Trees of Life
True Stories From The Trail…
By Silver Johnson
Copyright July 20, 2023 All Rights Reserved
It’s July. And it’s hot everywhere…
As heat goes, today in my part of Wyoming, most would call the weather
‘pleasant.’ Not too hot, not very smokey, big puffy clouds float by wide blue skies
over the Wind River Mountain Range. A light breeze will carry them East and
build on their character as they gather steam over more mountains and rangy
deserts. Humidity is low at 30% so your horse wouldn’t sweat much on a trail ride
and neither would you.
Maybe I should have said the weather is ‘perfect?’
My porch ceilings are white and a perfect gathering place and breeding ground for
Mayflies. Since the Middle Fork of the Little Popo Agie River (pahpoh-jha) is just
below, with a dense willow field in between, winged Fly Catchers and eddied Trout
have no shortage of food.
Moon-sized miles and miles of sage-filled desert surrounds The Wind River
Mountain Range which encircles the Little Popo Agie (pahpoh-jha) and the Wind
Rivers. Town is right in the middle. This enclave of high alpine forests, rivers and
mountains is a host to many animal species.Since we only sit just above 5300 feet,
of course, that includes rattlesnakes.
In my book, I am glad they are not alligators.
At least, you are most likely to hear them before they attempt to nail you. If they
do bite your trusty travel buddy dog, he or she is most likely already vaccinated
against their deadly venom. Bear, moose and mountain lion are no strangers to us.
This time of year, though, they stay up in the mountains and are more likely to be
seen just up the road a bit in Yellowstone, where it’s cool and food is more
Mule Deer are prolific in town and are protected like good neighbors. For the most
part they use street sidewalks and alleys as throughways. Occasionally, though,
they are in your lane and have the right of way. The 25mph speed limit keeps us
and them safely on our way. We also have a resident herd of Elk that live just
outside of town. The herd has grown from 40 head to 600 in just the past two
years. So, the wildlife apparently really like the weather here, too.
We are lucky with shade in our little oasis…
The large stands of 80 foot,hundred-year old plus Cottonwoods, Aspen groves, and
mountain sized Fir and Pines are prolific. Those giant canopies of cool are our
friends and make the best neighbors. I could do without the copious amounts of
Cottonwood sap. And yet, I couldn’t do without the shade those gnarly carbon
transformer trees of life provide.
As I look up toward Sinks Canyon and the Winds, knowing all horses, once the
size of a fox or tapor, lived underground somewhere up there some 56 Million
years ago, I think how far humans have come in our relationship with horses in a
mere 5 million years, give or take a few. We have a bit of an age gap as species, but
I have to say, I don’t mind the May-September romance we have developed and
kept alive and well ever since we met.
My life with the long legged, ground covering modern day relatives of those early
equine omnivores…yes,omnivores, has been more than memorable. It has shaped
who I am today, informed me, educated me, made me a better human. As sad as I
was at 10 to give up my violin, I have never regretted trading it in for my very own
Back to way back when horses ate…well, everything.
Way back when 56 Million years ago, they ate everything they could forage. From
nuts to berries to wood, to shrubs, to short sweet grasses, to meat, they didn’t have
sharp teeth and hooks that kept growing for no reason.
Some things never change…
My horse that is always pictured in this column, The Moonspinner, used to grab
my cheeseburger right out of my hand and devour it before I could peel off the
wrapper and spin out of his reach. After a couple of nearly missed fingers, I figured
it would be safer to eat out of range! Not to mention taking a chance on that one
pickle, dollop of mustard or aluminum foil wrapper silencing all gut sounds.
However, the three or so cheeseburgers he managed to rip out of my hand never
seemed to have an adverse effect on his digestive system. Maybe it was the way
the truckstop up the road a quarter mile cooked them? All that Kansas bred prime
beef grill grease must have just slid everything right on through!
