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Honoring Gervase Hittle

In the spring of 1971, Gervase Hittle, an English & French Literature Professor at the University of South Dakota met and became good friends with one of his graduate students, Dan O’Brien. 51 years later, their friendship remains. After his professorial retirement in 2002, Gervase, a fellow falconer, horseman and a lover of all things outdoors moved to the ranch to help out Dan and also became Wild Idea Buffalo Company’s first sharpshooter. Eight years later he retired for the second time, and moved on to other adventures, before coming back to his ranch home in 2019.

Gervase is an integral part of the ranch and of Wild Idea. He’s our "go-to guy”. He lends his time, hard work and experience at the ranch, assisting with fencing, the ongoing work of prairie restoration, caring for the dogs and falcons, and at 86 continues to help out on the harvest crew (which is a young man/woman's job) when needed. He’s also Jill’s “Knight in Shining Armor” when it comes to snake handling (catch and release of course).

Gervase Hittle

Gervase is a man of many talents and life experiences. He’s a former Marine, who served a four-year hitch as an infantryman at the end of the Korean War. He speaks of that time with pride, living by ‘once a marine, always a marine’, who will “never quit marching”. He is also an award winning quilter, a skill he learned from his mother, an excellent Pecan Pie maker and if you ask the ladies (and there’s a lot who could testify) a real good dancer!

Like Dan, Gervase enjoys writing, sticking to short stories and poems, and has been a valuable asset to Dan as a proofreader of his books. Fluent in French, he has also translated many books… c'est magnifique! Dan states, “Gervase can walk the line between blue collar and ivory tower, and he’s been doing it for 70 years.” 

Gervase HIttle

Gervase is currently working on a larger quilt creation using old Levi’s that when completed can be rolled up and buttoned like a sleeping bag. “I would love nothing more than to throw that on the back of my horse and hit the trail, but I’ll probably just keep it safe on my horseless carriage.”

Gervase stays fit by eating a healthy diet, which includes a lot of Wild Idea Buffalo meat! And is a true example of “if you use it - you don’t lose it”! Happy 86th Birthday Gervase, and thank you for your love, friendship and service - all of it!

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43 comments

  • Hey Gervase,
    Boy, am I late to the party! Believe it or not, it’s been some 50 years since we last met up in Colorado! Delighted to hear you’re still going strong and living such an extraordinary life. I’ll never forget your brilliant teaching, nor the comment you wrote on one of my papers: “You write good.” All the best!

    Gregory K. Jember
  • My good friend always. Love you much. Happy Birthday!

    Bruce R Krug
  • I re-read the “quartet” of Dan’s non-fiction books periodically (Rites of Autumn, Equinox, Buffalo for the Broken Heart and Wild Idea). I was just wondering today, after finishing them, as to what happened to Erny after his horrible stroke. So I just googled Erny Hersman and up popped his obit from the funeral home’s site. He was the “go-to-guy” before you came along and I guess, like Kris’ Jake, Erny stayed with Dan until his soul reckoned he could now leave Dan in good hands. Then I wandered over to this site and saw your “honorium”. You and Jill and Jillian are those “good hands” I think. It was great to see what you look like. I’m hoping somewhere I can find a photo of Erny. Peace and good will to all. “BB”.

    Breck Breckenridge
  • Gervase, you are one of a kind and we are so grateful to have you a part of this family!
    All our love, The Jones’

    Jilian Jones
  • Glad you had a Happy Birthday! I love you Dad!

    Calysta Alsborg
  • Happy Bday Dr. Hittle! I enjoyed the class I took with you very much!

    Lily
  • Happy Birthday Gervase! Best wishes from former colleagues at USD. Hope you have a wonderful day and keep up the good work at Wild Idea!

    Gary and Jan Small
  • Happy Birthday Gervase!!! Miss seeing your face!

    Drew Nelson
  • I wish to thank everyone who has sent me your best wishes, the entire crew of WIB for both the visible and the behind the scenes work they do, and my friendship with Dan whose vision, work, and patience has made the Cheyenne River Ranch and WIB something of which to be immensely proud. I apologize if I have left someone behind.

    Gervase Hittle
  • Dear Gervase, You look better than I do and I’m only 70! Claudia, Ben and I remember riding with with proide and affection. You still owe me a shooting lesson. Keep going! James

    James Archibald Cunningham
  • Happy Birthday. I’ve been reading about you for years through Dan’s writings. Congratulations. Rachel

    Rachel Mueller
  • Happy Birthday, Gervase. Health and happiness in the year ahead. One question…………what were you doing at USD when you might have been at SDSU!!!!

    Lois Quinn Lippmann
  • Happy Birthday Marine !

    Paul T. Barnes
  • In a company full of straight shooters, their stands a Marine!! Happy birthday from Idaho “devil dog”!! I enjoy these stories as much as the fine buffalo meat.
    Mr. Bill, CW4 USA

    Bill
  • So glad Jill posted this with the nice photos. Looking good! Who would have known after my first class freshman year at USD, we would still be in touch (42 years!). Happy Birthday Gervase!

    Laura Horton

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