Monday, April 18, 2016

Buffalo Music by Tracey E Fern & illus by Lauren Castillo

This awesome book is a fictionalized account of Mary Ann Goodnight's conservation efforts on behalf of the American Bison. At a time when Buffalo herds were seen as so many hides for the hunters, Mary Ann realized their intrinsic worth and started her own herd to ensure their continued existence.  

I love this book. And buffalo.

The main character Molly and her husband Charlie move to the Palo Duro Canyon area of Texas, when large herds of Bison roamed free. The rhythm of their lives, the "Buffalo music" was the backdrop against which Molly went about her life. 

"I stirred the fire to the huff-huff of buffalo breath clouding the chill dawn.
I hoed the garden to the scritch -scritch of buffalo scratching themselves against the cottonwoods.
I scrubbed the bedclothes to the slosh and splash of buffalo bulls wallowing in the mud hole. 
I swept the dugout to the thunder of buffalo as they drifted like a dark cloud across the prairie."

Then came the buffalo hunters.

Soon Charlie and Molly were driving past huge piles of buffalo bones. Within six years, the buffalo were mostly wiped out.

Molly's buffalo music had come to a discordant and abrupt end. 

One day, a young cowboy discovered two small buffalo calves sleeping under a juniper. Knowing Molly was tenderhearted to animals, he brought them straight to her.

Molly decided to do her best with the calves. Her husband was skeptical. 

"But Charlie knew better than to waste his breath arguing with me. When I got a notion, a wise man knew to let me have my way."

She brought them into the cabin and wrapped them up.

Soon the calves were running around with the milk cows, growing healthier and stronger by the day. 

Molly's success with the two orphan spread throughout Texas. Soon any orphan calves found were brought to Molly. 

She cared for them and protected them--giving them space to grow. 

Within time, she had one hundred head of buffalo.

When she heard Yellowstone Park was trying to rebuild its buffalo herd, Molly sent four Bison north to Yellowstone. 

Because of Mary Ann Goodnight and others like her, the bison roaming the American West were saved. The Goodnight herd formed one of only five herds from which  most of the modern buffalo are descended. It is safe to assume that without the timely intervention of these early conservationist, the American buffalo would have been entirely destroyed. 

Hats off to Mary Ann Goodnight.

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