HorseMuleGrizzlyIndianBuffalo Wrecks of the Frontier West

Stamm, Mike

Editore: Medicine Wolf Pr, 1996
ISBN 10: 096406684X / ISBN 13: 9780964066847
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Riassunto: Horse & Mule Fiascos, Blowouts with Buffalo, Goofs with Guns, Fracases with Grizzlies, Wagon Smack-Ups, Outrageous Frontier Screwups and Rowdy Pioneer Humor; exciting accounts from Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, Joe Meek, George Custer, Kit Carson, Yellow Wolf, Josiah Gregg, George Crook, and many others...

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.: Chapter 5 Blowouts with Buffalo

The red riders materialize, single file, from a water-cut ravine two hundred yards downwind of a milling mass of hulking, shaggy cattle. Leaning low over the backs of their excited, dancing mounts, the horsemen shorten the distance to the increasingly suspicious herd.

The horsemen hope to pass themselves off, for as long as possible, as a band of somewhat strange looking elk. They are largely successful. The wind holds in the favor of the hunters, and the bison have only their poor eyesight to warn them. Finally the nervous bison bolt when the horsemen are just a long arrow's flight away. But the red men don't waste arrows just yet.

As quickly as the bison break for the distant horizon, the horses explode toward them with powerful acceleration. The single-file formation of riders now becomes a broad fan, rapidly gaining on, and then merging with, the thundering herd.

The Indian riders use simple wood and rawhide saddles, or no saddles at all. A single leather loop around the horse's lower jaw, serves as a bridle, but even this is unused now. Left to trail on the ground or tucked into the rider's breechclout, it serves simply as a means of recovering the horse should the rider be toppled in the pandemonium unfolding ahead.

The Indian riders guide their steeds with leg pressure, freeing both hands for the feeding and firing of arrows from their short, but powerful, sinew-backed wood or sheep-horn bows. Threading their mounts through the slower-running bulls at the rear of the stampede, the hunters gain steadily on the tastier and tenderer, front-running cows.

The ponies have been trained to approach a target bison's right flank and hold position half a length behind, providing the hunters with the proper angle for driving an arrow diagonally forward from the last rib, through the diaphragm, and into the vital heart and lungs. If the hunter prefers the lance as the weapon of the hunt, the pony has been trained to approach from the left side of the bison.

Soon the plains behind the fleeting herd are dotted with dead and mortally wounded bison. Horses too are dropping out now, winded. Only the best of horses have speed and stamina enough to carry a hunter through four kills in a single chase.

Shortly, even the best horses will finish the hunt. The horses can outrun the bison for a brief while, but in the end, the bison win the endurance race. This hunt is over.

During the thousands of years that man has roamed this planet, he has hunted various species of bison some of them now extinct in many different ways. Man the stone age hunter stalked to within spear-throwing range of bison through tall prairie grass.

Disguising himself as a less threatening animal, he sometimes crept to within arrow-shot of his prey. Using his superior intelligence, planning, and organizational skills, he manipulated the movements of the animals to his best advantage. He pushed the quarry toward concealed confederates, drove the animals over cliffs, and he ran the herds into deeply drifted snow where, wearing snowshoes, he killed them at close range.

Later, industrial age technology made man an even more efficient killer. Large numbers of bison could sometimes be killed by a single hunter, using a powerful rifle, from a distant, concealed position, downwind of the herd.

But of all the varied ways to hunt these large wild cattle, "running" bison on horseback was by far the most exciting. Bison running capitalized on the superior speed of a horse to allow a human hunter to pursue, overtake, and kill, a bison, up-close and personal, with a lance, an arrow, or a bullet.

The running of bison, perfected by western North American Indians, was made possible by the re-introduction of the horse to the continent by the Spanish in the 1500s. The horse revolutionized life on the Plains, both by making Native Americans highly mobile, and by making bison easier to kill.

The horse's speed made bison hunting less dependent upon painstaking preparations, favorable topography, fortuitous seasonal movements of the bison themselves, and good luck. And since the horse also improved upon the dog as a beast of burden, bison could now be followed comfortably, as a way of life, and procured at the will and leisure of the hunters.

But the new mode of hunting was not without risk to the hunter and his horse. Bison running probably resulted in more horse wrecks than all other frontier activities combined.

The inherent risks of the hunt were, of course, part of the attraction. Bison running, many nineteenth century horsemen believed, was the ultimate equestrian sport. The running of bison on horseback had it all: anticipation, sustained high-speed excitement, and the tantalizingly real possibility of a spectacular wreck. Beyond the thrill of the chase, the physical exertions and athletic prowess of horse and rider were rewarded with large quantities of delectable meat.

The natives that became the equestrian nomads of the Great Plains built an elaborate culture around the horseback hunting of bison within just a few generations of the Spanish new world horse reintroduction. In that culture, a warrior's skill with the lance, the bow, and the hot-blooded horses used for bison running and warfare became extremely important to his social status, to his value to the tribe, to the very definition of a man.

A Plains Indian hunter and his buffalo running horse, in action, became a single, graceful, deadly, high-speed, predatory missile, flowing effortlessly through the careening black mass of bison, pulling alongside, with synchronous speed, of a cow (female) bison, delivering a lance thrust or an iron tipped arrow, then pulling away in search of another victim.

German naturalist Friederich Paul Wilhelm (a.k.a. Prince Paul of Wurtemburg), who traveled the Great Plains in 1823 recorded (in McFarling, Exploring the Northern Plains) that an adept horseman could make bison running look easy: At noon I reached the Ponca [River] fifty miles from its mouth. All the hills on the other side were covered with great herds of bison. These were the first animals of this kind which I had seen in the wild state. ... The halfbreed Monbrun picked out the fittest of our horses, saddled and bridled it in Indian fashion, and then galloped away, selecting a round-about way, behind the hills and thru ravines, observing the wind so cleverly that he was on a full run among the herd before the animals were aware of it. Suddenly one could see countless bisons running about in an extraordinary confusion. The whole prairie, far and wide was one confusion of excited animals. ... The region where Monbrun had come upon the herd was now pretty well cleared of the creatures. There I saw the man sitting on his horse and resting after he had killed three of the bison. --near the present day Nebraska/South Dakota border. August, 1823.

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Titolo: HorseMuleGrizzlyIndianBuffalo Wrecks of the ...
Casa editrice: Medicine Wolf Pr
Data di pubblicazione: 1996
Condizione libro: very good

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Descrizione libro Medicine Wolf Pr. Paperback. Condizione libro: VERY GOOD. Very Good copy, cover and pages show some wear from reading and storage. Binding may have light creases. Lots of life left in these pages. Codice libro della libreria 2511812946

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