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Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston [Hardcover]

David Cruise , Alison Griffiths


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Book Description

March 16 2010
In 1950, Velma Johnston was a thirty-eight-year-old secretary enroute to work near Reno, Nevada, when she came upon a truck of battered wild horses that had been rounded up and were to be slaughtered for pet food. Shocked and angered by this gruesome discovery, she vowed to find a way to stop the cruel round-ups, a resolution that led to a life-long battle that would pit her against ranchers and powerful politicians—but eventually win her support and admiration around the world. This is the first biography to tell her courageous true story..

Like Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, or Temple Grandin, Velma Johnston dedicated her life to public awareness and protection of animals. Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs follows Velma from her childhood, in which she was disfigured by polio, to her dangerous vigilante-style missions to free captured horses and document round-ups, through the innovative and exhaustive grassroots campaign which earned her the nickname “Wild Horse Annie” and led to Congress passing the “Wild Horse Annie Bill,” to her friendship with renowned children’s author and horse-lover Marguerite Henry..

A powerful combination of adventure, history, and biography, Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs beautifully captures the romance and magic of wild horses and the character of the strong-willed woman who made their survival her legacy. .


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (March 16 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416553355
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416553359
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #427,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Anyone who cares about the plight of America's Mustangs has heard the name Velma Johnston, but too few know the extraordinary and heroic lengths to which she went to save these horses. In Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs, authors David Cruise and Alison Griffiths have given us a remarkable gift; a provocative, in-depth look into this amazing woman's life in a story brimming with adventure and inspiration. Not only is this a fascinating and powerful book, it is also a tremendously important one. I couldn't put it down, and when I finished reading it my faith in the power one person has to make a difference was renewed."

--Melanie Sue Bowles, author of The Horses of Proud Spirit and Hoof Prints: Stories from Proud Spirit



“Velma Johnson was a strong willed individual who made a difference. As a child she suffered from polio and in her era, careers for women were limited. She overcame these obstacles and stopped the atrocious abuse of wild horses.”

--Temple Grandin, author, Animals in Translation and Animals Make us Human

“Velma Johnston (Wild Horse Annie) is one of the most important people in our American history. She single-handedly saved our mustangs and with that our western heritage. This is an important book and Cruise and Griffiths have done a spectacular job of bringing home her story.”

--Madeleine Pickens, National Wild Horse Foundation

“This book captures the essence of the extraordinary life of Velma Johnston and what she was able to accomplish for the American Mustang. All of us who love and admire mustangs and horses in general owe this courageous woman a great debt of gratitude for exposing the plight and possible extinction of this breed. Through her tireless efforts she was the difference in helping make the world a better place for these wonderful animals that are part of our Western heritage."

--Monty Roberts, New York Times best-selling author of The Man Who Listens to Horses

"It doesn't get more American than the mustang, and without Wild Horse Annie, we would not have any. Now, as wild horses are making their last stand, it's important to honor her legacy and continue the battle. Thanks to this well-researched and timely book, we can."

--Deanne Stillman, author of Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West

"For 25 years, one extraordinary woman waged a lonely war against the cruel and greedy forces that were systematically removing the wild American mustangs from even the most inhospitable of federal lands. This book is a thoroughly researched and riveting tribute to the life and achievements of Velma Johnston and her struggles – against massive odds - to protect her beloved mustangs."

--Martin Harbury, author of The Last of the Wild Horses

About the Author

 David Cruise and Alison Griffiths began writing together in 1983 and are the authors of seven bestselling books, including Fleecing the Lamb, Lords of the Line, Net Worth, On South Mountain, and The Great Adventure. Griffiths hosted the acclaimed financial television show “Maxed Out,” for three years and she writes the nationally syndicated columns, Alison on Money and Me and My Money.  They have two daughters and divide their time between their small farms in southwestern Ontario and Brooksville, Florida. Please visit wildhorseanniestory.com

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MAGNIFICENT! June 10 2010
By Elaine Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
If anyone goes through life and doesn't read this book, he/she is really missing something!

It is one of the best biographies I have ever read, and deeply, deeply moving.

