Over the years, I’ve met a wide variety of misfits: beach bums, hillbillies, desert rats. There are misfits of a sort in cities too. As Ray Davies once pointed out, misfits are everywhere. Since taking a new job a couple of months ago, I’ve encountered misfits of an entirely different species — Nevada’s wild horses.
Most people, when they think of wild horses, imagine them running and frolicking on the great western expanse, their manes and tails flowing in the wind. I used to think that way too. But I see them nearly every day now and they’re always just standing around eating or staring into space, just like horses in a pasture do. There is not much that separates wild horses from their domesticated brethren. On the ‘wildness’ scale, wild horses rank somewhere between feral cats and lost dogs.
One wonders how they manage to survive. Winter nights are well below freezing and the summer sun is merciless. Spring and Autumn are measured in days. The open desert is not the best place for large mammals to be. But there they are, living and surviving in spite of it all. When the night shift ends and the winter wind is blowing up the valley, my thoughts of them as a romantic symbol give way to a healthy respect, knowing they are out there, and will be out there, all the way to sunrise.
Eagle Valley was going to be the next big boom-town before the economy crunched. Today there is only a gas station, a few scattered warehouses, and an unfinished highway amid leveled empty lots. Grass is plentiful in those empty lots and the horses and humans go about their business in a rough equality. For now, there is plenty of room for all of us.
I suppose that it’s only a matter of time until the highway is finished. The vacant lots will be filled in and the grass paved over. The human traffic will increase. At some point, the misfits will have to go.
Most, I suspect, will leave of their own volition. The true misfit is uncomfortable in a crowd. Finding that spot close enough to civilization to take advantage of it, but far enough away to not be a part of it is the fate of the misfit. The invisibility that human misfits have in a city won’t be possible for the horses. It’s the hangers-on who will have it the hardest. They’ll be labeled a “nuisance,” and the inevitable calls of “somebody should do something” will be heard. The harshness of freedom replaced by the comforts of captivity.