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Editorial: Consider the evidence

It is not our general practice to respond to the comments readers make on articles published online by the Craig Press. We feel everyone is entitled to an opinion, so we offer our online comments section as an open forum for the expression of such opinions, and we do not vet, proctor, or debate the comments left there unless they are profane, libelous, or belligerent.

We do read the comments, though, and occasionally, we run across one we feel compelled to address.

Such was the case last week, when we published an article sponsored by Memorial Regional Health headlined, "The time for a flu shot is now — Seasonal flu vaccines especially important for children and adults older than 65." The article, which outlined a number of reasons everyone 6-months-old and older should be vaccinated for the flu, elicited a comment urging residents to use caution when deciding whether to submit themselves and their children to vaccinations.

We don't specifically disagree with that part of the comment; a healthy measure of caution is always prudent when considering medical treatments, particularly elective treatments.

But the comment also cited evidence linking vaccines to serious side effects, including autism, and urged readers not to be swayed by "propaganda."

We must take exception to this last portion of the comment.

There is simply no widely accepted, peer-reviewed evidence linking vaccines to autism.

A 2004 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — the collective scientific national academy of the United States — examined the hypothesis that vaccines, specifically the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine, and thimerosal-containing vaccines are causally associated with autism. It found no such association.

According to the report: "The committee concludes that the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism. The committee also concludes that the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. The committee further finds that potential biological mechanisms for vaccine-induced autism that have been generated to date are theoretical only."

In non-science jargon, this means the evidence gathered in multiple, peer-reviewed, reproducible studies shows no causal relationship between these vaccines and autism. As a result, the majority of scientists, physicians, and public health researchers have come to the conclusion that there very likely is no such link.

It is important to note the provisional language used in the report: "evidence favors rejection," "theoretical only," and so forth. That's what science — real science, anyway — does. It makes no claim of absolute certainty; rather, it posits likely conclusions based upon available evidence and remains open to modification pending new evidence.

If and when new evidence is uncovered, it may offer indications that the MMR vaccine and thimerosal-containing vaccines are, in fact, linked to autism. But given the evidence we have now — and there’s plenty of it — we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that there probably is no such link.

Even so, we understand the reluctance of some to subject themselves or their children to vaccinations when there is even a possibility — regardless of how remote — such a link could exist. But when examined in light of all the facts, these concerns fall apart.

When we get into our cars each morning to drive to work, there's a possibility we may be involved in a fatal car crash, but we accept that possibility because the benefits of driving a car outweigh the potential of a fatal crash. We take the chance because the odds are stacked overwhelmingly in our favor.

The same is true of vaccines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, before the middle of the last century, diseases such as whooping cough, polio, measles, Haemophilus influenza, and rubella struck hundreds of thousands of infants, children, and adults in the U.S., and thousands died each year from these diseases. As vaccines were developed and became widely used, however, rates of these diseases declined until, today, most are nearly gone from our country.

Furthermore, studies have shown that vaccinations increase the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population through a mechanism known as "herd immunity." If a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to a particular disease, especially through vaccination, the disease cannot spread as readily through a population.

This means that individual decisions involving vaccination don't impact only one child or only one family; rather they affect entire communities. The fewer healthy people who are immunized, the more vulnerable we all are, particularly the youngest, oldest, and frailest among us.

All that said, we support everyone's right to make their own decisions about vaccinations. Yet we urge everyone to do their research and base their decisions on sound evidence.

From Pipi’s Pasture: Remembering Thanksgiving

When Thanksgiving rolls around, I can't help but remember my childhood, when the holiday was celebrated with a big dinner and lots of family. Thanksgiving was usually spent with the Osborn family, since our grandparents, Dad's parents, lived on Deer Creek, just over the hill from our ranch at Morapos. Many of the other Osborn family lived close by, too. My mother's family lived near Steamboat, so ranch chores prevented us from going there very often, but we did occasionally go there on Thanksgiving.

When Grandpa and Grandma Osborn still lived on their ranch, we usually had Thanksgiving dinner there. They had a rather large dining room with a big table where the adults ate dinner. We kids fixed our plates and ate elsewhere, though I don't think we sat at a table.

Sometimes, Thanksgiving was at our house. Looking back on it, my sisters, brother, and I wonder how everyone fit into our house, because it was small. Our grandparents' house wasn't so big, either, but things seem so much bigger when you're a kid.