We have here in Velma Johnston such a courageous woman who, in the face of all odds, both personal, social, regional and national, trudged on and on, year after year, almost all of her adult life, to save the Mustangs, and other wild horses, from extinction. That any exist today is due to her efforts.

As the authors state, we are reminded in this book that one individual person can make a difference.

I was a little dubious about its having two authors, as I couldn't fathom how a consistent tone and voice could be accomplished by two different individuals. Yet consistency there is, and the book does read as if written by one person, honestly, eruditely (the amount of research that has gone into it is stupendous), and compassionately. The painstaking writing of it took many years.

The authors do not shirk from painting a well-rounded picture of Velma Johnston (aka Wild Horse Annie) who, like the rest of us, was far from perfect. But the thought of her brings tears to my eyes, she was just so brave!

This is not an easy book to read because of the graphic descriptions of the torture of these beautiful animals by the callous, the insensitive, the greedy and the inhumane. Unfortunately, it is still going on to this day, and the authors point out the rescue efforts of Madeleine Pickens, wife of the billionaire, as being one of our greatest hopes at this time (her National Wild Horse Foundation website contains further information as to the present status of the wild horse, which is still in grave danger).

Many thanks to the authors of this book for their very successful efforts.

CODA: Despite pleas and even a lawsuit from Laura Leigh, Project Manager of Herd Watch, trying to prevent the scheduled Tuscarora Roundup in Elko County, Nevada, the BLM conducted a "gather" on July 10th that was scheduled to remove over 1,100 wild horses from the Elko County area. The gather started at 6:30 a.m. and by 9 a.m., the BLM contractor had gathered 228 wild horses. Subsequently, seven horses died due to dehydration and complications related to water intoxication during the removal process and/or at the holding facilities. In last winter's "gather" in the Calico Hills, 100 horses, as well as dozens of pregnant mares, died in one of the bloodiest mustang operations to date. On July 12th the BLM announced that it is temporarily suspending the Tuscarora wild horse gather. The work of Wild Horse Annie and her successor, Madeleine Pickens, goes on.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The REAL Wild Horse Annie - Velma Johnston June 13 2010
By R S Cobblestone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
In 1966, well-known author Marguerite Henry wrote Mustang: Wild Spirit Of The West. With this book, millions of people became aware of the tale of Wild Horse Annie, who saved the wild horses of the West from slaughter.

Except, Henry took liberties with the history of Velma Johnston, eventually even claiming that she "owned the rights" to Velma's life (p. 261). The fictionalization of Wild Horse Annie was seemingly approved by Velma Johnston herself, writing "This clean, noble public image of Girl of the Golden West that I have become [via the book] is surely having a reforming influence on me" (p. 176).

So what WAS the history, and story, of Mrs. Charles C. Johnston, aka Velma Johnston, aka Wild Horse Annie? Authors David Cruise and Alison Griffiths painstakingly researched the voluminous archives, including the correspondence written by Velma Johnston herself. The evolution of Wild Horse Annie into a free-roaming horse activist, then into a national celebrity, is a most interesting tale. And it is a tale best understood in this book, Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston, and not Marguerite Henry's version.

Velma Bronn was born in 1912, and in 1923 she contracted polio. The disease and the initial treatment (a full body cast) left her disfigured and in pain for most of her life. However, she persevered with her studies (and her love of wild horses), eventually getting her dream job - to be an executive secretary.

Cruise and Griffiths write, "One spring morning in 1950 the trip [to her job in Reno] passed uneventfully until she caught up with a livestock truck" (p. 42). To say that the next few hours were eventful for Velma would be an understatement. What she experienced changed her life in profound ways. The livestock truck was full of bleeding, injured, and dying wild mustangs, bound for slaughter into pet food.

One result of this experience eventually became the passage by the US Congress of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. What happened between Velma's original experience with a mustang roundup, and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, is the the main substance of this book.

