Questions? Feedback? powered by Olark live chat software

Wild Idea Buffalo Blog

April 03, 2006

I was asked to speak…

I was asked to speak to a local church on Easter Sunday concerning the joys of living on the Great Plains. There are a couple problems with this request: first, I have never been a big celebrator of Easter and second, putting one’s finger on the joys of living on the Great Plains is a difficult job. I can deal with the first problem by looking back about fifty years to the time when I did celebrate Easter, forgetting some of what I have learned about other religions and ideas over those years, and recalling that one interpretation of Easter is a day of renewal, optimism, and belief in a fresh start. Who among us does not want to believe we have a chance at getting life right?

View article

February 07, 2006

A few weeks ago…

A few weeks ago, on a warm winter evening along the North Platte River, I meet a small, gentle man by the name of Gilford Rauch. His day job is a mid-level executive for one of the big insurance companies in Omaha. I don’t know exactly what that means but by the looks of Gilford I figured he might be an actuary or, at least, someone who spends most of his days in a windowless room with long columns of numbers as his main stimulation. He is a bandy-legged man of perhaps sixty years but with a nearly perpetual contented grin under his substantial bifocals. As we shook hands I felt a delicate but wiry hand take hold with a strength and solidness that surprised me.

View article

January 06, 2006

A fifty-degree, windless day in January…

A fifty-degree, windless day in January is something to savor on the Northern Great Plains. So yesterday we saddled up the horses and rode off for the far side of the river – onto the immense expanse of “empty” land that is being pushed hard to be made an official Wilderness Area.

For this particular chunk of land there are all sorts of arguments about access, property rights, and even original intent of the framers of our constitution. The discussion is familiar. The arguments for the preservation of Wilderness and against the preservation of Wilderness apply to innumerable remote areas across America and beyond. I have made a point out of staying out of the debate for a lot of reasons but the main reason for my timidity is the inevitable mushy definition of Wilderness.

View article

December 05, 2005

Not long ago…

Not long ago I had the pleasure of driving down the length of the Great Plains from my home in the Dakotas to South Texas. I passed through nearly all of five large states and as I drove I watched the land change. To the careful observer there is a world of difference in topography, flora, and fauna between the Missouri River breaks of South Dakota and the Cap Rock of Texas. Even the people change: from the stern northern European Lutherans of the Northern Plains to the slow talking Baptists and Hispanics of the Llano Estacada. But the similarities are overwhelming. Blue stem, grama, wheat-grass is everywhere. The pickup is seldom out of the gaze of pronghorn antelope and mule deer. Migrating hawks and waterfowl shadow your progress north in the spring and south in the autumn.

View article

October 07, 2005

It's five o'clock in the morning

It’s five o’clock in the morning of the most important day of the year. Upstairs the coffee is perking and already I’ve stepped outside three times – just to bear witness, to feel what is taking place, to be touched in the same way as every other object and organism on this ranch. Last night the temperature slid below the magic bearer of freezing. The first frost. There is no adept metaphor. When I first stepped outside this morning the world was irredeemably different than it was when I went to bed.

View article

September 07, 2005

An excerpt from the first full draft of his new novel, "Stolen Horses"…

An excerpt from the first full draft of his new novel, “Stolen Horses”.

The sun was touching the horizon as Leo and Carl topped the ridge on the way back to the house. Purples and reds shot over their heads and fanned out toward the east. The air was dead calm and the world was as quiet as it can be. Carl was thinking back on the afternoon, engrossed in the detail of memory, when a trio of grouse winged overhead. He wouldn’t have known the grouse were anywhere near if Leo wouldn’t have heard them and looked up. When Carl followed his dog’s stare he saw the birds flying high above just as the intermittent chuckles and the whir of their wings reached his ears.

View article

July 07, 2005

One of the first buffalo…

One of the first buffalo that came to this ranch was a scrawny orphan with a crooked horn. He couldn’t have weighed over forty pounds and no one was betting that he would even survive, let alone thrive. The twisted horn is what gave him his name, Curly Bill, and it wasn’t long into that first tough winter that the little urchin began to win our heats. He was a bit of an ugly duckling and several buffalo managers more knowledgeable than I took one look at him and advised me not to make him herd bull. They said this with a chuckle and meant that Curly Bill should not be allowed to breed. They judged his genes detrimental to my buffalo herd and urged me buy some “quality bulls” to improve my herd.

View article

June 07, 2005

I have never been…

I have never been to the Mission San Juan Capistrano but my mother told me about the swallows. What I remember from her stories is what many of us remember from the legend of The Swallows of Capistrano: There is an old Catholic mission somewhere in far off California where swallows return each year to mark the coming of spring. They leave in the autumn and the evens of the mission buildings are silent and bare all winter. We lived in Ohio where the winters can be silent and bare and my mother would mold that story of the swallow’s returning into a lesson of faith. 

View article

May 03, 2005

The day Jill was due…

The day Jill was due to arrive home from France I got a call that an old friend had just died. Tim Hjort and his family had become my friends through Jill. She and Jilian had lived beside them years ago and something had clicked the way it sometimes does. When I met the Hjort’s it clicked for me too. Tim was just my age, a progressive man who had been raised on a Montana ranch and had ranched in South Dakota for decades. He could be as cynical and cantankerous as I can be. We enjoyed each other’s company and our families enjoyed each other, so greeting Jill with the news of Tim’s impending funeral was tough duty.

View article

March 02, 2005

Now we move into Spring…

Now we move into Spring. Both the Ides of March and the Vernal Equinox have passed. Dawn comes a little earlier each morning; the sun eases itself little by little northward in the eastern sunrise sky. The prairie winds blow and whistle and sometimes howl. But if you are going to live in the prairie, you will live with the winds.

View article