In search of buffalo

These markers indicate where members of the 7th Cavalry fell to the Sioux and Cheyenne.

These markers indicate where members of the 7th Cavalry fell to the Sioux and Cheyenne.

by cheri sabraw

In my last post, I left you hanging.

I do apologize.

The sheer size of Montana and the hours it takes to drive  from famous rivers (the Missouri, Yellowstone, Big Hole, and Gallatin) to a Western artist’s  home  to a battlefield  to  famous bars DO tend to set one’s tight schedule back a bit. From Charlie Russell’s studio in Great Falls to the site of Custer’s last stand 20 miles outside of Billings to a good ol mahogany bar in Bozeman (14 North), we have covered vast territory efficiently, like a couple of Great Plains grasshoppers.

For those of you who wondered if we did, in fact, revisit the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, I am pleased to report, “Yes.” If you  remember, one of us had a hankering to go back, sure that it had changed. Funny. It looked the same to one of us as it did 30 years ago although the Indians’ point of view and sacrifices are now a part of the narrative and the monument, as they should have been in the first place.

I could have been dreaming but the same corny and over-animated U.S. Government Park Ranger, let’s call him Marvin, gave the same talk he did thirty years ago about the logistics and personalities that clashed in 1876 on these dry Montana hills.

Does anyone feel sorry for George Armstrong Custer, other than his long-dead wife, Libby?

Does anyone feel sorry for George Armstrong Custer, other than his long-dead wife, Libby?

I erroneously reported in my last post that the site where Custer died was marked with a black headstone. Sorry. The headstone, in fact, is white but with a black shield to emphasize the white letters.

Satisfied to have seen the place where Sitting Bull’s warriors, for a brief moment in the late 19th century, rose upon their ponies with bow and arrows and guns to defend their way of life, we turned our mechanical pony south to Yellowstone, where I hoped to see the buffalo.

In the Lamar Valley, we glimpsed from far away, a herd of buffalo.

In the Lamar Valley, we glimpsed a herd of buffalo from far away or are those cattle?


My patient husband tried to keep his eyes on the road while responding to my entreaties to find a place where I could  see a buffalo other than through a pair of binoculars.

Here! Through those willowy cottonwood trees. Here! Cheri. See? There! See them? What a view? Doesn’t this scene look like the Serengeti?


Are those buffalo? I  cannot tell.

Oh my. Here come two buffalo bulls.

Oh my. Here come two buffalo bulls.

Then, to my ecstatic delight, these two creatures, representing in one sense, a lost time in Native American history, begin to approach our car.

At last, that iconic image of a gentle giant moved within 20 feet of my camera.

At last, that iconic image of a gentle giant moved within 20 feet of my camera.

And there he stands!

In order to steady my heart and draw me back from my thoughts about the heartbreaking devastation that was the Battle of the Little Big Horn, symbolic of Native American losses of land, spirit, and buffalo, I asked that we stop and gaze into the Yellowstone River.

IMG_5998Which we did.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Life, People and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to In search of buffalo

  1. Dan OBrien says:

    Too Cool…. I love History.

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” ==George Santayana

  2. Dan OBrien says:

    I Love a good history lesson.

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” =George Santayana

  3. shoreacres says:

    I love bison. I’m postponing my next trip north until the spring, so I can go back to the Tallgrass Prairie, and see this. This fall, I may make a run up to the Texas Panhandle, to see the herd at Caprock Canyon. They’re such marvelous creatures, and I’m so glad that some Texans (the Goodnights) were partly responsible for their preservation.

    What a good time you must be having! I hope we’ll get a report from that mahogany bar, too.

    • Ladybugg says:

      I shall follow your links when I return home, Linda. Well, as for the mahogany bar in Bozeman, we did our best to contribute something to their coffers. Bozeman is the quintessential western college town, just hopping with youthful energy and spirit. Huge contrast to Great Falls and Billings up there on the Great Windy Plains, both of which seemed dated and tired (although we very much liked visiting both of them). We drove through the Palouse yesterday and today…now THAT country is fascinating. We had to keep our eyes on the road as it is very dangerous. Since we are halfway through Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, we have been vicariously living part of Merryweather Lewis and William Clark’s journey, one that has caused me much pause. What incredible men they were. I would like, very much, to have met Mr. Lewis, a genius. Tonight we are in Portland, drinking in the river and yes, some Chardonnay.

  4. wkkortas says:

    There are a couple of herds of buffalo in Upstate New York, and if you visit those farms and then decide to heed Horace Greeley’s advice and go west young man, you do eventually end up in Buffalo.

  5. bogard says:

    Beautiful scenery! Hopefully I will someday cross this off my BL. Buffalo are really magnificent beasts. And you were correct the fist time about the color of the letters on Custer’s tombstone: white, but on a black shield background. What a grand adventure. Some whiskey from the mahogany bar, please!! Hi to The Judge.

    • Ladybugg says:

      Hi bogard,
      Great to hear from you, as always. You are right about my mistake. I uploaded the pictures and text very quickly while riding along the driving-est man I ever met, that Judge. The letters are white on Custer’s marker, backed by a black shield as you can see. We were mesmerized by Montana although I will say we saw more people than we had expected. Darn. Yellowstone will take 3 days but it is very crowded and for Californians used to too many people, we were very disappointed to find such masses of humanity there too…take Butterfly Woman and schedule your trips. We aren’t getting any younger, are we?

  6. Brighid says:

    I saw the Little Big Horn graves as a child, would love to go back as an adult with a bit more history in my pocket. Yellowstone before the crowds was awesome.
    There is a fair size herd of buffalo here (Red Bluff) just North of town, and close to I5,for next time you need a buffalo fix and you’re up this way.

    • Ladybugg says:

      OK. I had no idea.
      Yellowstone is very crowded. As I said to bogard, seeing so many people at this time of year disappointed us. We did come over the eastern entrance which was awesome. No one was along for that ride. I’d recommend that entrance in the late fall…

  7. ccsaw says:

    Is this where the skys are not cloudy all day?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s