The Advocate, the Guard and the Force of the Horse at Christmas

original story by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/Director of HfH Advisory Council

A Christmas Story for the Wild Ones

He checked the time again.  Not an easy maneuver as he had to take his right glove off, shove the left cuff of his parka up, peel back the wrist band of his left glove and then hit the backlight button on his Casio $19.99 special.  Only bought the stupid thing because of the digital thermometer feature it offered and now he wished it didn’t have it as it chilled his insides just looking at the numbers, 33 degrees inside the protection of his parka.

The shivering cold almost kept him from observing the time, 2148 hrs; he thought that was what it said eons ago.  If it weren’t for the seconds blinking and counting down he would have sworn that the watch had frozen and no longer worked.  He tapped the crystal just for good measure and recoiled a bit as the tip of his index finger reverberated with pain from the simple move.  Almost frost bitten he readjusted his left sleeve and hurriedly put his right glove back on.

‘Rotten cold’ he thought.  Brought back memories of sleeping in ditches in Afghanistan in the dead of winter, thoughts he could have lived without.

He stomped the ground, gave himself a big bear hug and began walking towards the compound’s gate.

‘Maybe walking will generate some heat, besides, I wonder what that stranger is up to on top of the ridge.  Better check the gate to make sure everything is secure.’

His feet crunched on the thin layer of snow that blanked the darkened world.  One solitary utility light blazed above the cramped trailer office but with the snow it was bright enough to see down the drive to the compound’s gate some 75 yards away.  The drive was bordered on both sides by holding pens with extra tall fencing.  They were deathly quiet, tonight but that would change in a few days when the “gather” started.

He picked up his pace towards the gate as he was anxious to put the glare of the light behind him so that he could see better in the dark.  Earlier in the evening he had seen headlights crest the hill to the north and head towards the compound.  The two lights slowed just a few hundred yards from the gate and then blinked out.  He could tell that the vehicle was a diesel as he could hear the rumble of the beast idling but now all was silent.  He hadn’t seen it depart and knowing that someone or something was lurking in the dark, watching, unnerved him.

He shivered as he walked, not so much from the cold but from the deadly memories that overtook him.  In his mind images of darkness, glinting movement and the flash of a mortar rocket launch exploded in his head.  He shook himself, again, in a successful effort to bring himself back to the reality of the moment and found himself sweating in the cold.  He just could not shake Afghanistan from his life, not that he wasn’t trying.  He was now home with his wife, she wanted to start a family, his father wanted him to take over the family business and the VA had helped him find this job with the Bureau of Land Management but the gun on his hip and acting as a guard still conjured up demons that were best left in the dark.

He reached the gate and came to a stop.  All was quiet, he hadn’t realized how noisy the snow had been as it crunched under his boots but now while standing still he could hear absolutely nothing, except his own heart beating, nothing else.

Then he heard a sound, a click or a crack like someone stepping on a stick.  Instinctively, he dropped to a squat, pulled out his side arm and aimed in the direction of the sound.  It all happened so fast, so smooth, so finely orchestrated that he actually startled himself in his reaction more than from hearing the sound.

“Whoa now”, came a deep voice from across the gate, “I don’t think you will be needing any firearms, tonight”.

He slowly stood and lowered his hand gun but continued to stare into the darkness from where the voice had emerged.

“Who are you and what are you doing?” he demanded.

“My name is of no importance and I am simply observing, thinking, pondering and maybe even praying.” The voice replied.

“This is Federal property and you have no business being here, particularly at this time of night.”

There came a small chuckle from the darkness, “I beg to differ. This Federal land is public land and I am the public.  Secondly, I am not crossing any fence line nor am I within your compound so as I see it, I am out of your jurisdiction.”

“Fair enough,” the guard replied as he deftly holstered his fire arm on his right and reached for a holster on his left.

“I said no fire arms”, charged the voice with and obvious elevation in intensity.

“No gun, just a light” and with a smart click a beam of searing light tore across the cold Nevada night and lit up the snow covered desert.

His aim was good and true and if it had been a gun, instead of a torch, the stranger would have been shot dead through the heart as he was centered directly in the focused light beam.

The stranger quickly put one gloved hand up to shield his eyes.

“Alright already, kill the theater lights you are ruining my night vision”, the stranger exclaimed, “A little bit of a warning would have been nice.”

The guard’s trained eyes quickly accessed the stranger; relatively trim, tall, worn boots, jeans, parka, rancher gloves, scarf, black Tom Mix style hat with a colorful Indian beaded headband, glasses glinted from under the brim, white beard, a shock of white hair visible from behind the neck and a large thermos mug in the right hand.  His brain registered; ‘Minimal threat’.

