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."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Time to Graze on Hops and Barley

After the Ottawa (IL) Triathlon, 2002. One of seven triathlons I did that summer. Beer is still on my agenda.

For the first time since I began doing triathlons in 1991, I won't be doing a tri this season. Although my buddy Bruce, the Iron Bison, will try to talk me into doing a tri or two, just ain't gonna happen. Maybe next year. I'll continue to run, swim and bike, but at a leisurely pace.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Family and Fireworks

Red Chief, in a new buffalo shirt, displays a ribbon for his participation in the kids run prior to the adults 5K race on campus on the Fourth. The run was about a half mile, and although many kids stopped and walked to catch their breath during the run, Red Chief ran the entire course without stopping. Buffalo power. It's time to let him loose as a wild, free-range buffalo on the Buffalo Trace trail at Mahomet.

Princess, Red Chief, Ali Baba, and Timothy Bull Daddy in my driveway watching neighborhood fireworks on July 3. Ali was quite nervous, trembling much of the time during the loud booming.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sweet Buffalo

In leaving for a new job, my buddies at my old job presented me with this wonderful cake a couple of days ago. How appropriate. These people know me all too well. It is with great sadness that I leave them.

Damn it was tough cutting that cake. The one and only time I will eat buffalo.