Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston

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9781416553366: Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston

In 1950, Velma Johnston was a thirty-eight-year-old secretary enroute to work near Reno, Nevada, when she came upon a truck of battered wild horses that had been rounded up and were to be slaughtered for pet food. Shocked and angered by this gruesome discovery, she vowed to find a way to stop the cruel round-ups, a resolution that led to a life-long battle that would pit her against ranchers and powerful politicians but eventually win her support and admiration around the world. This is the first biography to tell her courageous true story . . . Like Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, or Temple Grandin, Velma Johnston dedicated her life to public awareness and protection of animals. Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs follows Velma from her childhood, in which she was disfigured by polio, to her dangerous vigilante-style missions to free captured horses and document round-ups, through the innovative and exhaustive grassroots campaign which earned her the nickname "Wild Horse Annie" and led to Congress passing the "Wild Horse Annie Bill" to her friendship with renowned children's author and horse-lover Marguerite Henry . . . A powerful combination of adventure, history, and biography, Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs beautifully captures the romance and magic of wild horses and the character of the strong-willed woman who made their survival her legacy . . .

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About the Author:

 David Cruise and Alison Griffiths began writing together in 1983 and are the authors of seven bestselling books, including Fleecing the Lamb, Lords of the Line, Net Worth, On South Mountain, and The Great Adventure. Griffiths hosted the acclaimed financial television show “Maxed Out,” for three years and she writes the nationally syndicated columns, Alison on Money and Me and My Money.  They have two daughters and divide their time between their small farms in southwestern Ontario and Brooksville, Florida. Please visit wildhorseanniestory.com

 David Cruise and Alison Griffiths began writing together in 1983 and are the authors of seven bestselling books, including Fleecing the Lamb, Lords of the Line, Net Worth, On South Mountain, and The Great Adventure. Griffiths hosted the acclaimed financial television show “Maxed Out,” for three years and she writes the nationally syndicated columns, Alison on Money and Me and My Money.  They have two daughters and divide their time between their small farms in southwestern Ontario and Brooksville, Florida. Please visit wildhorseanniestory.com

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

-FOUR-
The Road to Reno

EXCEPT FOR TWO weeks of holidays in the summer and a week at Christmas, Velma rose before the sun every Monday, the day she left for her other life in Reno. Getting up was always a chore; she uncoiled herself one limb at a time, waiting a minute or two to allow the ache to subside. She took care not to exert too much pressure on any single joint. Once she was up, she felt some relief.

It was a matter of pride to Velma that no one, not even Charlie, realized the full extent of her discomfort. If anyone noticed a wince or gasp she couldn’t stifle, she’d retort dismissively, “I’m middle-aged and still kicking! A little twinge here and there isn’t going to do me in yet. All I need is a tight girdle and a case of hair spray to keep me going.”

Most Mondays Charlie was still asleep and snoring heavily in his bed near the fireplace when Velma brewed a pot of strong coffee and smoked her first cigarette of the day. Then she’d slip into her tattered, fringed leather jacket, check the pocket for carrots, and stroll across the fields and down toward the river to caress Hobo’s nose and say good-bye for the week. Horses are simple animals, all stomach and fear, food and flight, but in times of calm the gut rules. The old admonition about “give ’em an inch” must have been written with a horse in mind. Charlie didn’t like her hand-feeding the horses, knowing they could become nippy and aggressive. But Hobo was a gentleman who waited patiently until the treats were offered.

Each Monday Velma left herself enough time to stop for coffee and a chat with her mother before she was due at the office. From the ranch it was only twenty-six miles to Reno, but it took close to an hour on the twisting gravel road, an interlude that allowed her to make the transition from the Double Lazy Heart to the busiest insurance company in the region. Velma drove confidently, even a bit aggressively, a cigarette spiraling smoke from the dashboard ashtray.

One spring morning in 1950 the trip passed uneventfully until she caught up with a livestock truck. Despite a postwar population boom, there were fewer than sixteen hundred licensed vehicles in the state, three-quarters of them in the Las Vegas area, so any traffic this early in the morning on a lightly traveled road in west central Nevada was unusual. The old truck with wooden slat sides and a canvas roof was obviously heavily loaded; it moved slowly, kicking up puffs of dust in its wake. As Velma pulled closer looking for an opportunity to pass, she noticed a dark fluid glistening on the bumper and dripping onto the road. Blood. She suspected it came from an injured steer or sheep.

Though accidents happened when transporting livestock, especially along rough roads in the spring with potholes formed in the frost-heaved ground, ranchers were usually careful hauling cattle or sheep because they were paid by the pound on the hoof. On long trips, stressed livestock lost weight, which meant money gone from the rancher’s pocket. It was worse if there were serious injuries, since the slaughterhouse would refuse animals that couldn’t walk off the truck. The law required livestock haulers to stop regularly to feed and water the animals at a secure facility where they could be unloaded and reloaded safely. However, it was different for animals not intended for human consumption. The Killer Rate Exemption spared truckers the time spent watering or feeding the animals en route.

