In Nevada during the 1950s, it seems there was a new battle on the Western frontier. No, it was not between the Native American and the cowboy, but it did involve ranchers, farmers, and "mustangers". The existence of wild Mustang horses was being threatened.
A wild horse advocate by the name of Velma Bronn Johnston, or more commonly known as "Wild Horse Annie", began a fight to ensure the future of America's wild horse. As she was driving home one day she noticed a brutal scene taking place. As she began to investigate, she realized the Mustang was being herded by airplane into overcrowded trucks. The trucks were so crowded that a young yearling was being trampled. Angered by this gruesome act, she began a crusade that would turn into a battle to save the Mustang.
Born in March of 1912, Velma Bronn Johnston was saved as an infant on the milk of a Mustang mare when her family traveled to the West in 1923. She was the oldest of four children. Her father owned a freight company that was mostly serviced by horses many of them of Mustang descent. As a child, she suffered from polio which left her face disfigured. She had a love for animals and for learning. However, growing up other children would make fun of her appearance. Luckily, this did not deter from achieving a bountiful life. She married a neighbor, Charlie Johnston, who was tall and strong. He was part Delaware Indian. Charlie took over Velma's father's ranch, the Lazy Double Heart Ranch. Unable to have their own children, they started a day camp for children.
But Velma's greatest achievement came in 1959 when Wild Horse Annie Act was passed, nine years after first witnessing the horrid treatment of wild horses. This, however, didn't prove to be enough to protect the Mustang. Threats on the wild Mustang continued through the 1960s, but Velma held up the fight. She began a grassroots campaign to raise public awareness of the treatment of the Mustang. She wrote letters and spoke to young school children. Over time, she gained the attention of well over thousands of people including politicians. Newspapers published articles about the exploitation of wild horses and as noted in a July 15, 1959, Associated Press article, "Seldom has an issue touched such a responsive chord." Eventually, this fight would result in the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act in 1971.
Though progress has been made towards the preservation of wild horses, the Mustang is still being threatened and its fate is unclear. The fight of Wild Horse Annie continues.