Patriarch of the Remuda…

by forrest fenn

Many of the objects in my collection are significant in a very small depiction of world history. Most are more interesting than they are important. Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to remember that each piece represents who we once were in a time that used to be, and that I will never be anything more than its temporary custodian. 



This stallion is 32-inches tall when he stands on his hind legs, like now. A free-spirit expression relaxes on his 75-year old face – don’t you see it? He’d probably admit to having a bad hair day but who cares?




He was named Tohopka (Wild Beast) by his maker, Yazzie Yarnell, who lives on the Hopi Reservation in Northern Arizona. Last I heard, he was 93-years old, but that was a while ago.

Yazzi carved Tohopka from the solid branch of a pine tree and dressed him in a warm winter ensemble, including a red, white, and blue Pendleton capote that’s fastened by two homemade mother-of-pearl buttons. Solid silver studs decorate the margins of Tohopka’s leather trousers and a classy, red-painted buckskin kilt hangs down in front. A German silver, rocker-engraved rosette holds Tohopka’s red neckerchief in place, but that’s no reason to call him a dude. He’s the monarch of the herd, a fact to which all of the mares and fillies in the remuda surely would attest, if asked.


Tohopka’ll do his job and serve his master, but I can see in his steely eyes that he’s unwilling to be subservient to the institutional norms of everyday reservation life. He’s his own man when not on the job.

Tohopka seems right at home here in my den and he’s not just a decorative piece of sculpture to me. My friends say I’m too personal about these things, and take them too seriously, but what do they know about horses?