Anyway, even though the hostess fixed the turkey and trimmings, everyone contributed to the Thanksgiving dinner. So, the women started cooking several days before the holiday. Besides, they liked to cook some Thanksgiving dishes to have on hand for the days after the big dinner.

Most of the ingredients for the Thanksgiving meal came from the ranch, from canned goods in the basement to the eggs and milk from ranch animals. Sometimes, even pumpkin and minced meat was canned, but ingredients such as marshmallows, raisins, cranberries, evaporated milk, and gelatin were purchased at the grocery store.

Our sister Darlene (Blackford) remembers that chicken was the main meat at our house on Thanksgiving for several years, until the summer we raised white turkeys. She recalls how exciting it was to see that turkey as it was pulled from the oven. She remembers the family even bought a special big platter for the turkey.

Before the holiday, baking could begin, and the nuts — usually walnuts — had to be shelled. That job usually fell to us kids. Sometimes, the hunters brought walnuts with them when they came to the ranch in the fall. Mom did not buy already shelled nuts — at least not that I remember. Mom also churned butter. She saved up cream to be used in some of the recipes — and for whipped cream.

Mom sometimes started off her baking with an applesauce cake with raisins and nuts. (Come Christmas, other ingredients were added to make a fruit cake.) She frosted the cake with a powdered sugar icing. She baked pies, always pumpkin and minced meat, but sometimes apple or cherry. Mom baked bread, cut it into cubes and placed it on cookie sheets to dry for stuffing. Our dining room table was covered with pies, cakes, and cookie sheets, and we had to move it all elsewhere to eat our meals.

On Thanksgiving Day, no matter where we were, the dining room table was filled with sweet potatoes (made with brown sugar, butter, and covered with marshmallows); cranberry dishes; vegetables, such as baked corn or green beans; a variety of gelatin salads; and, of course, the turkey, dressing, potatoes, and gravy. There were also freshly-baked rolls, relishes, and jellies. The desserts were left in the kitchen for later.

Memories of Thanksgiving past!

Over a Cup of Coffee: Some Thanksgiving recipes

I can't believe it's less than a week until Thanksgiving. These days, with my busy schedule, it's hard to get the time to do a lot of cooking, as my mother did years ago, but there are always the family favorites, like a salad with cherry pie filling, fruit, whipped topping, and still more yummy ingredients. (I've featured the recipe in this column previously.) This week's column features a recipe for making a sweet potato casserole (it's good) and a cranberry salad, a recipe I can't remember making before. Both recipes are from an old cookbook that no longer has a cover.

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes freshly- cooked or from a can

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 stick margarine

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs, beaten

Milk, if needed

Mix sweet potatoes, sugar, margarine, salt, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and eggs. If the mixture is too thick, add a little milk. Pour it into a greased casserole, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Mix the following topping and sprinkle it over the mixture. Bake for 5 to 10 more minutes.

Topping

1 cup crushed cereal

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 stick margarine

1/4 cup flour

Dash of cinnamon

Cranberry Salad

1 package of cranberries

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple

1 cup chopped apples

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 cups sugar

2 (3-ounce) boxes black cherry gelatin

2 cups boiling water

1 envelope Knox gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

Grind cranberries. Add pineapple, apples, celery, and sugar. Let set overnight. The next day, dissolve the gelatin in hot water. Add Knox to cold water, and add to the gelatin mixture. Add these ingredients to the fruit mixture, and mold or let set in a small casserole dish.

Do you have recipes you would like to share with readers? If so, please call me at 970-824-8809 or write to me at PO Box 415, Craig CO 81626. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Prather’s Pick: ‘Holes in the Sky’ a moving picture book

"Holes in the Sky" is Patricia Polacco's most recent picture book for children. Polacco has written more than 100 picture books based on her childhood. In fact, she is the "Trisha" in many of her stories, as is the case in this week's book.

As the story begins, it is a hot night, so Trisha, her brother Richie, and grandmother, their Babushka, spread blankets out in the yard. It is a custom that Babushka brought with her from Russia. They all lie there, looking up into the star-lit sky.

Babushka tells her grandchildren the stars are holes in the sky. The light they see is heaven showing through the other side. The holes are the way to heaven, where people go when it's their time.

What her grandchildren don't know is that Babushka is ill, and she has been hiding it from them. So now, she tells Trisha and Richie she will be going through the holes soon, but she will be watching over them each night. She will even send them a sign so they will know she's watching.

