I am on vacation in the Great American West and starting tomorrow I’ll be following in the footsteps of John Bidwell and countless other pioneers who trekked across the Plains. I saw these bison near the road today; here is what Bidwell had to say about the buffalo he saw in 1841:
Tuesday, June 8th: There were 8 or 10 buffalo killed today,but not one-tenth of the meat was used; the rest was left to waste upon the prairie. In the afternoon we passed the confluence of the N. & S. forks of Platte river and encamped, having come about 18 miles; many hundreds of buffalo were seen at this place.
The scenery of the country on the Platte is rather dull and monotonous [sorry Nebraska], but there are some objects which must ever attract the attention of the observant traveler; I mean the immense quantity of buffalo bones, which are everywhere strewed with great profusion, so that the valley, throughout its whole length and breadth is nothing but one complete slaughter yard where the noble animals used to graze, ruminate, and multiply in uncounted thousands–but they are fast diminishing. If they continue to decrease in the same ratio that they have for the past 15 or 20 years, they will ere long become totally extinct.
The Indians are anxious to preserve them, and it is said of them that they never kill as long as they have any meat remaining, but behold with indignation the shameful and outrageous prodigality of the whites, who slaughter thousands merely for their robes and leave the meat, which is far more delicious than that of tame cattle, to waste, or be eaten by wolves and vultures.
Tomorrow we will join up with the Oregon-California-Mormon Trail and I’ll give you more reports from along the way.