Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Real Mountain Man

The gravesite and statue of "Liver Eating" Johnson at Cody, Wyoming, not far from Yellowstone National Park. That's Johnson in the photo.

Robert Redford as Jeremiah Johnson.

One of my favorite movies is Jeremiah Johnson. My kids might tell you I've watched it dozens of times, and that is quite accurate. Good story, very nice scenery, all shot in Utah. And some of the movie was filmed on or near Utah property owned by the star of the movie, Robert Redford. I learned recently that the movie is loosely based on an actual mountain man, John "Liver Eating" Johnson. His amazing story is told HERE.

The article doesn't mention that 2,000 people attended the reburial ceremony of the real mountain man Johnson at Cody, Wyoming. One of the pallbearers was Robert Redford.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ho Ho Buffalo! Little Bull Meets the Man

Tot in Terror: In his first-ever meeting with Santa, Devin didn't have much to say.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Yeah, that's the door, Rod

Now, resign. Leave. Give us all a nice Christmas present.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Briefcase Warrior

As I am typing this, President-elect Obama has not yet named his Secretary of the Interior. I have seen several names as possibles for this cabinet post, the most recent (just read this a few hours ago) being Kevin Gover (above). HERE'S the scoop on him. Imagine a Native American as Secretary of the Interior. Now that's change. Very experienced in environmental law and Indian affairs. I'll have to read more about him.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Madeline Rose: Not the Adventurer

After reading THIS article, I would have no worries about my cat Maddie (above). Her outdoor excursions are limited to accidentally walking out the front door on rare occasions, at which time she just freezes and gives a "Where am I?" look. She does stare at the TV intensely when other four-legged creatures appear on nature programs. As you can see, she is a literate feline. Her wildest encounter with another animal has been a face-to-face meeting with Ali (his photo in right-hand column), the result of which was a resounding hiss and a puzzled pit bull.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Thanksgiving with the Herd

My grandsons Red Chief and Little Bull. Future runners and friends of the buffalo (I hope).

Red Chief and my lady the Wolf Woman during a break from a fierce game of checkers.

My boy and his boy: Bull Papa and Little Bull.

Princess gets a smooch from the world's friendliest pit bull, Ali Baba.

My Thanksgiving day started with an early morning hike of the 10-mile trail at Clinton Lake with Chris and Jeff, fellow buffaloes who accompanied me on the Kentucky work vacation at Mammoth Cave National Park.

Besides empty beer cans and shotgun shell casings that littered the trail at Clinton Lake, we spied this additional memento left behind by hunters.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Travesty Continues

This photo of sport hunters and their trophy buffalo, taken somewhere in Idaho, brings on a quote by environmentalist Edward Abbey: "Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and aesthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one."

In his essay Blood Sport, Abbey writes, "Hunting is one of the hardest things even to think about. Such a storm of conflicting emotions! . . . The killing is justified by the need and must be done in a spirit of respect, reverence, gratitude. To speak of "harvesting" other living creatures, whether deer or elk or birds of cottontail rabbits, as if they were no more than a crop, exposes the meanest, cruelest, most narrow and homocentric of possible human attitudes toward the life that surrounds us."

I present all this because they've started hunting buffalo again at Yellowstone National Park. Shameful waste of a coveted American icon, a special herd that should be preserved as much as possible. There is no need to hunt these animals.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Future Buffalo Warrior

Latest official photo of Little Bull (grandson Devin), 10 months old.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Friend of the Buffalo

The guy on the right is Jay Inslee. He's a Democrat and U.S. representative from the state of Washington. A few days ago I didn't know squat about Mr. Inslee, then I read that he is one of several individuals mentioned for the post of Secretary of the Interior in the Obama administration. I did some digging on the guy and found that he is a leader in Congress on energy and natural resources issues and is the prime sponsor of the New Apollo Energy Act, a comprehensive plan to build a clean energy economy in America. He has been called an "environmental hero" by the League of Conservation Voters and has received awards and praise from the Humane Society of the United States. AND, he has voted against the bailout of financial institutions and against the war in Iraq.

Now, all that is very fine with me, but imagine my delight when I found out he has been a staunch supporter of the Yellowstone buffalo, voting twice on bills presented before Congress on behalf of the preservation of wild buffalo. Even before those bills were presented, he co-authored a congressional letter to the National Park Service in 2003 that asked some tough questions about the slaughter of buffalo that left the park. I don't know how good his chances are of getting the Interior post, but it's comforting to know that the National Park Service and Yellowstone could be under his charge.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

After a Democratic Breakfast . . .