Less than a month later, Babushka leaves them. The children are devastated. Grandpa sells the farm, the children's mother takes a teaching job in California, and she and the children spend several days on the road to their new home. Each night Trisha looks at the stars and waits for her grandmother's sign.

Their home, in Oakland, is on Ocean View Drive, a culturally diverse neighborhood. The family has arrived in the middle of a drought. It's so bad that nobody is allowed to use a hose to water their lawns and plants. The grass is brown, and the plants have dried up. However, Trisha's family likes their house, and soon, they're settled in. Trisha continues to gaze at the stars each night, but still there is no sign from Babushka.

One day, Stewart, a boy from down the street, shows up at their door carrying a basket of flowers. Stewart says it's a May basket and asks if she'd like to buy it. Trisha says it isn't May, but Stewart doesn't pay any attention. When he notices a lot of art paper on a table in the house, Stewart wants to know if Trisha would like to make some May baskets. They end up making several.

Trisha wonders where he got the flowers, since there's a drought and all, but Stewart just pulls the baskets down the street in his wagon, and she follows. What a surprise! In front of Stewart's house, right there on the brown grass, are containers full of flowers. Stewart says they have grown them by using waste water from washing machines and sinks. Come to find out, other families have been doing the same thing.

Trisha and Stewart become good friends. One day, she meets his grandmother, Miss Eula. Trisha continues to look from a sign from her own grandmother.

There's a lot more to come from this book, including a neighborhood effort to help mean old Mrs. Bacci. And the sign from Babushka? It's there, too.

This moving book is published by G.P. Putnam's Sons (2018). It costs $18.99 in hardcover. You can also find the book in the children's room at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.

Living Well: Treating incontinence in women with urodynamics

Unless you or someone you know has urinary incontinence, you've probably never heard of the term urodynamics. It's a common phrase used by urologists and gynecologists, alike. Urodynamics simply refers to a series of tests that assess how well a person's bladder and urethra are working.

"I perform multichannel urodynamic tests to determine exactly what type of incontinence a woman has, because not all urinary incontinence is the same. Urodynamics give me an accurate diagnoses, which means I can tailor my treatment and get good results," said Dr. Scott Ellis, OB/GYN with Memorial Regional Health.

Women suffer from urinary incontinence more than men, partly due to giving birth. But it's a misperception that women have to simply accept leaking or loss of control.

"I refer to incontinence as the silent shame. Women don't like to reveal they have it, unless I ask. So, I make it a point to ask at every annual visit. Women who say they are incontinent often follow it with, 'I know there's nothing you can do about it.' That's simply not true," Ellis said.

You may assume the main solution to urinary incontinence is surgical, since the transvaginal sling for stress incontinence received a lot of attention in the past. Yet, treatment for urinary incontinence is rich and varied — with new options being developed regularly, including improved slings.

"Solutions may be surgical, but they may be medical and even sometimes physical, depending on the type and severity of urinary incontinence. While we might not be able to cure incontinence 100 percent, we can significantly improve a woman's quality of life," Ellis said.

Treatment options

MRH offers advanced laparoscopic surgeries for incontinence. Ellis has been performing laparoscopic surgeries — which promise a smaller incision and faster healing time than traditional surgery — for many years. The hospital offers all types of surgeries for incontinence and only needs to refer particularly complicated cases to urogynecologists in Denver.

Surgical options include the transvaginal slings for stress incontinence, with newer types that are less invasive, such as the single-incision mini-sling or the suprapubic sling. Sometimes, a few, well-placed stitches makes all the difference.

Ellis performs pelvic floor biofeedback at the hospital, and has introduced a new technique called sacral neuro-modulation for urge incontinence.

"With sacral neuro-modulation, we place a small, pacemaker-like device near the sacral nerve that stimulates the nerve with mild electrical pulses. This improves continence, since the nerve helps control the bladder and surrounding muscles during urination. It has been well-studied and shows good results for both urinary and rectal incontinence," Ellis stated.

Another exciting treatment option is periurethral collagen injections to help strengthen the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments at the base of the bladder.   

"Without making an incision, I inject material in and around a woman's urethra to make it stronger and thicker so it can better hold the pressure of urine," Ellis said.

Sometimes, urinary incontinence can be controlled with medications that prevent bladder spasms or calm an overactive bladder. Other times, it can be treated with physical exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor.

"There is a fair amount of pelvic floor rehabilitation and special bladder retraining exercises that women can do to ease their symptoms," Ellis said.

