The mustangs are running. At the base of the Goshute Mountains, in the Great Basin of Northern Nevada – a vast plain of white salt beds, scraggly sagebrush and sways of apple green crested wheatgrass – a herd, forty strong, cuts through the high desert in a bleached storm of pale yellow dust. In the distance, spring snow slips off shaded mountain slopes and wildflowers paint the unfathomable emptiness of America’s western range. What would it be like to ride in the midst of those galloping hooves, I wonder? Clay Nannini, a local cowboy whose swagger would run John Wayne out of town, looks at me with the glint of a knowing eye, “like thunder.”
As we entered their meadow, a tide of mustangs – close enough to smell the sweat beading on their backs – swept in around us. I could see their muscles flexing, the nervousness shifting in their eyes. I was surrounded, immediately, by hundreds of wild, stamping hooves and dark, uncertain eyes. “It’s euphoria,” Madeleine had said, being close to those untamed animals. But it felt like a privilege too. They represent what the American west has, for many of us, come to mean – that untamed, boundless spirit near gone from these shores. To be close to them is to connect, perhaps, with something we all recognise in the annals of our shared past. In the distance a trail of white dust circled like mist on the edge of the valley. The mustangs were running, and I hoped they always would.
These extracts are taken from an original article published in The Times – Wild Mustangs (28/6/14)