Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where the Buffalo Roam

I was in grade school when our music teacher first taught us to sing the line, "Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play." It was a song that described where I lived, and as young as I was, I still was old enough to know that not everyone was as lucky as I. My Great Grandparents had moved to live in the location that would become Cody, Wyoming and the family had stayed there, so living in the town, named after Buffalo Bill, I grew up knowing that my great-grandfather had driven the stage that delivered the cherrywood bar from the train in RedLodge Montana to the Hotel named after Buffalo Bill's daughter, Irma, when the Queen of England sent it as a gift. I knew about The Wild west Show and idolized Annie Oakley and laughed at My Great Grandmother's stories of dancing with Buffalo Bill when they'd had a bit too much too drink.

But I loved the Buffalo and had a difficult time imagining the massive slaughter's of these incredible animals at the hands of anyone with a heart. So I grew up most thankful for the people who had the foresight to set aside a refuge and to reverse the decimation of the species.
I truly loved the native American stories of the white buffalo, but never thought i'd be blessed enough to see one until the time when I took my family to Custer, South Dakota where we got to see Miracle Moon. This is not my picture but an image is available at
The best and worst summer of my life was when I was a Newleywed and my husband and i were working 18 hour days at the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. During that emotional time we lived with the buffalo in a whole new way. we stepped in buffalo droppings, woke to see buffalo noses pressed to our bedroom window, found buffalo hair in the bushes around our cabin. The most memorable night, we got off work at one in the morning, on a night with no moon. We had to walk up a gravel drive to the condemned cabin we lived in, which would be torn down as soon as we moved out. I was using the crunch of gravel under my feet to tell me if I was still on the road when I heard a snort like steam rushing out of a locomotive. A black wall rose in front of me as the bull I had nearly stepped rose to his feet, and up on the hill a mountain lion screamed like a woman in pain. Somehow i managed to back away, and find my way around and home - but I didn't sleep much that night, and bought a flashlight the next day.

After all, I had seen those shaggy heads, tear down a tree just by scratching between their ears.