If you haven’t seen this film yet – take a little time this evening to treat yourself to the spirit of the West and a cowboy’s passion.
The director of the movie says it best in her own words;
“When I first encountered Dayton Hyde he was living alone on 11,000 acres in the Black Hills of South Dakota, surrounded by the thundering hooves of horses and the music of song birds. His stories of the West and his passion for wildlife captivated me, and I knew I would be back to create a film about a man who found freedom in the horses he is saving. Twenty years later, Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde captures the essence of a man who as a cowboy, a poet and an inspiration, has handed his heart over to the West. The film looks back on his rich, diverse life and looks forward to his legacy, opening the eyes of a new generation to the beauty and fragility of what is left of this natural landscape.”
“A great journey starts with the first step.” – as the saying goes, so when are we leaving? Everyone has a story inside them, it just takes a little looking. My dad used to say, “If you write a page a day you can can finish one book a year.” That doesn’t sound so hard until you sit down to do it! We’re all looking forward to seeing some of your great short stories, if anyone wants to send them into the forum or write on Alec’s facebook wall. Don’t forget you can find all these stories and more at the gift shop, anytime.
The next book – or is it just The Beginning?? The Black Stallion stood seventeen hands tall, his dark coat glistening with renewed health and shining in the light of Alec Ramsay’s campfire. The night sky over the Arizona desert was a brilliant field of stars. Alec took comfort in their nearness and brightness, thankful that he and his horse were alive to share the night. He had given the Black one month’s total rest since their terrible trials on the high mesas of the Indian country.* Now, at last, the stallion was bucking and playing once again. Alec wished he too could forget the earthquakes that had rocked the mountains and the rain of fire that had fallen from the sky. The turmoil had seemed to herald the end of the world. The aftershocks from the earthquakes had continued for weeks, but finally the stillness of the Arizona desert had returned. The stallion moved away from the campfire, his black body well camouflaged in the darkness. He came to a stop when he reached the end of the lengthy longe line Alec had attached to his halter. His head turned in the direction of the south. He was a giant of a horse, with an inky mane and tail and eyes large in the night. There he stood, head and tail erect and nostrils wide, the image of horse perfection and beauty, as noble an animal as ever ranged those plains. Alec went to his horse and gazed with him to the south. Something was out there, he knew, and the Black was aware of it. But all Alec could see were tall cactus looming in the distance, their limbs outstretched to the sky. Alec realized once more how little the desert had changed since the beginning of time. True, the highway ran through it, but one had only to move off a few miles in any direction to know the overall look and feel of the desert, its vastness and majesty and, Alec admitted, the solitude he had grown to love. Alec remained close to the Black, smelling the scents of the desert mixed with those of his horse. “What do you see?” he asked aloud. The Black did not turn his head, and his eyes remained large and bright in the starshine. As Alec’s vision became clearer in the darkness, he made out what he thought were several antelope skimming over the distant plain. But he knew they might have been wild mustangs as well, and that could account for the Black’s restlessness. Alec led the Black into the trailer, reluctant to put him inside but having no alternative, lest the mustangs lure him away. The Black shoved his nose into Alec’s chest, and the warm breath of his nostrils felt good. Alec breathed the smell of his horse and, for the moment, forgot all his cares, everything but the joy of being with the Black. The stallion was settling down for the night, and Alec decided it was time for him to get some sleep too. Tomorrow would find them on the road again. There was no wind, and the dry air was gradually getting colder, perhaps to end with a frost before dawn. It didn’t matter to Alec. He had stable blankets for both of them. He pulled two blankets from the cab of the truck and stretched out beside his horse. Looking above the half doors at the rear of the trailer, he turned his eyes to the stars once more. He had never seen them so bright and numerous as they were that night. No wonder the Indians read their legends and prophecies in the night sky. Despite the millions upon millions of stars, there was too much emptiness up there, he decided. Space was boundless, extending in all directions. One had to believe in legends, as the Indians did, to understand the cosmos. He settled back more comfortably on the straw bedding. His eyes remained on the stars while desert sounds became sharper in the clear air. He heard the distant call of a coyote. It was soft yet piercing, very sad and heartrending, almost like the wail of a lost child. He shuddered at the loneliness of the cry. It was as if the coyote were calling for someone who would never come. Alec found Sirius, the Dog Star, in the night sky, gleaming far brighter than the other stars. Moving on, he found Lepus, the Hare, and his eyes followed the tracks of the great rabbit. Above Lepus he made out the constellation of Orion, easy to recognize by the three stars in the hunter’s belt. It was there his gaze remained. If he were to believe in legends and prophecies, as the Indians did, it was there that his life with a black horse had begun many years ago. He recalled going with his parents as a child to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Among the photos of the heavens taken by the world’s most powerful telescopes was a picture he would never forget. It was of the Horsehead Nebula in the constellation Orion, three light-years across and one thousand, five hundred light-years away from the earth. Directly in the center of the nebula, as plainly as one could see, was the head of a beautiful black horse, silhouetted against a curtain of glowing gas and illuminated by millions of stars.
