Ken’s Wildlife Challenge

Wildlife Challenge Day 1

So, I accepted a nature/wildlife challenge from Baer Charlton and Gordon Gruener, which was issued awhile back, even though I’m not very good at that kind of photography.

First off, I don’t think I have the patience for it. I’m used to photographing people and when you want them to do something, they just do it.

Easy peasy.

Dogs, cats, birds, horses and other creatures mostly don’t give a care about what I say. “Could you turn a bit to the left, cuz the light’s better,” and words like that generally fall on deaf ears.

Secondly, I believe in photography you should love what you do and I love shooting people. Sure, I take pictures of other stuff, but it’s mostly people for me. I’m just not head over heals in love with wildlife. Wish I was, but I’m not.

And lastly, animals might bite you. People, for the most part, won’t.

Anyway, starting tomorrow morning for a week, I’ll be posting photos of wild horses. I know they’re not people, but I pretended they were. I made up names for ‘em and I tried to take portraits of ’em.

I had help out in the wilds of Northern Nevada, cuz photographers, Vesta Irene and John Michael Green were there with me and we had wine, wine glasses and a wine bottle opener with us. Did I pass the mustard, maybe not, but the ketchsup, that I passed. I hope so anyway.

Wildlife Challenge Day 1a

Here is Mika, she’s in love with Andy, but she’s a little shy. What she doesn’t know is that Andy loves her back. I’m hoping she’s gonna figure it out and I’m gonna try and help her do that, cuz Andy’s even more shy than she is. He’d never ask her out to the Horsey Grass Bar, where the grass is always greener. Not in a million years.

But with a little luck and a little pushing on my part, just maybe she’ll get together with the stallion of her dreams. We’ll see.

Wildlife Challenge Day 2

Here, at my urging, Mika is kinda coming on to Andy. In the human world, men are often shy, but when a pretty girl flirts with them, they perk right up and flirt back. It’s that way in the horsey world too.

Mika didn’t understand at first, but once I explained it to her, she raised her head, but I saw a shadow of doubt in her eyes.

“Seriously,” I said, “I’m a writer, so I know stuff.”

She shook her head. Horses can’t talk, so it was the best she could do to tell me she thought I was full of hooey,

“Come on! What do you got to lose? Just saunter on over, give him a nudge. See what happens. Trust me.” Perhaps I shouldn’t’a said, Trust me,” cuz my dad told me when I was a kid that whenever someone says, “Trust me,” you can’t.

And I could see Mika wasn’t trusting me either. She musta had a dad mine.

“Okay, bad choice of words,” I said. “But you should still take a chance on Andy. Cuz if you don’t, I’m looking at Ester over there,” I nodded to another filly, “and I can see plain as day that she’s got her sights set on Andy too. So I’d get a move on if I was you.”

Mika gave me a look of resignation combined with a bit of hesitation.

“Come on! You can do it. You should do it. You’ll thank me later, you know, when you got colts and all.” I almost said, “Trust me” again, but I didn’t.

Mika went on over to Andy, walking about a slow as it’s possible for a horse to walk and it was obvious straightaway that Andy was glad she did. He was one shy, but very happy horse. And Mika was too.

Wildlife Challenge Day 3

What you see here is some Horsey Love. And I’m responsible. That’s right, I get the credit for getting these two wonderful horses together.

You see, after I coaxed Mika into flirting a bit with Andy and Andy flirted back, I asked if they might be into a little PDA for my camera. And Mika gave me a look. Andy did too. At first I thought they were against it, but then I figured out they didn’t understand.

“PDA,” I said. “You know, a Public Display of Affection. People do it for me all the time. I just point my camera at them and ask.”

They shook their heads.

“Come on, just one quick kiss.”

They shook their heads again. Then they looked around at all the other horses.

“What, you’re bashful? You wanna get a stable?”

They pinned me with twin stares.

“They don’t care. In fact they’re all happy for you.”

They shook their heads again.

I looked over at the heard. “Hey, you guys, are you all happy for Mika and Andy. You wanna see ‘em kiss for the camera?”

They all nodded their heads. Every licking sticking horse in the herd.

“See, I told you. Now how about it, one quick kiss. Please.”

And they kissed.

Wildlife Challenge Day 4

Here is Thunderbolt, son of Johnnie and Top Dog. Johnnie didn’t wanna name him Thunderbolt, cuz she thought some horses might make fun of him. And she thought that because she was given kind of a man’s name and when she was growing up, some of her filly friends made fun of her. Sorta like the guy in the Johnny Cash song name Sue.

But Top Dog also had a name problem, cuz he was a stallion and not a dog and if any horse ever made fun of him, he fought, like the Sue guy in the Johnny Cash song. Plus, Thunderbolt was a proud name in his family, dating way back to the Bob Clampett, puppet show.

