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Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston Hardcover – March 16, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Velma Johnston (1912-1977), the daughter of a Nevada horse wrangler, was stricken by polio as a child, but she fulfilled her youthful aspirations of owning a ranch and marrying the man of her dreams; her tenacity is the emotional core of this moving-and first-biography of the animal advocate. Cruise and Griffiths (coauthors of Fleecing the Lamb) weave a story of western grit and guts, showing how Velma's indignation and early efforts-rescuing wild mustangs from pet food poachers and angry ranchers-blossomed into the passage of landmark legislation that prevented the capture or killing of herds of horses and burros. Velma's intelligence, candor, and charm are eloquently conveyed by the authors, and their rich and detailed portrait of Velma and her beloved "wild ones" becomes a paean to the American West-of cherished wildness and spirited individualism. Photos.
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From Booklist

If it weren’t for the efforts of one woman from Nevada, the wild mustangs of the West would have been eradicated. Velma Johnston, who later became known as “Wild Horse Annie” for her efforts, had been partially crippled by polio as a young girl. Having grown up on a ranch, she loved horses, so the sight of a livestock truck dripping with blood, in which injured and mutilated mustangs were crammed bound for a slaughterhouse, galvanized her into action. At first she and her husband resorted to releasing captured mustangs from the waterless corrals where they’d been herded, often with aircraft, after a long chase. But when they took on the Bureau of Land Management, asking the agency to refuse a permit for private mustangers to remove horses from public land, “Wild Horse Annie” was born. The story of how Velma organized support for the survival of the mustangs, and how she and her supporters pushed legislation through Congress to protect the free-ranging wild horses, is an example of how entrenched special interests can exploit publicly held resources and a testament to how much change a determined individual can foster. --Nancy Bent
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416553355
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416553359
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #943,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Elaine Campbell on June 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If anyone goes through life and doesn't read this book, he/she is really missing something!

It is one of the best biographies I have ever read, and deeply, deeply moving.

We have here in Velma Johnston such a courageous woman who, in the face of all odds, both personal, social, regional and national, trudged on and on, year after year, almost all of her adult life, to save the Mustangs, and other wild horses, from extinction. That any exist today is due to her efforts.

As the authors state, we are reminded in this book that one individual person can make a difference.

I was a little dubious about its having two authors, as I couldn't fathom how a consistent tone and voice could be accomplished by two different individuals. Yet consistency there is, and the book does read as if written by one person, honestly, eruditely (the amount of research that has gone into it is stupendous), and compassionately. The painstaking writing of it took many years.

The authors do not shirk from painting a well-rounded picture of Velma Johnston (aka Wild Horse Annie) who, like the rest of us, was far from perfect. But the thought of her brings tears to my eyes, she was just so brave!

This is not an easy book to read because of the graphic descriptions of the torture of these beautiful animals by the callous, the insensitive, the greedy and the inhumane. Unfortunately, it is still going on to this day, and the authors point out the rescue efforts of Madeleine Pickens, wife of the billionaire, as being one of our greatest hopes at this time (her National Wild Horse Foundation website contains further information as to the present status of the wild horse, which is still in grave danger).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In 1966, well-known author Marguerite Henry wrote Mustang: Wild Spirit Of The West. With this book, millions of people became aware of the tale of Wild Horse Annie, who saved the wild horses of the West from slaughter.

Except, Henry took liberties with the history of Velma Johnston, eventually even claiming that she "owned the rights" to Velma's life (p. 261). The fictionalization of Wild Horse Annie was seemingly approved by Velma Johnston herself, writing "This clean, noble public image of Girl of the Golden West that I have become [via the book] is surely having a reforming influence on me" (p. 176).

So what WAS the history, and story, of Mrs. Charles C. Johnston, aka Velma Johnston, aka Wild Horse Annie? Authors David Cruise and Alison Griffiths painstakingly researched the voluminous archives, including the correspondence written by Velma Johnston herself. The evolution of Wild Horse Annie into a free-roaming horse activist, then into a national celebrity, is a most interesting tale. And it is a tale best understood in this book, Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston, and not Marguerite Henry's version.

Velma Bronn was born in 1912, and in 1923 she contracted polio. The disease and the initial treatment (a full body cast) left her disfigured and in pain for most of her life. However, she persevered with her studies (and her love of wild horses), eventually getting her dream job - to be an executive secretary.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alison Griffiths and David Cruise have done an extensive review of Velma Johnston's life. She is one of the most extraordinary and brave new women of the 20th century. Known as Wild Horse Annie and president of our organization, International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, she saved millions of wild horses from extermination and changed the West! You can read all about it in this book which keeps you reading into the wee hours of the morning!

Karen A. Sussman
President, ISPMB
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a horse lover, I found it difficult to continue reading once the author began telling about the more graphic descriptions of the cruelty the mustang horses have had to endure. The initial story about Velma Johnston's life was wonderfully written and engaging. I am grateful that people like Mrs. Johnston have the courage to fight the wrongs being done to animals and people, but I found it to be difficult to read about. I will keep this book on my shelf and try to read it again at a later time, as the tremendous amount of effort and dedication shown by Mrs. Johnston are surely worth reading about.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book does have it's moments where it's difficult to read. But for a clear picture of what the BLM is all about, the atrocities they perpetuate daily on behalf of our furry friends--this book is AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ!

Super highly recommended reading for any horse advocate
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a biography of Velma Johnson, a woman better known as the main character in a children's novel (based upon her life) MUSTANG: WILD SPIRIT OF THE WEST written by Marguerite Henry.

Velma was born in a small town in Nevada in 1912. As a child she suffered from polio, which left her misshapen and in weakened health.

Nevertheless, she grew up to be a career women at a time when such a thing was quite unusual - and spent her life working hard and being the financial mainstay of her marriage to a rancher who had been disabled in a work place accident.

Velma and her husband Charley loved their ranch and loved horses - including the wild mustangs who lived near their ranch.

When she learned that the mustangs were being rounded up in cruel and hideous ways to be rendered into dog food, Velma devoted a lifetime to trying to save them.

The determination of this woman and her allies changed law to protect the wild horses - first locally, then in Nevada - then nationally. This probably protected the animals from extinction.

While this biography covers some of the same ground as the children's book, the real life Velma was much more complicated than the girl in the book. She was much stronger and independent, and could be the life of any party...
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