Plane & Pilot
Friday, July 1, 2005


Whether real or imaginary, these obstacles keep us in and others out

Yesterday, I had a surreal experience. This afternoon, I had a bitter one. And fences figured into both.

Yesterday evening, a friend and I were flying across the desert a few miles south of Phoenix, when my fellow pilot asked, “Hey, wanna look at the horses?”

A wing dropped, and I found myself looking down at 30 horses that ignored us as we spiraled down around them. They were in a loose bunch in the sagebrush. Some were grazing, others were lying down, while a couple chased each other around in what appeared to be an equine game of tag. Every color and pattern was represented and spring had obviously arrived, as a number of colts frolicked about.

“Whose are they?” I asked.

“They’re wild. They don’t belong to anyone, but they’re on the reservation, so the tribe sort of watches out for them.”

As we circled around, I was mesmerized. I had always heard that there were places in the West where horses still roamed free, but I had no idea they were so close. I had chalked it off as yet another unverifiable western legend. But there they were.

As I looked up at the mountains a few miles away, I saw a B757 coming into view, its gear still down, as it left Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Then I looked back at the horses. The contradiction was enormous. The sixth largest city in the country was in plain sight, yet I was looking down at a wonderful wildness that you can’t help but feel good about. It’s so nice to know that we haven’t corralled everything. Or have we?

I saw the interstate in the distance and asked, “This all looks like free range. How do they keep them from getting onto the interstate?”

“Oh, there are fences.”

“Fences? Where? “

“Over there, by the interstate.”

We have a fence running down the interstate to keep the wild horses out. Or is it there to keep the wild humans in?


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