Sunday, August 7, 2011

Little People

Crow Indian legend tells of foot-and-a-half tall dwarfs with pot bellies and no necks, that are incredibly strong with razor-sharp teeth called Nirumbee or AwwakkulĂ© (little people or spirit dwarves). They supposedly steal children, rip hearts out of horses, and shoot arrows with pinpoint precision, among other terrifying pastimes. They are also said to bless certain people, manifesting as lone animals to issue their benediction. These monsters are said to live in Montana's Pryor Mountains. Now ya tell me. 

There is actual physical evidence of these Western desert goblins - several mummified corpses have been found over the years (about which scientists disagree) and there have been modern sightings by respected locals. Seriously.
This maybe explains the uneasy feeling I had Saturday atop the Pryor Mountains and my urge to flee before I rupture a tire and get marooned in the barren desert of sage and juniper. But as I sat there, eating a ham sandwich and drinking a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale weighing my options, something appeared in the gully below me. It was a wild mustang - one of the horses from the Pryor Mountain wild horse herd.
 Quickly, three more popped out from behind a juniper bush, as if they were cavalry to defend the lone horse when I loudly cleared my throat to elicit a response for a photo.

I've never gotten particularly excited about horses, but there's something about the free spirits of these beasts that captivates me. I admire their lifestyle. They live oblivious to anything modern, on their own schedule answering only to themselves. No fences, no saddles, no shoes, no hay. It's a beautiful idea and I'm glad it still exists (not sure why other wildlife doesn't elicit this reaction in me - something about the spirit of these horses).

All the horses have been named. Here, I've been informed, is Jumping Badger (far left), Sitting Bull (brown horse on top, a stallion - possibly the sire of JB and Inniq, far right - I'm not sure), Cecelia (black in front - dam of JB and ...) and Inniq, (3-year-old black colt, far right).

The Pryor Mountains are remote - the Centennial Valley has nothing on the Pryors. Which makes the absolutely awful "road" through the range (Sykes Ridge Road) all the more harrowing. It's really more of a custom-Jeep or 4-wheeler trail.

Click to enlarge for full effect.
Close-up of the road. Not suitable for sedans.

Click to enlarge. Even the roads en route to the wild horse range are remote. Also, beautiful.
I avoided the spirit dwarfs, but I cannot say the same for the prairie rattlesnakes. Ten minutes prior to this photo, my dog and I hiked right through the trail where we found this guy. Maybe I received a blessing after all.
Dear snake, thanks for the warning and the photo op. Sincerely, Josh.
I returned to the norm this morning, fishing West Rosebud Creek and the Stillwater River on my way home. Nice to be fishing again, but I'll remember the mystique of the Pryors.

Links of note:
A PBS documentary on the wild horses
Another excellent PBS documentary
Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center
Little People wikipedia
More on the Little People
Like them on Facebook


Feather Chucker said...

Great post, even with out fish.

Sanders said...

Really enjoyed the read. There are times fishing alone, that I get a little spooked, like someone or something is watching me. It is not a very comfortable feeling. Although, I've never been nervous about a dwarf shooting me with an arrow...ha! The Pryors look like a really unique area,a place that would be fun to explore.

Those mustangs are a pretty cool animal. Glad you were able to see them. Great post!

Feather Chucker said...

Sanders, I've had that many times. There are experiences where I think I hear the water running faster or it just sounds different. I'm never sure if I shifted my position and it's just my ears playing tricks or if something has indeed changed.

Fly Waters Edge - Kevin said...

Nice Read! I know what you mean about the water sometimes the sound just changes.

Josh Bergan said...

Thanks, all. I'd love to get back there, but not without a bigger truck.

loughcorrib said...

Like the way you have written this and loved the pictures of the horses.Cool names too.Just finished reading "The Last Stand" last night,so I suppose "Sitting Bull" would be the one that hits home.

Fins and Feathers said...

DId you get into crooked creek in the Pryors? It has potential as wild trout strem bu require a commtmment to get in there its on my list

Unknown said...

I'm pretty short. Maybe I'll go see if the little people are hiring.

Oh, and Little People is an awesome band too! Check them out!

Josh Bergan said...

Toby - I drove over Crooked Creek twice but forgot to check it out both times. Most of the map's blue lines were dry beds in person. I did peek at Sage Creek over there, but it was too small to fish where I was.

Fins and Feathers said...

I worked on a couple of bighorn sheep projects in the Pryors and hiked down into the crooked creek canyon several times...just never had a rod with me. It supposedly has decent numbers of cutties but I know it has plenty of snakes for sure. There is a road that follows it on the west side or you can hike into it and overnight from the east side. Very cool place to do some photos. Very good carp fishing on Yellowtail at that end.