Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Survived Christmas . . .

. . . and now it's into the deep freeze and a winter of content with the herd. More adventures coming.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Red Chief on Wheels: Bikin' with Little Santa

Watched Red Chief all day Thursday and Friday, and although it was a slushy mess outside we took to the streets and went to the park, which we had all to ourselves. He insisted on wearing the Santa hat. His bike has a name: Buffalo. I wonder who suggested that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Birthday Boy

Happy birthday to my little boy, who is now 24. Yikes. Here he is with his crazy canine Ali Baba. The last time the Illini went to the Rose Bowl, Tim was two weeks old. The Illini are finally in the Rose Bowl again, and Tim will be a daddy to a little boy due January 10.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thunder in the Streets

Time to migrate back to the herd and do some real running. Hibernation and occasional running just don't make it. So, it's brush off the snow, put on the running shoes, and romp in the streets Thursday night.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wild Innocence Attacked

If you have seven minutes to spare, please watch this. It takes a while for the narration to start, but listen to it closely. A well-done video, but it makes my blood boil. This cruelty against the Yellowstone buffalo must stop.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Stamping flint feet, flashing moon eyes"

I'm not a big poetry nut, but I just had to share a poem I recently came across. Hey, it's about buffaloes. From "The Ghosts of the Buffaloes" by Vachel Lindsay, a Springfield, Illinois native who penned this in 1914:

"And the wind crept by
Alone, unkempt, unsatisfied,
The wind cried and cried-
Muttered of massacres long past,
Buffaloes in shambles vast...
Snuffing the lightning that crashed from on high
Rose loyal old buffaloes, row upon row.
The lords of the prairie came galloping by.
Buffaloes, buffaloes, thousands abreast,
A scourge and amazement, they swept to the west.

With black bobbing noses, with red rolling tongues,
Coughing forth steam from their leather-wrapped lungs,
Cows with their calves, bulls big and vain,
Goring the laggards, shaking the main,
Stamping flint feet, flashing moon eyes.
Pompous and owlish, shaggy and wise.
Like sea-cliffs and caves resounded their ranks
With shoulders like waves, and undulant flanks.
Tide upon tide of strange fury and foam . . . "

Friday, December 07, 2007

Beasts at the Castle of the Princess

Red Chief and Flower

Flower, who as a youngster lived in a flower shop (she also resembles the skunk named Flower in the movie Bambi), is always quite vociferous. Here her mouth is open while giving me a squeal.

Buster. Because he just looks like a Buster. This is one of his favorite perches, on a warm computer.

The Princess and Red Chief decorate the castle exterior.

"Adventures" presents the debut of Flower and Buster, brother and sister felines at the home of Princess and Red Chief. I was enlisted to help with Christmas lights.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

An Evening with Mr. Baba

It's always an adventure when son Tim brings over his "crackhead" hound, Ali Baba, who shares a rare still moment with me in a chair. Ali's unclipped ears remind me of someone.

Friday, November 30, 2007

"This Noble Race of Animals"

A Rocky Mountain trapper - What Osborne Russell probably looked like, based on his descriptions of a typical trapper and mountain man.

I've been reading the journals of a trapper of the 1830s and 40s, Osborne Russell, who spent much time in what is now Yellowstone National Park. He laments the decline of the buffalo, even during that long-ago period: "The vast numbers of these animals which once traversed such an extensive region in North America are fast diminishing. The continual increasing demand for robes in the civilized world has already and is still contributing in no small degree to their destruction, whilst on the other hand the continual increase of wolves and other 4 footed enemies far exceeds that of the buffalo. When these combined efforts for its destruction are taken into consideration, it will not be doubted for a moment that this noble race of animals, so useful in supplying the wants of man, will at no far distant period become extinct in North America."

Today's Yellowstone herd, which exceeds 4000, is descended from a tiny group of surviving buffaloes.