He lowered the light so that it illuminated the snowy ground half way between them and in the diffused light from below they were both cast into a curious world of unnatural shadows.

The stranger had been leaning against the outside of the large hinge post for the galvanized gate.  He had straightened up when the light nearly blinded him so now he walked forward and stood directly opposite the guard at the center of the gate.

“What’s you name?” the guard asked with an edge in his tone.

The stranger took a sip from his covered mug, sighed and in so doing let out of cloud of steam.  He paused for a moment as if carefully considering his answer before he replied.

“My name is not important, but it is important for you know that I am an advocate, an advocate for the Wild Horses.  I am hear to witness the atrocity that is about to befall this herd that deserves to be left alone.”

“So in a nutshell you are a nut case.”  the guard scoffed.  He was warned about these types, in fact that was why he was here, on Christmas Eve, to ensure that these horse hugging, weirdo liberals did not do any property damage to the horse holding compound.  He had been told by BLM management that they had creditable evidence that the gather was going to be disrupted by civil disobedience which could include property damage, protests, 4-wheelers, you name it.  These crazies were Eco-terrorists and as a decorated veteran, he was the perfect man to protect his country’s property.  Not that he bought all the hype but he sure could use the time and a half for Christmas Eve and the double time that he would receive once the clock clicked over to midnight.  He was trying to start a new life with a wife that he had not seen in two years and the added money would help to make her smile.  But on the other side of the coin, he had not been with her on Christmas since they were married  a little over two short years ago, before his deployment.  That thought stung his heart and he struggled to bring himself back to the moment.  He fought the urge to look at his watch again.

“If that’s what you want to call me, nutcase will work as I have been called worse.” the stranger countered, “In reality the horses call me Grey Mane so if you need a name you can call me G.M. for short.”

“Sure, so G.M. what’s your business here, in the middle of the night?”

“Just watching and listening”, the advocate mused.  “You know, one of the bands of wild horses is just over that ridge to the west, only about half a mile from where you are standing.  It’s a bright and thriving group.  Ten family members in all including the stallion, mares and foals.  I was sitting up there observing their serenity in the moonlight, thinking about how they only have a few hours left to live, to live free as a family, to live on the land that the U.S. Congress gave them before your agency will meanly drive them into a trap and rip their family apart and shatter their freedom forever.  That’s what I was doing.”

“What are you talking about?” asked the guard.  He was beginning to fidget a bit as the strangers word seemed to drill down to his soul and he did not know why but it made him very uncomfortable.  The confidence and sincerity in which the stranger spoke was extremely unnerving.

“Do you mean you do not know?”

“I don’t have a clue about what you are saying, besides you still have not answered my question.”

“How long have you worked for the BLM?”

“That’s not important nor is it any of your business, just tell me why you are here.”

“No problem there, I am here to witness for the horses.  I will log, photograph, document and note everything that occurs.  I will be a presence of compassion and resistance for all that is happening.  Perhaps I will stand alone as I do now or maybe I will be joined by others.  It doesn’t matter as long as someone is here.  So if you really don’t know what’s afoot, here, I gauge your employment to be under 90 days.”

That last observation caught the guard unprepared, so much so that he almost dropped the light as the stranger was spot on.  He hadn’t been back from the war more than 90 days and had only collected three pay checks from his new job.  He would hit 60 days after the first of the year, next week.

With a bit of a quiver in his voice the guard continued:

“That’s all nonsense, what the BLM is doing is good management.  If they did not capture all of these horses they would starve to death and die.  This is an act of humanity and a proper response from our government.  You can’t just leave all these horses out here to fend for themselves, they need proper care.”

There was an extended pause from the stranger, he lowered his head, put his right hand to his chin then looked straight ahead at the guard;

“I ask for the right to revise my earlier estimate, 60 days or less, that’s the amount of time that you have been exposed to the BLM, right?.”

“What the hell are you talking about, man?” snapped the guard.  Clear desperation could be heard in his voice and seen in his stance.

“No worries; let me ask you a question.  What are you doing for the next couple of hours?”  the stranger asked and through the low lighting a smile could be detected between the white beard and mustache.

“Guarding this place from the likes of you, I reckon.”  The guard answered but even though he was flustered the tone of the stranger had a calming and settling effect upon his jangled nerves. ‘How did he know’, he mused.

“How about a hot, maybe warm, cup of coffee?” the advocate asked.

