The Mountain Mouth

TerrierTown Dog Rescue, Free Cheese and more Priceless Advice

Kernville’s got The Gallery January 29, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 9:20 pm


Some fans didn’t get to see this so I am trying Re Blog. Maybe the links will appear for those using screen readers.

Originally posted on The Mountain Mouth:

Colley and Vellutini Gallery opening

Dear Neighbors,

We live in a small town. Ten thousand plus, spread out over more than a dozen communities around a lovely, but fake, lake.

So big-town-type happenings are not expected. Yet today I was taken to a new gallery opening in Kernville – less than six miles in a straight line from my place- so I said ok-  I have attended gallery shows and openings from sea to shining sea. New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, L.A., and more…

Still. At the new The Gallery in Kernville, the opening had it all. The place was mobbed from noon until the nudging of the late comers and hard art partiers out the door a half hour after the advertised closing time. The Gallery is a new joint venture partnering KRVAA (Kern River Valley Art Association) and Kern Paiute Council and “Nuui Cuuni”, (Native American Intertribal Cultural Center.)

The small space…

View original 407 more words


Kernville’s got The Gallery January 28, 2015

Colley and Vellutini Gallery opening

Dear Neighbors,

We live in a small town. Ten thousand plus, spread out over more than a dozen communities around a lovely, but fake, lake.

So big-town-type happenings are not expected. Yet today I was taken to a new gallery opening in Kernville – less than six miles in a straight line from my place- so I said ok-  I have attended gallery shows and openings from sea to shining sea. New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, L.A., and more…

Still. At the new The Gallery in Kernville, the opening had it all. The place was mobbed from noon until the nudging of the late comers and hard art partiers out the door a half hour after the advertised closing time. The Gallery is a new joint venture partnering KRVAA (Kern River Valley Art Association) and Kern Paiute Council and “Nuui Cuuni”, (Native American Intertribal Cultural Center.)

The small space which used to house a flower shop, was well hung, and dominated by art with local themes, From industrial car-paint drip art, to painting on animal skulls and shells, to my personal show favorite discovery: 86 year old Joan Montano Grant, whose retro style is heart-rendingly persona, evoking War- era magazine illustrations; yet her living subjects, from poets to ponies, have enough personality to jump off the canvas.

There were exquisite woven baskets and painted gourds from local tribe members. Striking oils of Arabian desert people; gorgeous and sensuous glass works. Intricate wood scroll art depicting California wildlife.

There was even controversy: an artist who was asked to move her paintings due to their subject matter.

"Raven Scolds Klansman, Kah, Kah, Kah," Acrylic 2014  Jennifer Colley

“Raven Scolds Klansman, Kah, Kah, Kah,” Acrylic 2014
Jennifer Colley

Jennifer Colley’s painting “A Raven Scolding the Klansman, Kah Kah Kah!” offended some of the artists whose work was also accepted into the show. Colley, Vice President of the KRVAA, responded by transforming the outside space into as much a gallery experience as inside; and despite having to mount her controversial painting on borrowed wood pallets, sold it before the event concluded, to the private collection of artist Kelly McLane.

There was music by OMG, raffles, great wine, comfortable chairs and food.

When a Saturday afternoon provides this kind of social and cultural thrill, all was missing was a great restaurant with any food not based on beleaguered cows, pigs and chickens, which we would rather pet than eat. If only there were a food truck slinging veg Pad Thai that we could take with a couple beers to an outdoor table we would have achieved Saturday Nirvana.

Alas – yet hurrah- it’s Kernville, so of course, we know somebody, and follow them to their crib and the party goes on, friends show up a banjo and guitar materialize; and people you have seen for years, but don’t really know, look you in the eye, share their dreams, and you have a new friend…

Home, without a fifty dollar cab ride. I spent my day with art, artists, and friends. I love the big city museums and galleries – but equally: Kernville Rocks.

KRVAA Kern River Valley Art Association: A not for profit dedicated to serving local artists and craftspeople since 1962. P.O. Box 588, Kernville, CA The Nuui Cunni Native American Inter-Tribal Cultural Center is a not-for-profit run by the Kern River Tuabtulabal Paiute Council


Stuntman December 31, 2014

In my rounds about town, I met an interesting character. Horseman, stuntman, actor; leatherworker, silversmith, beadworker; horse show and parade judge; and self avowed “half-breed”: Wofford Heights resident Neal Russell.

“My father was Comanche. Everybody loved my father – except my mother, ha ha” he began as we talked in the loft apartment built by his son, Rocky. The walls are lined with photos of recognizable celebrities: Angie Dickenson, Anthony Quinn, John Goodman, Whoopie Goldberg and more. They are all inscribed “To Neil”, or “Chee”, Russell’s nickname.

