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.

1 comment:

echo said...

hi guys just stumbled across your site whilst looking for a bronze bust of chief crowfoot. keep up the good work. If you know of a site which shows the bust could you please let me know, past life stuff that i am trying to explore. here in qld australia its early morning and i am running late so will come back to the site later on tonight. merry xmas and happy new year