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November 21, 2018

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A Prairie Thanksgiving

For people who enjoy the out-of-doors, the weeks before Thanksgiving are crucial. I have a brother in Ohio who suffers great anxiety about November weather. He is a golfer and a warm autumn insures that he gets another couple of weeks to play. In the years when that happens he is thankful indeed.

I am not a golfer. I’ve never owned a set of clubs, never belonged to a country club, never paid a greens fee, or waited in line to tee off. In November, I hope for frosty mornings and a smart northwest wind. I want sandhill cranes and Canada geese riding that wind high above my head. I want cold fingertips and long stretches of prairie surrounding me to the horizons. I need a horse and a pair of English setters casting back and forth a hundred yards ahead.

My brother plays golf seven months a year and, when the weather allows, he plays on Thanksgiving morning and treats himself to the afternoon feast as a sort of reward for a good round or a particularly excellent shot. He claims to enjoy it greatly, though he grumbles incessantly about his slice, or hook, or the way the greens are manicured. My field of play has no grounds keepers except a few hundred buffalo. They graze in a mosaic pattern that encourages different grasses to grow in patches. That way of moving over the land massages the soil and their grazing creates infinite edges between the grass types. The last remnants of green plants linger there in those edges, along with a few of the toughest insects. Those edges create a paradise for sharp tailed grouse. They can easily step from one micro-ecosystem to another. Where buffalo roam free, grouse are a near-certainty.

That is where the older of the two setters knows to run. Where as the younger bumbling puppy is over joyed to stumble upon a covey. The dogs are supposed to stop and point the instant they smell grouse, but the joyful puppy has a tough time doing anything but accelerate, and chases the grouse until they are out of sight. The older dog huffs in disgust. He wants me to shout my displeasure and fumble for the button on the training collar, but I can do nothing but throw my head back and laugh. I pull the horse up gently and wait for the puppy to figure out that he can’t catch them and he returns.         

I think about my brother in his golf cart and laugh again. He once told me that golf would be much more satisfying if it was played in an endless rough with dogs trained to find your ball and point it. The puppy is looping back to me with his tong flopping from left to right, nearly touching his shoulders. I wonder how interested he would be in hunting for golf balls. I imagine my brother stepping from his golf cart and selecting the perfect club to make the green and set himself up for the putt that will cinch his par and make his Thanksgiving dinner a roaring success. 

I send the old dog on and lean from the saddle to give the puppy a squirt of water from a plastic bottle. By the time I look up the old dog has found another covey and is standing, silhouetted against the powder blue horizon as if had been turned to stone. We lope to within twenty yards of him and I dismount and get the puppy stopped. I want him to watch this. I stroke his back and tell him that he’s a good dog, then slip the shotgun from the scabbard and pause before I walk forward. In front of me, invisible in the grass, is the accompaniment to our Buffalo roast for Thanksgiving dinner. I am in a dream and move forward. An all-encompassing thankfulness washes over me.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Comments

Mark Holloway

November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Retha Haddock

November 21, 2018

Whar a beautiful picture you painted with the words along with the photos. I’ve read your books and know that you did not come to this realization instantly, but from a lifetime of hard work and perseverance. We all have the option to see the beauty around us and I think you see it to the fullest. Happy Thanksgiving.

Jerry and Norma Reynolds

November 21, 2018

Can you believe I felt tears welling up as your description of this picture you live swelled like a crescendo inside me. We love wide-open spaces, dogs, horses, the blue sky, the thought of the Bison roaming free and feasting on restored prairie gasses. Now, there is no way your brother could have a more satisfied smile on his face at the Thanksgiving meal – even if he made a hole-in-one – than you will have after living the picture you just painted for us. Thank you for this wonderful post and excellent pictures – and Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and your associates at Wild Idea Buffalo.

pat

November 21, 2018

I am thankful that some of our indigenous ancestors survived. Thank you, Dan and Jill

Astrid

November 21, 2018

olala, quel bonheur !!

Jelena

November 21, 2018

Who are the two English and a little field Irish pups? Are they all yours? The Irish looks like (s)he could have come from the same breeder as our (spoiled rotten pet) Dottie: very small and compact. Oh, and that tri-color English is gorgeous! Our family doesn’t hunt, but we LOVE Setters. Been involved in Setter rescue for many years now. They are a picture of perfection when they run or when they stop and point. :-)

Phyllis Dague

November 21, 2018

What a beautiful horse. You are blessed. Happy Hplidays.

Bruce Tuxhorn

November 21, 2018

I have never hunted the larger upland/prairie birds, only the proverbial Scaled Quail (Blue Quail) and the Bobwhite quail, in the far flung reaches of West Texas. It was often said the best bird dog I ever had was my 7 year old daughter who accompanied me on these trips.
My heart aches to be ahorseback, alone on that prairie… the warmth of the Sun , the smell of horse and leather, working over a set of beautiful dogs! You, Dan, are a Rich man beyond compare. Through your writings, I can vicariously experience that Most wonderful landscape!