Ellis likes to do a thorough workup with urodynamics when someone complains of incontinence, because sometimes, he finds a more serious underlying issue.

"Certain neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, can cause incontinence. It's good to rule out more serious causes," he said.

Whether it is stress incontinence — that happens when you cough, sneeze, or laugh — or urge incontinence — a feeling that you have to go immediately due to spasms in your bladder — or another reason for incontinence, MRH can help.

"We have all the advanced equipment and training that we need to make a great impact here at MRH," Ellis said.

To explore treatment options, call MRH Women's Health & OB/GYN at 970-826-8230.

Lance Scranton: It’s not right!

Ever notice how much attention the things that just don't seem to be working correctly tend to get in the news and on social media?

How come the good things aren't reported on as naturally as the negative stuff that circulates throughout the news cycles every day? Why don't the regular people who go to work everyday and do what they should make the headlines each and every day instead of in a special insert, or monthly focus, or quarterly spotlight? Why do people clamor to justify the needs of people who want to enter our country and take advantage of the benefits we work so hard to provide while being OK with veterans who can't get the services they need or homeless people living on the streets who need our help, as well?

Maybe it isn't a red or blue problem, though that would be an easy answer, because then, we don't really have to do anything about it; Republicans and Democrats just see the world differently — right? Maybe not.

Maybe it is a fundamental American belief in helping people who are less fortunate, downtrodden, or subjected to unfair treatment that drives us each to try and find solutions. No, we don't all agree on the role of government in supporting specific needs (Amendment 73), but we do believe government has a role (city sales tax increase) in providing some services.

We, in Colorado specifically, appear to be socially liberal (our governor-elect) but fiscally conservative (most tax increase measures failed). It seems most people don't have big issues with how politicians live their lives, as long as they have the best interests of those who they serve in mind. This isn't really a Democrat/Republican thing as much as it is a statement about our society as a whole — that believe people should be left alone to make determinations about what is best for them (the Founding Fathers called it liberty).

It doesn't seem right that a Democrat is only identified as someone who wants to shut down power plants and coal mines, and litter the countryside with windmills and solar panels. It isn't right that Republicans are pigeon-holed as a bunch of gun-crazy, planet polluters who think smaller government means leaving them alone to do whatever they like.

I know it isn't right, because I know people from both sides of the political spectrum who love our country but have reasoned, well-thought-out differences of opinion as to how best achieve the American Dream. I'm not sure we will ever change the way Washington does business or how the media chooses to present caricatures of people who believe a certain way of living is best, but if we move forward, it will only be possible when we decide, as communities, that the answers might just be right here where we live — if we choose to look.

Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.

Veterans: 100 years ago, 100 years from now

Editor’s note: On this Veterans Day, U.S. veterans number more than 1 million, more than 800 of them in Moffat County.

One-hundred years ago, the War to End All Wars ended. Soldiers sailed for home. Today, no living American possesses the memory of being one of the 3 million who crossed the Atlantic to fight against Germany and the Central Powers. War has not ended. What does it mean to remember?

Two-and-a-half centuries ago, the United States of America originated with conflict. The Revolution's Continental Soldiers lived to see their country divide under Generals Grant and Lee. In turn, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren became combatants, soldiers dispatched by Congress to defend the growing nation. More than 1 million have died in faraway lands and seas. Survivors returned home; they became veterans.

Among us today, they live and work, their yesterdays a vital part of who they are. What about the rest of us? Five days ago, we the people spoke: leaders were elected. What's next?

Divided among ourselves about how to find the answer to that question, we forget — a lot — and the past blurs. Somehow, we have lost track of how we got here, to this day.

Americans have grown into a mix of peoples, some few descended from native tribes who inhabited North America before European settlers arrived, many descended from slaves transported by force from another continent. Through the years, refugees and builders have traveled over oceans and continents to the myths and truths of the American West, escapees from where there existed no chance of bettering themselves or where hunger and desperation were all that was. They sought to make life worthwhile.

Beneficiaries of their bravery and recipients of history, most of us, in order to become Americans, have needed only to be born. We have not offered up our lives to make citizenship happen. Are we slowly but surely slipping into the emptiness of cultural Alzheimer's? The debilitating disease can deplete our country as it does the individuals who have lost connection with time past. If history disappears, we shall exist in a morass of murky clouds, unable to differentiate between what was and what is.