. . . I walked the short three blocks to my precinct's polling place and arrived at 5:55 a.m., five minutes before the polls were to open. Already there were 25 people in front of me. And just a minute or two after I got there, about 20 more people showed up. Meanwhile . . .
. . . Little Bull takes his role as a Toddler Frog for Barack quite seriously . . .
. . . and Red Chief is hoping his candidate gets some write-in votes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Kentucky Trails

Me (left) with fellow buffaloes Jeff Riddle (middle) and Chris Migotsky at Mammoth Cave National Park last week as part of a 20-person "working vacation" crew detailed to construct a new hiking and horseback-riding trail in the park. The volunteer project was one of many around the country coordinated by the American Hiking Society (see link in right-hand column), of which I am a member.

Me with my tool of choice, a pulaski, which is a combination axe and hoe. The pulaski came in handy when large rocks and roots had to be removed to provide a smooth trail for park visitors and horses.

Big Jeff, aka the Riddler, ready for a day's work on the trail.

Jeff (left) and me (my backside) at work installing steps on the trail. Each workday we had to hike down to the trail, about a 40-minute trek, then start working. On the last day of work members of the crew carried these big hunks of wood the whole way to the trail. Tough on the shoulders.

Park ranger Larry Johnson (foreground) was our guide and work supervisor for the week. Larry worked right alongside us, even helping carry down the railroad-tie-like steps to the trail. On the last day of the trip Larry gave us a tour of Mammoth Cave, where, as he says in his southern drawl, the cave meanders through the hills for "mawls" and "mawls" and "mawls." That's miles, about 360 of them. If you stretched the cave in a straight aline, it would extend from southern Kentucky to Chicago. And there are parts of the cave system that are still being discovered.
Buffalo sweat: my buddies Chris and Jeff at work on the trail.

Besides the satisfaction of knowing that I contributed to making a nice trail for park visitors, the highlight of the trip for me was a cross-country hike in the park that had the entire work crew climbing rock ledges, wading through rocky creeks, and navigating sometimes difficult terrain. That's me and Jeff at the front of the hike.

Lunch break on the trail for our work crew. Members of the all-volunteer crew came from as far away as Texas, California and Florida. The work was hard, the food was good, the weather was just about perfect, and I made some new friends, who by the way, thought Jeff, Chris and I were a bit strange when we decided a few times to hike for an hour or two after work. We took a few of our new friends with us on a night hike, using headlamps to light the trail and at one point turning off the lights and listening to the dark stillness. Indescribable. One really fantastic feature of Mammoth Cave National Park was the quiet, sublime stillness of the place.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm back . . .

. . . from a week of trail tromping at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. I'll get back to y'all very soon.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Buffalo in Alaska: Has Hockey Mom Bagged a Bison?

I've wondered if Sarah Palin has hunted buffaloes in Alaska. Found some interesting info. More on this later.

Been busy designing a couple of race t-shirts and getting ready for a trip to Kentucky to help maintain trails at Mammoth Cave National Park.

I haven't been posting photos because my cheap digital camera called it quits. Invested in a much better camera, so more photos will be posted.

Friday, October 03, 2008

"The Living Muscle of Our History"

From the Buffalo Field Campaign website:
"[The buffalo are] the dark force of the plains - the living muscle of our history. Perhaps no other animal represents so well that richness which we once had, and which we so savagely squandered and mutilated."
- Rick Bass, nature writer and environmental activist

From a Montana blogger:
"One day while hiking across the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, I realized that my route was intersecting the wanderings of a buffalo herd. I quickly found a large rock on a steeply sloped knoll the the buffalo would walk around and hunkered down to wait for the herd to pass. I was surrounded by a couple of hundred buffalo that were grunting & snorting as they were moving down the Lamar Valley. I could hear and feel their feet hitting the ground and see puffs of dust every time a hoof struck the earth. They were only 20 or 30 feet away and, because I sat very still, they appeared unaware of my presence and ignored me. That was a primevally awesome experience. And sitting quietly on the ground while 200-300 1000+ pound animals meander past is a very humbling sensation. Adding to my experience was their smell; grass, earth, sun, rain, wind, snow; all combine to give them a uniquely natural odor that is oddly pleasant."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Daddy in Danger: Close Encounter at Yellowstone

This is about six minutes long, but if you watch the whole thing closely you'll get a good laugh. It's a dangerous situation that turns out alright. Turn up the volume. You can hear the woman say the buffalo are "growling." Actually I think the one bull is calling the others to come on over and scare the guy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Eyes Open, Legs Moving

Randomness from the Prairie:

Almost every weekday morning I grab my coffee and turn on "Morning Joe" on MSNBC. A lot of political analysis there. This presidential election has me wrapped up, but I am getting weary of it. Lies, gimmicks, and hype abound, the biggest gimmick being the moose munching hockey momma. You can put lipstick on a gimmick, but it's still a gimmick.

I've been alternating walking and biking to work, thus giving very little to the oil barons. I use my car as little as possible these days.

