The ranch where Tapestry was located in Nebraska was not your ordinary working ranch. We didn’t have any cows, for example. We had personal animals, wild Mustangs and wild buffalo. Thanks to the help of local people, we were able to evacuate our domestic and gentled horses the day we were evacuated from the ranch (with our dogs, cats, and birds).
We had wild Mustangs (thanks to a grant from actor and activist Pierce Brosnan) in a 100-acre pasture on the top of the canyon and wild buffalo in the adjoining 200-acre pasture. Due to the kind of fencing they both require, we could not evacuate them because there was nowhere for them to go. Instead, we did what many ranchers in the area did – we gave permission to the firefighters to open the gates to the pastures if the fire got close.
The fire actually went through their pastures. The firefighters went in to fight it – very brave of them, considering the size of the buffalo bull and the fact that there were young calves in the pasture – and they left the gates open so the animals could escape if need be. Amazingly, they stayed in their pastures and were fine! We even had two young Mustang foals, one only two months old.
And what of the wild animals? In all my hikes, I only found one small animal that was possibly killed during the fire. It appeared that the other animals, like the porcupines (see below), escaped the fire. It wasn’t long until they began to return. I saw this owl the week after the fire.
The night before our evacuation, we witnessed many porcupine headed west, away from the fire. They knew it was coming, just as the elephants and other animals knew about the 2004 tsunami. The porcupines came back, just like the other wildlife. The trees are their primary food source, so they lost a lot of that. Two porcupines – an adult and a baby – decided that they would live around our houses, eating apples off of our apple trees, and other food.
Sadly, many people in that area killed porcupines. One man told me that they would eat wooden handles on tools. After doing some research, I learned that porcupines love salt. Perhaps they were eating the handles because of the sweat that remained from the human skin that touched the wood. Whatever the reason for that behavior, we never killed any of the porcupines because we considered them to be our friends and fellow canyon dwellers. They are simply beautiful and amazing creatures who would rather run up a tree than hurt anyone with their quills.