Veterans know. In foxholes dug along hillsides of Iwo Jima, in outposts of middle eastern deserts, under attack from poison gas, downed by machine guns, and expelled into the sea from torpedoed ships ,they have learned about themselves and about the man or woman next to them. They have learned under fire the ultimate reason for fighting. Must we all face battlefield horrors before we figure out that we can work together to make our country what it needs to be — for each of us, for all of us? Our struggles have resulted in growth toward ideals of liberty and justice that two centuries ago were barely conceivable. Veterans stand as guideposts marking the intersections of history.

From one generation to the next, our young children experience what they cannot yet name when they reach up to shake the hands of veterans and sing the words: "You have our backs. You always do. You know that we rely on you."

One-hundred years ago, the United States abandoned neutrality, entering into a war that promised to "keep the world safe for democracy." First-generation immigrants numbered some 18 percent of the American military. They may not have spoken the language of their new country, but they claimed it as their own and returned home veterans. Remembering them, we can avoid the disability of forgetting. Recognizing their presence in our midst, we the people can begin to see and hear each other, strengthening the common ground we share.

One-hundred years from now is up to each of us, to all of us. Our veterans show us the way.

Harriet Freiberger has lived in the Elk River Valley since 1982.

From Pipi’s Pasture: November reflections

At this writing, it is just turning daylight. The early morning sky is covered with scattered clouds, some of which are tinted pink. It's a pretty morning. When I first got up, I turned on the front porch light for our granddaughter Megan, who would be coming home from work soon. I pushed the three cat food pans out onto the porch and filled them with food. (We put them in at night to discourage the skunks.) Then, I took the dog out and poured myself a cup of coffee.

I enjoy the quiet of the morning, when the world is just waking up. Lyle enjoys a little more sleep before it's time to help feed the cows, and I wait until it is light enough to go to the corral. As I wait, I enjoy my coffee, plan my day, and reflect on things. This morning, I'm thinking that it's November already, and as I do at the beginning of every month, I reflect on the changes the new month brings.

It's Election Day, and we're thankful we have elections. Lyle and I both remember years past, when we visited with neighbors as we waited in line to vote. We looked forward to the day. This year, we have already voted — days ago. We are thankful that the political commercials — particularly distasteful this year — will be off the air.

Daylight Saving Time is gone for a few months. A few days ago, one of the news channels on television featured a report about the results of a study concerning the effects of changing from one time to another on the human body. I had no idea the changes might bring on a stroke or heart attack. What I do know is that, here at Pipi's Pasture, it takes a little time to get into a new feeding schedule. It's light enough to go to the corral by 7 a.m., but I have to arrange my away-from-home work appointments so I can do chores by 3 p.m. Otherwise, it's getting dark when I'm filling stock tanks. This November, however, it seems we have slipped into the time change more easily than usual.

We have weaned and sold the calves, and the cows have settled into a winter routine. The "bottle" calves have been weaned, too, and are eating grain. Ucky is gone, so there are fewer chores than usual at the corral, which leaves time to chop and remove ice from stock tanks. As we ease into using tank heaters, that chore will become easier, too.

This early morning, I'm marveling as to how much the trees look like skeletons, with their leaves covering the back and front lawns. A few apples and crabapples remain on the trees, food for the flock of winter birds that fly in groups around Pipi's Pasture. The garden looks sad and lonely.

The little bit of snow we've seen this past week is a warning that I need to buy some winter boots — that, and gifts for November birthdays and Christmas.

Reflections and planning — it's all about November, which has come in a hurry and and will go the same way.

Over a Cup of Coffee: Quick sandwich recipes

One night last week, when I was in a hurry to get supper, I decided to make Sloppy Joes. I usually make them using ground beef, pork and beans, and tomato sauce or ketchup, but this time, I decided to jazz up the recipe a little by adding some green bell pepper and onion. What I got was rather good Sloppy Joes. So, I'm including the recipe in this week's column, plus some other sandwiches. If you make the sloppy Joes, remember to use the pepper, onion, and ketchup for your taste.

Diane's Sloppy Joes

• 1 pound ground beef

• 1 can pork and beans

• About 1/4 of a green bell pepper, chopped

• About 1/4 medium onion, chopped

• Ketchup, to taste

• Seasonings

• Hamburger buns

In a skillet, brown the ground beef with the green pepper and onion. Add the pork and beans and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add ketchup to taste. (I did not measure the ketchup. I just added some to the mixture straight from the bottle, mixed everything up, and added a bit more until I liked the way it tasted.) When the mixture is heated through, serve it as filling in the hamburger buns. Add a salad, and you have a quick supper.

