Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Day of the Buffalo

Yesterday we drove from Colby, Kansas to Omaha via Colorado Springs.  It was a long day of driving, so we broke it up with a short visit to Old Fort Hays in Hays, Ks.  Fort Hays was active for about 25 years in the late 1800's and several of the original buildings have recently been restored with period furnishings and interactive exhibits.  Buffalo Bill Cody worked out of the fort as a buffalo hunter for the Army, and General Custer and his men camped outside the fort for a substantial period of time.  Unlike the forts we've previously visited, Fort Hays never had a stockade; the Kansas plain on which it's located is so flat that the Army assumed they would be able to see an Indian attack coming in plenty of time to mount a counteroffensive.  The main view from the fort now is of the park across the road and its small group of sleepy buffalo.

While actually on the road we listed to the six disks of "The Power of Myth" with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, a fascinating comparison of myths and religions from around the world.  Both of us had seen the series air on PBS, but so long ago that much of the information sounded new again.  The six segments are "The Hero's Adventure," "The Message of the Myth," "The First Storytellers," "Sacrifice and Bliss," "Love and the Goddess," and "Masks of Eternity."  We were listening to Campbell's explanation of the practical and mythic significance of the buffalo in Native American culture when we drove past a large herd of actual buffalo grazing in a Kansas pasture.  Although they were a far cry from the vast hordes that roamed the Great Plains two hundred years ago, the sight was a nice reminder that at least one marvelous species of animal has come back from the brink of extinction.

When we finally arrived in Omaha, Barry's almost-three-year-old granddaughter was thrilled to see her "Baba" (her name for him) and "Gamma" (me) even before Barry unpacked the toys he's been stockpiling for her.  We know that we will be objects of adoration for only a few years before preteen indifference kicks in, so we're going to enjoy it while we can.  After the rest of our day, though, I couldn't help feeling that we should have brought her a toy buffalo instead of a Cowardly Lion.

"The first presentation of my show was given in May, 1883, at Omaha, which I had then chosen as my home. From there we made our first summer tour, visiting practically every important city in the country. " ~Buffalo Bill

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