The Outdoor Journal Buffalo Bones and Nature Day
A couple of years ago, my daughter was trying to decide whether to send our oldest granddaughter to pre-school or to do the instructing at home (she’s a teacher by profession). She asked If I could do a few “nature days” where I would take Blythe for hikes, boat rides etc and learn something while we did it. If I could, she’d do pre school at home. That was a win-win for grand pa and now three grand daughters as we have had many a fun outing learning about leaves, tracks and well, you name it. One big adventure Blythe, her sister Becks and now Nan have all got to go on, is a trip to Grand River where they play in a couple of acres of sand and have lunch on the sand bar next the willows. All of the trips have been adventures. Granddaughter Nan and I made the long hike through the muddy river bottom trees last week and were in the process of exploring the sand bar when I saw something dark protruding from the sand. I recognized the rounded head of a big bone. It was black from being buried for a long time in the river mud. I had seen the big thoracic vertebra’s in the past in northwest Iowa’s Floyd River banks and knew it was from the hump of a bison from a least a couple a centuries ago. I had Nan roll the big bone up out of the sand and told her what it had come from, explaining how the floods had eaten away the banks in places and this bone washed out. “should we keep it?” I asked. “Yeah.” she said. So along with a stick the beavers had gnawed on and a few other treasurers, we trudged on up to our fire and had a sandwich out of the wind under a blue October sky.
I’m reasonably sure that our bone is from (Bison bison) the “buffalo of the plains, and not the prehistoric bison. (Bison antiquus) Almost all those big mammals were gone from the state by 1840. We don’t know the story of how this bone ended up washed up on the sand in Gentry County, but I know the story that a three year old red head will someday tell to someone else, hopefully under a clear blue autumn sky