The livestock in the truck might also have come from one of the so-called tax-dodge ranches, operations with absentee owners notorious for their neglect of their animals. All they were interested in was the tax write-off for ranching. Nevada had more than its share of such ranchers because the state offered generous incentives to attract and keep people on the land. After mining activity dropped off in the postwar years, ranching became the state’s lifeblood, and the Nevada tax structure was aimed at providing the best possible environment for ranchers. Free of state income taxes, ranchers could put every penny they made back into their operations. And when they died, there were no worries about crippling inheritance taxes, forcing children to sell the land their parents had worked for decades.

There were also federal government concessions and healthy subsidies for those who would grow food on the hoof or in the ground. No one wanted a repeat of the exodus that had occurred during the dust bowl years, a flight from farm and ranching communities that had never been completely reversed, despite innumerable government programs aimed at repopulating rural land. While incentives breathed some life back into ranching, they also attracted those who saw an opportunity for an easy tax credit, a hobby, or a get-rich-quick scheme. Native Nevadans dismissed the tax-write-off ranchers as carpetbagging easterners. But many of the well-to-do in Las Vegas and Reno owned ranches for the tax benefits.

As Velma followed the listing truck, the dribble of blood increased until it was a steady flow, too much for a single hurt animal. She hated the idea of animals suffering but no one, especially ranchers, liked busybodies. Still, Velma decided it was her duty to alert the driver in case he didn’t know. She followed the truck into the Sparks stockyards, four miles east of Reno’s downtown.

Velma walked over and peered through a gap in the slats, expecting to find cattle or sheep. Instead she saw a horrifying tableau of mutilated horses, some barely alive. Her eyes caught sight of a colt, or what was left of him, lying trampled, his bones crushed and coat blood-soaked. A number of horses had bloody stumps instead of legs. Others had sections of their hooves torn off and hides shredded by buckshot. A stallion stood with his head bowed, blood seeping from empty eye sockets. He had been blinded to subdue him. It was only the tight quarters that kept many of the horses upright. A penetrating stench, the combination of blood, urine, and feces, rose from the truck while flies swarmed over the brutalized animals, jammed so tightly they couldn’t flick the insects away with their tails.

“Where did these horses come from and why are they in such terrible condition?” Velma gasped.

“Oh, they were run in by plane out there,” the driver replied, indicating the hills of the Comstock Lode.

Velma was sensitive when it came to animals, but she wasn’t squeamish. She’d stood by Charlie when he’d been forced to put a calf out of its misery after a birth gone wrong, and then there were all those puppy litters. She’d hardly shed tears since her days in the polio cast. But what she saw on that truck was beyond anything she’d ever experienced.

“No point in crying your eyes out over a bunch of useless mustangs,” the driver told her. “They’ll all be dead soon anyway.”

VELMA WAS ETERMINED to do something about the atrocity she’d witnessed at the Sparks stockyards—but what? There was no wildlife protection agency to call, no advocacy group to alert. She didn’t even know if the capture and brutalization of wild horses was illegal. Velma was a right-of-center Republican who followed politics in the newspaper, but she had neither government connections nor any direct experience of the political process. Though she had a passing acquaintance with the wealthy, politically active James Slattery, who owned property near the Double Lazy Heart, she didn’t know him well enough to call on him for advice.

After a sleepless night, Velma resolved to learn as much as she could about wild horses. For the next week she arrived at work an hour ahead of schedule and left an hour early in order to spend time at the library before it closed. She found a few files of relevant newspaper clippings and a handful of magazine articles. Most were romantic pieces extolling the chase of mustangs for sport or stories of legendary wild horses like the Pacing White Mustang of the Cimarron, who eluded his frustrated pursuers for decades. There were plenty of local news stories about marauding stallions stealing mares from ranchers and later being captured or shot. She found dozens of place names throughout the West that commemorated mustangs—Wild Horse Mountain, Red Horse Creek, Red Roan River, Wild Horse Plains, Broomtail Flat, Pony Hills, Mustang Bayou, Wild Horse Gap, and Mestano Mesa—but very little information about the horses that inspired those names.

There were books by admirers and students of the wild horse, authors such as the famous Texas folklorist and mustanger Frank Dobie, who opined that there were plenty of dumb men in the world but he had never come across a dumb mustang. “No one who conceives him as only a potential servant to man can apprehend the mustang,” he observed. “The true conceiver must be a true lover of freedom—a person who yearns to extend freedom to all life. Halted in animated expectancy or running in abandoned freedom, the mustang was the most beautiful, most spirited, and most inspiring creature ever to print foot on the grasses of America.”1

Other mustangers wrote fulsome, self-aggrandizing accounts of their escapades; a few offered poignant descriptions of an era and a vocation that were receding into history by 1950. Wild horses had been pursued from Mexico to Canada for over three centuries. Most old-time mustangers had at least a grudging respect for their prey. Many were professionals whose livelihoods depended on capturing as many horses as possible, but the animals had to be in good condition or they couldn’t be sold.

