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  Field Notes From
Mongolian Crossing

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Mongolian Crossing On AssignmentArrows

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From Photographer

Gordon Wiltsie

Mongolian Crossing On Assignment

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From Author

Glenn Hodges

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Miki Meek (top) and Brian Strauss


Mongolian Crossing

Field Notes From Photographer
Gordon Wiltsie

Best Worst Quirkiest
    I had just returned from a wolf hunt and was riding my horse back into the western Darhad Valley. It was bitterly cold, and the setting sun was casting a rich, golden light over the land. I felt like I'd stepped back in time in my home state of Montana. Men were riding around on horses, rounding up cows and yaks. Since it was my last day, I decided to let go of the job and put away my camera. I thought, If I haven't got it by now, I'm never going to get it. So I spent the rest of my time soaking in the scenery and galloping around on my horse, feeling like the Mongolians who conquered the world in the 1200s.

    When Mongolians eat an animal, they eat almost everything. I found myself chewing on eyeballs, a blow-torched goat's head, and boiled sheep fat that would've given my doctor a heart attack just looking at it. My hosts even cooked horsemeat in my honor and, under their watchful eyes, I had to swallow every piece. It was a little bit like eating shoe soles. I hear the meat is tough because Mongolians usually don't eat their horses until the animals drop dead from exhaustion.

    I found out quickly that there aren't phones in Mongolia's outlying areas. There are radios, but each county has only one. This makes communication an interesting and epic feat. If a family wants to call their relatives, for example, they have to contact the man in charge of the county radio. He then jumps on his horse and rides for any number of hours until he finds the family's relatives. Once that's accomplished, he sets up the appointment, rides back on his horse, and finally connects the two sides. Talk about long distance.

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