorite mares of all time, “Metoaka.”
February 2018 the two of them disappeared. The other three that had left with them had since returned, causing Bryant and me to worry about Maria and Darlene’s Last Chance’s whereabouts. Bryant and I searched all summer for them. He would receive a call about a sighting, go check it out, but no luck. We had discussed making flyers and distributing them; we needed to find those two mares!)
Across The River To ‘Mamma D’s We Go
“Maria” and “Darlene’s Last Chance” were now on our property. Identification made, now a call to Bryant was in order. I didn’t have my phone! My heart was pounding loudly with excitement. I tried urging the girls to the feeding area with the bucket of feed I was carrying, but patience is not their strong point.
At that moment I saw my husband enter the trail. So, didn’t “Darlene’s Last Chance” as she left me, heading in his direction to complete a body search for feed. I asked if he recognized them and he called out “Maria?” I confirmed his guess as I made my way to the pen area.
Now that “Maria,” “Darlene’s Last Chance,” and a palomino mare we call “Honey Girl,” were penned, we began sending pictures to Bryant. We had to prove to him we weren’t “horsing around.” The girls were really here. His response: “heading your way.”
The only thing left to do was to get our son out there to surprise him with “Maria.”
Confession. We never told him she was missing! I know! It was one of those “You tell him, no you tell him” kind of things. So, we told him to come out and look at “a horse.” It took him a few minutes and then a smile took over his face. To this day he believes she crossed the river just to come home and see him.
And who really knows, maybe she did?!
The next day Bryant stopped by to check on things. I was still riding high from the arrival of “Maria” and “Darlene’s Last Chance.” Walking from the woods, Bryant shouted, “Girl you really have got them gentle. That was too easy.” That compliment should have launched me onto cloud nine. Especially when coming from an expert horseman and my mentor!
Instead, I felt like a ton of bricks had been dropped on me. “You trapped them?” At that very second, I had a thousand thoughts swimming in my head. And just as many emotions flowing through my body. “Yep, they’re all in there,” he responded.
The “Mountain Gang” was trapped on August 28, 2018.
Over the years of our friendship, Bryant has tried to explain his feelings when removing one of his horses from the mountain. Even knowing he was doing the best thing for them in his heart, he felt as though he was betraying their trust. Every time the trap closed on another unbridled spirit, it hurt him to his very core.
As I walked toward the trap area with Bryant, I could see the gang standing around inside. Closed trap. No exit available for my friends. I couldn’t even look at “Samson.” I had betrayed him. Took their trust and used it against them. Every fiber of my being wanted to open that trap and scream “RUN!”
My soul was sad.
Load Em’ Up, Move Em’ Out
It was almost dusk when Bryant returned with a trailer. My husband was now home, and we walked out to the trap area to begin the process of the removal. As he got out of the truck, Bryant looked at me and said, “I’m not gonna look at you because I don’t want to see you cry.”
It took two trips and a couple of hours, but in the end, we removed eleven horses that made up my “Mountain Gang.”
We trailered them to Chahta Isuba Ranch temporarily. Since then the “Mountain Gang” has been dispersed to different locations. Five of the mares and their foals are at one pasture, while Samson, Tiger’s Dancer, and her filly are running on another. All of them are adjusting well.
Samson has lost a few pounds, a consequence that comes with removing them from their open range areas. We are confident he will gain it back once he settles into his new surroundings. He is putting together a new band of mares. We are excited to see which ones he ends up with!
“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” ~ Frank Herbert.
Removed from their running grounds. Their home. We say “removed for their own good.” For their safety. They’re no longer able to run fence-free.
These horses lived off of what Mother Nature provided, surviving through her hardships. Learning to navigate through tough situations and human haters. Having the stamina to thrive from one generation to the next.
The Mustang has given so much to the human. Working for us during wartime, carrying people and possessions on their backs, working our fields, and providing us with entertainment. In return, we ask for their removal. They have become a “nuisance.”
Most of us in our lifetime will see things come full circle. I hope one day we all learn what our ancestors must have recognized. The horse is of utmost value, and imperative in keeping us moving from one generation to the next. Isn’t it time we acknowledge the need for the Colonial Spanish Horse? I believe with little effort, we can work together for the benefit of all. ~ ‘Mamma D’
(Photos above by Bryant Rickman)
‘Namaste’ and ‘Mamma D’
Note: Selfishly I wish I could lay eyes on my “Mountain Gang” every day! I miss seeing my handsome “Samson” and his mares daily. Even though my head understands their removal was needed to keep them safe my heart aches every day with their absence.
Of course, there will be follow-ups!!
If you are shopping for the holiday you can help support the horses by choosing the Oklahoma Heritage Horse Sanctuary as your charity. Click on the link and you’ll see how easy it really is! Winter is here and ‘Namaste’ and her family can use all the hay and feed they can get with the help of our friends and supporters like you!!! Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!