From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this epic history of wild horses, journalist and author Stillman (Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave) traverses her longtime beat and passion, the American West, for a detailed look at 400 years of New World history. Many readers may be unaware of the mustang's precarious political situation or that, currently, "a bizarre war is underfoot" against them; Nixon's landmark 1971 legislation protecting free-roaming horses was recently undone by President Bush (who, as governor of Texas, "presided over two of the country's three remaining horse slaughterhouses"). Today, there remain fewer than 18,000 wild horses and burros in Nevada, their primary habitat, a number down by nearly 30 percent in the past ten years. Decades of roundups and slaughters can be traced to federal programs for livestock farmers, beginning with the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, which make land cheap, grazing regulations lax and wild horses an official nuisance. The story of these beautiful, symbolic animals is certain to evoke passionate reactions in many readers, especially history buffs, animal lovers, farmers and politicians.
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“[T]he horse is our great silent witness. … [H]e knows too much, and we can’t take it.” Though in the end, Stillman may not quite pierce the fog of horror that drives people to do evil deeds, she shines light on the history of the horse in America. The desert environment seems to bring a wonderful languid quality to her prose, and she manages to turn the horse into an equine Forrest Gump, present at all the major moments in the history of the American West. Some critics complained, however, that Stillman stretches the definition of mustang
to include any horse west of the Mississippi. And while some reviewers preferred the sections on Custer and the cowboys, others favored her story about modern-day efforts to save the mustang. All agreed, though, that something ought to be done for these glorious animals that have done so much to move America.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.