Vacation and Sandhills Crains

So where have I been the last week? Well, I have been on vacation. We went to Grand Island, Nebraska to see the Sandhill Crain migration.

Spectacular there were more than 200,000 birds, I would guess we saw three or four thousand.

We also went to the south-east corner of Nebraska to see family. I got to spend some time with brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-laws and various others and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Now I am back home writing and editing.

I am also excited about being part of a documentary for the Wyoming State Parks, Historical Sites and Cultural Resources. I have finished my book, still with a reader/editor, on the Civilian Conservation Corps and this is the subject of the new documentary. The CCC not my book.
This Evening in the Park

And, by the way, 85 degrees here in my part of Wyoming today.
Love these Old Nebraka Barns

The Peace Council of 1866

Between the famous peace treaties of 1851 and 1868 was the lesser known attempt at a peace council in 1866 at Fort Laramie. Colonel Henry B. Carrington came with more than 2,000 troopers and 226 mule teams pulling freight wagons loaded with a few gifts and tons of supplies, enough to stock an entire post in the west.
Fort Laramie today as seen from the Oregon Trail North and West

This meeting, for peace, never had a chance. Red Cloud and Man Afraid of His Horses were asked to take part and did go to the fort. But once there refused all efforts put forth by the representatives of the U.S. Government. Why did they refuse? Because the soldiers were representing business and government interests who wanted to build a new road, the Bozeman Trail, to the gold fields. With trails came forts, the native peoples wanted nothing to do with any of this.

One fort, Fort Connor, also known as Fort Reno or old Fort Reno located in Johnson County, Wyoming near the present city of Buffalo was already in a place unacceptable to the tribes. The fort was in prime buffalo hunting country and an area set off limits by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.

Red Cloud stood firm, no roads and no forts. Never the less the treaty was signed, signed for the gifts brought by the white soldiers. The treaty signed by, under chiefs or sub-chiefs who had no power to sign off on anything that affected their entire tribe. Because of this the treaty was never respected and did nothing for peace in the area. Instead of peace it actually increased hostilities and led to what historians later referred to as the years of the bloody Bozeman.

The three forts built or restocked and fortified as a result of this 1866 meeting, Reno/Connor (built 1865), Phil Kearny and C.F. Smith were in a constant state of battle over the next decade and did little to protect gold seekers heading to Montana. Of the three forts, Phil Kearny seemed to be the worst in the eyes of the Indians living and hunting in the area. In one six-month span, the fort or soldiers on detail from the fort were attacked 50 times. All three forts were closed and abandoned by august of 1868.

The Spring Buffalo Hunt

For the Indians of the central plains extending to the Rocky Mountains spring was an important time. Two big buffalo hunts happened each year one in September when the bison were fat and the tribes were beginning their preparation for winter. The other was about now, when the weather warmed around the first of April.

Unlike the movies where Buffalo were always over the next hill, tribes often traveled for great distances for these hunts. Traveling 300 miles for a hunt was not unusual and sometimes many more miles were traveled.

The hunt was so important that scouts were sent far ahead and when the herd was spotted camps were set up 10 to 20 miles away so as not to frighten the herd. Great care was taken to make sure that no hunter got in a hurry and went out before the main hunt. Hunters who did were punished and sent packing.

Hunts were often on horseback but Indians also used nature sometimes driving herds into box canyons or over cliffs, anything that worked to provide for the tribe. The hunter who made the kill was given the tongue and hide the rest was shared with the tribe after the butchers took their share.
How much of the animal was taken or used depended on the hunt. When a large supply of buffalo were taken only the best cuts were used: tongue, hump, ribs and hide and often organ meat. If times were tough nearly everything was taken and used, including hoofs and some entrails.

Meat was eaten in great feasts when the hunters arrived back home in their tribal camps. Camp activities, for the next few weeks, centered on preserving meat for a time when it might be needed for travel or in poor hunting times.  Native peoples made the first jerky and pemmican.

Pemmican was tried as a traveling food for American troops in WWI but it never caught on, at least here. German solders used pemmican in both WWI and WWII, and reportedly found it quite good.

