Yesterday, as I was driving north into Fallon on 95, I saw a horse pasture to my right. It was a fenced pasture with a deep gulley inside the fence. The gulley had a steep slope, one that could be negotiated by a mature horse but not a colt. Two colts were lying along that steep slope. My guess is they frolicked along the edge, fell in, could not get out, and collapsed in exhaustion and despair.
Most of the mature horses in the pasture had gathered around. Several were at the top of the gulley. At least four horses had come down into it and were standing over the little ones. They were standing as if at attention, majestic in a posture of defense. They were guarding their young and calling out for help.
I called Dean Trudy Erquiaga on my cell phone (it’s alright I have Bluetooth). She called the Churchill County Sheriff’s Department, who in turn called the Highway Patrol. That’s as far as I know of the story but I imagine it came out alright. Fallon is the sort of place where a horse in need can find a friendly human hand.
But I can’t get out of my mind the picture of those horses standing over their colts. It was a thing of beauty, a thing of character. That image leads me inevitably to a sadder, contrasting picture – the state of children in Nevada and the response of our adult population.
Our dropout rate, our domestic violence rate, our divorce rate -- all the facts are consistent and emphatic. Thousands of Nevada’s children are lying in a ditch, exhausted and in despair. If we start with their families, the adults are often broken themselves. One way or another, many children today do not have families watching over them. We preserve our ranking as the state with the lowest number of young adults with post graduate degrees by remaining the state with the lowest percentage of preschoolers who are read to daily by an adult. The schools and social service agencies, already operating on a shoestring, are now being drastically defunded.
It’s always easy to blame the politicians. Partly I do – but I don’t’ think they lied to us. They have been clear on their priorities and we have elected them. I can only say that the adults who run our state, the adults who vote, the adults who advocate for this interest group or that – the adults of our state are leaving the children in the ditch. The current political expression of child neglect mirrors the chronic neglect of children in their homes.
I am not the one to find a mission for the Diocese of Nevada. My place is to listen to what’s on the hearts of people both inside and outside our church walls. What I hear is deep concern for the children. What I hear is a desire to find a way to stand together and watch over our children. I see it happening in different ways in different churches and communities. St. Matthew’s and St. Paul’s, Elko partner with Communities in Schools; St. Peter’s works through Food for Thought and there are other parish/ public school partnerships; several congregations have taken up advocacy about child sex trafficking. We are beginning to restore our partnership with St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. Some of us have engaged in legislative advocacy for the public schools where we deliver food, shoes, and school supplies. We are seeking grants to begin Episcopal Children’s Services in Nye County to transport at risk children to their service providers (transportation the Sheriff can no longer provide because of funding cuts.)
There are no doubt many ways to take action. But the image that remains in my mind is of those horses watching over their young. Already, the Episcopal Church in Nevada is moving into that posture, standing over the fallen in the ditch – guarding and calling out to those with the power to do more than we can do.