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Wild Horse Anne

Velma Johnston and Her Fight to Save the Mustang

Alan J. Kania

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: University of Nevada Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

This is the story of an extraordinary woman the world knew as “Wild Horse Annie,” whose real name was Velma Ione Bronn Johnston, and her twentyseven- year national campaign to save, protect, and control the wild horses...

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pp. 1-6

The “wild horse” of the American West has long been a controversial subject. Depending on an individual’s perspective of the value of wild horses on the open western ranges, the animals may be interchangeably described as wild horses, feral horses...

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1. Wild Horse Blood

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pp. 7-22

Blood? As Velma Johnston drove to work from her small ranch east of Reno, Nevada, she often saw trailers transporting horses between ranches. This particular morning, as she slipped into the flow of traffic, a truck pulling a horse...

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2. Rounding Up Newspapers and Politicians

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pp. 23-36

There is an adrenaline rush while astride a good cow pony in pursuit of a wild horse at full gallop. Timing is critical, as the rider must anticipate each evasive move of the fleeing horse. The cowboy must match the rhythm...

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3. The Final Days of Legal Mustanging

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pp. 37-51

Most people would have been satisfied with a series of county ordinances and a state law on behalf of the wild horses. As Velma “Wild Horse Annie” Johnston recognized, though, most wild horses and burros roamed on federal land, outside the jurisdiction of county and state officials...

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4. Going It Alone for Charlie and the Horses

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pp. 52-64

The quiet of the coach seat in the smoking section of the return flight from Boston to Reno was the first time in years when “Annie” could put aside her public personae as “Wild Horse Annie” and return to being “Velma” to her family. Sipping on either a martini or a highball and puffing...

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5. Pryor Commitments

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pp. 65-75

Annie did not have much quiet time to contemplate her future without Charlie: she had a full-time job and spent evenings and weekends volunteering for local charities. It was clear that she was not going to heed her doctor’s advice to slow down. While the doctor wanted to protect...

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6. Differences of Opinion

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pp. 76-91

Annie and Charlie were not the first people to become interested in the wild horses, but they were probably the most famous. Since they created an interest in the welfare of the animals in 1950, other wild horse groups were created with their own agendas, but few had an interest...

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7. Annie Returns to Washington, D.C.

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pp. 92-108

The country was experiencing a reassessment of national perspectives and priorities in the 1960s and 1970s. Discourse (not always civil) about the Vietnam War, civil rights, women’s rights, the environment, animal protection, conservation, and similar issues sparked lively public...

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8. Unfinished Work

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pp. 109-127

The first two decades of her campaign were primarily conducted through the facade of “Wild Horse Annie,” but as the opposition became more organized, her fragile “Velma Johnston” interior began to weaken...

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9. The Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Area

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pp. 128-140

It was an area replete with western clichés. A cattle rancher moved his stock the old-fashioned way— on horseback. A Basque sheep rancher, situated far enough away from the cattle, called out to his flock. A coyote prowled the region, waiting for a young calf, ewe, or young mule...

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10. The “Howe, Idaho, Massacre”

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pp. 141-153

Four o’clock is a time when people start anticipating leaving work and spending a relaxing night at home. Four o’clock at neighborhood bars is the beginning of “happy hours” at the end of a workday. For Annie, four o’clock was neither...

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11. Annie Brings the World to Howe, Idaho

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pp. 154-166

On October 1, Annie informed George L. Turcott, associate director of the Bureau of Land Management, that she was going to launch a public appeal to help return the survivors of the Idaho roundup to their former habitat. She also sought to declare the area a national wild horse...

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12. Federal or State Law?

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pp. 167-185

When the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 was passed, the advisory board failed to develop a strategic long-range plan for the management, protection, and control of the animals. Likewise, the responsible agencies—the U.S. Department of the Interior...

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13. Wild Horse Annie’s Final Chapter

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pp. 186-197

With a sense of surrender, Annie gradually began turning the daily worry and stress over to Helen Reilly and adoption coordinator Dawn Lappin. Annie would remain the public image of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros as well as WHOA!...

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pp. 198-202

I heard about Annie’s death the same way the rest of the country learned the news. Like most youth in their twenties, I was transitioning from career to career with a myriad of different residential locations—where could I go to be of help to Annie while independently developing a career?...


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pp. 203-212


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pp. 213-220

E-ISBN-13: 9780874178937
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874178739

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 18 photos
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Johnston, Annie Bronn.
  • Mustang -- Conservation -- History -- 20th century.
  • Wild horses -- Conservation -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Wild burros -- Conservation -- History -- West (U.S.) -- 20th century.
  • Public lands -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Horsemen and horsewomen -- West (U.S.) -- Biography.
  • Wildlife conservationists -- West (U.S.) -- Biography.
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