She settled into the grass with her book, stretching her aching legs and resting her back on her pack. He was already asleep. She envied him this ability to sleep whenever the moment arose. But for now, she would just sit back and enjoy the crisp high desert air and the warm sun.
The hike had been a little more arduous than she had imagined. Was it the elevation, or was she feeling her age? The sedentary life had not been kind to her, but since she had shed those extra pounds, hiking had become not only easier, but her personal rebellion against this modern life of convenience, computer, and television.
The birds wouldn’t let her read. They were rustling all around her. She watched them appear and disappear in the sage. A dragonfly rested momentarily on the branch of a small tree. There must be water nearby in this arid, dusty land.
She scanned the open range, marveling at the distant hills against the blue sky. Had she ever seen sky so blue? There was a dust cloud in the distance. Dust devil? The air around her was still, thankfully. It had been a chilly morning, and any wind would diminish the beautiful sun’s warmth. She tucked her book back in the pack and settled back in, content to take in the view.
The dust cloud was coming closer. There were dots moving on the land. She sat up, alert. She nudged her husband, and he stirred.
“What is it?” he exclaimed.
She shushed him, pointing.
“Holy crap!” he said, sitting up, wide awake now.
“Put a sock in it,” she hissed, grabbing his elbow excitedly.
The chorus of tweets and twitters had been joined by a staccato drumbeat of hooves. Wild horses. She knew they existed. She had seen them in other places, driving through Nevada and Eastern Washington, but never here in Oregon. But now that she saw them, she remembered there was a herd that roamed the flatlands around the Steens Mountains.
The drumbeats slowed, and the horses came to a restless stop not far from where the couple sat. They milled around, heads up and ears at attention, tails swishing wildly.
What a sight to behold, she thought.
One dun horse stared them down and shook his mane. He took a few steps closer, never taking his eyes off them. She looked over at her husband. She knew how much he wanted to grab his phone and start taking pictures, but to do so might startle the herd.
Some of the horses had followed the stallion, but he quickly turned them back before resuming his halting approach. He seemed as curious about the couple as they were about him. His ears twitched and he breathed deeply as he circled downwind. The other horses watched him, heads and tails held high, ever alert to the need to turn and run.
She held her breath. She wanted this moment to last forever. She thought of a book she read as a kid about a man who could tame wild horses without using force. They had called him the horse whisperer. She had dreamed about having that experience, about stepping into the ring with a wild horse, looking it in the eye and letting it know she understood. Yet here, sitting still, sharing the same space, she had a thrilling tingle of fear mixed with excitement. These horses were powerful. She could see the muscles rippling beneath their winter coats. She could feel the energy of the herd.
Suddenly, the stallion tossed his head, snorted, and turned toward the herd. In a flurry of manes and tails they were off as one, hooves pounding the staccato drumbeat of freedom as they raced across the plain.
She looked over at her husband, now standing, cell phone in hand.
This was so much better than TV.