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How a Baby Buffalo Taught One Family About America and Their Hearts.
With Guest: Richard Rosen, author of "A Buffalo in the House: The True Story of a Man,
An Animal, and the American West."

Original Air Date: 09-04-2009

Listen to the show

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The majestic American Bison - also known as the American Buffalo. Most Americans know of Buffalos - that in the past there were many, Native Americans used to rely on them and that they had to be saved from extinction. But what do we really know about buffalos or why care? The problems were all in the past weren't they? They've been saved now right? In today's episode you will find out what buffalos's are really like, learn about how an orphaned baby buffalo stole a man's heart and hear the story how America's largest wild land mammal has been caught in the middle of humans affairs time and time again.

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At one time, there were millions of bison roaming the prairies of the great plains. Note the illustration at the top of the cover of Richard Rosen's book.
(Book cover photo courtesy of Free Press)

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Richard Rosen, author of "A Buffalo in the House" meeting Charlie the bison.
(Photo courtesy of www.abuffalointhehouse.com)

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Today, the landscape looks very different from the 1800's. A herd of American Bison grazing on the prairie at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, U.S.A. What happened to the millions of buffalo and why?

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Buffalo hunt - circa 1835. A depiction of Native Americans hunting buffalo on horseback on the plains. For centuries, Native Americans and bison coexisted on the Great Plains. The bison provided food, clothing, and tools. This way of life continued for thousands of years until the settlement of the Great Plains and large scale killing of bison by hunters and traders in the 1800's drove the bison to near extinction.
(photo by MPI/Getty images, From and engraving by Vogel after a painting by Karl Bodmer)

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Killing buffalo - circa 1875. A group of men hunting buffalo from the top of a railroad train.
(photo by MPI/Getty images)

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A female bison gives birth (after nine and a half months) to a single calf at a time. The baby nurses for a year and females are considered sexually mature at three years old - males at six years. During stampedes or the moving of herds by people, the babies can become separated from their mothers and become abandoned. This is what happened to the buffalo at the heart of the story told in "A Buffalo in the House."
(photo by Ralph Town, U.S. Fish and Wildlife)

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Veryl Goodnight and Roger Brooks, chose to adopt an orphaned buffalo and bring him home with them.
(photo courtesy of New Press)

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The baby bison (named Charlie after Veryl Goodnight's relative Charles Goodnight) needed regular feedings four times a day.
(photo by Veryl Goodnight)

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Veryl Goodnight is a well-known sculptor in bronze of animals. As Charlie needed temporary human foster parents and Veryl needed a real baby buffalo that could be a model for a sculpture she was working on, it was a mutually beneficial arrangement.
(Photo courtesy of www.abuffalointhehouse.com)

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"Letting Sleeping Bison Lie"
(Photo courtesy of www.abuffalointhehouse.com)

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An Uninvited guest. As Charlie became bigger and stronger, obviously, he could no longer live or even visit in the house. Contrary to what some of the photos look like, Buffalos are not good house pets, nor are they ever meant to be. Veryl and Roger found this out over time.
(Photo courtesy of www.abuffalointhehouse.com)

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Charlie, snacking on the shrubbery.
(Photo courtesy of www.abuffalointhehouse.com)

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A peaceful Sunday morning - like one that anyone would enjoy. Reading the paper- relaxing with the dog... the cat.....the buffalo?
(Photo courtesy of www.abuffalointhehouse.com)

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"Buffalo Secret".
(photo by Veryl Goodnight)

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"Best Friends Forever". Roger Brooks napping and Charlie the bison.
(photo by Veryl Goodnight)

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Charlie went on many walks with Roger when smaller but that didnt mean he would always move when and where Roger requested.
(photo by Veryl Goodnight)

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Charlie and Roger visits Taos Pueblos as Roger becomes very active in trying to help keep free ranging buffalo herds healthy and viable.
(photo courtesy of www.abuffalointhehouse.com)

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"Charlie admires his modeling work". The famous sculpture by Veryl Goodnight, entitled, "Back From the Brink" that Charlie inadvertantly posed for, as a model.
(photo by Veryl Goodnight)

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Veryl and Charlie. "Growing Boy".
(photo by Roger Brooks)

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Two humans and a very large American bison. The affection and bond between them can be felt looking at this photo.
(photo courtesy of abuffalointhehouse.com)

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A herd of Buffalo in Yellowstone National Park. All is not well everywhere the buffalo roams and many a discouraging word is heard regarding the number of bison being killed in areas near Yellowstone.

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What will the future hold for the largest land mammal in North America?
(Image from an original painting of a buffalo on the Wyoming prairie)

z67-guest-IMG_0947.jpg R.D. Rosen is the author of three nonfiction books, including Psychobabble, an examination of cult psychotherapies that was inspired by the term he invented in 1975, and the recent (2007) A Buffalo in the House: The True Story of a Man, an Animal, and the American West, whose main character, a bison named Charlie, was called by Publishers Weekly “one of the most memorable characters in recent nature writing.”

He is also the author of five mystery novels, one of which, Strike Three You’re Dead, won the Edgar Award. In addition, he is the  coauthor of the humor books Bad Cat, Bad Dog, and Bad President, two of which were New York Times bestsellers. He is currently a senior editor of ESPN Books.


Richard Rosen's Website

To order "A Buffalo in the House"

Additional Resources

For information on Fermilab and how to visit their prairie and see their buffalo:

Fermilab's Bison

For information on the Yellowstone buffalo situation:

The Buffalo Field Campaign

For information on the restoration of the Great Plains:

Great Plains Restoration Council

If you would like to express your opinion about a bill in Congress that asks that no federal funds be used to capture, haze or kill buffalos, contact your United States Representative.
The name of the bill is the "Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act."

To see the lyrics and hear the music for the song "Home On The Range" (a few bars of the song were heard at the beginning of segment three), use the link above. You might even find that you sing along. I did.

 

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