The Story Behind ‘The Bone Trail’ by Nell Walton

Last fall, while reviewing my lead list for my online equestrian magazine The AllHorses Post, I came across a highly unusual blog entry by an online colleague of mine.  In the blog he told a story of a wild horse preservation advocate who made a startling discovery while investigating a secretive wild horse roundup (gather) conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, located in an extremely isolated area in northern Nevada.  During the course of her investigation she stumbled onto something completely unexpected and disturbing.  In a pursuant court document she made the following statement:

“…I headed toward the refuge station office …to see if I could find someone with information on this Sheldon gather.  There was no one at the office.  So I continued down the road to find a place to take my dog …for a walk.  <<during the walk>> I began noticing numerous bones, particularly horse bones on the ground.  As I looked farther, horse bones became more numerous.  I followed this trail of horse bones which led me to even more bones and to a denser distribution of horse skeletal remains.  I then found a large pit dug into the ground.  It was freshly dug….There were horse bones scattered everywhere.”

Several other disturbing incidents happened to this woman after this discovery; she was harassed and pursued by a helicopter (federal government contractor).  She was also told she had to stop taking pictures of gather activities by USFWS Security personnel, even though she was on public land where there are no privacy restrictions.

Things you would never think would happen in this country.  I had so much admiration for this woman, alone, out in such an isolated area, but determined in her efforts to find the truth.

Within a couple of weeks, again, while looking through my lead list, I ran across another news story about a legal battle in Federal Court between the Western Shoshone Indian Tribe and Barrick Gold, the largest gold mining company  in the world.  The Shoshone had petitioned the court for an injunction to stop Barrick Gold’s plan to begin excavation of a 2000 foot deep open pit mine on Mt. Tenabo, also in Nevada, which is a sacred to the Western Shoshone people.  What struck me was that in 2009 while the injunction was granted by the court, and Barrick Gold was back at work, digging up Mt. Tenabo, the next day.

Barrick Gold has a poor track record when it comes to human rights in and around their gold mines.  They recently had to do quite a bit of damage control when the organization Human Rights Watch aired this video on youtube, after the group conducted an investigation on conditions at Barrick Gold operations in Papua New Guinea:

As I pondered these two seemingly divergent issues, I began to see a connection.

The wild horses are in the way of ‘progress.’  The Native (indigenous people)  traditions are in the way of ‘progress.’  Wild horses being wiped out by the U.S. Government – Native Americans losing more and more of their land and heritage.

And, the plot to The Bone Trail was born.


Nell Walton is an avid horsewoman and also owns two wild horses, both of which came from a herd near Elko, NV.  She is also the founder and managing editor of the online equestrian news magazine, The AllHorses Post (  She has degrees in journalism and biology from the University of Arkansas, spent many years as a professional journalist and worked as an intern for former President Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas.  She lives in East Tennessee on a small horse farm with her husband, four horses, one donkey, two cats and two dogs.  The Bone Trail is her first novel.
Twitter: nellwal
Facebook:  AllHorses Post (user name)


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