Horseman and Stuntman Neil Russell at home in Wofford Heights

Neal Russell at home in Wofford Heights May 2008

Neal Russell at home in Wofford Heights May 2008


Russell’s father worked “…herding cattle. He was a cowboy.” So it was natural the Russell was riding at 6 years old. “I had horses all my life,” he said. I asked if he remembered his first horse… “I forgot my first kiss. Hell, I forgot my last one!” he laughed. But, jokes aside, he did recall. His first horse was “a stunted calf. He wouldn’t grow.” So he traded for a horse that turned out to be “Loco. Crazier than fruitcake. I told Dad that he cheated me, but he said, ‘you cheated him.’ That horse ran away…”

“I believe you only have one horse. You may own hundreds of them, but there’s only one in your heart.” For Russell, it was a Morab – a Morgan-Arabian cross, named Cebavik (“Chief” in Comanche). “That horse, I’m in love with,” he said, using the present tense even though Cebavik died at age 24. “We were one,” he said. He pointed out a photo on the wall depicting Russell in Indian garb mounted on Cebavik. The horse is a big brown and white Paint with a proudly arched Morgan neck and beautiful markings and head. Russell said he never did groundwork with the horse, “I just put a saddle on him. Well, I plow-horsed* him, then got on him.” (*meaning ground driving, for you city slickers.) He raised the horse from a just-born colt. “They were going to put him down; he was not supposed to have any color.” Russell got up every few hours all night to bottle feed the colt, and Cebavick began to thrive.

A few years later, Russell was riding with “those charros”, and Cebavick showed so much talent that Russell decided to send him to “a big trainer of charro horses” in Mexico. The trainer told him, “This is a good horse. But not a good charro horse,” and told Russell he would charge $300 to train Cebavik. “My wife said, what $300? So I got a job washing dishes.” In three months he went to retrieve his horse whereupon the trainer told him, “You better get a hotel room. You’re going to have to learn how to ride him.’ Well, I been riding my whole life, I didn’t need to learn to ride my own horse! But I went down there, got a hotel room, went out there, and the guy said, ‘take him down, and stop him,’ so I lope him out and stop him, and he stopped – but I didn’t!” Because the horse was responding so quickly, the same result occurred when he asked Cebavik to turn at a lope. “And I’m not making a dime on these falls!” Russell said, referring to his career as a stuntman and actor. His movie credits include Heartbreak Ridge, The Electric Horseman, Ruthless People, Jeremiah Johnson, The Flintstones, and Rocky 1,2, and 3; and his TV credits include Maverick, Dallas, The Dukes of Hazard, Little House on the Prairie, Charlie’s Angels, Fame, Cheers, Fantasy Island, Simon and Simon, and The Waltons, among many others.

But before he “fell into” into a career in TV and the movies, Russell’s childhood was spent shuttling between his parents -“my mother didn’t cotton (to me), I was too ornery” – and he took jobs shocking hay, in a fertilizer factory, breaking horses, cleaning stalls, and riding cattle. “I did about everything you could do out in that desert. Always brought money home to Daddy.” Russell’s father fell ill and he and his elder sister essentially ran the household. “We lived out in that shack. Then we had a pretty nice house, but it didn’t have no windows or doors. The sand would come through. Then Daddy went to work for Mr. Stocker. We moved, had doors, windows, a wood stove. We were stompin’ in high cotton there.”

There were three sister and brothers each. Russell was happiest when living with his father, and never “took” to school. When he was in sixth grade, he decided he wanted to go home, so he set fire to the school. “That got me out of Bellflower in a hurry!”

A few years later, after jobs cowboying, in a Velveeta factory, and as a housepainter, he was hired by a rancher “for a big silver dollar a day. He taught me all about horses; training, working, from the twinkle in their eye to how they (eliminate). He taught me everything.”

When he was 17, “one cowboy said he was joining the Navy” and one thing led to another and until Russell found himself enlisted, at a Navy base in Idaho, and from there to Washington State, Portland Maine, Charleston, SC, and then on convoys to the United Kingdom and back. Then he heard the next trip would be to Normandy. “I said where the hell is Normandy?” The year was 1943. WW II was still raging. He spent time in Casablanca, Zurich and France. “After the Germans surrendered, I thought we’d go home. But we got sent to Okinawa.”

The war over, Russell did come home, and “got married then, like all dummies.”

