Tokala, or Toka-Fox is our red-headed Dennis-the-menace. He is hands down the smartest horse I’ve ever met, and not in the “he’s my cute little pony and aint he so smart” way. Like a HIGHLY intelligent and cunning animal. He picks up on everything you do and uses it to his advantage the next time. He thinks problems through and looks for loop holes in your logic and approach, constantly asking you to think about what your mind and body is doing and pointing out all of your strengths and weaknesses like a cheeky child saying “haha HEY! look what I’ve figured out!” Keeping everything new and exciting is key for this guy and he will most definitely teach us a lot. He’s a fun and engaging horse that rewards your best work and scoffs at your worst.
He is named Tokala for a few reasons. Number one is that he embodies all those characteristics we associate with a fox in nature. Secondly, is that the Lakota language is used by the Crow and Blackfoot tribes, located just outside of Yellowstone National Park. As many of you know, this is a very important place to us, a place that has raised me from a squeaky clean college graduate into a tough and harden woman. These horses are one of the reasons that we are not returning to Yellowstone this year for another backcountry season, and thus, a tribute was definitely in need.
The last reason is based in literature. In my research, I came across one of my favorite books from long ago- The Little Prince. In this book, the Little Prince comes across a fox and the fox asks him to tame him. Here is some of the dialog that proceeds between the two of them and I find it hugely relatable to our time with the Kais.
The Little Prince asks, “What is Taming?” and the Fox replies, “it is an act often neglected. It means to establish ties. To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys and I have no need for you. And you, on your part, have no need of me.To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world.”
“The Prince asks “how do I tame you?” and the fox replies ” You must be very patient. First you will sit down at a distance from me in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, everyday….” and so the Prince tamed the fox. “
The Prince asks “how do I tame you?” and the fox replies ” You must be very patient. First you will sit down at a distance from me in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, everyday….” and so the Prince tamed the fox.
The fox and Prince become friends, but eventually the Prince has to leave the fox. The foxes closing words to the Prince are: ” Goodbye. And here is my secret, a very simple secret. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.. Men have forgotten this truth; but you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
I think these are very wise words for us to remember as we go about our work with the horses that we have taken from their homes, wild and free on the ranges. Their lives are now in our hands and it is our responsibility to keep them safe and well, and to build a life with them worthy of any life to be lived.