In an 1835 journal entry, the trapper writes about an area in Yellowstone, the magnificent Lamar Valley, where this fall I saw many buffalo and elk, a couple of coyotes, a wolf, and a grizzly: "There is something in the wild romantic scenery of this valley which I cannot nor will I attempt to describe, but the impressions made upon my mind while gazing from a high eminence on the surrounding landscape one evening as the sun was gently gliding behind the western mountain and casting its gigantic shadows across the valley were such as time can never efface from my memory but as I am neither Poet Painter or Romance writer I must content myself to be what I am, a humble journalist, and leave this beautiful valley in obscurity until visited by some more skillful admirer of the beauties of nature who may chance to stroll this way at some future period."

Russell's written record of his experiences with the land, weather, wildlife, and Native Americans is a treasure.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Native American Viewpoint at Yellowstone - Listen Carefully

A hunter from the Salish-Kootenai tribe speaks to Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers about the current bison hunt on the Montana borders of Yellowstone. Tribal members are allowed to hunt the Yellowstone bison for a limited time in accordance with a treaty. There are no other wild bison in Montana.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An Evening with Red Chief

Spent four hours last evening with the ornery little guy. Much fun. Cooked dinner for him, watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and hung Christmas decorations. And I whipped him two out of three matches in arm wrestling. Grandpa rules!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How Many More?

Another season of hunting down the last of America's continuously wild buffalo, the Yellowstone herd, began November 15. I don't care what anyone says, this is not right. The hunt is justified, say its supporters, because the herd could transmit the disease brucellosis to cattle. Yet, there has not been a single documented case of this. If a buffalo roams outside the park boundaries, into the killing fields of Montana, chances are good he will get in the cross-hairs of a telescopic sight of some trigger-happy fool who would boast of a wild buffalo kill. if the hunters of Yellowstone buffalo must satisfy some macho ego or get a thrill of shooting something, hunting bin Laden is recommended. I'll help buy the ammo. There is buffalo meat at the grocery store. Mowing down a wildlife heritage, animals that Yellowstone visitors appreciate and delight in seeing, is just pathetic. I wonder what those same visitors would say if they saw some clown pumping lead into these magnificent animals. There has been a flood of outrage, yet the hunt continues. I tremble these days when I get an e-mail from the BUFFALO FIELD CAMPAIGN. They tell it like it is, and I can always count on them. Regarding the buffalo hunt, a resident near the park said it all: "We have seen enough blood in the snow." The Yellowstone herd is special. Just let them roam.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Buffalo Tamer

My companion Kathy, aka the Dairy Queen, aka Wolf Woman. We have dreams of doing fieldwork for the BUFFALO FIELD CAMPAIGN at Yellowstone and for the YELLOWSTONE WOLF PROJECT.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tom in the Tetons: A Lasting Impression

Borrowed photo because this critter was MIA.

Atherton Creek in Grand Teton National Park. This was moose country, but Bullwinkle was nowhere to be found. I stayed here for quite a while, though, admiring the awesome beauty of the area.

With the Grand Teton mountains as a backdrop, buffalo are ready to surround me.

The log chapel.

I was determined to see at least one moose in the Yellowstone area, and by all accounts the best place to see one was at Grand Teton National Park, which is just south of Yellowstone. The last full day of my trip was spent at Grand Teton, but I could have easily spent an entire week there. Just unbelievable beauty. I stopped at a visitors center and asked where I could best see moose. I was given five prime locations, these by men who knew the area well. While driving to and from the areas, I had to stop while a large batch of buffalo crossed the road in front of me. I looked behind me and more buffalo had entered the road and stopped. Wonderful. I was surrounded by buffalo who had no intention of quickly leaving the road because there was no other traffic. I was isolated. No other car was in sight. Finally, most of the herd left the road. The gig was up: the buffalo were in collusion with area moose, delaying my moose "hunt". The moose were there all right, but my seeing them was just not to be as I drove all over the area and stopped at several locations and waited in vain.

The next day as I was leaving the Tetons for home, I noticed a log building off to the side of the road. A sign said it was the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. A quaint building set by a beautiful lake and the Teton mountains, I decided to take a break and walk around the chapel grounds. Now, I'm not a religious person, but I decided to see if the chapel was open. A sign told me that the season for services in the chapel was June 1-Sept. 30, but the door was open this second week in October. I walked in and by the entranceway was a sign: "Dedicated to the victims of 9/11." Choked me up. It was eerie in the chapel as sunlight poured in, yet it was quite cool in the unheated building. As did all the magnificent wildlife and scenery in the area, the silent chapel left a lasting impression with me.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Buffalo Roamed, but Where Were the Antelope?

