At least one government agency is trying to do something about the energy crisis. It is offering the public a low-cost alternative to long gas lines -- and it's even got four on the floor, sort of.
The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management has begun to revive its 3-year-old "adopt-a-horse" program, and is offering wild horses and burros, too, to anyone willing to come and pick one up.
For the price of a veterianrian's fee of between $10 and $20 for a health certificate, a qualified U.S. resident of legal age in his or her state can adopt one of the wild animals, which Uncle Sam claims "can make good pets or pack animals -- or even show horses."
The program was created because shrinking open lands and growing herds have begun to make grazing a problem in the wilds. To help ease the situation, the BLM now rounds up wild horses and burros from over-populated areas and generally brings them to one of several distribution centers in Texas and the Far West.
To qualify for the program, a resident must apply to BLM. An application and a new promotional pamphlet called "So You'd Like to Adopt a Wild Horse or Burro?" can be obtained from the Bureau of Land Management, P.O. Box 25047, Denver, Colo. 80225.
Because some people about a year ago sold the horses to a slaughterhouse, there are new standards for those seeking horses, the BLM says.
But after assuring itself that the applicant has proper facilities and the ability to care for a horse, the BLM puts his or her name on a register, and "depending on the number of roundups staged, [the] wait could be long or short."
So far, 14,000 horses have been adopted under the program.
The BLM warns that "before you go rushing off to apply for your wild horse or burro, remember one thing: these animals are wild. It takes considerable time and effort to tame an animal."
And, of course, there is the problem of getting the horse home from the distribution center.
The center nearest the East is Nashville. But since few of the horses are caught in Tennessee, a successful applicant faces a transportation charge of up to $100 for bringing the animal from the West.
But, the agency adds, "gentling and training a wild pet is well worth the effort. Some adopted horses have even won prizes in show competition."
Spokesmen said BLM has had problems getting rid of older horses. "It's just like kids," said one BLM official. "Everyone wants to adopt the younger ones."