The ‘white mustang’ in ‘Black Mustang’
Where did the ‘white mustang’ in Black Mustang come from?
Karl May had at his disposal a significant number of works of early explorers of the Wild West; one of them Commerce of the Prairies, by Josiah Gregg, which had been translated into German.
[…]The White Mustang was the most experienced and the smartest of all stallions to have ever led a horse herd. His eyes were sharp enough to penetrate the densest bush, his ears keen enough to hear the softest sneaking of a wolf a thousand paces away, and his deep red nostrils sensitive enough to catch the scent of a human being from an even greater distance. Out of a herd led and guarded by the White Mustang no healthy horse was ever extracted by a hunter’s lasso; if one fell into his hands, it was ill and useless to him. Nobody had ever observed the White Mustang graze. There was no time for it. He constantly circled the quietly browsing herd with graceful and yet oh-so-powerful leaps; at the slightest sign of danger, he emitted that certain shrill, trumpet-like whinny and caused the entire herd to immediately storm off.
The story went that he had been isolated from his herd a few times; the intention was to catch him alone. He escaped at a canter; the pursuers rode at break-neck gallop, but still couldn’t catch him, and when he finally stretched out to disappear over the horizon—like an arrow—they had to admit that the White Mustang had only mocked them and lured them away from his herd. A daring vaquero and master horseman once insisted that he had come upon him by chance, and had driven him towards a steep-sided canyon; the White Mustang had leapt down into the several-hundred- metre-deep gorge without hesitation and calmly trotted away at the bottom. The vaquero attested to it with all the promises and curses at his disposal and everyone who listened to him believed it. Among a group of respectable, experienced frontiersmen was a hacendado from the Sierra who told a story of how luck once allowed him to trap the White Mustang in a corral, together with an entire tropa of wild horses, but the wonderful white horse escaped by flying away over the six-metre high enclosure, like a bird, and nobody doubted him.
Old folk told it so, and the young did likewise; the White Mustang did not only seem invincible, but also immortal, until it disappeared from the prairie together with the last great herd of horses. The merciless ‘culture’ killed off the bison and the mustang, however, old frontiersmen came forward, occasionally, and each of them claimed the elusive pale horse was no fabrication because he had seen the animal with his own two eyes.
Of course, it wasn’t a fabrication, yet it was the product of a fertile imagination; the pale horse was never real, yet he had existed; those who saw him weren’t mistaken, yet still erred, because the White Mustang wasn’t a single horse, instead, it was the collective term for a successive number of different horses.
Excerpt from Josiah Gregg’s Commerce of the Prairies:
“The beauty of the mustang is proverbial. One in particular has been celebrated by hunters, of which marvellous stories are told. He has been represented as a medium-sized stallion of perfect symmetry, milk-white, save a pair of black ears—a natural ‘pacer,’ and so fleet, it has been said, as to leave far behind every horse that had been tried in pursuit of him, without breaking his ‘pace.’ But I infer that this story is somewhat mythical, from the difficulty which one finds in fixing the abiding place of its equine hero. He is familiarly known, by common report, all over the great Prairies. The trapper celebrates him in the vicinity of the northern Rocky Mountains; the hunter, on the Arkansas, or in the midst of the Plains; while others have him pacing at the rate of half a mile a minute on the borders of Texas. It is hardly a matter of surprise, then, that a creature of such an ubiquitary existence should never have been caught.”