A pronghorn antelope at Yellowstone: I didn't take this photo because these clowns were hiding from me.

Bighorn sheep frolicking on a steep, rocky slope. Mentally unstable creatures, no doubt.

The battle of the Little Bighorn: Mama bighorn sheep and kids had stopped traffic on a Yellowstone road when I snapped this photo. A fun sight.

This might have been the largest buffalo I saw at Yellowstone, and I saw hundreds. This big guy was in a roadside ditch in the Lamar Valley voraciously downing watery roadside "salad." Judging by the size of his gut, the dude might have mowed the entire valley.

I don't know if anyone heard, but I had discouraging words to say about the antelope at Yellowstone. Geez, I see all kinds of wildlife, but one of the star attractions avoided me - the pronghorn antelopes. I asked a park ranger, "Where are they? I've been looking everywhere." Ranger says, "At this time of year they're at the northern boundary of the park, and some may be in the hills beyond the park." So, I drive to the northern area of the park, see no antelope, then drive out of the park and into no-man's land, but the little pronghorn piss ants are nowhere to be seen. I give up the search and head back down south when I see people stopped on the side of the road, a sure sign that some good wildlife is around. They are looking up at steep rocky slopes at those crazed mountain climbers, the bighorn sheep. These critters are climbing all over rocky ledges, defying death, at least to me, and staring down at us, daring us to come up and try it too. They were much fun to watch.

STILL TO COME: Frustration in The Grand Tetons: Taken hostage by wild buffalo while hunting all over creation for Bullwinkle

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hail to the Chief

Red Chief Subdued: The Serious Ethan

Red Chief Released: The Not-So-Serious Ethan

We interrupt our Yellowstone coverage to bring you heroics of Red Chief. Last week the Princess told me about a call she received from Red Chief's school principal. Immediately I thought, "Uh oh." No, she said, it's good. Seems the Chief's kindergarten art teacher fell and hurt her head in the classroom. While other students sat motionless, the quick-thinking Chief hurried out of the room to the principal's office to tell of the incident. The principal was very grateful and thanked the Princess. The chief obviously wasn't too big headed about the incident when he casually told the Princess only late last night that he was singled out in a school-wide assembly and recognized on stage for his quick actions. Just another day in the life of Ethan Oliver Rice. I'm extremely proud of the little dude.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mystic Buffalo

I had what I would call some just plain weird experiences at Yellowstone, and this is one of them. I hiked a trail to beautiful Mystic Falls (upper photo), and while hiking back on the same trail I came upon a lone buffalo completely blocking my path. There were no other buffalo or humans in the area, just me and this big guy. It was as if he had been placed there because he wasn't visible on my hike to the falls and I wasn't gone long from the spot where he stood. Now, why did he choose to stand on a narrow trail when he could have stood anywhere else on the hillside? Because he wanted to annoy me, I guess. Or send a message. Whatever, he stood on the trail for a while, not moving an inch, and was turned sideways just like the photo above, which I took a little later after he had taken his sweet time moving off the trail. I had to go way around him through some thickets. I guess this photo proves that he was not an apparition, but at first sight it sure seemed like he was. More Yellowstone adventures coming.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Peeping at Tom

A special moment at Yellowstone: This big guy, head begrimed with mud, had just finished swimming across a river, the bottom of his coat still dripping wet. He walked over to my car, stood there for a few moments, looked in at me, and then slowly trotted around the car to join his buddies. He was so close I could have reached out and touched him. Of course I was thrilled and quickly snapped this photo. The photo doesn't really do justice to the magnificent presence and immense size of the animal.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Yellowstone: Critters in My Camera

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone: This coyote and one of his buddies suddenly appeared in front of my moving car on a bridge. I was able to slowly drive alongside him and snap this. He looked sideways at me with a "get outta my face" look before he vanished into sagebrush beyond the bridge.

Stud Elk, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone: It was common at Yellowstone to see a giant bull elk, like the one above on the left, surrounded by a harem of females numbering as many as 30.

