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Space

A friend from Saint Louis came out for a week’s visit. Laurie is a doctor but writing a novel and she needed a little peace and quiet, so we offered her the bunkhouse. The bunkhouse is hardly peaceful or quiet, given the fact that it is attached to the dog kennel and the mews, where I keep the falcons. We told her what to expect: Dogs howling at the coyotes most of the night, falcons eechipping every time they saw me crossing the yard.

She would have to be careful when she took her diminutive Pit Bull on walks. Pit Bulls are not familiar to me. “We don’t want any fighting.” She laughed, “Snickers? She’s far too shy for that. Scared of her own shadow.” And she was right.

At first light on her first day, when we usually walk all six dogs for a mile or so, Laurie and Snickers stayed out of sight. But, by the second day, I noticed Snickers standing alert in front of the bunkhouse, watching us disappear up the hill. Laurie stood behind her dog and looked out from the ranch buildings to the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands where our buffalo spend the winter. It was difficult to imagine them living in an apartment on the third story of a gray, Saint Louis building.

Laurie and I talked about the land on the other side of the river. It is a de facto Wilderness Area of tens of thousands of acres nearly devoid of all sign of human habitation. I had just watched a Patagonia film, Unfenced, about the Red Desert and it’s struggle to remain unmarred by development. Our little wilderness is fortunate not to have known resources that humans might covet. It is not as big or rugged as the Red Desert but it satisfies the same longing in the heart of everyone who comes in contact with it.

Bison Grasslands

“How far would you have to walk before you came to the road,” she asked as she pointed out to the east. “Over ten miles,” I said. “We could go out there, but we’d have to walk.” She smiled. “No,” she said. “Snickers and I are city girls.” We looked around for her dog and I caught sight of her, chasing my big English Setter over a hill to where he had once found a covey of Hungarian partridge. He had never forgotten that covey of partridge. Snickers sensed the excitement and was in hot pursuit.

The morning Laurie left to go back to St. Louis I caught her standing in front of the bunkhouse and again looking out at the National Grasslands. “Got chapter two done,” she said. “That’s great,” I said and pointed toward the other side of the river with my chin. “If you were staying another day, we could go out there.”    
She smiled. “No. I might end up as shy as my dog.” She pointed to where Snickers was running amuck with the other dogs, and Laurie shrugged her shoulders. It took her a few minutes to get Snickers talked into hopping in for the ride back to Saint Louis.

Buffalo Gap National Grasslands

She glanced out again to the National Grasslands. “Maybe next time,” I said.
She shook her head. “Need to get back to work,” she said, then her head began to nod. “But it’s wonderful to know that it’s out there.”

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11 comments

  • The space I’m sad about is the space that is not filled with a herd of buffalo (american bison if you will) like it once was in the past. None of us living today will ever see that like it once was, but I’m happy to post here again after so many years.
    ~
    I’m happy that things are fixing to get better for so many especially future generations!
    .
    Peace,
    Ken

    Buffalo_Ken
  • Space? What is space? Space is what I had for 5 months per year for 30 plus years …. stationed in the back country of Yellowstone.32 miles from any road. The only difference is I had the natural threats of thousands of years of living with wildlife. Now that is humbling SPACE. The closest one got to any road was 19 1/2 miles away, roaming on horse for 1-2,000 sq. miles every summer/fall. 6 cabins spaced 12-18 miles apart… and every night preparations for darkness and sleep means putting my guns, a 45-70 and a 44, next to my bunk. Plus extra ammo, a flashlight and an axe. and after the Coleman lantern is turned off, every night for those 30 years reaching for flashlight and guns from that bunk. Patterning the mind for the surety of what is inevitable to happen. Smashed windows and screen doors. Glass coming across the floor. Griz pushing and doors creaking. And in all that Space when on poacher stakeout meant piling brush… just like the Indians of old …. all around that flimsy canvas covering. To give a bit of barrier space between griz and myself. Firewood piled up for…. just in case. Yes, space is so wonderful when all has to worry about are the miles walked without roads. Big prairie, with a few rocks and uneven ground.. But just remember …. Hugh Glass, the mt. trapper, was mauled by a griz in central South Dakota. It is great Dan and company are bringing back the bison living amongst Space. Less Cortisol in that meat for sure. And anyone traveling to the Black Hills gets a lot closer to “nature” than urban areas like St. Louis. But, for me, fear is what humbles… and adds still another measure of love for “nature”…. and understanding of our relationship within nature. And with fear we finally realize we have to change our thinking from what we didn’t even know was domination …. to cooperation. Oh, if only that lady and her dog could have come over a rise and seen a griz grubbing the ground 30 yards away. Now that is life!!!

    bob jackson
  • Just knowing its out there gives me peace. Its similar to other quiet places, the ANWR, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and certainly others that we can think of wanting to visit but are happy that they exist. We may never get there but as Laurie said its good to know its there.

    Paul Anderson

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