Saturday, November 9, 2013

Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde

I ask The Boy and The Flower what lessons they had learned from Running Wild after seeing it. After they made their feeble guesses about the moral of the story, I set them straight:

  1. Horse people are crazy.
  2. Always get the mineral rights.

Running Wild is the story of cowboy poet Dayton O. Hyde who has gained notoriety over the past decades as an author and a protector of wild mustangs. If you look at the reviews for this, they'll talk about a heart-warming story about a noble guy who's saving magnificent beasts.

I presume those are horse people.

Dayton O. Hyde is a cowboy, in the classic sense of a guy who decides how things are going to be and then sets about making things that way, and really doesn't talk much about it. I mean, that's a kind of archetypal cowboy, along with the whole farming and ranching thing.

This outlines his early life, with his apparently equally taciturn father, his time in school, his WWII service, some of his cowboy antics, and his time working a huge ranch with his wife and five kids. There are some anecdotes about wild mustangs and the government's rather barbaric handlings of them.

Then, one of his daughters is killed by a horse. What actually occurred is a little vague.

His reaction to this is interesting. If he blamed his wife, it's not apparent. He certainly didn't blame the horse, which of course is sensible, but he could be forgiven for it maybe putting him off horses for a little while.

But, you know, horse-persons aren't like that.

Instead, the lesson he takes from this is that we all have a brief time on this earth, and if he's going to save those mustangs, like he's always wanted to, he better get moving. So he heads out to the Black Hills of South Dakota to start a wild horse sanctuary.

Pro tip: Googling "Mustang Ranch" will not bring this guy up.

Family? Well, they were all busy with the current, ginormous ranch in Oregon, and South Dakota is quite a trip. So, yeah. Oh, well.

It's like that Randy Newman song:

Oh my mother's in Saint Louis
And my wife's in Tennessee
So I'm going to Arizona
With a banjo on my knee

One of the sons, Andrew, I think, is frequently interviewed, and seems to be even more taciturn than his father. He's both supportive of his father and yet still fairly devastated by being abandoned by him 20-odd years ago. You can tell just in the way he answers the questions, or doesn't, without him needing to say much.

One of his daughters is particularly distraught that he's out in South Dakota where she, crippled with arthritis (I think it is), can't really get to him.

The final portion of the film concerns his efforts on the conservatory, his support of the local Indian tribes (we just can't stop messing with the Indians, can we?) and his effort to stop some uranium mining that a Canadian company wants to do under his land.

I thought this was kind of interesting: There's a little on how the company buzzes the horses with helicopters (which apparently freak them out due to the helicopters done by the government to round up their ancestors, or something). There's a little on the potential dangers of mining. There's a little on the activism. And in South Dakota, owning land means you own the surface of it, not the mineral rights, which has to be one of the classic government power grabs.

But even if the horse people are being irrational regarding the mining, that really should be their right: It's a big world, and the Canadians don't have any right to that uranium. Let 'em eat frack or whatever.

Overall, an interesting film that we all liked, but also padded to 90 minutes with a lot of landscape shots.

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