Bruce Tuxhorn

November 21, 2018

Can you tell a brief story of your Paint Horse

G.

November 21, 2018

Dear Dan,
My husband and I have come to know you through your books and in those books we too saw the hard work and passionate perservereance you applied to your natural instinct of what was important..We smile when we see and read how all of your experiences and decisions have come together to continue to move you forward for the land and wildlife. We appreciate you Dan and we trust you….

Kirsten

November 21, 2018

This year, we are thankful to have discovered Wild Idea; thankful for what you do on the plains, for the bison you harvest humanely, for the restoration of both ecosystem and hope.

Beth

November 21, 2018

Thank you, Dan, for your honesty and great words, your good humor, good life. Thank you, Jill, for capturing the most photogenic horse ever— that head against the blue sky, oh my. Have a great Thanksgiving, all of you, and thanks for your excellent product.

David Fleming

November 21, 2018

As golfing nut, I can appreciate your brother’s excitement, but that doesn’t hold a candle to your story and photos given us for Thanksgiving. Thank you.
David

Jeannette G Sieland

November 21, 2018

I envy you the life you live out there on the Prairie. To have such a peaceful lifestyle sounds lovely. I have read your book “Buffalo for the Broken Heart” & I understand all the hard work that goes with that lifestyle but even knowing how rough it can be, it still sounds so peaceful. Maybe it’s the way you describe your life out there in the Great Plains.
Thank you for all you have done for all those, like me, who think of you as a caretaker much as the Native Americans have done & still do.

Jeannette Sieland

November 21, 2018

Forgot to say Happy Thanksgiving to one & all.

Lan Evenson

November 21, 2018

Dan, Jill and everyone Happy Thanksgiving. You wonderful stories of the prarie never loose their interest. You first caught my interest as an author when I first moved to Sioux Falls in 1989. Spirit of the Holls was the first book of yours I read. All the books that followed kept my interest alive with your keen writing style and content. Thank you

Kathryn Spieker

November 21, 2018

My heart simply ACHES for the prairie!! So far from home, and I am so grateful for your taking the time to tell us about your excursions there!

Keith and Kay Lewis

November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving to Dan and Jill, Jilian and Colton and their kids. . Greetings from this offshore Atlantic isle, where the wind is blowing as it will all winter and beyond. We pause to remember you—as we do throughout the year—thankful for your lives, your passion for nature, and your hard work on nature’s behalf—and ultimately on humanity’s behalf as well. Thank you so much!

Keith and Kay

Blake O'Quinn

November 21, 2018

to live in the beauty your heart practices, to deepen the roots your knowing expands, now watered in your patience and clear purpose. thank you for sharing your vision in words and photos to assure us how blessed we are to have one another in the big family of man. happy Thanksgiving.

Sue Fowler

November 21, 2018

Thank you for beautiful commentary and Jill’s beautiful photos. They touch my heart and help my appreciation of the prairie ecosystem grow, from deep-rooted prairie grasses to snorting bison talking to each other to all the creatures that benefit from the interplay of these primal elements. It all is a lesson in how to love and deeply value our environment. My best to all at WildIdea this Thanksgiving.

George Frantz

November 22, 2018

Hunter, horseman, rancher… conservator. Thanks for sharing your images of a Thanksgiving hunt, and the thankfulness you portray is blessed, indeed. Very happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and entire crew.

Penny Gray

November 22, 2018

Amen, and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Kathy Day

November 22, 2018

I’m not sure which pictures were more vivid and beautiful——Jill’s photographs or the images painted in my mind with Dan’s words. What a wonderful message on this Thanksgiving morning!

Donna Fisher

November 22, 2018

You and you family and Wild Idea’s mission have given us all gifts beyond measure. There’s hope!

Tom Parke

November 22, 2018

DH you still have the flair with the English language and are a true friend of the environment — have a great holiday season — on a more somber note HP died this week He was 92 . I sure enjoyed him as a neighbor for over 25 years .Keep on keeping on . Your blobs are something I enjoy very much . Your old Ohio friend.

Brian Mutch

November 22, 2018

Dan/Jill- great story and photos and the prairie there is looking very fine. I love the tricolor face on that young setter, and the mixed bag of beautiful prairie grouse.

Kathy Treanor

November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving buffalo friends! Good looking horse and dog companions!

Jim and Kitty Rogers

November 22, 2018

What a beautiful story and beautiful animals. So thankful to have met you and Jill and know you are raising bison the best way possible.

Carolyn Jacobi

November 23, 2018

Many thanks, and not just at Thanksgiving, for continuing these essays! They make the heart happy, and the spirit rise high.

Danny Swanson

November 23, 2018

In Northern California & Southern Oregon, we understand your connections to Nature and your wish to preserve our heritage. We salute your efforts, gladly order your products and count our blessings, too…in our case it’s RAIN that has finally arrived to help put out the wildfires…a Thanksgiving blessing for all!

Gerald Carl

November 26, 2018

Your words make me want to be you.

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