A photographer of the McCullough Peaks mustangs and their range believes both deserve admiration and preservation.
“The land is precious and needs to be taken care of,” Dale Nichols said Aug. 24. “The wild horses are like icing on the cake.”
Nichols and about 40 others attended the celebration of two projects that benefit the mustangs, the Wild Horse Highway designation for a stretch of US 14-16-20 and an informational kiosk about the horses and their environment along that highway. The two efforts were led by Friends of a Legacy, a local nonprofit group dedicated to keeping mustangs wild and free.
Nichols’ dual sentiments were echoed by Grant Bulltail, a Crow elder who opened the celebratory program. Other speakers were Chad Krause, assistant field manager for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Cody office, and Luke Reiner, director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
“When I come here, I feel like I’m at home,” said Bulltail whose people once roamed northwest Wyoming, freely, as many wild horses once did. “I come here quite a bit. I feel like it’s a sacred place.”
Places like this in their primitive state have the most energy, he continued, representing a time when everything was free.
“I’m glad people are looking after the horses and the land,” Bulltail said. “We have to look after the land or we’re in trouble.”
Waving feathers to disperse cedar smoke, he delivered incantations to cleanse any evil and keep bad things away and to take care of the horses.
“The Earth is my energy. It gives us power and the will to live,” Bulltail said. “The Earth is our mother.”
He prayed for the horses, saying, “They represent freedom when we see them. They give us hope and remind us of the old days.”
The betterment of the McCullough mustangs and landscape is the goal of the 2006 memorandum of understanding between FOAL and the BLM, Krause said. He praised the collaboration.
“As an advocacy group, FOAL puts its money where its mouth is,” Krause said. “It’s an absolutely fabulous partnership,”
He enumerated FOAL’s contributions: more than $45,000 to the BLM’s fertility control program, more than 1,500 volunteer hours, assistance in cleaning reservoirs and eradicating salt cedar, development of water-supply systems, and promotion of the BLM’s adoption program for mustangs.
Krause congratulated FOAL on “the beautiful-looking kiosk” and the highway designation. The compliments were echoed by Reiner, who added acknowledgment for the state legislators involved in the “dedication of this beautiful stretch of highway.”
“It’s a magnificent sight to see where the wild horses run, wild horses that were a key and critical part of the West,” Reiner said. “The horses and Wyoming are intertwined.
“They’re a symbol of Wyoming. They’re free, and they’re pretty tough. I’m proud to team with you in this recognition. WYDOT’s designation lets everyone know the importance of these horses to us.”
An admirer of the horses, Ken Meronek attended the event and commented that the McCulloughs provide a refuge for him.
“I come out here all the time,” he said. “It’s my escape from summer tourists. You have the place to yourself.”