I have a dream . . . to walk all the way to Yellowstone. I wish I could be there this coming winter to help out the Buffalo Field Campaign and the Buffalo Allies of Bozeman, two groups (see their listings under my herd of links at right) that are doing so much to help the wild buffalo out there. I appreciate the dedicated folks in those groups more than they can know. I receive regular e-mails from both groups carefully follow their work. For the buffalo, wolves, other wildlife and the environment in general, check out Ralph Maughan's Wildlife Reports in my herd link list at right. Ralph and his regular commentors at the site are truly enlightening; a lively forum.

I'm Tom Rice and I approve this message.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Fear and Loathing of the Hockey Mom

This disturbing video from the Defenders of Wildlife tells of the destructive thinking of Sarah Palin.

Bite the bitch. Aerial hunting is for cowards. At least get off your ass and get on your feet. Better yet, don't hunt at all.

She also strongly favors drilling for oil in Alaska's pristine ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, a stance that even John McCain does not support.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Animal Dialogues

Animal Dialogues, an incredible book, a thoroughly entertaining read for me. On loan from the Wolf Woman, I stopped all other reading to delve into this book. Click HERE for book info and reviews. I love this description of grizzly bears by author Craig Childs: "Most animals show themselves sparingly. The grizzly bear is six to eight hundred pounds of smugness. It has no need to hide. If it were a person, it would laugh loudly in quiet restaurants, boastfully wear the wrong clothes for special occasions, and probably play hockey." His description of a close encounter with a mountain lion had me on the edge of my seat. Skillful writing that puts you right there.

Unfortunately, buffaloes are not in the book. But that's OK.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Uh oh

For a fascinating article on buffaloes and wolves, look HERE. Nature is tough.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hi There!

The Olympics, the Democratic Convention, and some amazing books have occupied my mind lately. More adventures to come.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Planetwalker and Ameritrekker

John Francis and his ever-present banjo during his journey in the 1970s.

Peter Jenkins and Cooper, 1973.

On the heels of yapping about Grant Cunningham's epic trail journey in my last post, I may as well tell about a couple of books written by other long-distance walkers. I came upon the book Planetwalker quite by accident few months ago in a book store. Having not heard of it before, I quickly paged through it and made a mental note to maybe buy it later. After doing some resarch on the planetwalker, John Francis, I knew I had to read why he did no traveling in motorized vehicles for 22 years and stopped talking for 17 years. After witnessing the tragedy of a huge oil spill in San Francisco Bay in 1971 and its devastating effects on the environment and wildlife, Francis decided to crusade for environmantal awareness, as well as world peace. His WEBSITE tells of his efforts. Check out the 30 Minutes Bay Area video on the website. I takes a bit to download but is worth a watch. What attracted me most to Francis was his devotion to his cause and his amazing network of friends and well wishers who gave him shelter and other aid during his trek.

A Planetwalker movie is in negotiations, and actor Will Smith has expressed great interest in playing the role of John Francis. Francis himself would like Morgan Freeman to play his father in the movie. Anything those two actors would be in should be well worth a view.

As soon as I am finished reading Planetwalker, I will follow another grand walk in Peter Jenkins' A Walk Across America. This journey of a "discouraged hippie" also happened in the 1970s and later became a bestselling book. Paging through the book, I came across a photo of the author holding his deceased dog, Cooper, above a freshly dug grave while on the journey. I know it will be sad to read about the author's close companion and traveling partner.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Extreme Trail Trip

Grant Cunningham atop Mount Katahdin in Maine, the finish point of his Appalachian Trail journey.

Well, he did it. Grant Cunningham, a member of one of my running clubs, backpacked the entire 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. That's about 2000 miles more than I have completed. Grant started in March and finished at the end of July. I'm extremely jealous. See the blog of his adventures in my "Buffaloes and Friends" links at right. I hope he'll post a final entry about his journey. Quite an accomplishment, Grant.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Suffering of a "Stalwart Icon"

A buffalo relaxes in the grass despite the nearby smoke of a large fire currently burning at Yellowstone National Park.

A buffalo crosses a road amid firefighters during the 1988 Yellowstone blaze.

A fire near the LeHardy Rapids in Yellowstone National Park that began last week has torched about 8,500 acres of the park. The blaze, according to a fire official, has good potential for growth. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of Yellowstone's most devastating fire, which scorched about 37 percent of the park. The final flames of the 1988 inferno, actually a series of fires caused by lightning and human carelessness, weren't extinguished till November of that year, but a Yellowstone visitor in the spring of 1989 left this description of the smoked-over area:

"For most of our time in the park, there was a heavy pall of smoke in the air. Elk and bison in varying stages of consumption stood forlornly in the gray smoke and overcast, breathing hard for precious oxygen. For me, the saddest memory is of the noble bison. These stalwart icons are in no small part symbolic of our national heritage. They are a vision of strength and stamina, but the fire took a toll on them, if not from the flames themselves then from the deadly smoke that lingered long after the flames were abated.