Three children followed and he worked at Boeing and other companies as a riveter, and he began working with leather, working at night, on wallets, then holsters, belts, saddles and bridles. “A rough duty, boy, when you’ve got three kids,” he said. “In them days there was no welfare or disability. You had to work or you didn’t eat. If you had any upbringing or culture at all, you wouldn’t take it (welfare) anyway. If you’re a man, you work! I don’t care if it hurts, you do it anyway.” In addition to his day job, and leatherwork, he trained and broke horses at home and on weekends rode in parades and did a little rodeo. At one rodeo, “A bull threw me off, and as they were carrying me out, a guy threw a business card on my chest and said, ‘You’re not a very good bull rider, but you might make a stunt man, call me’.” The card read AGENT.

A while later when he was laid off from his job at Boeing, he called the agent, and was hired for a day on “Have Gun Will Travel”. “I went, fell off a horse, and they said to go back to the agent to get paid.” The agent told him of another job. “I came down like a bat out of hell, fell off, did that sucker five times. I sure got tired of falling off that horse.” But at the end of the day, he got one hundred dollars. He went home and told his wife, “I’m going to be a movie star!” But his wife said he’d gotten a call to work in a gypsum mill in Long Beach. So he fit the movie jobs in between work for a while, until he got called for a three-month shoot in Arizona. Russell quit the factory and never looked back.

His long hair and his riding (and falling off) skills kept him steadily employed “playing” an Indian. “In those days there were 27 Westerns on TV. You could go from one to the other. After five years, I got tired of playing Indians so I put my hair up under my hat and started playing cowboys too.”

He learned to drive a 4-horse stagecoach the hard way, by saying he could and having to prove it. The stage driver didn’t show for a movie starring Andy Devine. “I can do that,” Russell fibbed. “I got up there, shoved the brake off, got the reins, pointed their noses, then popped ‘em and we took off! I drove ‘em down, spun ‘em around came back and pulled ‘en up.” He was hired, and during the day drove Mr. Devine (in a car) from one area of the location to another. Devine told him, “I’d ride anywhere in a stagecoach with you but never again in a car. You’re one crazy Indian!”

By the mid-eighties, Westerns had fell out of fashion, and Russell found himself asking his agent why he wasn’t getting work. He was told that if he cut his hair he might be more employable. “I told him, no way, I haven’t cut my hair in 20 years. But my wife said, ‘Hell you’re not!’ So I cut my hair, got a job on a little show, then got called for an Indian job.” So he had to buy a wig, and rented it back to the production company. “They gave me $25 for the wig, all those years I never got a cent for my real hair!”

“Next I got a job as a wino. I didn’t drink, but I remembered my Daddy.” He wasn’t happy with the wardrobe’s choice, so he went to Salvation Army and got a suit and drove over it with his car until it looked right, got a makeup artist friend show him how to create a black eye, and got the job – as the “resident drunk” on Hill Street Blues. Then Simon & Simon called. “Every time they needed a drunk to die, they called me. I made more money as a drunk than all those cowboys and Indians. Didn’t have as much fun, but made more money. And I could clean up and be a doctor, priest, and other things.”

His career was in full swing when one day in his agent’s office, another actor was complaining, “How come I don’t work as much as that half-breed?” The agent said, “Do you have a tux? Can you ballroom dance, square dance, do you have a priest outfit? When you can do all the things Neal can do I’ll hire you in a minute.”

“People ask me all the time, ‘how do I get to be in the movies, be a stunt man?’ Not by the seat of your pants, I tell them. Get a college education, then play movie star.”

Thirteen years ago, at age 70, Russell was riding with Sam Elliott at the Disney Ranch when Elliot said to him, “What the hell are you doing (riding horses)? You don’t need the money, don’t need the publicity.” “I don’t know!” Russell said, “and I retired (professionally riding) then and there.”

These days he still judges parades and horse shows, which he has been doing since the 1950’s. He is a member of the California State Horseman’s Association, and has an honorary Lifetime Parade license. He still keeps his Screen Actor’s Guild membership current; and is a Comanche Elder and a member of the Kern River Piute Council and the National Indian Conference. Since moving to the Kern River Valley he has helped form the Nun Cunni Indian Center, where he teaches bead and leather work.

“People have been real good to me here,” he said. His daily philosophy is “This is the day the Lord has given us and we will rejoice in it.”

Rocky told me yesterday Neal died the Saturday before Christmas.  He was 88. I will miss him.


Free dog and cat spay, neuter clinics come to the KRV – Kern Valley Sun: Kv Life December 13, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 4:43 am

Free dog and cat spay, neuter clinics come to the KRV – Kern Valley Sun: Kv Life.


