About ten years later, she reintroduced the takhi in family groups to Khomintal, near Khar Us Nuur National Park, a six-hour drive from the nearest decent airport. When her first horses were flown there, Feh and her team rode with them in the cargo hold, feeding them apples and hay and telling them stories to keep them calm.
The plane landed directly on the dirt, on a landing strip marked by small red flags fluttering in the wind. A crowd had gathered, some having ridden their own horses for hundreds of miles to see the takhi again or for the first time. A park ranger named Sanjmyatav Tsendeekhuu once saw a similar release at Hustai.
He is a big, tall, baby-faced guy of 45, and when I met him at Hustai he had on a baggy green uniform, a cap, combat boots and a badge. Whereas Tsendeekhuu once patrolled on horseback, he now rides a motorbike and carries a sidearm that fires rubber bullets, in case he encounters hostile poachers of marmot. He started working at Hustai in , and was there on a day when a takhi shipment arrived by cargo plane. On cue, he and the others simultaneously lifted the sliding doors of the crates. Some of the horses bolted, and others stepped out tentatively before realizing they were free.
She explains that the driving impulse behind the conservation efforts was the realization that an entire species could be saved. This is going to be a big challenge for the future. Usku, the Hustai wildlife biologist—36 and lanky, with the energy of a colt—explained something similar in an afternoon slide presentation at Hustai. Just before we went out looking for takhi he stood on a small platform, before a projector screen, in jeans and loafers, a striped shirt, and round glasses.
His audience comprised a dozen British birders in field vests and cameras, sitting in the darkened conference ger, which is near the visitor-center ger, which is near the souvenir-shop ger. Hustai attracts a lot of wildlife lovers. It has over 50 mammals, over species of birds and over species of plants—poppies, pansies, red-currant bushes, scarlet lilies, wee daisies. The park is set among the lower spurs of the Chentai Mountains, marked by a blue iron gate.
Tourists stay in three dozen gers with short, brightly colored doors; in the summer, they can be seen in sandals and shorts and cargo pants hanging their wet laundry in the sun, or walking up to the dining hall, in a brown-brick building of offices and bathrooms. When I was there, the dining room tables and chairs were decorated with satiny peach-colored fabric, as if awaiting a wedding reception. The menu was tailored to Western palates—stewed beef, white rice, plain penne pasta, red cabbage—but there was also a thermos of traditional Mongolian milk tea, salty and strong.
About a year after the first batch of takhi landed at Hustai, the park was registered as a specially protected nature reserve; in Hustai was upgraded to a national park. For a decade it ran on the benevolence of Dutch conservationists. Now independent, Hustai sustains itself through grants and tourism, and is working to develop ecotourism.
He clicked through slides showing charts and images of the takhi, explaining that some reintroductions had succeeded while others had not. They feed on feathergrasses, brome grasses, fescue. As their numbers have grown, so too have the populations of deer, marmots, gazelles and sheep. Usku then broke the grisly news: The tourists were vacationing in what may as well be called Camp Darwin. Wolves kill 8 to 12 foals each year, and rangers have been known to shoot the wolves.
Although the Hustai staff follow the horses so closely they know them by harem and age, they try not to intervene. Spirited neighs sounded in the distance, as if offstage. And there and there and there! But as I pressed my eye to the glass, the eyepiece delivered, as if by magic, horses. The takhi were grazing. They were swishing their tails, tossing their heads, minding their foals. Through the telescope they seemed close enough to stroke. The situation is not secure over the long term.
Usku swung the field scope to see what else was in the hills. They filed out in silence and set up their tripods and cameras.
The horses watered in the cooler hours, early in the morning and at dark, he explained. They were most vulnerable to wolves at night, and near forests. Usku shook his head. We call it co-evolution.
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As the birders peered at the horses someone asked how they grazed. Usku answered by walking straight out into the field. He searched the earth and returned with a handful of dessicated horse dung. As he broke it apart, dried grass flew away with the wind. You can see the red deer are lying. Not the horses. Yes, Usku said.
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Their range is very constant. Usku added that two or three stallions died each year from battle wounds, after fighting over a mare—a kick to the face, a nipped Achilles tendon. After everybody finished talking about the sex lives of horses, we got back in the Land Cruiser and traveled on.
We passed a hoopoe bird and sandpipers and more long-tailed ground squirrels. Usku noted dark green grasses and nettles. Dash pointed out the sud flower, whose raspberry-color blossom his grandmother used to boil for him as tea, for stomachaches. Marmots came. We stopped at a fresh spring where the takhi often water. Usku drank from it with cupped hands. Then he stood, shading his eyes, and gazed into the sky. Three years old. Non-breeding bird. We drove back toward camp. The whole busload had taken positions facing the bird and were watching it together in complete silence, as if sitting in a small theater, transfixed by a show.
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At the Smithsonian Visit. New Research. Curators' Corner. Ask Smithsonian. Photos Submit to Our Contest. Edane urged his mount to descend. He reached back to fling aside his tartan as he drew an iron-tipped arrow from his quiver, letting the bow slide down into his fist. Whatever big cheese he worked for, Nellie knew he was some kind of button man, so she ran. Now a Robin Hood riding the sky on a horse was coming at her from the other direction, a bow in his hand. She swerved away, ducking as she did. She heard a whistle and glanced back to see Robin clip the goon with three arrows, one after another, so fast she only saw them hit.
