You Can Lead a Horse to Water. . .Or Can You?
Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah sits on a cliff 2000 feet above the powerful Colorado River. Its name comes from the dozens of wild mustangs who, in the 1800's, died of thirst within sight of life-saving water below.
There are two versions of this story.
A military installation at the top of the cliff had to be abandoned at some point during the 1800's. During the U.S. occupation of this land, the wild mustangs who ran the canyons at will had been contained in a corral at the top of a cliff (the point of view from which the picture was snapped).
Here the story diverges.
Version I: The corral gate was left open as the military departed, but the mustangs had grown so used to being contained there, that they did not know enough to leave. They starved of thirst there, only a couple of thousand feet from water, which they must have smelled as it drifted up the arid cliffs.
Version II: Someone forgot to leave the gate open as the military departed and the mustangs were accidentally left to die.
I find myself haunted and still slightly obsessed by their hideous deaths. All those long, slender bones found in the corral years later. Their dying howls echoing in the canyons below. The more I think on it, the more difficult it is to see clearly which is the darker cruelty here: the imprisonment of the horses’ bodies or the brainwashing of their minds.
Don’t we all face similar dilemmas in life? When and why do we accept the locked gate instead of knocking down the corral fence? And how damaging is it to allow ourselves to accept, without investigation, a limited view of what we can do and be?
Linda Lee McDonald
I live comfortably poor in Oklahoma City, have a backyard garden in constant need of a weedeater manicure, am visited by birds every day when they bathe in my mixing bowl birdbath, and am blessed with my two rescue dogs, Jake and Roxie, who save me every day of my life.