Dog Gone 2014

Dear Neighbors,

It’s dark, raining. The dogs are restless, their nails clicking on the floor. In thirteen days it will be Christmas.

One year ago I rescued a little dog from the hoarder nearby. She was nine pounds of terrier-mix, with stinky, dust colored wire hair.


I met a new friend trying to rescue the little dog – and in the course of doing so, my life took a big turn.

We live in an isolated, beautiful mountain community. The economics here suck especially since the lake disappeared. But it’s rural and in the country, people have dogs; often, too many dogs. Every day we would hear about dogs needing homes.

So that sums up my extracurricular activities for the year.

Wendy Geis has transported for spay/neuter, or fostered, or rescued, or re-homed, hundreds of dogs in our little valley. Here on the home front, I  “mother” six dogs, and Dave next door has one new one… failed fosters, some call them; they’re the ones no one else wanted.


We hope to bring more of these to the Kern River Valley. Stay Tuned.


A New York Times video December 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 2:42 am

Photo: Captured mustang stallion in government corral. photo by author 2005


Controversy On The Range


Baby Horses Die in Government Pens September 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 1:09 am

“We Don’t Count Foals”

It’s July. Outside Reno, Nevada, in the baking desert, a tiny mustang foal tries to lie down to get the sleep her growing bones needs. But there is no shade; the sun burns as relentlessly as the circling flies. She folds her stick-like legs, and thuds to the hard manure-spotted earth. The air temperature is 105, but the desert ground is over 160. Minutes later, the foal struggles back up without sleeping. Her mother is thirsty. There are over seventy wild horses sharing one trough of water. The mare can’t fight her way to the water as often as she needs. Her milk is compromised.

The foal fights for life, but in a few days, dies.

“The extreme 105-degree temperature overwhelmed me within minutes,” said Marjorie Lynne Wagner, advocate, of her visit on July 1 to the Palomino Valley Holding Facility. “When I tested the ground temperature with a new Ryobi infrared thermometer, I was shocked to see how high it read… up to 164 degrees.”

Thousands of public pleas to provide shade and more water for the horses at Palomino Valley and other facilities went unanswered this summer. Jetara Séhart, executive director of Native Wild Horse Protection, offered the Bureau of Land Management funds and materials to erect shelters for the captured mustangs, but as July’s sweltering days dragged on, there was no response. Instead of shade, the BLM installed sprinklers, which the horses studiously avoided as seen in this press release.

Unhappy with the government’s response, advocates planned a “Gimme Shelter” protest for July 20 to draw attention to the suffering horses. When they arrived at Palomino, they were met with threats and told their cars would be towed.

“You need to play nice,” BLM special agents reportedly said. It was insinuated that more protests and public scrutiny could lead to the entire facility being shuttered to the public, like what happened at Broken Arrow.

The protest was moved to Carson City.


“Little Feather” a.k.a. “Sorro” was euthanized photo: Cat Kindsfather

Until 2010, the public was welcome at Broken Arrow, another Nevada mustang and burro holding facility. Most of the almost $80 million annual budget of BLM is spent on the “long term holding” of over 50,000 once-wild mustangs and burros.

Author Terri Farley toured the facility that year and was shocked to see a “tiny emaciated foal standing at the fence line, seeming to plead for help… I was shocked at his condition.”

“I never did witness any shelter to protect near two thousand horses, foals and burros,” said advocate Cat Kindsfather, who photographed that foal the day before its death.

The dead foals are removed from the pens, and their bodies discarded in secret locations. Their deaths are secret, because dead babies are not counted among casualties of the Wild Horse and Burro program.

Not counted.

Why? The official answer is that the foals are too young to have been branded. (A freeze brand is applied to all horses and burros once captured from the wild. The brands serve as identification for each horse.) The obvious beneficial side effect of this policy is that the official death count of the round-ups is kept artificially low. Farley has dubbed them “Phantom Foals”.

“If you are managing the horses properly you need to account for all deaths as these are necessary indicators as to the standard of care,” points out Neda DeMayo, director of Return to Freedom, a 300-acre California sanctuary that houses 400 mustangs, some in intact family bands. De Mayo and others, despite their sanctuaries’ already strained resources, recently outbid killers for mustangs that mysteriously ended up at an auction mixed with Indian mounts, at the Fallon, NV auction last month. For decades, the non-profits and citizens have been left with the clean-up job for a problem artificially created by the wild Horse and Burro Program.

“No animals have passed since July 2,” Palomino Valley Director Jeb Beck said to advocates at a recent press event. But many no longer accept the agency’s numbers.

