CARSON CITY — During Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse gathers, every once in a while horses are brought in that are not so wild, sometimes branded, and sometimes not even a horse. This was the case last Monday when a skinny black mule was brought in during the BLM’s Carson City District wild horse gather in the Garfield Flats Herd Management Area near Hawthorne.
In May 2010, Jane and Jack Pearson went camping at Garfield Flats and brought along their horses and one mule; an 11-year-old rambunctious molly. The Pearson’s penned the mule separate from their horses with a hotwire corral. During the night, wild horses came through their camp, freed the mule, and spirited it away.
Jane was devastated. The young Murphy was her pride and joy.
“I used to ride her, I let the kids ride her, I put a cart on her, and I used to decorate her for Christmas and the 4th of July,” she recalled.
Jane tried in vain to get her Murphy back.
“I tried to get her back but she was with a big stud who kept her away,” Jane lamented. “I borrowed a big mule and rode out there to get her back. I brought a bucket of grain and got about 40 to 50 feet away from her. Then the stud ran up to me and then he ran up to Murphy and ran her off. I tried to keep up, but my mule got tired.”
Jane tried a couple of times to get Murphy back. She would ride into the area, find Murphy, and painstakingly try to creep up close enough to get a rope around her. Every attempt was thwarted by the stud who now claimed Murphy.
“I would ride up close to the herd, then stop,” Jane recalled. “Once they realized I wasn’t a threat and put their heads down to continue eating, I would slowly proceed. It would take 45 minutes to an hour to get close enough to spot Murphy.”
A little over a year after losing Murphy, Jane called John Axtell, BLM’s wild horse and burro specialist.
“I called John to find out what I could do,” she said. “He was very helpful and always kept me informed.”
“Jane started calling me about four or five months ago,” said Axtell. “I talked with her every couple of weeks and I let her know we were having a gather in the area.”
Two days into the gather, a lone mule came into the wings still wearing a halter. Murphy’s 21-month wild horse life-style with little water and food was over. The time in the wild had taken a toll.
“She was pretty thin, as I expected,” said Jane. “But, she was too fat when we lost her.”
The BLM’s Coreen Francis, incident commander for the Garfield gather called Jane.
“She was pretty excited,” said Francis. “She came from Fallon that day to get Murphy.”
Murphy’s return to the domestic life may have a touch of bittersweetness.
“She cried a little when we took her from the short-term holding corrals,” said Jane. “But once we got home, she let me into the trailer to put a lead on her and bring her out of the trailer. It’s going to take some time, but she’s going to be fine. I expect to be riding her in a couple of weeks.”
While the gather was designed to remove excess horses from a harsh rangeland that can’t support them, it was also a chance to reunite a long-lost family friend.