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Ancient Buffalos in Sunlight

I’ve walked this drainage at least fifty times.  Its right next to my property, filled with old dying and dead aspens and young conifers. The forest service plans to cut, clear, and burn here within the next few years to encourage new aspen growth.  Its a narrow cut of a ravine, right next to the main dirt road, but hidden by shrubs and trees.  The moose hide there and deer rest inside its cover.  Basically, with all the dead fall, its a mess to walk through and few people do.

Since its low and north facing, its been full of snow all winter.  I decided to see if I could walk it, just for fun.  I enjoy its secretive quality, just like the animals do.  I needed to stay on the high south facing side to avoid the snow.  Maybe because there has been so much moisture and the slow spring melt heaves the ground, or maybe because a newly fallen tree revealed secrets underneath, I came upon an incredible find.  There, in full view, all above ground, was an ancient bison skull.  You could see it had been mostly buried by the discoloration, but it was laying as if waiting for me now.

I hauled it home, not more than 1/4 mile, but it was certainly heavy, even though it wasn’t complete.  I showed it to my old neighbor, who grew up here.  “That’s an old one.  I’ve found a few, but none with as much horn as that one.”  I told him how I’d walked there many times and seen nothing.  As if in agreement, he said “One time I was working around Spring Creek.  I’d been in this area hundreds’ of times.  But this time there was a horn sticking up from the creek bed.  I pulled it up and there was the buffalo skull.”

These finds are gifts from beyond.  I never go hunting for finds like this.  If you do, you never encounter them. They are given to you, for whatever reason.  Maybe for you to remember, to dream, to respect, and to encourage you to do the work and the magic to protect our inheritance.  I still dream of the day when bison will roam again in Sunlight Basin, even if only on the nearby ranch, replacing those funny looking bovines that reside there now, which the wolf packs in the valley can so easily pick off in the summers.  And I long to get a glimpse in my lifetime of tremendous herds once again on prairie lands.  I believe we all, together, can dream it back into existence.

Back of ancient Bison skull

Ancient bison skull. This is the front all eaten and eroded away

Map of Ancient buffalo drive area on the nearby 2 dot ranch

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