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There’s nothing like a good mystery, especially when it involves a wild mustang. Desert Dust is a fascinating whodunnit that begins with a well-known photograph of a palomino stallion taken in Wyoming in 1945. Las Vegas Police Investigator R. J. Gillian became acquainted with the famous image of the horse, Desert Dust, as a child growing up in Rawlins. He was intrigued with the story of the man who rounded up the mustang in order for the picture to be taken, but wanted to know more about the photographer who took the shot and most importantly, what became of the horse.
Using Gillian’s research, author Paul Papa recounts the story of how rancher Frank Robbins used an airplane to separate Desert Dust from the rest of the herd and then sent for Verne Wood to capture the animal on film. Verne won a prestigious contest for his photograph. The winning of the award set the horse, and the two men, on a roller coaster ride of notoriety.
As the photo gained fame worldwide—appearing in the Wyoming State Capitol, the United States Senate Chamber, and the House of Commons in London—the horse became the star of a film nominated for an Academy Award. All the while, Robbins and Wood battled for ownership of the photo and its copyrighted name, resulting in one of the most unique rulings ever handed down by a court.