“Not out of the same mug I hope.”

The stranger smiled, again, “No I have a full thermos.  Now I am going to reach into may parka very slowly for the thermos so don’t draw your gun.”, there was a bit of a giggle in his voice.

The advocate pulled out from under his coat a personal sized, stainless steel thermos and handed it across the gate to the guard.

“You don’t have any poison mixed in there do you?”

“Depends upon what your definition of poison is.  If you consider Bailey’s Irish Cream to be poison then consider that laced coffee to be extremely dangerous.  Otherwise, it might just warm up your innards.”

They both laughed a little and it became obvious that the chill between them was beginning to melt by a degree or two.

The guard poured a copious amount of hot coffee into the top of the thermos and went to hand it back to the advocate who quickly waved him off.

“No, that’s for you, my coffee mug’s meter is still pegged at full. Now, back to our discussion about horses, let me give you a little bit of background.  A little conversation will warm up my facial muscles while that coffee warms you up from inside out.”

The advocate stepped forward, leaned on the gate and began to speak in low and gentle tones.  He took the guard back to Mustang Annie and the unanimous passage of the ROAM act which guaranteed the wild horses a place to live.  He told of the gradual erosion of the law perpetuated by the guard’s employer.  He talked of the grazing leases, of private cattle out numbering wild horses 400 to 1.  He pulled out his iPhone and showed pictures of fat, plump and happy wild horses.  He showed movies of the horror and brutality of helicopter driven gathers, the PZP, the injunctions and the failure of the BLM to follow the law and listen to the people.  He told him of the lies, of Don Glenn speaking to the world of how transparent and open the BLM would be while horses were found shot to death as a secret gather was taking place.  He explained that the BLM’s Director, Bob Abbey, was planning to speak at a horse slaughter summit.  The guard learned that the thousands of horses that would be pulled from his area would be the end of the herd, the end of hundreds of years of free life, the destruction of one of the most unique wild communities in the United States.

And the guard learned that the advocate was not very different from the likes of himself.  His late night mentor was a veteran of earlier conflicts, he had a life, a job, a family and aspirations just as the guard did.  But the advocate also had convictions and the drive to stand up for what he felt to be right and for that the guard respected him as he knew the value of conviction and duty.  He understood it well.

The spell of the advocate’s stories was broken by the electronic buzzing from the guard’s watch.

“What’s that?” the advocate asked.

“My alarm, I set it to notify me when I went into double time.”

“So it’s midnight?”

“Yup, midnight it is.”

“Then I would like to wish you a heartfelt Merry Christmas, my friend.”  said the advocate as he extended a gloved hand over the gate.

The guard quickly clasp his hand in his and used his left hand to grab the advocates wrist, they heartily pumped each other’s arm up and down.

Reluctantly they released the other’s hand and stared across the gate in a clumsy silence when a sound to the west caught both of their attention.  They spun around to look up at the ridge.

While they had talked the full moon had begun to rise and was now just cresting the top of the ridge and as they looked for the sound that had interrupted their respite the lone silhouette of a wild horse arose over the ridge and stood clearly against the light of the moon.

They both stared as the magnificent figure gazed down upon them as the wind danced through it’s mane and tail.  While they were held transfixed; small, miniature ice crystals began to fall and lent a twinkling surreal atmosphere to the scene.  The tiny flakes came not from the clouds but from mountain tops far away, carried by the wind to fall upon their vision.

Far to the right of moon and over the horse a star pulsated and twinkled like a beacon and without any forewarning the shadow horse disappeared leaving only the sound of falling stones and a brief whirlwind of snow.  It was gone.

Neither of the men knew how long they had stood there until the guard broke the silence without mentioning what had just happened.

“You going back to town, tonight?”

It took the advocate a moment to answer as he turned to the guard  who was still looking up the ridge at the moon.

“Yes, I want to catch a few winks at the motel and be back here by first light.  Want to ensure that no chopper takes of early.  I know the date is a few days away but time, date, month, year; it all means nothing to your employer.”

“Not my employer, not anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“Gun, badge and ID card are being left on the desk in the trailer.  If you will give me a ride I will pick up my backpack and hitch a lift with you back to town.  Don’t live too far from the motel.”

“Well certainly, but what about your job?”

“That’s just it; it’s a job and not my life.  As an American I cannot work for nor represent something that is so foul and corrupt.  I am a veteran and this agency shames me.”

“But what will your wife and family say?”