A few mustangers became celebrities, their exploits and record numbers of captures admiringly reported in the popular press. Former buffalo hunter Buffalo Jones reinvented himself as a flamboyant mustang showman in the tradition of Buffalo Bill Cody, and in 1912 he staged a mustang chase through the streets o...

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Book Description Scribner Book Company, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. In 1950, Velma Johnston was a thirty-eight-year-old secretary enroute to work near Reno, Nevada, when she came upon a truck of battered wild horses that had been rounded up and were to be slaughtered for pet food. Shocked and angered by this gruesome discovery, she vowed to find a way to stop the cruel round-ups, a resolution that led to a life-long battle that would pit her against ranchers and powerful politicians--but eventually win her support and admiration around the world. This is the first biography to tell her courageous true story.Like Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, or Temple Grandin, Velma Johnston dedicated her life to public awareness and protection of animals. Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs follows Velma from her childhood, in which she was disfigured by polio, to her dangerous vigilante-style missions to free captured horses and document round-ups, through the innovative and exhaustive grassroots campaign which earned her the nickname Wild Horse Annie and led to Congress passing the Wild Horse Annie Bill, to her friendship with renowned children s author and horse-lover Marguerite Henry.A powerful combination of adventure, history, and biography, Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs beautifully captures the romance and magic of wild horses and the character of the strong-willed woman who made their survival her legacy. . Bookseller Inventory # APC9781416553366

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Book Description Scribner Book Company, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.In 1950, Velma Johnston was a thirty-eight-year-old secretary enroute to work near Reno, Nevada, when she came upon a truck of battered wild horses that had been rounded up and were to be slaughtered for pet food. Shocked and angered by this gruesome discovery, she vowed to find a way to stop the cruel round-ups, a resolution that led to a life-long battle that would pit her against ranchers and powerful politicians--but eventually win her support and admiration around the world. This is the first biography to tell her courageous true story.Like Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, or Temple Grandin, Velma Johnston dedicated her life to public awareness and protection of animals. Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs follows Velma from her childhood, in which she was disfigured by polio, to her dangerous vigilante-style missions to free captured horses and document round-ups, through the innovative and exhaustive grassroots campaign which earned her the nickname Wild Horse Annie and led to Congress passing the Wild Horse Annie Bill, to her friendship with renowned children s author and horse-lover Marguerite Henry.A powerful combination of adventure, history, and biography, Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs beautifully captures the romance and magic of wild horses and the character of the strong-willed woman who made their survival her legacy. . Bookseller Inventory # APC9781416553366

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Book Description Scribner. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 320 pages. Dimensions: 8.9in. x 5.9in. x 0.9in.In 1950, Velma Johnston was a thirty-eight-year-old secretary enroute to work near Reno, Nevada, when she came upon a truck of battered wild horses that had been rounded up and were to be slaughtered for pet food. Shocked and angered by this gruesome discovery, she vowed to find a way to stop the cruel round-ups, a resolution that led to a life-long battle that would pit her against ranchers and powerful politicians but eventually win her support and admiration around the world. This is the first biography to tell her courageous true story . . . Like Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, or Temple Grandin, Velma Johnston dedicated her life to public awareness and protection of animals. Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs follows Velma from her childhood, in which she was disfigured by polio, to her dangerous vigilante-style missions to free captured horses and document round-ups, through the innovative and exhaustive grassroots campaign which earned her the nickname Wild Horse Annie and led to Congress passing the Wild Horse Annie Bill to her friendship with renowned childrens author and horse-lover Marguerite Henry . . . A powerful combination of adventure, history, and biography, Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs beautifully captures the romance and magic of wild horses and the character of the strong-willed woman who made their survival her legacy . . . This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9781416553366

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Book Description Scribner Book Company, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In 1950, Velma Johnston was a thirty-eight-year-old secretary enroute to work near Reno, Nevada, when she came upon a truck of battered wild horses that had been rounded up and were to be slaughtered for pet food. Shocked and angered by this gruesome discovery, she vowed to find a way to stop the cruel round-ups, a resolution that led to a life-long battle that would pit her against ranchers and powerful politicians--but eventually win her support and admiration around the world. This is the first biography to tell her courageous true story.Like Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, or Temple Grandin, Velma Johnston dedicated her life to public awareness and protection of animals. Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs follows Velma from her childhood, in which she was disfigured by polio, to her dangerous vigilante-style missions to free captured horses and document round-ups, through the innovative and exhaustive grassroots campaign which earned her the nickname Wild Horse Annie and led to Congress passing the Wild Horse Annie Bill, to her friendship with renowned children s author and horse-lover Marguerite Henry.A powerful combination of adventure, history, and biography, Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs beautifully captures the romance and magic of wild horses and the character of the strong-willed woman who made their survival her legacy. . Bookseller Inventory # LIE9781416553366

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