This is a story Dad wrote in the late nineteen sixties. The Vietnam war was daily news, and it was the first time we had televised images of war’s horrors. There were a lot of huge events happening all over the world, assassination, nuclear threat, rockets, steps on the moon … Mr. Ed :)
Young and in LOVE. That’s the best… or is it? Hard choices, but it’s what we have, what was given to us – “to use or lose” – some would say. This story, the last my dad wrote, was kinda dark and the publisher has taken it out of print more than once, even though I personally think it’d make a really good movie. The beauty and spirit of the high desert brought him out here to the land of the Hopi and Navajo, where the Legend lives on.
Alec Ramsay jogged around the racecourse infield, his body very lean and taut beneath a heavy woolen sweat suit. The temperature was below freezing and the racing strip alongside him was flanked by ice and snow. A frigid wind blew down the stretch and he lowered his hooded head against it. Alec thought of himself as an outdoorsman and stayed indoors only when necessary. He jogged all year long to keep in shape, to keep his wind. A jockey needed strong legs and good wind. Jogging opened your lungs. It helped in the afternoon, when you raced. But that morning’s conditions were not normal even for December in New York, and Alec would have much preferred clear skies and a little higher temperature. While racing held many good memories for him, it also had taken its toll, just as it had for many other jockeys he knew. His hands were strong, thick and calloused, capable of moving with the quick skill of a musician—yet he felt an excruciating pain between the first two fingers of each hand where he held the reins when he rode. It was arthritis, the doctor had told him, which would be especially painful during the winter months. Alec shook his hooded head in dismay. Arthritis (which he had always associated with older people) while still a young man! To say nothing of the calcified pain he suffered from a mended collarbone. But falls and broken bones were part of racing. There would be still more pain in the years to come. How much physical resilience was left in his body? Alec wondered. How much longer could he go on? Alec had a good view of the Aqueduct’s empty grandstand and clubhouse as he jogged down the long stretch. High above the tiered floors and glass-encased newsroom were the videotape cameras fixed at the edge of the clubhouse roof. His gaze shifted to the track on the other side of the infield rail. It was sloppy with a light snow falling on it. He knew that today every rider should concentrate more on surviving than winning races. But that wouldn’t be. They had to race to win. And soon, for it was only three hours before the first race of the afternoon, the stands would be filled with thousands of hardy fans who could have stayed at home. Alec buried his face in the hood and lowered his eyes to the snowy ground before him. While he had to be there, he couldn’t be blamed for envying the riders who were racing in Florida and California during these cold winter months. Despite his sweating, he was wearing too much clothing to get loose the way he should. His knees were beginning to bother him too, and he hoped he wasn’t getting water on the knee like some of the other jocks. Anyway, he had a nice, warm whirlpool bath and a steam box to look forward to when he got to the jocks’ room. He’d get loosened up that way and lose a few more pounds while at it. Alec hoped he’d be able to get down to 104 pounds today. If he didn’t, Henry Dailey would have his head as a Christmas present. Their filly, Pam’s Song, was the lightweight in the race, assigned only 110 pounds, which meant with six pounds of tack Alec had to step on the scales weighing no more than 104, six pounds less than his usual weight. That was another reason for jogging and jogging and jogging. It gave him time to think, too, before riding. One had very little time to think on a racehorse. You just did it, moved when you had to move. His thoughts turned to Pam’s Song, the beautiful, strapping filly he would ride—a burnished blonde shade of chestnut, the color of her dam, not her sire, the Black. Yes, and the color too of the golden hair of her namesake, Pam. But he shouldn’t let himself think too much about Pam today, for Henry had told him it affected his riding. Henry was right. When Alec thought of the girl he loved, it was difficult to keep his mind on anything else. Pam had left Hopeful Farm for Europe over a month ago, leaving behind memories so vivid they would always be a part of him.* But Alec wanted more than that. He wanted to be with her during the Christmas break. This was the last day of the track meeting and he looked forward to a two-week vacation before racing resumed in January. If he could get away from duties at Hopeful Farm, he would fly to Europe if only for a few days. He had named the beautiful filly for Pam as a Christmas present to her. Alec’s gaze turned once more to the empty stands as he recalled the dark Saturday afternoon in November when Aqueduct was jam-packed with eighty thousand people watching the running of the classic Empire State Handicap. Pam had raced the Black that day—to prove to herself as well as to Henry and the huge throng of fans that she could hold her own with any male jockey in the land. Later, back at Hopeful Farm, she had said, “Letting me ride the Black was the greatest thing you could have done for anyone.” Alec remembered his answer. “You’re not just anyone, Pam. I love you.” “And I love you, Alec. More now than ever because I know what you gave up for me.” “I don’t want you to go, Pam. I want you to stay. We’ll get married.” He never doubted her love but it hadn’t been enough to keep her with him. Pam wanted more time to seek out new experiences and challenges, all that life offered one as young as she. “It’s too soon for both of us,” she had told him with tears welling in her eyes. “I’m not ready for marriage even if you think we are, Alec. And I think too much of marriage not to be ready for it. It’s the greatest challenge I’ll ever know and I want to make it work. I want to have more to give you than I can give you now. Please, Alec,” she pleaded. “I want to stay here with you but don’t let me change my mind. Let me grow up a little more, then we’ll be together always.”
