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« The Art of Physics, or should it be The Physics of Art ? (Sujatha) | Main | Mumbai: Explosions shake India's financial hub (Norman Costa) »

July 12, 2011



Glad you enjoyed it. Let me know if you want some follow up reading that might even challenge aspects of this book. For example, scholars now believe that on the Southern Plains (less so on the Northern), the massive horse herds competed with bison herds for access to grazing, which contributed to the decline of the bison in the South faster than the North despite the better weather.


Thanks, Akim. Sure, I would like to read further about this region. It was pretty astounding and somewhat embarrassing to discover that even after living for thirteen years in TX, my knowledge of the region's history and geography is woefully limited. It was scant consolation that my US born friends seem almost equally ignorant :-)

I can see that there would have been some competition among the buffalo herds and the thousands of horses that the Indian horse tribes were roaming with. But the plains buffaloes numbered in the millions whereas the mustangs never were that numerous. The slaughter that Gwynne describes was perpetrated by the "Hide Men." Buffalo hide became prized commodity in the US market when the frontiers people discovered that it provided far greater warmth in the frigid prairies than wool blankets and coats. Also with the wagon trails and rail roads running further west through KS, OK, NM, buffalo meat came into great demand - just a few of these huge beasts could feed a large number of humans. Gwynne's account and I have read the same elsewhere, speaks of very rapid killing of buffaloes with rifles. The high power rifles that became available towards the end of 19th century, enabled a hunter to kill upto ten of the slow moving animals from a thousand yards away without even having to shift the position of his horse. The most notorious of the Hide Men would hunt up to 3 - 4 thousand buffaloes in just a few days.
That is a very alarming rate of slaughter. I don't think the Comanche horses could have caused a comparable rate of attrition through the competition for fodder alone in the short time that the horses and buffaloes roamed the same grazing grounds. Eventually, perhaps it would have happened if the Indians and their horses had continued to proliferate in the prairies. But that did not come to pass; the horses and the buffaloes probably co-existed on the plains for a little more than a century or so. But I would like to see what others have said on the vanishing of the American buffalo in the southwest.

Reading the links to Cynthia Ann Parker and Rachel Plummer's stories brought back memories of the first 'Wild West' story that I ever read, 'Delia Borst', an excerpt from Walter Edmonds' "In the Hands of the Senecas". We can barely begin to comprehend the hard-scrabble lives they led.

Does the book club have room for another work of history on a related topic? Even after 25 years, Evan Connell's _Son of the Morning Star_ stands out as one of the best books I have ever read.

Thanks, Elatia. I will keep it in mind for next year. 2011 reading schedule is already in place. We decide our book list at the end of each year.

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