Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
- Dylan Thomas
This is Frank Kuntz. He has given everything to save the last wild horses of North Dakota. His health. His land. Everything that means anything to him. He has prostrate cancer that has spread to his spine, although he thinks it’s all bullshit. And though most would be broken by his life, he is anything but a broken man. His spirit rages. All he has is his horses, the endless love of his family, and an empire of snow and ice. He is a tough, beautiful, gentle man.
I hold a beast, an angel, and a madman in me.
- Dylan Thomas
This is a photograph of Leo Kuntz. He is a beast - tough as nails, broken in body but never in spirit. He is an angel - gentle, kind, a guardian angel to the Nokota horses he is trying to save. He is a madman - because it takes a madman to be passionate and committed to something like the Nokota horses, when there is no money in it, no glory in it, no nothing in it other than it's the right thing to do. He is a hero to me.
I’ve wrestled with alligators,
I’ve tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning
And throw thunder in jail.
You know I’m bad.
just last week, I murdered a rock,
Injured a stone, Hospitalized a brick.
I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.
- Muhammad Ali
I think Leo Kuntz could just as easily said this about his life. As a kid growing up in a tiny North Dakota town, he had to fight for respect. In Vietnam he had to fight for his life, having been shot and left for dead in a ditch. He's had to fight with prostate cancer as result of being exposed to Agent Orange. He's had to fight to save the last wild horses of North Dakota called Nokotas. He's lost fingers, been kicked by horses more times than he can remember, and endured a lifetime of bitterly cold winters. It could have made him a bitter man. Instead it's made him a touch, soft-spoken, reflective cowboy. His body may be broken, but his spirit never will be.
Behind every great man is an even greater woman. This is that woman for Frank Kuntz. Her name is Shelly Hauge, and she is Frank's wife, his love, his endless source of strength and spirit. She has been there through all the pain and suffering of trying to save the last wild horses of North Dakota. I imagine Frank can't imagine life without her in it. Kind. Generous. Beautiful. She is Frank's church.
Brothers Ed and Frank Kuntz. The real deal. If Heaven doesn't have horses, I don't think they're going.
The above two images are of Frank Kuntz and his daughter, Alecia. Frank has given up everything to save these horses. His health. His land. Everything that matters to him except the endless love of his family.
Frank and his daughter, Dawn.
Sometimes furious gales blow out of the north, driving before them the clouds of blinding snowdust, wrapping the mantle of death round every unsheltered being that faces their unshackled anger. They roar in a thunderous bass as they sweep across the prairie or whirl through the naked cañons; they shiver the great brittle cottonwoods.... Again, in the coldest midwinter weather, not a breath of wind may stir; and then the still, merciless, terrible cold that broods over the earth like the shadow of silent death seems even more dreadful in its gloomy rigor than is the lawless madness of the storms. All the land is like granite; the great rivers stand still in their beds, as if turned to frosted steel. In the long nights there is no sound to break the lifeless silence. Under the ceaseless, shifting play of the Northern Lights, or lighted only by the wintry brilliance of the stars, the snow-clad plains stretch out into dead and endless wastes of glimmering white.
- Theodore Roosevelt about the winter in western North Dakota.