Catching A Buffalo by Bill Nye
Story type: Essay
A pleasing anecdote is being told through the press columns recently, of an encounter on the South Platte, which occurred some years ago between a Texan and a buffalo. The recital sets forth the fact that the Texans went out to hunt buffalo, hoping to get enough for a mess during the day. Toward evening they saw two gentlemen buffalo on a neighboring hill near the Platte, and at once pursued their game, each selecting an animal. They separated at once, Jack going one way galloping after his beast, while Sam went in the other direction. Jack soon got a shot at his game, but the bullet only tore a large hole in the fleshy shoulder of the bull and buried itself in the neck, maddening the animal to such a degree that he turned at once and charged upon horse and rider.
The astonished horse, with the wonderful courage, sagacity and sang froid peculiar to the broncho, whirled around two consecutive times, tangled his feet in the tall grass and fell, throwing his rider about fifty feet. He then rose and walked away to a quiet place, where he could consider the matter and give the buffalo an opportunity to recover.
The infuriated bull then gave chase to Jack, who kept out of the way for a few yards only, when, getting his legs entangled in the grass, he fell so suddenly that his pursuer dashed over him without doing him any bodily injury. However, as the animal went over his prostrate form, Jack felt the buffalo’s tail brush across his face, and, rising suddenly, he caught it with a terrific grip and hung to it, thus keeping out of the reach of his enemy’s horns, till his strength was just giving out, when Sam hove in sight and put a large bullet through the bull’s heart.
This tale is told, apparently, by an old plainsman and scout, who reels it off as though he might be telling his own experience.
Now, I do not wish to seem captious and always sticking my nose into what is none of my business, but as a logical and zoological fact, I desire, in my cursory way, to coolly take up the subject of the buffalo tail. Those who have been in the habit of killing buffaloes, instead of running an account at the butcher shop, will remember that this noble animal has a genuine camel’s hair tail about eight inches long, with a chenille tassel at the end, which he throws up into the rarified atmosphere of the far west, whenever he is surprised or agitated.
In passing over a prostrate man, therefore, I apprehend that in order to brush his face with the average buffalo tail, it would be necessary for him to sit down on the bosom of the prostrate scout and fan his features with the miniature caudal bud.
The buffalo does not gallop an hundred miles a day, dragging his tail across the bunch grass and alkali of the boundless plains.
He snorts a little, turns his bloodshot eyes toward the enemy a moment and then, throwing his cunning little taillet over the dash-boardlet, he wings away in an opposite direction.
The man who could lie on his back and grab that vision by the tail would have to be moderately active. If he succeeded, however, it would be a question of the sixteenth part of a second only, whether he had his arms jerked out by the roots and scattered through space or whether he had strength of will sufficient to yank out the withered little frizz and told the quivering ornament in his hands. Few people have the moral courage to follow a buffalo around over half a day holding on by the tail. It is said that a Sioux brave once tried it, and they say his tracks were thirteen miles apart. After merrily sauntering around with the buffalo one hour, during which time he crossed the territories of Wyoming and Dakota twice and surrounded the regular army three times, he became discouraged and died fiom the injuries he had received. Perhaps, however, it may have been fatigue.
It might be possible for a man to catch hold of the meager tail of a meteor and let it snatch him through the coming years.
It might be, that a man with a strong constitution could catch a cyclone and ride it bareback across the United States and then have a fresh one ready to ride back again, but to catch a buffalo bull in the full flush of manhood, as it were, and retain his tail while he crossed three reservations and two mountain ranges, requires great tenacity of purpose and unusual mental equipoise.
Remember, I do not regard the story I refer to as false, at least I do not wish to be so understood. I simply say that it recounts an incident that is rather out of the ordinary. Let the gentle reader lie down and have a Jackrabbit driven across his face, for instance. The J. Rabbit is as likely to brush your face with his brief and erect tail as the buffalo would be. Then carefully note how rapidly and promptly instantaneous you must be. Then closely attend to the manner in which you abruptly and almost simultaneously, have not retained the tail in your memory.
A few people may have successfully seized the grieved and startled buffalo by the tail, but they are not here to testify to the circumstances. They are dead, abnormally and extremely dead.