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The mightiest of American beasts

Updated: Aug 24, 2018

What quote am I vibing? “Few indeed are the men who now have or evermore shall have, the chance of seeing the mightiest of American beasts, in all his wild vigor, surrounded by the tremendous desolation of his far-off mountain home.” Theodore Roosevelt

Road Day: 27

National Parks Visited: 6 (Wind Cave National Park)

Things I haven't been doing: Reading books

Things I have been doing: Looking at the great American Bison


Theodore Roosevelt was a mighty hunter - this much is true. And equally true - TR was a fierce conservationist. His quote above about the American Bison is heartwrenching - their populations were decimated in such a short time of American history. Thanks in great part to Teddy's effort, I and so many other people can see them roaming the plains. In fact, it was Teddy who supported efforts to reintroduce the beasts to the wild right where I saw them in Wind Cave National Park in 1907. (You can read more about TR and the Bison here: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/the-president-who-saved-the-american-bison/)


They are so majestic. The video I posted below shares one particularly feisty one messing around with the others. He was making crazy sounds but you can't hear them over the wind. I fought every instinct I had to hug one of their fuzzy manes, and kept my distance as I was advised by every man, woman, and sign.


I saw the buffalo herd as I was entering Wind Cave National Park, but I had to make sure I obtained a ticket for the 5:00 tour before they sold out. There were only 5 left of 40 when I bought mine. Whew! Ticket in hand, I ran to my car and back to watch the buffalo until tour time. I could have watched them forever.


I took the Natural Entrance tour of Wind Cave - descending 220 feet under ground into a stunning maze of tunnels. This cave houses 95% of the world's boxwork, which is formed because calcite is stronger than limestone, and when limestone is blasted away because of something to do with the Earth being really hot a really long time ago - the calcite remains. (I'm a Teddy expert, not a geology expert. If you didn't know this before, you do now.)


Never before has my diminutive stature served me so well. "If you're over 5 feet tall you'll have to be careful and duck." Cha-ching! I walked those tunnels like I was walking the catwalk, while everyone else was ducking and groaning when they hit something.


As I was driving away from Wind Cave, I stopped to let four bison pass in front of me. Three went by without incident, but the fourth approached my car. He is pictured below saying "What is it that you think you're doing?" When I realized we were at an impasse, I slowly reversed and slid to the side of the road - he moved on, satisfied that he was the superior creature.


Finally, and with not nearly as much pomp and circumstance as it deserves, I stopped at the Crazy Horse mountain carving and exhibit. I had decided I would have to miss it on this trip, because there is so much to see, but when I realized I was about to drive right past it, I had to go and give support to this privately funded project. I watched the movie and learned that the project was designed by an American with a strong Polish background - Korczak Ziolkowski (what up, Poland!) Henry Standing Bear approached Ziolkowski (an apprentice on Rushmore) about the project, and he began work on the monument in 1948, and there is still so much work to do. He twice passed up $10M grants from the government, determined to keep the project private. His children and grandchildren work on the day to day sculpting now that he has passed away. The story is fascinating, and worth more time than I gave it. He was dedicated to making the story of the American Indian part of our national heart - a story that is ours to cherish.



An American Bison next to the Wind Cave National Park sign. Welcome to the theme of this post.

Part of the herd

This is a prairie dog town which was part of the bison thing. I could have gotten closer, but they were very squeaky and stinky.

Me and my crew.

Ranger Grant shows how Wind Cave got its name. This barometric cave is constantly trying to mediate its pressure with the outside pressure. (Or something like that.)

Typical Wind Cave ambience

Boxwork!

Cavewoman

This was written by the United States Wind Cave Survey crew in 1902 when TR was President. Because of the environment of the cave, it looks like it was written just yesterday.

"Back down."

This needs a zoom in. Crazy Horse. Under construction since 1948. “When the legends die, the dreams end." Ziolkowski


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