Bob, of Beanie and Cecil and Porky and Daffy fame, musta known Top Dog’s great, great, great, great, great grandad Thunderbolt, cuz his Thunderbolt the Wondercolt puppet hero has been horsy talked about down through the generations. So Thunderbolt has quite a legacy to live up to.

Anyway, here he is, looking every bit like a kangaroo. Still, kangaroo looking or not, he’s descended from the original Thunderbolt, so the herd is expecting great things from him.

Wildlife Challenge Day 5

Here is Johnny, mother of Thunderbolt and wife of Top Dog. In this photograph, she’s giving me a look as she chews some grass. We started on a good footing, but when I said I wondered how she got a man’s name, she gave me the look. I supposed cuz she thought I was making fun of her.

The poor dear, apparently she’s had a lot of that in her life.

But I assured her I wasn’t making fun and since she doesn’t speak human, she can’t cuz she doesn’t have our vocal chords, I had to guess about why she got the name and I got it right the first time.

“Your parents wanted a boy?” I said.

She nodded her head.

“That musta been a total bummer when you were growing up. Where you a tom horse?”

She nodded again.

“I don’t know why, you’re by far the prettiest horse in the herd.” I smiled as her eyes lit up. It seems in the horse world, just like in the human one, flattery will get you everywhere.

Wildlife Challenge Day 6

Here is another photo of Thunderbolt, who the horse world expects great things from. Well, maybe not the whole horse world, cuz there’s race horses and draft horses and show horses and a lotta other kinda horses and even ponies, but his herd anyway, expects great things.

Though it’s hard to see how he’s gonna be allowed to do those great things expected from him, cuz the people world is building a great big road right through where his herd hangs out, so by the time he takes over, if the people don’t round his herd up, his roaming grounds will have been pretty restricted and his herd will be teeny, tiny small.

Wildlife Challenge Day 7

Here is Thunderbolt’s Aunt Ester, who got a little edgy as I approached Thunderbolt. She often babysits while his parents wander around the desert alone, as horses in love tend to do, so maybe that’s why she gave me the eye when I was photographing her nephew.

And she’s probably a little overprotective, because she’s led kind of a sad life. She was married to Top Dog’s younger brother Silas, who was killed when a mountain lion attacked late one night a couple years ago.

It came straight for her, but Silas was fast as can be and put himself between the lion and his bride. Sadly, the lion ripped open Silas’ throat, killing him, but Top Dog was there in an instant and kicked the cat in head with a deadly blow.

He couldn’t save Silas, but he saved Ester, who moped around, without a reason for living, till Thunderbolt was born. Now she’s his protector. But lucky for me, I was able to convince her that I was no lion, just a guy who wanted few pictures of her handsome nephew and her beautiful self.

And you know what? I like to think I put a smile on her horsey face.

Wildlife Challenge Day 8

When you’ve been married to the person of your dreams and they die or are tragically killed—as Ester’s husband Silas was—all you wanna do is mourn for the rest of your life. And if Thunderbolt, her precocious nephew, wouldn’t have come along, she might have taken her own life.

Still, she goes through life depressed as all get out. You can see it in her eyes. I told her she ought to move on, that Silas woulda wanted it that way.

We talked for quite awhile and I think I got through to her. But just in case I didn’t, I’m gonna go back out and see if I can’t find a stallion to fix her up with.

So, I’ll have number nine of my wildlife challenge photo up tomorrow, but it might take me a couple days to fix Ester up with a beau, so my last photo might be a couple days late.

Wildlife Challenge Day 9

This is Top Dog. Yes his dad named him after a dog, Old Yeller to be exact. You see his dad was a cowboy horse and starred in a lotta movies, before they retired him. And his trainer used to watch that movie all the time. And he had a dog named after the dog in the film. And Old Yeller, the trainer’s dog, not the movie dog, was Top Dog’s dad’s best friend.

Then one day, they put Top Dog's dad out to pasture on a nice ranch in Northern Nevada, but Top’s dad thought for sure they were gonna send him to the glue factory, so he escaped. Well, they weren’t really trying to keep him in, but he didn’t know that.

Anyway, he wandered around the high desert, a stallion alone, till he came across a friendly herd and they let him join and he married a nice mare and a short while later Top Dog was born.

And now, Top is the leader and the guardian of the herd. Which is kinda remarkable—you know, that a direct descendant of both Buckshot, who was Wild Bill Hickok’s TV horse on his father’s side and Scout, who was Tonto’s TV horse on his mother’s side—to be both wild and the leader of the herd.

Also, I’ve heard whispers that he even has a bit of Trigger in him, but I don’t know about that.

Top knows about Ester’s stallion problem, she is his sister-in-law after all, and he’s agreed to help me fix Ester up. In short, he’ll supply the stallion if I can convince Ester to go out with him.

We’ll see how it goes.

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