“Hopefully; Merry Christmas.  I will finally give my father the answer he has been waiting for, taking over the family feed store that he has wanted me to do for years.  And my wife, I will have Christmas dinner with her tomorrow, something I have not done since we were married in a rush prior to my deployment to Afghanistan.  That will be two Christmas presents in one.”

“I should think so”, smiled the advocate.

“But there is one more to give, to give to the horses.”  added the guard.  “I would like to come out here with you in the morning to help you watch and to listen to what you have to say.  I would like to witness for the horses if you would have me.”

The advocate slowly leaned over, set his now empty mug in the snow and reached across the gate, “It would be an honor, my friend, and absolute honor”, and the two men embraced each other across the cold, galvanized gate yet they only felt a burning warmth from within.

“I’ll go drop off my vitals and get my bag, it will only take a second.” said the guard as he spun around and started to walk away.

“Hey”, called the advocate, “Aren’t you the least bit worried about leaving this place unguarded.” there was a touch of laughter in his voice.

“Not if the terrorists are a bunch of Bailey’s drinking thugs like you.” laughed the guard as his shadow grew longer with each step towards the trailer.  “Just hold on.”

The advocate smiled to himself and stomped his feet to get the blood flowing back through his near frozen toes.

He stood there for a moment and allowed his spirit to bask in the warm afterglow of recent events.

He turned, again, to look up the ridge where the horse had stood only moments before.  In that short lapse of time the moon had moved higher in the sky dragging the shining star with it but there was no hint of the horse.

He looked at the star, listened to the wind and noted that the star was brighter and more active in it’s pulsing than it was earlier.  As he gazed upwards it came to him that another birth was being celebrated this clear, cold Christmas morning.  The impact of that realization pushed a warm tear from his eye, down his ruddy cheek and into his beard.

His internal realization manifested itself onto his lips in the form of a big smile and he whispered as much to the Spirit as he did to himself.

“Thank you for the goodness that was born this day and for a new birth, a new beginning for another kind and gentle spirit.  Thank you for an additional voice for the horses, another guardian of their spirit.  Thank you for the new advocate.”

The wind answered with a swirl of snow, a twinkle of a star and the call of a wild horse many miles away.

He smiled in return.

26 comments on “The Advocate, the Guard and the Force of the Horse at Christmas

  1. What is Christmas about? Hope. Hope in the future. Faith. Faith in the goodness which guides us. Joy. Joy in the companionship of loving beings.

    Your story is a true Christmas tale. I got the distinct impression that our ruddy cheeked shocking white haired advocate was no other than our guardian of “doing good” – Santa Claus.

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  2. As I stood beside the mustang who share his life with me I felt him nuzzle into my hair sniffing as he went, sniffing my kneck, laying his head over my shoulder and making that wonderful clicking noise, I scratched him under his mane. I fit right in line with his head just short of his eye, I looked up looked at him and considered the other mustangs that are locked up that donot have the freedom that they. How do we reconcile what we are doing to them.
    I will stand for them and with them each day.
    Thank you for writing the story it moved me to tears.
    May you be blessed. elayne

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  3. RT WHAT A BEAUTIFUL WARM XMAS STORY TOLD IN SUCH REALITY. THE FIGHT FOR THE HORSES MUST GO ON. HOWEVER, I AM AFRAID IN THE NEAR FUTURE WE WILL BE FIGHTING AGAINST SLAUGHTER HOUSES AGAIN. WE MUST WORK WITH THE NEW MEMBERS OF CONGRESS SO THEY KNOW THE TRUE STORY OF WHAT IS TAKING PLACE.

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  4. You took me right to the scene…..if only, if only……ONE by ONE, people will understand that advocates are not violent people. We are trying to protect violence against the horses and the rupture of their lives. This story is like a book that you can’t put down and absolutely beautiful. Thanks for writing it, and most importantly sharing it!!!

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  5. If wishes were horses….oh! That’s right…they are and the advocates are those that beg for kindness, generosity and humanity for those magnificent animals.

    Merry Christmas, all and a positive new year for our equine friends, wild and domestic.

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  6. R. T. what a beautiful story. My wishes for all the wild horses to be free this time next year where they were rounded up and that no new slaughterhouses arise in the U.S. May we pass a congressional law that prohibits the transportation of our wild and domestic horses across U.S. borders to Richeleau or any other horrible destination. May we find homes for all those beautiful animals that we have been blessed to admire and love, and never have to confront this horrible BLM again. May our congress pass a law demanding the changeover of all people now heading that agency with those that have a genuine interest in our wild horses and burrows, and lastly, may the cattle ge taken off the ranges and our wild horses again may run, play, and enjoy their families for years and generations to come. What a beautiful Merry Christmas next year that would be and many Merry Christmases to come. GOd bless to all of the advocates and may we be successful in the next year to stop what is presently happening. Have a Merry Christmas and I wish we could all go out and wish those beautiful wild horses the same by giving them their families back and the freedom to enjoy the rest of their lives.

