University of Nevada Press


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ISBN: 978-0-87417-917-0
Binding: [Paperback]
Pages: 240
Publication date: August 2013
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Wild Horse Annie
Velma Johnston and Her Fight to Save the Mustang
In 1950, Velma Johnston, a shy Nevada ranch wife, came upon a horse trailer leaking blood. When she discovered the destination of the trailer and its occupants—a trio of terrified and badly injured wild horses—she launched a crusade that eventually reached the halls of Congress and changed the way westerners regard and treat the bands of mustangs and burros that roam their region. Wild horses continue to be the subject of bitter controversy in the West. To some, they are symbols of the West’s wild, free heritage; to others, they are rapacious grazers that destroy habitat and compete with domestic livestock and indigenous wildlife for scanty food and water. Velma Johnston, who became known as “Wild Horse Annie,” undertook to stop the removal of wild horses and burros from US public lands and protect them from the worst aspects of mustanging. Her campaign attracted nationwide attention, as it led her from her rural Nevada County to state offices and finally to Washington, DC. Author Alan J. Kania worked closely with Johnston for seven years, and his biography provides unique insight into Wild Horse Annie’s life and her efforts to save the West’s wild horse herds through the passage of protective legislation.
"A warm, candid, and revealing look . . . both moving and educational . . . the quality of scholarship and reliability of information is unsurpassed . . . it is not, however, a stuffy academic treatise. Wild Horse Annie is highly readable, tugs at the heart, and will often bring tears to readers' eyes." Oregon Historical Quarterly, Winter 2013

"A straightforward and indispensable account of one woman's extraordinary success, 40 years ago, in helping to protect America's wild horses from the human predators surrounding them. . . . The value of Kania's work, apart from his tender view of his subject, is that it shows us, relentlessly, how law can be and is subverted by political forces." -Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic

"The book is well written and will be a fascinating read for those whose lives are affected by wild horses and burros." -Library Journal

"The story of how Velma, snidely dubbed "Wild Horse Annie" by a government official, gathered supporters for the wild horses and got laws passed to provide for their humane treatment and protection, makes inspiring reading." -Booklist

"Wild Horse Annie is a strongly recommended pick for collections focusing on American conservation history, not to be overlooked." -Midwest Book Review

"As one of the few insiders from Velma Johnston’s campaign to save America’s mustangs, Alan J. Kania presents a thorough, deeply researched, and carefully crafted portrait of the woman without whom we would have no wild horses today. He also recounts the details of that hard-fought battle, making Wild Horse Annie an invaluable record of one of the great environmental wars of the twentieth century.” -Deanne Stillman, author of Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West

“Here is the real deal--a tale accurately and lovingly told by Alan Kania, who as a young man worked for Annie. Alan mirrored Annie’s passion to save the American mustang. Together they created a path to protecting these iconic symbols of American freedom.” -Ginger Kathrens, founder and director of the Cloud Foundation and creator of the popular Cloud, the Wild Stallion programs for PBS Nature series

“The story of Wild Horse Annie, well conveyed by Alan J. Kania, is an important one given her cause and the issues and challenges she faced.” -Mark Harvey, author of Wilderness Forever: Howard Zahniser and the Path to the Wilderness Act