"Granted the smoke took a grim reaping on many animals in the park, but it was the bison that appeared to suffer most. Driving throughout the park, we would see them standing, head down and gasping. Often they stood near geysers and fumaroles for added warmth to ease their pain.
Many of these bison displayed bloody froth draining from their nostrils. Rangers informed us this was an indication that carbon particles from the smoky air had accumulated to a harmful level in their lungs, resulting in not only pneumonia but abrasion to soft lung tissue from the simple act of breathing.

"As the problem progressed, these animals could not even forage for food because of shortness of breath. In time they simply dropped in their tracks and remained there forevermore."

Only nine buffaloes actually perished during the 1988 fire, but it must have been painful to watch the suffering wildlife. Let's hope the current fire, believed to be started by a downed power line, is extinguished as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Old Cowboy's Thoughts about the Return of the Buffalo

Wally McCrae

Wally McCrae, a 70-year-old cattleman who has 30,000 acres in northeast Montana, is a third-generation rancher in the area. In a recent interview for public radio, McCrae, whose land is not far from a Cheyenne Indian reservation, gave his thoughts about the re-introduction of buffalo to the area: "People around here are more concerned about buffalo than they are about weeds. It's just an easy thing to be opposed to because they don't know anything about them. There's nothing wrong with a buffalo. I wouldn't mind somebody having buffalo across the fence from me, as long as he had a good fence and kept the stupid things in. Maybe a few buffalo scattered around wouldn't hurt. We stole the land and stole the way of life and religion and language from the Native Americans. Maybe we ought to keep a few token buffalo around somewhere to remind us what a bunch of jerks we were when we stole it all away from them."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Good Judgment

Gray Wolves

In a recent decision, a federal district judge in Montana ruled that gray wolves in the northern Rockies must be returned to the Endangered Species List. The decision is expected to halt plans by Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to allow public hunts for wolves. An inordinate number of wolves had been killed since the delisting. Wolves in those three states were removed from the endangered list in March following a decade-long restoration effort. Organizations that included the American Humane Society, The Defenders of Wildlife, and the Sierra Club sued to overturn the decision to delist the wolves. The region has an estimated 2,000 wolves.

Incidentally, I respect the federal judge in the above case, Donald Molloy. A couple of his other decisions, among many that could be considered environmentally friendly:

2002 — shut down 176 million board-feet of salvage logging on the Bitterroot National Forest, ruling that the Bush administration and the U.S. Forest Service illegally cut off public appeals.

2003 — ordered W.R. Grace and Co. to pay the federal government $54.5 million to help clean up the company’s asbestos mess in Libby, Montana, the largest fine ordered after a trial in EPA Superfund history.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Enduring as bedrock"

I had heard about a book with the curious title Buffalo for the Broken Heart. After reading a few favorable reviews, I bought the book. Love it. One of my favorite passages is the author's encounter with a buffalo that had strayed from the herd of the nearby Badlands National Park in South Dakota: "I drove too fast, and when I came over a dusty rise I nearly ran into an enormous bull buffalo. He reclined luxuriously in the center of the dirt road, stretched out in the sun like a two-thousand-pound tomcat. By the time I'd braked, I'd gotten way too close and was struggling to get the gear shift into reverse when he raised his head and looked straight into my eyes . . . . His head was the size of a dishwasher. . . . I was frozen in place. We stared at each other for perhaps a minute . . . . leisurely, the head dipped and the legs pulled under the great beast. The short, paintbrush tail whipped in the dust and the bull rocked once, twice, and up onto his feet. He shook like a dog, creating a cloud of dry South Dakota soil . . . . Then he slowly raised the tiny, black hoof of his left rear foot, stretched his head out, and, as if the hoof were a ballet slipper, scratched his neck below the long woolly goatee. He took one last look at me before he moved off the road . . . . "

Was this chance encounter with the woolly bully an omen? Well, author Dan O'Brien, on the brink of financial ruin on his cattle ranch, which he called the Broken Heart, later decided to substitute buffalo for cattle. Unlike cattle, Dan knew that buffalo could pretty much take care of themselves and could endure the harsh Dakota winters. The book is a smooth read as it relates the struggles of living and ranching in the desolate area. His character portrayals of his neighbors and his descriptions of everyday life on a buffalo ranch gripped me. A Boston Globe book reviewer wrote that O'Brien "by God can tell a story . . . . This is the book you need to read next." Indeed.

And this passage as the author reflects on his herd during a cold Dakota morning: "When I kneel and dig my hands through the curl of dormant winter grass to the earth below, I imagine the vibration of hooves. I feel buffalo moving within it all and understand that they are constant, enduring as bedrock, powerful as the prairie wind."