The goon screeched and nearly fell to the ground. Black stuff splashed from his wings as he flapped and lunged back up to disappear into the clouds. Nellie promptly tripped and fell, pain streaking up from her ankle as she flopped into a puddle. She rolled over and let the rain wash the mud from her face. The rest of her got a good, cool dousing, too, which was when she realized she was in the altogether. She pushed herself up on her elbows to be sure, and saw Robin Hood running toward her.
Nellie should have tried to crawl off, but she was too busy enjoying the show. Golly, but he was handsome. Wet scarlet hair poured around a Valentino face. He had eyes so blue they should have been July sky. All that long, keen body made her hands itch to pet him. Something about them made her want to spit. Not that she had much fruit or fur to show, she thought, and then chuckled with relief.
To show she still had some manners, she held out her hand. Thanks for drilling that goon. Thought for a minute there I was headed for the big sleep.
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Rather than shake, he tugged the wet green and black blanket from his shoulders and knelt down to cover her with it. Delighted to have him so close, Nellie curled a hand around his neck, and tugged him forward to give him a quick kiss. He tasted like rain and man, and he smelled even better, so she went back for another, longer try.
He sure did talk funny, but he was just too sheik for her not to crush on. I came to, saw the flash and claws, and heard him say something about a prize and a prince. I skedaddled. Give me a hand up? As soon as Edane took hold of her, the images faded. Instead Nellie felt something like a hot kiss on the back of her neck, and swiped at it. Edane stepped behind her, removed her hand, and then made a funny sound.
A moment later he came around again, and looked at his arm before he met her gaze. He mounted behind her and tucked a strong arm around her waist, sending a wave of heat through her middle. A cloud of light swamped Nellie, making her tingle all over, and then the horse galloped up into the air. Her wet hair whipped around her cheeks as she looked down at the ground dwindling beneath them. The guy had a flying horse. It felt so good to be pressed up against him as they soared through the sky she laughed like a kid. His hand spread over her side, his fingers not too tight now. A little petting might just do the trick to clear out the cobwebs.
Nellie covered his hand with hers to give him a nudge in the right direction, and he curled his fingers through hers. The affectionate move made a funny pang bounce around in her chest. He could have pawed me all he wanted back in the grass. Nellie yelped as a shiv of pain rammed through her head. At the same time the cloud dropped a burst of heavy rain over them, soaking her all over again.
She let her pounding head fall back against his shoulder and closed her wet eyes. Even as cold and drenched as she was, being in his arms felt better than trying to think. For a little while she could just pretend she was his girl, and let the bucketing torrents wash her clean. She must have really done it up last night to have such a hangover. When she could see again, she stared at the tumbled-down stones and decaying towers in front of them and blinked a few times. Nellie was more interested in how her new fella intended to keep her safe. He liked her, judging by the way he held her against him just a little too long before setting her on her feet.
Every bit of him was hard and tough, and made her want to ditch the plaid and feel him against all of her naked skin, right here. A guy this sheik should be dressed in the best, not in duds a hobo would burn. Trying to think about it just made her head hurt again.
My clan shall welcome you. Looking at the mossy stonework made her shiver with cold, as if there were a blizzard outside instead of rain. Pleased by his poetic flattery, she bumped her shoulder against his. They emerged from a passage into a big room built of stone, with a tree growing up right in the middle to disappear into a ceiling of woven weeds and branches. What little furniture there was looked rough and crude, little more than logs and planks. Her skin started to crawl, and she skidded to a stop, jerking her fingers from his so hard the back of her hand hit the wall.
A huge horrible thing covered in muck limped out of the shining, melting stone and trudged toward her, flashing big teeth as it let out a howl of rage. Nellie screamed as it stretched out its arms. She sapped herself and tottered back, her vision wavering.
Through the pain she heard Edane call her name, but nothing was keeping her from dancing into blessed, empty darkness. I think this has to be my favourite of the series so far. There is humor, suspense, and passion. Once it's opened, you won't want to stop until you've read the last word!
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy | Books | The Guardian
Edane is my favorite character in the Mag Raith clan. Knowing his story makes me love him even more. Can't wait for the next book!!! Bottom line, this series just keeps getting better and better. The characters are wonderful, enchanting, magical and some are evil to the core but I love them all. If you are a fan of time travel stories, this one may be the perfect answer. Her sass is endearing. Such a good book.
But the Sluath may. He can cover them up, Nellie thought, enchanted. With a sigh she broke it off. This was really happening to her. Domnall Book 1. Mael Book 2. Edane Book 3. Broden Book 4. Kiaran Book 5. Immortal Highlander Clan Skaraven Series. Brennus Book 1. Cadeyrn Book 2. Ruadri Book 3. Kanyth Book 4. Taran Book 5.
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Immortal Highlander Series. Lachlan Book 1. Tharaen Book 2. Evander Book 3. Tormod Book 4. Gavin Book 5. Immortal Highlander Bundle. Forever Faire Series. Hunted Book 1. Outcast Book 2. Hidden Book 3. Denied Book 4. Destined Book 5. Forever Faire Box Set. Silver Wood Coven Series.