Log In

Reset Password
Arts and Entertainment

‘Desert Chrome’ chronicles a life lived

Maria’s Bookshop will host a discussion with author Kathryn Wilder about her new book “Desert Chrome.” (Courtesy of Maria’s Bookshop)

Maria’s Bookshop to host online discussion with author

Wow! Just Wow. “Desert Chrome” chronicles a life lived. Not over, or ended, but a life with continual beginnings occurring all over the American West. Including the western-most state of Hawaii. Kathryn Wilder has experienced life more than most: marriage, motherhood and loss of same, divorce, death, drugs, recovery and redemption. This is her debut offering.

Wilder forms her story into four segments, titled “Before,” “The Landscape of My Future,” “Basin and Ranges” and “After.” She also includes an element in each section she calls “Detritus,” in which she includes memories from her past. The detritus sheds light on how her past experiences helped form her life decisions – and not always in a good way. Her path to her present life had many steps forward with some staggering steps backward.

Wilder was born in California, and at a young age suffered abuse from a family friend. When the family moved to Hawaii, she quickly took to the lush land, and especially, the water. Moving back and forth from the islands to California and then to the nearly desert aspect of the Colorado Plateau, she survived the loss of custody of her young sons and became addicted to drugs – perhaps in a way to cope. Wilder has experienced much loss in her personal life, but she is a tenacious survivor who has managed to thrive and bravely and honestly shares her story with readers.

If you go

What: Discussion with author Kathryn Wilder, hosted by Maria’s Bookshop.

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Online on Zoom and Facebook Live.

More information: For streaming details, visit https://bit.ly/3uYquW5.

It is when Wilder moves to Southwest Colorado that she meets the creatures that change her life forever. She discovers the wild mustangs that inhabit 10 states in the West and her heart is reformed. Wilder is extremely well versed in the history of horses in the American continent, and puts forth the information that horses were indigenous here long before being reintroduced by the Spaniards.

The land, her affinity for water and then the magic of the wild mustangs drive Wilder to seek a place to be close to all of it. She finds an isolated cabin where the mustangs live next door and she is captivated. She then discovers that wild mustangs are severely endangered in the West. She now has a calling.

In the not distant past, the government rounded up and destroyed wild mustangs herds that were slaughtered and made into dog food. In 1971, Wild Horse Annie from Nevada started a quest to stop the slaughter. As a result of a nationwide effort, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed. Then the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service were directed to manage on public lands. It has not gone that well despite good intentions.

The herds multiplied and the land and ecosystem could not sustain the mustangs. The government started herding the wild horses with helicopters, which traumatized and separated the horse families. Many died trying to escape and it was inhumane. As a result, many concerned advocates formed organizations to save the wild mustangs and burros. According to the latest count, there are more than 95,000 wild mustangs and burros living in the West.

One innovation, created by Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick is PZP, a reversible fertility control vaccine, porcine zona pellucida. It is injected via dart into the rear of a mare. This helps to control population growth of the herds, keeps the government from having to hold the disastrous roundups and it also saves the government a lot of money. It is humane and effective but needs to used for all the herds on public land. Wilder is adamant that this is the way to keep mustangs free and in the wild where they belong.

Wilder forms lyrical and vivid images with her writing. She waxes elegant when describing the land and its creatures. The book is an homage to the wildness and beauty of the West and the nature it holds within its range. “Desert Chrome” will especially appeal to those readers who love the wildness in the West, horses, dogs, ranching and the ever-changing and at-risk Earth we all inhabit. Wilder has written an unforgettable book that will change perceptions of the land of the Southwest that is home.

Leslie Doran is a retired teacher, freelance writer and former New Mexican who claims Durango as her forever home.