Sometimes, a stud needs a nap.

In a pine forest an early morning frost covers a buffalo bull. My camera flash gives an eerie yellow glow to his eye. Click on the photo for larger view.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

But Will I Make the Cover of National Geographic?

Me and bronze buffaloes.

My shot at an elk: statue at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. In the background is part of the vast range of the National Elk Refuge.

I had some very weird (but all good) things happen to me during my trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. For example, I'm at the beautiful National Museum of Wildlife Art outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, admiring my new favorite sculpture, "A Change of Seasons" by T.D. Kelsey, which features two giant buffalo. I have to nab someone to take my picture in front of this masterpiece. There's an older gentleman and his wife in the parking lot. I'll pick on them:

Me: "Do you mind taking my photo?"
Him: "Sure will."
Me: "I have the camera all set for you. Just stand here and click."
(He quietly snaps the photo and leaves to get his car to pick up his wife.)
Her (his wife): "Do you know who just took your picture?"
Me: "Uh, no."
Her: "That's a National Geographic photographer."
Me (in complete disbelief, in the style of a blithering idiot): "Geez. What's his name?"
Her: "William Allard."
Me: "Wow."

HERE'S the info on the dude who took my photo. Do I know how to pick a photographer or what? How weird is that? More strangeness coming.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Elk on the banks of the Firehole River, Yellowstone National Park.

Oxbow Bend of the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park.

I'm still going through all the photos from my trip, so for now I'm posting two of my favorites. While driving along a road close to the banks of the Firehole River in Yellowstone, I noticed the tips of two giant antlers down on the river bank. I pulled over, hopped out, got my camera ready, and . . . whoa. I came upon this magnificent creature, a huge bull elk, posing for me. I was only 15-20 feet away but near my car, safe from being hoisted onto his antlers. In the other photo, Oxbow Bend of the Snake River, near the Teton Mountain range in the background, was a special place, a prime stomping ground for moose. Spectacular beauty. (Click on the photos for close-up view.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm Not Dead, But I've Been to Heaven

Me and a buddy at Mammoth Hot Springs, headquarters site of Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone overwhelmed me. The experience was much greater than I had anticipated. I'm in a daze after seeing hundreds of buffalo and elk, four wolves, five grizzly bears, three coyotes, rock-climbing bighorn sheep, and a bald eagle perched on a tree limb snacking on a fish, all in a magnificent landscape. The moose did a good job of avoiding me, though. I'll be posting more photos and giving you an account of what I did, but I won't bore you with too much text. For now, suffice it to say that it was a kind of spiritual experience. More to come, including how I was held captive by a herd of wild buffalo in the Grand Tetons.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I would love to see a moose at Yellowstone. Lots of 'em out there.

This photo was taken at Yellowstone on September 22 of last year. Yikes.

This will be my last post for a while because I will soon be leaving for Yellowstone, a dream trip. The weather at Yellowstone these days is iffy, with temps in the 40s now but Saturday a high of 26 is predicted with snow likely. When I arrive next week it is supposed to be in the 40s and sunny. We'll see. I'll have to be prepared for anything while living in a tent. It's all good.

I'll leave you with these words about Yellowstone from naturalist John Muir:

"The alpenglow is fading into earthy, murky gloom, but do not let your town habits draw you away to the hotel. Stay on this good fire-mountain and spend the night among the stars. Watch their glorious bloom until the dawn, and get one more baptism of light. Then, with fresh heart, go down to your work, and whatever your fate, under whatever ignorance or knowledge you may afterward chance to suffer, you will remember these fine, wild views, and look back with joy to your wanderings in the blessed old Yellowstone wonderland."

Monday, October 01, 2007

Dude, Don't Eat Me

So, since I'm leaving for Yellowstone in a week, I thought I would check the latest on what's going on with the grizz and other wildlife. And I read this from an Idaho TV station about increases in bear encounters in the Yellowstone area:"Why so many bear encounters in the month of September? According to Fish and Game, right now is the time of year when bears are trying to put on as much fat as they can to get ready for hibernation. It's called hyperphagia, which is Latin for "pig out."

That's just perfect. It's "hyperphagia" and I'm gonna be out there as a potential walking lunch for Yogi and his pals. I'll have to deal with it.

