Buffalo and Family in a Difficult Land
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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SOME SUMMER NIGHTS, WHEN I STEP OUT ONTO MY RANCH house porch, I am met by the immense, roiling waves of color from the northern lights. In other seasons I find coiled rattlesnakes or perhaps a wind so cold that skin will freeze in minutes....
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THE FIRST TIME I MET JILL, SHE WAS WORKING THE FRONT end of her new restaurant, The American Pie Bistro. I’d been out of town for a few months and upon my return had heard that The American Pie was a cut above anything that Rapid City had ever experienced. I’d heard the food was great, but no one told me about Jill. She met me at the front door with a menu in her hand and a smile on her face. “Are you here to join Mr. Harlan?” she asked....
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THE LAKOTA PEOPLE HAVE A CREATION MYTH THAT MAKES more sense to me than the stories of any mainstream religion. Instead of Adam and Eve finding themselves in the Garden of Eden or the Sons of Burr lifting Earth from the sea, the Lakota people figure it all started at Wind Cave, in the center of the Black Hills....
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I DON’T BELIEVE IN FATE, BUT SOMETIMES WEIRD COINcidences crop up that make you wonder. Like the time I got home from Minnesota, after I’d spent many months coming to the conclusion that our little ranch was too small to have much impact on the health of the Great Plains, when a message was waiting for me from a friend who wanted me to partner with him in buying a larger...
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JILIAN WAS GONE FOR ONLY A COUPLE OF MONTHS, BUT it was still too long. Jill and I worried about her and made a special effort to go to all her sports events and have her out to the ranch on the weekends. Even though she wasn’t happy with her father she was reluctant to submit to our discipline and, in the end, it took an emissary from France to bring her home....
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BY THE MIDDLE OF APRIL I WAS ENGULFED IN A HIGHER education malaise. Spring was burgeoning, but in a Minnesota way. The birds were returning, to be sure, but in Minnesota you have to stand still or creep slowly around a tree trunk to see them. The geese are of the golf course variety. They exude none of the mystery of the long- distance flyers that are heralded by faint honking and appear over the grasslands a mile high and five miles out....
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THE LAST OF THE BUFFALO WERE MOVED DOWN TO THE Cheyenne River Ranch in late May. Our plan was to graze them for the summer on the part of the ranch that we owned then move them to the National Grasslands— government permitted land— in the fall. We had two grazing permits— Indian Creek and Big Corral— and when we bought the ranch the permits were set up with the Forest Service to allow 273 mother beef cows and their...
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THE DROUGHT WAS BROKEN BY AN EARLY WINTER STORM, followed by months of continual snow and wind. Jilian drove back and forth to school and played basketball for the New Underwood Tigers. She was accepted at the University of Hawaii. What had been a year of constant worry about the ill effects of too little rain morphed into dealing with the stress of traveling on treacherous...
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WHEN YOU HAVE TO BUY A PIECE OF MACHINERY OR YOU want to send your little girl on her first international trip or away to college, it is wonderful to have a good-paying job. Though I didn’t want to leave home, I considered myself lucky as I streaked eastward through the upper reaches of the Pine Ridge Reservation, where the rate of unemployment hovers chronically at 80 percent....
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JILL AND I WERE AT LOOSE ENDS BECAUSE CODY HAD rented a house in the energy boomtown of Gillette, Wyoming— 150 miles away. He was putting in long, lucrative hours welding the broken parts of huge earthmoving machines that tore coal, oil, and gas out of the earth. Jilian would join him very soon. The fact that she was being spirited away from us had made me skeptical of the world and of people with the power to do us harm....
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AFTER WE WATCHED OBAMA’S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH WE sat in our living room and talked easily about the dreams of Wild Idea. Carla and Vin had done their homework. They had been discreet customers for almost a year and knew our products better than I did. They had studied our website and picked up on the importance of conservation and social justice. They asked questions...
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ONE OF THE FIRST QUESTIONS PETER BINAS ASKED ME was a hard one: “What’s Wild Idea’s EBITA for the last couple quarters?” Luckily the question came in an email and I had time to look up the meaning of EBITA: Earnings Before Interest, Taxes And something else. Until that point in the life of Wild Idea Buffalo Company, Jill had been doing the books with the occasional help...
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THERE IS A PICTURE OF JILIAN AT ABOUT TEN YEARS OLD. She holds a hamster in her cupped hands and her face is inches away from the hamster’s head. Her smile is as bright as any flower. It was her trademark glow, but by the time she was twentyone Jill and I wondered if we would ever see it again. After Gus came into her life the smile began to make a comeback, like a prairie sunflower after a summer thunderstorm....
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EVEN SMALL CITIES HAVE A ROUGH SIDE OF TOWN, AND Rapid City is no exception. On the poorer north side of town the houses are small, the yards have little grass, and maintenance is lax. The area is populated by a few airmen from Ellsworth Air Force Base, a smattering of students, and most of Rapid’s displaced Lakota people. They cluster around a few poorly built churches and...
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THERE IS A 320-ACRE PORTION OF PASTURE THAT WAS A wheat field for a period of perhaps two decades before we moved to the Cheyenne River Ranch. In one of the first rounds of a government program to take wheat land out of production, this parcel had been plowed up and planted back to grass. Whoever owned that little piece of pasture at the time got paid for not growing wheat....
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2014