So, do you want to go out to the barn? Is this work or a way of life? Just because it’s Saturday doesn’t mean you get to lay around in the hammock sipping some beverage of your choice. There’s always more work to do – that’s the critter way.
Here’s the next book chapter … when you get done with your chores put your feet up and enjoy what’s left of summer – ahhhh; FAN MAIL
“Dear Alec Ramsay,” the letter began, “I’ve wanted to write you a long time but was afraid you’d be too busy even to read my letter. I finally decided I just had to take a chance and write anyway. I know there’s no one else who would understand my love for a horse as much as you and I need your help very much.” Alec stopped reading and got off his seat on the tack trunk so the old man with him could rummage inside. “What are you looking for, Henry?” he asked. “The X-ray plates Doc Palmer took,” the trainer said. “The latest batch?” Alec asked. “Yeah, those.” “In the right-hand corner.” Removing the stack of negatives, the old man held them up to the morning sunlight coming through the doorway of the small room. He stared at the X rays, shook his head, then climbed up on the tack trunk and held the negatives against the bare light bulb. “You won’t find anything,” Alec said. “You never do.” “There just might be a speck we missed.” “There’s nothing,” Alec insisted. “The Black’s hoof healed long ago. We have the doc’s word for it. We have clean pictures and we know he’s acting right.” Mounting impatience with the old man made him add, “I don’t see why you keep looking for trouble, Henry. He was wild to run this morning. I haven’t seen him act so alive and well in months.” “You let him get away from you,” the old man said defensively. “You were supposed to take him for a sightseeing gallop and you didn’t.” “I couldn’t. As I say, he was wild. He felt good. He was bucking and playing all the way. You know yourself that he was still so fresh when we got back to the barn that it took the two of us to walk him.” “I know,” the old man said, still studying the pictures. Alec Ramsay turned back to the letter in his hand. “You want me to read this letter to you?” “Why not? Don’t you always read your fan mail to me?” “But sometimes you don’t listen.” “I’ll listen. I can work at the same time.” Henry Dailey held the X-ray negatives to the light bulb again and added, “Whoever is writing needs your help. Like maybe ten others a week you hear from. He loves horses as much as you do. Or maybe it’s from a girl this time?” Alec turned over the letter to read the signature. “No, it’s from a fellow. Someone named Steve Duncan. But you’re right so far … he loves horses as much as I do and he’s asking for help.” “Want me to go on?” the old man asked without taking his eyes from the negatives. “I can tell you the rest of it, almost word for word.” “No, let me read it to you. Maybe it’ll be different this time.” But different or not, Alec decided it was good knowing people were interested enough in him and the Black to write. If the day ever came when he and Henry became too busy to read such letters, it would be time to quit racing altogether. “From the newspapers I know you have the Black at Hialeah Park this winter and may race him before long,” Alec read aloud. “I know exactly how you feel having such a wonderful horse and I wish …” Henry stepped down from the tack trunk, replacing the X-ray negatives in a large manila envelope. “That fellow knows exactly how you feel having the Black, and he wants one exactly like him someday,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to help him any more than you did the others, Alec. How come people don’t understand that a truly great horse like the Black turns up just once in a lifetime, if at all?” Alec shrugged his shoulders as he met the old man’s gaze. Henry’s face had the texture of old parchment crisscrossed with a mass of wrinkles, but his eyes and voice still held the fire and gusto of youth. “I’d pity most of them if they ever did have a horse like the Black,” the old man went on. “They don’t know what it’s like having a great horse on their hands. They don’t know any of the problems.” “Who’re you kidding? You wouldn’t change it for the world, Henry,” Alec said. “Of course not. I waited all my life for him to come along. Maybe I worry about him too much like you say,” he went on. “Sometimes I think he’s going to worry me to death. Sometimes I can’t eat or sleep, just knowing I got the big one in my stable. That’s the way it is, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.” Turning back to the letter, Alec said, “This fellow seems to have something else in mind.” “… and I wish,” he continued reading, “that you and I could get together. I live in Miami now. My family moved here from the North last fall. It would be easy for me to get to Hialeah to see you. Would you mind if I came over soon? It’s very important and I’m sure you could help me.” “That’s great, just great,” the old man said. “All we need around here is a horse-struck kid with a problem. Maybe he won’t get past the barn gate.” “That doesn’t sound like you, Henry,” Alec said. “It won’t do any harm to see him if he does come. I don’t see what’s wrong with you these days. You’re too cautious about everything.” Henry straightened his blocklike figure, making a gallant attempt to look unconcerned at Alec’s criticism and regain his position of authority. He didn’t like the way Alec was sizing him up. Alec was too composed while he was squirming inwardly. Maybe it was a sign of old age creeping up on him. Maybe it wasn’t a case of being as old as one felt but as old as one was.