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Oct 23, 2010

I wish I'd said this...

God forbid that I should go to a heaven
in which there are no horses
Robert Bontine Cunninghame-Graham 1852-1936

Ozark Trail Association Photo

Photo by Daniel, Fordland, Missouri

As I searched for a photo to illustrate the Cunninghame-Graham quote, above, I recalled a herd of wild horses I'd briefly glimpsed on a canoe trip, along the Current River in Missouri, almost 20 years ago. Long-time friend, Peter Marsh, had organized a gang of good ol' Ontario boys to spend a week paddling across and down the Ozark Plateau from Cedargrove to Van Buren. As our 12-canoe flotilla paddled past the point where the Jack Forks River merges with the Current, I saw a band of wild white horses stampeding along the shoreline and off into the woods. It was a fleeting moment and I wondered if I hadn't seen the ghosts of horses, instead of the real thing. Later, a local Missouran told me I had been lucky to get the glimpse I did and that there were people who had lived all there lives in the area and had never seen them. Sadly, I never got my camera out in time. Now, these many years later, I Googled 'Missouri Wild Horses'. It turns out these horses have been around for a hundred years and in that same year as my canoe trip (1992), the National Park Service was given permission to remove these nuisance horses from their federal land. Apparently, all hell broke loose and following action by good Ozark citizens, the Missouri Wild Horse League was formed and fought a 5-year battle to protect these horses in their home environment. President Clinton signed a bill in 1996 that declared the horses part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Today, the horses are thriving, and in the interests of maintaining a healthy balance in this situation, extra stallions are gelded and put up for sale occasionally, to a lucky few. I'll never forget my lucky glimpse at the last wild horses of the American mid-west.

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