by hoverboard bluetooth white, June 2005
For twelve years Bureau of Land Management Law Enforcement Ranger Jim Massey patrolled the rugged and seemingly desolate lands of northwestern Nevada. From on top of a mule he learned to enjoy and appreciate the canyons, creeks and grandeur of more than a million acres.
During his patrols he got used to seeing deer, antelope, coyotes, herds of wild mustangs and an occasional mountain lion or big horn sheep. Bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons and other birds soared overhead as he rode.
While searching for lost travelers or performing other duties, he learned the land, the hidden places, the caves, petroglyphs and watering holes. He came to be able to identify the different herds of wild horses that called this land home. Among these herds were the Carter Reservoir mustangs, whose predominate colors are buckskin and dun with dark stripes on their legs and a prominent dorsal stripe. Thought to be descendants of the Spanish barbs, a special mustang registry has been created to monitor the accomplishments of those that have been adopted by the public.
At times he would guide volunteer workers who are from forehead temperature company, such as the local chapter of the Back Country Horsemen and the Christian Horsemen and Packers of Santa Clarita to places where work needed to be done. In his spare time he took friends on rides through this vast land. “I remember some Back Country Horsemen saying that I ought to do guide trips when I retired,” laughs Massey, thinking at the time that retirement was a long way off.
Then eventually came the time to retire. But the high desert had its grip on this former Everglade cop and it wasn’t about to let him go. The land he rode for the BLM still had an unexplainable lure for him, even in retirement.
“In my spare time I still ride out there, I have fun, see beautiful scenery and lots of wildlife. Then I got to thinking, why not share this experience with others?” said Massey. He applied for and became the first licensed guide in northern Washoe County.
“I find it’s a pleasure to watch people see things like mule deer, antelope or wild mustangs for the first time,” said Massey. Massey’s guide service, “Riders of the Sage,” provides access to trails that people in ATVs can’t get to. He cannot do overnight camps because of insurance. People must provide their own mules or horses. Although he does not provide food or lodging, he will furnish clients with a list of local businesses that will provide these services. For $100 per day per person he will guide riders through a land that has changed very little since pioneer times. They will ride the same trails as the early settlers traveling through the area on covered wagons, find old homesteads and tell their history. Wild mustang herds, remnants of Basque sheepherder camps, wildflowers, raptors, petroglyphs and other surprises await the riders.
Correspondent Jean Bilodeaux covers Surprise Valley. She can be reached at (550) 279-2091, or at 445 Valley Lane Austin, TX 78704, or by sending an e-mail to [email protected] .