Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Buffalo Gal

I just had the opportunity to travel to Montana and Wyoming, to do some research, take photos for my book trailer, and enjoy a few days of vacation. We visited Yellowstone National Park, and I’m ashamed to admit that this was my first visit, despite living in the Northwest for thirty years.

It won’t be my last visit. I was enthralled with the landscape, wildlife and hydrothermal features. We had the chance to see elk, beaver, coyote, pronghorn, deer, badger, hawks and wolves. But, my favorite animal was the buffalo, also known as the American Bison.

We visited the National Bison Range in the Flathead Valley of Montana a few years ago, and it was my first opportunity to see these magnificent animals up close. Watching them run, seeing their shaggy heads, and observing the males protecting the females as they crossed the road turned me into a true “Buffalo Gal”.

On this visit I had a chance to see herds grazing across the plains and the sight was awe-inspiring. I try to imagine what it was like when these animals covered the land from Canada to northern Mexico, and east to the border of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s been estimated that there were between 60 to 100 million buffalo in the mid-19th century. By 1902, they were nearly extinct. Greed killed them, with many hunters taking only the hides and the tongue. The Lakota people called these hunters – wasichu – which means bad medicine and white man. The tatonka (buffalo) were not only sustenance for these plains Indians, they were also sacred and important to their spirituality.

A few years ago I had the
opportunity to spend two days with Michael Blake, the author of “Dances with Wolves” and he talked about filming the movie with Kevin Costner. One of the things he mentioned was assembling the herd of buffalo for the movie and the way the entire crew stood transfixed that first day of filming when the entire herd stormed across the plain.

It’s not a sight we’re ever likely to see again, even in Yellowstone National Park where the herds are carefully managed to be maintained at approximately 3000 animals.

I think we're diminished by this loss, because for me, buffalo make a landscape more beautiful.

In the coming weeks, PBS will be showing a new Ken Burns documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”. Because I’ve been working with our local station to help promote this series, I’ve had a chance to see some clips from the film. I encourage you to turn on the TV, because this is an event not to be missed.

And then get out into one of “our” parks. The scenery is amazing!

Deborah Schneider
Promise Me – January 2010


Paty Jager said...

I agree, there is something almost magical about buffalo. My most recent sighting of them was in Kodiak, AK. The islanders imported them after the bear demolished the cattle they brought in to help sustain the island. The bear didn't mess with the buffalo!

Melinda said...

Buffalo is a very sacred animal to Native Americans. I love them dearly. Great photos.

I would love to interveiw anybody who would be interested.

My email is navajotrust@yahoo.com

I have interveiwed quite a few authors so please check out my website: www.melindaelmore.webs.com

Walk in peace and harmony,


Alexis Morgan said...

Your trip to Yellowstone sounds wonderful. We took our kids there years ago, but I'd love to go again. Our National Parks are definitely a treasue we need to protect and care for.

I was at an animal preserve about twenty years ago and saw my first buffalo up close. They were walking around the road we were driving along. Two of them decided to stand on either side of the VW bug ahead of me. Whoa--those beasties are huge!


Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Deborah, the buffalo is indeed a grand beast. I was heartbroken to learn there were only about two dozen of then left at the end of the 19th century, due to the wanton slaughter.

What a wonderful post. My hubby saw buffalo last Saturday in the hills around Solvang CA while doing a Livestrong Fundraising bike ride.

I haven't been to Yellowstone for years but recall moose and elk.

Mary Ricksen said...

I think they make the landscape more beautiful too.
I am one eighth Abenaki Indian and even though it is a small amount of my blood. It's in my blood to feel the pain of their slow demise. But they are coming back!
I had a great uncle who always wore a buffalo skin in the winter. I remember the distinct smell and the warmth when he would wrap us in his arms. He loved nature and so do I.

P.L. Parker said...

We spent many vacations when I was young in Yellowstone, long before commercialization set in. It was in Yellowstone I was cornered by a huge black bear and only through the quick thinking of a park ranger am I here today. The Park was gorgeous back then, and the animals awe-inspiring. After the big earthquake, a lot changed, Old Faithful changed, a lot of the geysers stopped, but there are many wonderful memories there.

Lucy Naylor Kubash said...

Enjoyed your comments about Yellowstone and buffalo. Our first trip out west was in 1971 when I saw Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for the first time. The last trip was in 1998. We went to the Custer Park, which I think is in S. Dakota? Lots of buffalo there, and then we were privileged to see a very young white buffalo in N. Dakota. My book is set in the Tetons and I would so love to go back again!

Tess Thieler said...

Thank you for this wonderful post along with the gorgeous photos of the buffalo. Because of your information here, my family is tuning in to watch the National Parks series. We loved the first episode last night. (Channel 13 at 8pm eastern, if anyone is interested.) They will air a new episode every night this week starting at 8pm.

I've been lucky to have visited many of our national parks back in 1981 - an experience I will never forget. Now, with a family of my own, I have finally begun to see the west again. *BIG SIGH* This past summer it was The Grand Canyon. My family fell in love the the countryside just as I did so many years ago. Now my husband understands completely why he's often heard me say, "I just want to live out west."

~Tess Thieler
TWRP "The Stranger Behind the Kiss"