I had an exceptionally nice weekend with hug buddy the Dairy Queen. We saw the Illini whip the Nittany Lions, toasted the Fu Dogs at Allerton with some fine wine, and Sunday I ate enough fat at the Clinton pork and apple festival to choke a whale. And what the hell is a Nittany Lion? Looked it up and found that the Penn State mascot is a mountain lion that long ago roamed around Mount Nittany, which overlooks the present campus. Nittany is a Native American word meaning single mountain. Now you know.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Yellowstone's Wolf Packs

I would be happy just to catch of glimpse of some of these magnificent animals during my upcoming Yellowstone trip. A predator of the buffalo, the wolves at Yellowstone have been identified as being in 13 distinct packs numbering 137 wolves in all. The smallest pack has 4 individuals, the largest 19. More packs exist just outside of Yellowstone's boundaries. The wolf's main prey in Yellowstone has been elk, but old, sick and very young buffalo also have been victims of wolf packs. I have seen video of mother buffaloes protecting their young by kicking and goring wolfs, even tossing them in the air, but much of the time young buffaloes become isolated and are seized by the wolves. Occasionally buffalo bulls form a defense for helpless buffalo and ward off wolves with a tough stance.

Monday, September 24, 2007

It's Monday

To hear a real grumpy buffalo, it's fun to turn up the volume on this. I love the last little spitty snort.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Young girl of the Taos tribe, photographed by Edward S. Curtis in 1905.

With my fondness for good photography and Native American heritage, websites that feature the photography of Edward S. Curtis are favorites. Stunning portraits like the one above as well as Native Americans at their homes and in the field are treasures. The portfolios can be viewed HERE.

It's going to be cold when I get to Yellowstone in October, but that's OK. Of the few campgrounds that remain open in the fall, it is first-come first-served as far as acquiring a campsite. A co-worker has loaned me a book on Yellowstone waterfalls. More than 250 are in the park, which reveals the vastness of the place. I'm planning my time there carefully so that I can cover certain areas that are prime on my list. Of course one trip won't be enough, so I hope to go back several times. Besides the huge herd of buffalo, I want to see wolves.

An event at Allerton Park in November that I hope to attend is "An Evening with Poe," which features readings from the works of Edgar Allen Poe in the stately Allerton mansion, along with wine (from a cask of amontillado?) and a candlelight tour. It's a pricey affair at $20 a pop, but I don't get out much, and Poe is a favorite. Weatherwise, a dreary evening would fit right in. Quoth the buffalo, "Evermore!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Down the Avenue and in the Garden with the Dairy Queen

My favorite Fu Dog

One of the many Chinese musicians

The Dairy Queen

Last weekend: Wow. Started off with a good time with Red Chief followed by another episode of Survivorman, who had it pretty good this week on an island in the South Pacific. He had plenty of fresh water thanks to heavy rains and there seemed to be food aplenty with coconuts, crabs, snails and other creatures about. All in all, I thought this was his easiest stint.

Spent a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Allerton Park near Monticello strolling with the Dairy Queen along the Fu Dog Garden, down the Avenue of the Chinese Musicians, and around the stately Allerton mansion. Dairy Queen? That's Kathy (above, in sunglasses), and although she has not formally met any of the herd, she already has a buffalo nickname. She is fond of dairy products, so that was an easy one. So yes, to any buffaloes tuned in, Democrat Tom actually has a hug buddy. I've warned her of the herd "mentality", but she will soon have to experience it firsthand. (She knows how fond I am of my bison homies.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Whirlwind Weekend

A lot to do this weekend, but I won't bore with many details. Monday posting will include photos of my exhilarating lifestyle. Hah. It starts tonight with watching Red Chief for a bit, followed by a glass of wine and tuning in to Survivorman, one of my favorites on TV. Tonight he's on an island in the South Pacific. If I can get half of what I want to get done this weekend, I will be ecstatic. Taking photos at Allerton Park, a very special place, will be a highlight. You'd think with all those statues out there they would have a nice sculpture of a buffalo. If I win the lottery, Allerton will have a buffalo statue. Over and out.

Thursday, September 13, 2007