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A Cowboy's Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs

by H. Alan Day with Lynn Wiese Sneyd

Pub Date: March 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8032-5335-3
Publisher: Bison/Univ. of Nebraska

With the assistance of literary publicist and author Sneyd, rancher Day (co-author, with sister Sandra Day O’Connor: Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest, 2002, etc.) delivers a lively report of his four years tending 1,500 unadoptable wild mustangs.

When Day embarked on a project to release a large herd of wild mustangs that had been rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management, it was uncharted territory. The author had recently acquired 35,000 acres of undulating grassland prairie in southern South Dakota that he felt was ideal for turning out the horses to roam. In a warm, salt-of-the-earth manner—“Good luck had stuffed itself in my pocket long ago, and adventure had been my friend since I was old enough to scramble on the back of Chico...trying my five-year-old darnedest to keep up with the big cowboys”—Day recounts how he was able to get the BLM, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Congress to support the program. Soon, he found himself with a rambunctious collection of mustang rejects. Day passionately explains what it is like to learn ranching in the Sand Hills and how to tame the wild horses, which, under their normal conditions, would prefer to have little to do with humans—e.g., when Kevin Costner dropped by to see if Mustang Meadow Ranch would be suitable for filming part of Dances with Wolves, upsetting the horses in the process: “A few horses started pawing the ground. They began to vibrate like a hive of irritated bees, their heads now alert, their tails swishing….Within a minute, the herd was stampeding.” There was an ugly finale to the project but not before Day brought to life the ranch and its wild array of flora and fauna.

A fresh, occasionally biting report from the early days of a mustang sanctuary.