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  7. This so reminds me of the day Terri turned Ghost Dancer and Sage loose out at Wild Horse Sanctuary. I was taking lots of pics that morning both before the big moment and then for a short time afterwards.

    Dancer kept looking over to me like what is that box in front of your face. It was obvious that she was trying to figure me out. She seemed so curious. Dancer and Sage even came within 15 feet of me of their own free will looking for a way back to their old corral. It was hard leaving them but everyone seemed sure that they would adjust to their new found freedom quickly.

    It was so neat that Dancer was so interested in me. She looked and looked at me with her ears all pricked. Pretty as the day is long. It was no wonder to me that Terri fell for her as she did.

    Perhaps someday I’ll be able to tell her about the camera and that I was taking her pictures not just for myself but so that they could be shared with others who worried about her too. That the camera was a means to communication and it wouldn’t hurt her at all.

    What a special honor Terri gave me that day being her photographer for her horses. And Dancer and Sage have told Terri that they no longer want to be called that. That they have their own names but don’t feel comfy telling us them quite yet. So I call them that to distinquish them from other horses. Not because those are their horsie names.

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  8. As everyone has a Christmas wish, my wish is that the Wild Mustangs and Burros will be free to roam the lands without fear of death and slaughter from the BLM. I don’t want my fears to overtake the ever presence of the doom of the BLM. Please, please let this be so.

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  9. Well, as my dad use to say: Until you are better paid, thank you R.T for this marvelous story that brings most of us to tears, and gives us hope that we can turn the tide for many of them before it’s too late. Bright Blessings on you and yours, and the 4 leggeds we all love so deeply. Blessed Be!

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  10. R.T., thank you for this wonderful story. I’m a “visual thinker” and your words played out before my eyes like an illustrated book, a short film, or an animation. I hope your wonderful piece doesn’t stop here. It needs to move on to educate a wider audience on not only the plight of our wild ones, but the meaning of courage, commitment, and compassion.

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  11. God Bless our precious wild angels, our wild horses out there surviving every day. I pray for their continued freedom from roundups and turmoil. Thank you R.T. you are such a gifted writer who captures the essence of compassion. Sharing with others and teaching them about our horses plight is held in highest reverence with God the almighty. Beautiful story, thank you.
    As I witnessed my own rescue with my two new horse friends that have come into my life, Babe and Freedom Thunder, I am so blessed with the love and compassion that continues to grow daily from our moments of joy together. Only a true blessing comes from the sharing and caring for another soul so unique and special. Horses give so much to our lives and continue to show us strength, wisdom, power and love through their never ending determination of gifted spirit. May the force of the horse be with all of you and our friends as we continue to save, protect and defend our blessed wild horses. We are their voice forever, Amen.

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  12. There are daughters and grandaughters of the little girls that wrote those letters to Congress–those letters that helped Wild Horse Annie with the passage of the Wild Horse and Burro Act. Some of them, too, will be coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Those little girls that loved horses so much when they were little, have grown up to be strong and determined women. You can be certain that they still love horses every bit as much as they did when they were little. The big difference is that now, they understand how precious life is and that once taken, it cannot be replaced.

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  13. My favourite quote is from Mahatma Gandhi…
    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”

    How great are our two nations then ?
    You have horses and burros protected by law…yet see what the lawmakers and their minions are doing to the wild things. Here in Canada, our wild ones do not even have law on their side.
    Thank you for the Christmas story. It made me cry, and it also renewed my resolve to do what I can, as best I can, for the wild families who are under threat of extinction. Every person who can write, phone, fax, email, witness, record and spread the word needs to renew their committment as we approach another year. Thank you for this…for touching the heartstrings…for poking our consciences…for making us think of others at this special time of year. Merry Christmas to all…and may all the guardians and guardian angels keep the wild ones free and safe from man and management. And may all nations and people know peace and prosperity.

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  14. Thank You Rt for the wonderful story !!! I wish for everyone here to know the True Joy and Happiness and Love for Christmas, everyone here displays it all year round . I also wish that all here are granted the knowledge and the courage and the strength to bring to Our Wild Mustangs the FREEDOM they so well deserve……..

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