Here are a few of the tidbits I found interesting:

In an editorial for the "Reese River Reveille" newspaper, editor Jack Taylor wrote in 1959 that, "The true picture of a wild horse is a runty, moth-eaten, mangy little scrub critter of no value anywhere outside a can. He is a curse to the stockman, a nuisance to the big game hunter and a pain in the neck to the Bureau of Land Management whose job it is to see that the open range is properly apportioned to feed all living animals dependent on it. Getting him out of the picture as far as possible can be likened to a housewife's zeal in getting rid of cockroaches in the kitchen and moths in the clothes closet" (p. 127).

Over 50 years later, there are still those who would agree with Taylor. However, there seem to be more that agreed with Velma Johnston, that there is room for wild horses, and that they have a right to be present, and unmolested, on public land. "My commitment to the wild ones is total," she wrote (p. 255).

After her retirement as an executive secretary, her employer, Gordon Harris, wrote to Velma, "The world is made of of three kinds of people - those who make things happen; those who watch things happen; and those who don't know what's happening. Go, girl, go! And remember this is the first day of the rest of your life. You belong to the first group so keep on making things happen" (p. 255).

There are many heroes and villains in this story of Wild Horse Annie. There are people and organizations who were very supportive of Velma's work (Christine Stevens and the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, for one), and those that chose to exploit her efforts for their own agendas and purposes. And authors Cruise and Griffiths go beyond the development of Velma, the animal activist. This is also a tender love story, of Velma and Charlie, of Velma and her friends, and of Velma and Hobo, her horse.

This is truly an extraordinary, well-researched and written biography of a unique individual. And the true story is really more amazing than the fictionalized one written by Henry.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book Hard to put down April 29 2010
By Beth DeRoos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
As someone who has loved horses since she was four years old, and knowing the joy of adopting one or more of the wild mustangs of Nevada, I cannot recommend this book enough. In large part because it tells the story of Velma Johnston 'Wild Horse Annie' who in an era of no Internet, as well as a society where women were not known for or accepted for fighting as hard as men for a cause they believed in.

Maybe being an eight generation California family and coming from the west where we would see the wild horses as we crossed rural areas here in California and Nevada, I have that memory branded in my mind and the beauty and glory of the vision. Or maybe its the idea that like Velma I understand that people can pretty much choose where they want to live in this vast land, but wild horses and other wild native creatures have no choice. And because of this we need to protect them from being killed in any way.

Bear in mind she didnt succeed over night in getting the wild horses protected. It was a work that took shy thirty years, and was often done by her alone, with no outside help. Its not an overstatement to say/suggest that Velma was the Martin Luther King of the wild horse movement.

And the photos are wonderful!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild Horse Annie - an extraordinary person April 22 2010
By Karen SussmanISPMB - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Alison Griffiths and David Cruise have done an extensive review of Velma Johnston's life. She is one of the most extraordinary and brave new women of the 20th century. Known as Wild Horse Annie and president of our organization, International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, she saved millions of wild horses from extermination and changed the West! You can read all about it in this book which keeps you reading into the wee hours of the morning!

Karen A. Sussman
President, ISPMB
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one person can change the world May 9 2010
By Kindle Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is a biography of Velma Johnson, a woman better known as the main character in a children's novel (based upon her life) MUSTANG: WILD SPIRIT OF THE WEST written by Marguerite Henry.

Velma was born in a small town in Nevada in 1912. As a child she suffered from polio, which left her misshapen and in weakened health.

Nevertheless, she grew up to be a career women at a time when such a thing was quite unusual - and spent her life working hard and being the financial mainstay of her marriage to a rancher who had been disabled in a work place accident.

Velma and her husband Charley loved their ranch and loved horses - including the wild mustangs who lived near their ranch.

When she learned that the mustangs were being rounded up in cruel and hideous ways to be rendered into dog food, Velma devoted a lifetime to trying to save them.

The determination of this woman and her allies changed law to protect the wild horses - first locally, then in Nevada - then nationally. This probably protected the animals from extinction.

While this biography covers some of the same ground as the children's book, the real life Velma was much more complicated than the girl in the book. She was much stronger and independent, and could be the life of any party...

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