Today’s ride brought me from nearly all cropground into rolling hills scattered by cattle and crops. At the speed of bicycling (approximately 10 mph) it is much easier to envision the past. Although I spooked an occasional antelope—curious, but too close, they would lope to a safer hill to view the strange rider. Hungarian partridge would flush—likely surprising me more. Vast herds of bison are now gone, but very easy to envision grazing the hills and creeks. (The Plains animal we call buffalo are bison, but related to the Wood Buffalo of Western Canada.)
Why are there now tens of thousands of wild and confined buffalo in the U.S. and Canada?
Perhaps a hundred generations survived off the Plains bison meat and hides. It took only a generation or so to slaughtered them. Norbert Welsh (1845-1932) is immortalized in book and bronze as “The Last Buffalo Hunter” (a book by Mary Weekes and monument by the Saskatchewan Historic and Folklore Society). Today’s photo is of a roadside historic monument to a local historic notable, buffalo hunter Norbert Welsh. On this ride, I would rather see herds than monuments.
South Dakota rancher, Scotty Philip is credited with saving the American baffalo on his ranch near Ft. Pierre. His original 83 turned into hundreds for others to reproduce, turn loose, or even add scenes to movies.
You may recall the 1990 Kevin Costner film “Dances with Wolves”. We were living in Pierre when Costner rented a house during filming. The buffalo scenes were filmed on the Houck Ranch, and my brother-in-law supplied most of the horses.
So, rancher Philips a hundred years ago, rounded up some of the remaining buffalo and propagated them?
There is more to the story. Philips bought his original buffalo (bison) stock from Pete Dupree . Fred Dupree, Pete’s son, captured seven buffalo calves in 1901 during one of the last free range hunting parties. Did young Fred come up with the idea to save the buffalo? No. Fred’s mother (Pete Dupree’s wife) was both Lakota and French. It was no surprise to her the vast herds used by her ancestors would soon disappear. She encouraged her son to capture and raise some buffalo caves. Two of the seven died in captivity. In a few years, the remaining five calves matured, populated, and were eventually sold to Scotty Philips with encouragement from Scotty’s wife (also Lakota) who knew Mary Good Elk Woman Dupree—the woman who saved the American bison.
We live in an interesting culture. One man destroyed and is glorified; one woman saved animals from extinction and is forgotten.