Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Wonder How Potbelly is Doing

George Catlin traveled extensively in the 1830s, observing many Native Americans and buffalo.

Buffalo Bull, Pawnee warrior painted by Catlin in 1832.

Potbelly, big buffalo bull at Yellowstone.

George Catlin was a visionary, but a little too optimistic sometimes. In a letter published in 1841, he lamented the decline of the buffalo due to hunting: "It is a melancholy contemplation for one who has traveled as I have . . . and seen this noble animal in all its pride and glory, to contemplate it so rapidly wasting from the world, drawing the irresistible conclusion too, which one must do, that its species is soon to be extinguished, and with it the peace and happiness (if not the actual existence) of the tribes of Indians who are joint tenants with them, in the occupancy of these vast and idle plains. And what a splendid contemplation . . . when one imagines them as they might in future be seen (by some great protecting policy of government) preserved in their pristine beauty and wildness, in a magnificent park, where the world could see for ages to come, the native Indian in his classic attire, galloping his wild horse, with sinewy bow, and shield and lance, amid the fleeting herds of elks and buffaloes. That a beautiful and thrilling specimen for America to preserve and hold up to the view of her refined citizens and the world, in future ages! A nation's Park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature's beauty!"

Well George, a little more than 30 years after your wrote this a national park, Yellowstone, was established, with elk and bison in their natural habitat, but the Indians . . . well, they were being decimated by a not-so-protective policy of the government.

Many of today's Indians, George, are on reservations, but the buffalo numbers at Yellowstone are way up thanks to some conservation measures begun in the early 1900s. But wouldn't you know it, the shaggy giants are once again being slaughtered. The Yellowstone herd is the only continuously wild, genetically pure herd left in America. There are other herds in other national parks and many on private ranches, but the Yellowstone herd is a treasure that must be respected.

I wonder how one particular Yellowstone buffalo, Potbelly I call him, is doing. I took the photo of him above in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone as he peacefully grazed this past October. Is he doing alright in the deep snows at Yellowstone? Or has he roamed off park grounds for better feeding and been gunned down by hunters or herded into a holding pen to be slaughtered for no good reason? I guess I'll never know. The "advance of civilization" has been cruel. [See the latest info from the Buffalo Field Campaign link in right-hand column.]

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Silence and Solitude After the Snow Battle

Red Chief readies snow to be launched at grandpa. Behind that innocent smile lies the black heart of a snow assassin.

Canine Corridor: The Fu Dog Garden at Allerton Park, leading to the trail.

Chilly dog: snow nose and icy drool.

A section of the trail at Allerton.

My trusty snowshoes and hiking poles, a gift from the Wolf Woman, came in handy.

The fabulous Allerton mansion, centerpiece of the park.

The Sangamon River, which meanders through the park, was at high levels.

Last Saturday was fairly warm and sunny and with a good snowfall the day before I had to get outside and take advantage of a beautiful day. Shoveled the palace driveway of the Princess and her little Red Chief, then took on the Chief in his backyard in a fierce snowball battle. The little guy did all he could to blast me, but in the end grandpa ruled and I just clobbered him. I like to win (never mind that he's only five). After my victory I drove to Allerton Park and took in gorgeous winter scenery in an eerie silence, which was broken occasionally by the honking of geese and the cracking and yawning of tree branches. Magical moments.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Backyard Warfare in White

As I write this we are getting snow clobbered. May have a snowball battle with Red Chief.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Raging Bull: The Gloves Are Off

And in this corner, weighing somewhere around 9 pounds soaking wet, from Savoy, Illinois, fiery buffalo warrior and fierce cousin of Red Chief. The one, the only . . . Devin "Little Bull" Rice.

Fists clenched, ready to rumble. Eye swollen from previous combat (ala Rocky, "Cut me, Mick."). Don't mess with Little Bull. One tough grandson.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

And I Thought It Was Cold Here

The temperature was 21 this morning (not bad), so I decided to go for a run at 6:30. Stepped out the door and . . . slap. The wind just cut right through me. I got in four miles in powdery snow. Very nice scenery. Downright tropical compared to recent conditions at Yellowstone National Park, as shown in the photo above. That's an ice-encrusted BUFFALO FIELD CAMPAIGN volunteer at Yellowstone. Tough, dedicated folk doing all they can to help the buffalo.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

His Heart Belongs to the Buffalo

Ranger John Heiser at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

After reading THIS, I thought I'd mention John Heiser. A good man.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hey Teddy, the Slaughter Continues

President Theodore Roosevelt lamented the demise of the American buffalo.

Teddy Roosevelt in hunting attire in 1885, two years after he went to Yellowstone to shoot buffalo.

"The extermination of the buffalo has been a veritable tragedy of the animal world."

So said Theodore Roosevelt years after he traveled to Yellowstone National Park as a 24-year-old hunter in 1883 to bag a buffalo. It took him more than a week to find and shoot a buffalo, so tiny was the herd already decimated by hunters. This incident and others was said to help mold Roosevelt's conservation efforts later. "Its toughness and hardy endurance," Roosevelt said of the buffalo, "fitted it to contend with purely natural forces . . . to resist cold and wintry blasts or the heat of the thirsty summer, to wander away to new pastures, to plunge over the broken ground, and to plow its way through snow drifts or quagmires." Yes, the magnificent bison could take what nature dealt it, but not the bullets of relentless hunters. And THESE latest news releases from the Buffalo Field Campaign about the needless slaughter of today's Yellowstone buffalo is a sad commentary on the mismanagement of America's herd. Just more tragedy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Friday, February 08, 2008

Sadness at Wind River: “They’re of such a proud heritage."

Young Shoshone dancers on the Wind River Reservation.

Shoshone youth, Wind River Reservation.

Big Mouth Hawk, Arapaho tribe, 1872.

Arapaho women and child, 1872.

Arapaho warriors, 1873.

I recently came across THIS disturbing article about American Indians, mostly of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, of the WIND RIVER RESERVATION in central Wyoming. After a little digging, I found THIS equally disturbing article of a while back. I drove through the reservation on my way to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone last fall, and stopped at a reservation store. I had a nice conversation with a group of Indian women who gave me much advice about the rest of my route to the Tetons and Yellowstone. I saw enough of the reservation to realize that this was an area of poverty, but only now have I come to know of some of the suffering of these people by reading these articles and additional research. The drugs and depression persist today, but many, both inside and outside the reservation, are trying to HELP. "You just don't walk away from this," says a tribal elder.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Snow? Bring It On.

Red Chief and I taking a break during a snowshoeing adventure.

Red Chief on my front lawn as we prepare to take on the wilds of the streets and parks of Champaign.

Roary, my patio lion, resembles a sheep after our recent snowfall.

At long last we had a decent fall of snow, seven inches, last Friday. Ergo, Red Chief and I put on or new snowshoes and hit the snow. It was tough going and the little guy wasn't real happy at one point (see chilled expression in top photo) but we got through it. Buffaloes are tough.

The buffaloes at Yellowstone are really having a tough go of it these days, and thanks to my friends Jim Macdonald and the Buffalo Field Campaign I am able to keep up with the happenings of the herd out there. More on this to come.