“We’re concerned about the foal deaths,” Séhart said. “There were 2,000 wild horses at Palomino Valley. The numbers there keep changing mysteriously… now there are 1700. But no horses are dying?”

 “If this is what we can see, then what’s going on behind closed doors?”


Jetara Sethart: Protesting at At Palomino Valley.
“They kept asking me which one I had picked out to save. I choose all of them.”

The horses have their enemies: the corporate ranchers, the oil and gas guys; everybody wants the public lands, now more than ever since “energy independence” is a popular refrain. The Ruby Pipeline that cuts the US out of all profit, while we bear the risk; the frackers, the oil explorers, shale oil diggers, uranium miners, and even the military would all rather operate without having to worry about a bunch of horses dying all over the place. Poisoned water, destroyed ranges and fences: the mustangs are the potential canaries in the coal mine that is the rape of the west.

The semi trucks carrying poisons in and money out don’t want to slow down for a bunch of horses on the road. But most articles that reach the public don’t point to the corporations or the ranchers, but instead scapegoat the horses and burros, and are stuffed full of tired old facts and figures. Despite outside scientific censure the BLM keeps spouting the same numbers year after year despite the thousands of horses whose lives are shattered with the round ups each season. In the last twelve months over 3,660 horses and burros were captured, their future uncertain.

“The Wild Horse and Burro Program has not used scientifically rigorous methods to estimate the population sizes of horses and burros, to model the effects of management actions on the animals, or to assess the availability and use of forage on rangelands,” said the National Research Council’s Report. The product of almost two years worth of investigation and research, it devastatingly details the failure of the BLM to manage the federally protected wild horses in its care.

Reporter Andrew Cohen who has followed the issue for years put the report in regular language. “There is no scientific basis for removing thousands of the nation’s horses from public lands and placing them in expensive and dangerous enclosures. There is no scientific basis for ignoring or minimizing safe fertility controls. There is no scientific basis for claiming that the relatively small number of horses do more damage to our lands than do the vast number of cattle and sheep who graze on it at vastly under-market “welfare ranching” rates.”

Off the record, BLM employees admit “Nobody knows how many horses are out there.”

Congressman Raul Grijalva, touring the facility with the press last month, agreed, calling the BLM “a very broken management system” that is “not functional.”

“When advocates are passionate about an issue — as advocates for the wild horses are — sometimes unfortunately you dismiss that as being ‘a point of view,’ the congressman said. “I think what the academy did is validate it.”

Towards the end of August the BLM held a public meeting to discuss whether the mustangs at Palomino and other holding facilities required shelter, and if so, gather information on how to proceed.

Some of the advocates were encouraged that the agency was finally responding. Others said action was needed, not a discussion, pointing out that in the wild, mustangs have the freedom to seek shade. “It’s ridiculous to question whether a baby horse needs shelter on a 106-degree day. The BLM requires mustang and burro adopters to provide a 3-sided shelter. It’s a no-brainer.”

Deaths of foals are not counted; herds are  not actually or factually counted; photographers are fenced away from entire pens of horses at holding facilities; and kept miles away from round-up trap sites…

A report almost two years in the making is still not acted on half a year later. Facilities that have received negative publicity, like Broken Arrow, have been closed to the public…

Thousands of rounded-up horses with no adoption market end up every year in long term holding are on private lands. A gal who calls herself Pioneer Woman is among the few with lucrative government contracts in the millions, to run mustangs on their properties with no oversight. The BLM’s budget is 70 million dollars and most of it is spent on round ups and long term holding costs…

Thousands of signatures on a petition were counted by the BLM as one public response…

Wild Mustang Robin, a twelve year old, traveled to Capitol Hill with 250,000 signed letters, asking for humane treatment for America’s mustangs. She was told she could not deliver her letters, and she was ridiculed, but the next day, she prevailed.

A court battle over reporter’s rights to document the roundups has gained support from thirteen press organizations and overturned a lower court’s decision:  “I have spent the last four years trying to tell the story of the wild horse on the range, during capture and in holding,” stated Laura Leigh, plaintiff. “I have been met with restrictions at every turn.”

Sally Jewell, the new head of the Department of Interior, has said nothing specific about her plans for the program. Her predecessor, Ken Salazar, stepped down a few months after threatening a reporter.

Despite lots of talk of transparency, the BLM is still opaque. The hot light of public scrutiny and dissatisfaction may be beginning to sweat the agency – though still not as painfully as the desert sun on the backs of the mustangs at Palomino Valley.

Copyright Sept 2013 by Kate MacDonald

*italics by author

correction 9/24 Top photo was incorrectly attributed, photo is courtesy Cat Kindsfather. Apologies!



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 684 other followers