Oldest House in Wyoming

Did you know the oldest house in the world is in Wyoming? This may not be a completely accurate statement but it is true if you look at this house the way I do. How do I look at it? I look at the building material not the structure itself.
How old is it? This is why it is the oldest, it is 150,000,000 years old, maybe more. The house was built of dinosaur bones from one of many digs at nearby Como Bluff. 

The Bluff is near the small Wyoming village of Medicine Bow, the town made famous in Owen Wister’s, “The Virginian.”
Como Bluff Area
Como Bluff digs have yielded bones of hundreds of dinosaurs, included two of the most complete skeletons ever found. One of many remains found here was the famous thunder lizard, Brontosaurus, the 75 foot long amphibious Sauropod.

I have always found the idea of dinosaurs roaming Wyoming and other parts of the earth fascinating, but I know very little about them. I am learning more from my grand-kids every time they visit and we watch, Walking With Dinosaurs.

Seems kids like to study the giant animals. I do not think we spent much time, maybe no time at all studying dinosaurs when I was in elementary school, maybe I was daydreaming of recess at the time. It was a long, long time ago when I was in elementary school, perhaps dinosaurs were still walking around at the time and not that interesting to study.

The 1835 Rendezvous - Times are Changing

Twelve of the famous Mountain Man Rendezvous were held in what today is Wyoming’s south pass country. The 1835 Rendezvous may very well be the one that opened up the west for settlers. A doctor, Dr. Marcus Whitman and a minister, Reverend Samuel Parker were present, representing occupations not before seen in the mountains. Whitman handed out various medicines, did some surgeries and generally helped trappers and Indians alike. Parker made friends with the tribes and preached from his, white man’s book of God.

Five years later the fur trade was ending, and less than a decade after that 49ers were racing across Wyoming on their way to the gold fields of California

More Pronghorn

Recently I have been doing research and reading personal accounts of early homesteading and town building in eastern Nebraska where I grew up. I ran across a story of antelope (pronghorn) hunting in that area in the 1860s. I had never heard of Pronghorn in that area and I decided to do some digging.

When Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery explored the west in the early 1800s there were an estimated 35 million pronghorn antelope in North America. One hundred years later the population was estimated at 13,000 with extinction coming within the next decade. Today there are nearly a million pronghorn in Wyoming several hundred thousand thrive on the hard grass, yucca, cacti and sagebrush in the high grass prairies of this state.

It took full protection in every state to increase the heard, full protection for fifty years, but it worked. Much of the west has enough pronghorn for an annual hunting season as game managers watch and manage the herds carefully across the west.

Today pronghorn are a tourist attraction in the west, most of the year they are easy to spot and a joy to watch, especially running, up to 55 MPH.


Powder River Let 'er Buck

(Maxwell), Struthers Burt who grew up in Philadelphia and was a graduate of Princeton seems an unlikely person to have brought attention to Wyoming with his writings of the west. In his book, Powder River, Let ‘er Buck, Burt explains how grass made Wyoming.  First by feeding the Bison which brought native peoples. Later it brought the cowboy and cattle along with the sheepherder and his flocks.

He calls the Powder River, ugly, and unproductive and laments the fact that it runs the wrong way. Yet it was along this river that Wyoming history was made. It was here where the Indian was forced to give up the last of their open hunting area to the influx of whites from the east. It was here that the cattlemen fought the nester- homesteaders, and it was the scene of countless fights between the sheep and cattle people.
Burt said the well-known Wyoming phrase, and now a football and basketball cheer for the University of Wyoming Cowboys and Cowgirls, Powder River, Let ‘er Buck, refers to a secret. Something great – so great, in fact, that only the initiated, those who live there would understand, at its essence it refers to everything Wyoming.

Wyoming people get it, we live in a wonderful area of fast moving streams, breathtaking mountain beauty and an abundance of wildlife seen nowhere else on earth. It is indeed, to the initiated – Wyoming.

Powder River Let ‘er Buck!