Spinner was more than just a horse to me. All my horses were. But he grabbed my
heart and soul like no other did or has since. Way before dancing with your horse
in their pasture was a ‘thing,’ Spinner and I used to play follow-the-leader…make
figure eights and circles till he was done playing. We all used to ‘play’ with our
horses like this. That’s how it was and why I think we all had extraordinary
relationships and partnerships on the ground and during competitions.
Maybe we all have one special ‘heart horse’ dance partner, I don’t know. Or
maybe, if we are lucky, we may have several in our lifetimes. I know other
people’s horses have even tugged at my spirit on more than several occasions. Who
wouldn’t gasp in glee watching Touch of Class, Sapphire or Cortez C fly over six
or seven feet like jet fueled Pegasus? Secretariat win by 31 lengths? Or pick your
There is however, the first time…
The first time you see a horse…smell the telltale perfume of grass and oats and
manure, of sweat and equine breath. Then you sit on one. Your life now has a horse
tattooed on every pore, you are a one and done horse crazed human just as you get
started. Horse rhythm is permanently embedded in you for the rest of your life.
The first time I sat on a horse I was 18 months old, bareback on a Clydesdale. That
rhythm, his breathing, the magic bubble I was in started it all. The next mane event
clinched the deal.
I was 5 and we visited all the Thoroughbred farms in Lexington.
‘Want me to take him out so you can see him, missy?’
The groom caught me stretching on tiptoes trying to see Nashua standing at the
back of his stall. I let go of the top of the stall door, landed safely back on the aisle
floor and turned to him in disbelief and wondered if what he said was really for
me? I’m pretty sure the look on my face said YES, and then some!
‘Stand back, stand right up against that green barn wall down there and don’t
The groom pointed to the deeper than Kentucky Blue Grass green barn wall
adjacent to the stalls. He pointed to a spot for me to stand far enough down so if
anything spooked Nashua, he would have the stallion under control. Gesturing to
my parents and brother, who were standing on the other side of the grassy
walkway, he motioned for them to move further down, too.
Pressing my back up against the thickly painted boards felt warm from the August
sun and all that Thoroughbred body heat. My parents and brother seemed glued to
their places on the other side of what must have been twenty feet of grass.
They also looked a little weird.
Kind of spacey, big eyed and grinning like the scary clown picture in the doctor’s
I was a very, shall we say, reserved child. So how I was feeling wasn’t going to
look like that. My gaze was intense, waiting for Nashua to majestically stride out
of his stall. Seeing this oh so famous Thoroughbred racehorse, interrupting his nap,
Nashua was being led out of his stall ‘just for ME!’
With the best seat any five year old horse crazy girl could have, I decided to squat
down for a ‘below Nashua’s knees’ viewpoint. This way, he would look as big as
my heart felt and if he decided to graze, I would be able to hear him rip that
Kentucky blue right up from its roots…hear him crunch the sweet green between
his teeth and even better, smell the aroma as he transformed it into fuel for future
No one can ever say Nashua was just a plain brown horse.
Can you tell that wow and heart horse memory has never dimmed?! Burns brightly
every time I pull it up and relive that very brilliant experience?! Those never fade.
And they resonate to my very core, in every breath and heartbeat.I think that’s what
makes horse=humans different. Maybe it is because we recognize something in
them, inside of us?
What if that were really true?
Horses and humans are actually genetically related. We share the same Clade on
the Tree of Life. A Clade is a group of organisms that includes a single ancestor
and all of its descendents. Horses and humans pelvic structures are almost
identical. And if you superimpose a human brain onto the bottom of a horse’s hoof,
it’s almost a perfect match!
So the next time you visit your horse, stand under a shady tree and observe, then
remember “ The Trees of Life Rules of Three”
1.Ride Bareback…feel how your pelvis lines up with your horse’s, feel your
2. Be aware of the Hoof Brain connection… your horse feels danger or movement
through his hooves and vibration before he hears or smells it. The only other
species of animal that does this is an elephant.
3. MOST IMPORTANT!!! Wait till you leave the barn to order cheeseburgers!!!