Easy Denver Sandwich

• 1/4 cup minced onion

• 1/4 cup minced green pepper

• 1 tablespoon butter

• 4 eggs

• 1/4 cup milk

• 1/2 cup minced cooked ham

• Salt and pepper

Sauté onion and green pepper slowly in hot butter until the onion is yellow. Beat eggs slightly with milk, and stir in ham, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture into the skillet. Scramble gently with the onion-pepper mixture over low heat until just set. Spoon into hot toasted buns, or serve between buttered slices of bread or toast. Makes four sandwiches.

Club Sandwiches

Lightly toast three slices of bread for each sandwich. Top first buttered slice with cold sliced chicken. Top with second slice of bread buttered on each side. Top this slice with lettuce leaf, tomato, and two slices crisply-fried bacon. Put buttered third slice of bread on top. Use mayonnaise on chicken layer, if desired. Cut into halves or fourths or secure corners of sandwich with toothpicks.

These last two recipes are from my cookbook without a cover. Do you have recipes you would like to share with readers? If so, please call me at 970-824-8809 or write to me at PO Box 415, Craig, CO 81626.

History in Focus: Sand Wash horses a living icon

The wild horses of Sand Wash Basin are famous around the world. Each spring, aficionados watch closely for newborn foals and the right to bequeath them a name. Picasso, the most famous of the herd's wild mustangs, is available on Amazon as a Breyer Toy replica for only $39.13, and there are 186,000 followers on Facebook pages dedicated to the herd.

These horses and their modern star power is a story that closely mirrors the taming of the Wild West and Moffat County. And today, like the deer, antelope, and elk of Sand Wash Basin, the horses are part of a closely managed ecosystem dependent on humans for wise decision making.

As cattlemen and bandits moved into the Brown's Park area in the 1870s, a dim view of the wild horses was prevalent. In the raucous years of the open range, they were rounded up, branded, and broken to become saddle horses. Stray working horses ran off and joined the wild herds, the range was stressed, and efforts to trap the wild mustangs were ineffective. A May 26, 1904, article in the Routt County Courier blatantly hoped, "that the range may be rid of these pests, which not only act to destroy a great amount of feed, but also act as a menace to raisers of horses who depend on the range."

The rollicking era of the open range ended in 1934 with the Taylor Grazing Act, and the era of land management arrived. Soon, lines were drawn on maps, and the wild, open expanses of the West were divided into discrete grazing districts. Within each of these districts, smaller areas, called allotments, were created and managed for cattle, sheep, and domestic horses. Today, the Little Snake Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management administers 323 allotments across much of Moffat and Routt counties. Over the decades, as stability came to the range, ranchers with grazing allotments developed dependable water sources in the Sand Wash Basin, which helped the wild horses flourish.

In 1971, the Wild Horse and Burro Act brought better treatment to the horses and directed the BLM to manage them in areas in which they existed at that time. In the Sand Wash Basin, this area comprised 157,730 acres holding about 65 wild horses. In 1982, the BLM officially created the Sand Wash Herd Management Area, or HMA, and designated it to hold a total of 160 horses. In 1995, the number was expanded to 217 and increased to a maximum of 363 in 2001. Current estimates put the herd at more than 700 horses, which stresses rangeland and encroaches upon allocated grazing permits. In some cases, permit use has been reduced up to 90 percent in the Sand Wash Basin.

In the past, as the herd's numbers grew beyond the maximum population, the BLM conducted a variety of different "gathers" to maintain a healthy herd. Wild horse advocate groups have also partnered with the BLM to administer, through darting, a birth control hormone called PZP to as many mares as possible. All these methods hold hope and controversy for the groups involved with these very personified, yet untamed creatures.

Don't forget, Mother Nature is also a major player in this story. As forage and water disappeared during this summer's drought, members of the overpopulated herd moved south to the edges of the HMA near Colorado Highway 318. On Sept. 1, the Craig Press reported a wild horse named Tecate was killed by a passing vehicle. He was mourned by advocate groups, and simply having a name indicates the challenges of managing the Sand Wash herd.

As the Wild West recedes further into history, the Sand Wash horses have evolved into a living icon of the West. Our horses are beautiful, accessible, famous, and loved throughout the world via social media. Yet, difficult decisions are on the horizon if the horses are to remain a vibrant image of Moffat County and its perception of where "the old west stayed young."