Once, somewhere in the middle-top of Nevada, I saw a mustang. It was once and never again. Wild horses are not an everyday sight in America even though, in every American’s ego, there’s a horse running wild and free. I was traveling north, alone, and would eventually travel east, and all around me was the expansive, oppressive Southwest. For miles I had been driving in silence without a single hint of fauna, human or otherwise. I was semi-hypnotized by a dirt backdrop that went on, on and on, and by the realization that I was leaving all this Western stuff behind me forever. For a change of scenery, I turned my head to look left, and there it was: a light brown horse running fast alongside my car with the mountains behind it, spraying dust from its feet like you see in movies. I’ve always told people I saw a mustang that day, though in truth I know nothing about horses and can barely tell a mustang from a mule, especially if both are running. But I grew up in the Southwest, where sagebrush is considered a flower and all horses are mustangs. So a mustang it was I saw that day, and it took my breath away. Last week, I read that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management was planning a roundup of 1,700 wild horses in eastern Nevada. This happens every so often, though it’s an event largely distanced from Americans not living in the West. For much of the 20th century, America’s wild horses were seen as pestilence, primarily by American ranchers, and they were treated as such. Wild horse carcasses, on the other hand, were profitable sources of glue, clothing, violin bowstrings and, most lucratively, pet food. More than a million horses were destroyed in the United States between 1900 and 1950.
more from Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set here.