A Frontier Village and the Way of the Buffalo

“Personally, I do not believe the human mind has any limits but those we impose ourselves.”
-Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man: A Memoir

Having never been to North Dakota, K2 and I did not know what to expect as we traveled westward across the 19th largest state in America. We left Fargo after breakfast and took I-94 with a plan to arrive in Dickinson, ND by nightfall. Our thoughts were to take our time and enjoy not only the scenery from the interstate, but also make a few stops along the way if something caught our eye. The first thing one notices while driving in North Dakota is the lack of traffic. Indeed, there is a lack of people altogether compared to most other states, as it ranks 47th in population. For those of us with a wandering spirit, you do feel like you have room to roam, almost like the majestic bison herds of yesteryear that littered the Great Plains of the scenic West.

One of our first stops along the way was to appreciate this mighty animal in the city of Jamestown. Long before you get to the exit for Jamestown, you are welcomed by Dakota Thunder, the world’s largest buffalo monument. Mr. Thunder stands at 26’ tall and weighs in at 60 tons. He watches over the frontier village that consists of original frontier buildings from across North Dakota that have been preserved to give visitors a glimpse back in time. You can ride an actual stagecoach, check to see if you, or someone you know, has a wanted poster hanging at the local Sheriff’s Office, or visit the writing shack of Jamestown’s favorite son, the beloved western author, Louis L’Amour. There are several other buildings, and it is just fun to walk around and imagine what it must have been like 150 years ago.

Next to the village is the National Buffalo Museum. For all things buffalo this is the place to be. The story of the American Buffalo or Bison, is a sad one. Once they roamed North America in the millions. Prior to the Euro-American expansion in the West, their numbers were anywhere from 30 to 60 million. In 1800, mass hunting of this magnificent beast began and by1884 their once mighty numbers had dwindled to a mere 325. Today, their story is much happier, with conservation efforts pushing their population over 500,000. There is no animal that symbolizes the American West more than the Bison. Strong and powerful, yet elegant and graceful, they represent all that was once wild and free. They should be revered and respected for what they are and for what they once were. And at 6.5 feet tall, 2000 lbs, and running at an incredible 35mph, all this should be done from a safe distance.

Heading out of Jamestown, we continued our journey westward to our next destination. There is a certain freedom about being on the road. To be able to get in your vehicle, press the gas pedal, and in a few short hours, arrive in a completely different place than where you began, is certainly a form of freedom to me. But then I consider the bison from years past. To be able to move freely over land with no fences to confine you, that is freedom. To graze on grass in an area from Canada to Mexico with no roads, no billboards, and no worries, that is freedom. I am reminded of a favorite poem of mine by Carter Revard called, “Driving in Oklahoma” . In the poem the poet speaks of the illusion of freedom in the form of technology. Real freedom for him comes in the form of a Meadowlark that flies over his window and through the land where his people once roamed. Still, K2 and I feel very fortunate, indeed blessed, to live in such a place and time. We are certainly more fortunate than some with the freedoms we share here in this country. And while not perfect, because nothing ever is, it is good to know we can step outside our door and just…wander on to the next adventure.

Happy Wandering!

Dakota Thunder from a distance…
60 tons of Buffalo watching over the frontier village
The frontier village in Jamestown, North Dakota
Small, one room school house from days past
On most days a stage coach ride is available through the village
Louis L’Amour was born in Jamestown, ND on March 22, 1908
At the time of his death L’Amour was credited with 89 novels and over 100 books
From humble beginnings…
Advantage: Bison

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