Monday, January 11, 2021

Meet and Greet

Hey, everyone, meet Bob. (Disclaimer: I am not a photographer) 

Bob hangs in the library. You don't get a real idea of his size, because he's not shown with anything to compare him the loveseat beneath him. His neck is probably 3 feet high from top to bottom. His head is full of concrete, so he's a a big fellow and a heavy one too. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Now, Bob is Tim's fault. I mean, I know I'm the one that agreed to take him, but it was because he always guesses what he's getting for his birthday. And so when Pete, a fellow I worked with said, " wouldn't want a buffalo head, would you?" the very first thing that struck me was "By golly, Tim will NEVER guess what he's getting for his birthday this year." And so I said yes. 

Turned out that Pete had been hauling Bob around for years waiting for his chance to hang him on the wall. After many years of marriage, he finally decided that when his wife said no all those years ago, (and many more times in the intervening years) she meant it. He gave up and began looking for a home for Bob. 

Long story short, I had no idea how large it was. (The neck at the base is about 3 feet from top to bottom.) In the old days, taxidermists filled the heads of the mount with concrete, so Bob is pretty hefty. But Tim did not guess what I got him for his birthday that year. He was also tickled pink with it. He drove it all over creation to show people what he had in the back of his truck. 

That is how we came to have a buffalo in the library, and we love Bob. We decorate him at Christmas. 

He's totally out of scale with the dainty white sofas in the room. If you sit on the love seat, he looms over you in what might be construed as a menacing way if you are a person who has a nervous disposition. He doesn't go with anything at all in the room, really, but he is a buffalo with a story and God help me, I cannot resist something that comes with a story.

The story is: Pete's father got the thing from an estate sale of an extremely well to do railroad person. 

Now back when the transcontinental railroad was built, buffalo hunters would kill scores of buffalo from the moving trains. There was a demand for the hides, but the meat was left to rot. Later, they would come back to collect all the bones that they could find and put them on trains headed east where they were made into fertilizer. The buffalo (scientifically a bison, but generally referred to as the 'American Buffalo') was hunted to the very brink of extinction.  

Buffalo skulls, circa1870s. 

Of course, this extinction also led to mass starvation of the plains Indians, who relied on the buffalo meat to feed their people. 

But Bob did not wind up as a coat for someone. His bones (well, at least his skull) did not wind up being made into fertilizer. There was another kind of hunter. Rich men would take train excursions out onto the prairies and they would shoot buffalo from luxurious and well appointed train cars, drinking good liquor and smoking nice cigars. Bob is a trophy from one of those trips, according to the story. 

The things that back up this story is the mount itself: The concrete filled head, the wood that the head is mounted on attests to its age. That was the way that taxidermy was done in those days. It was also extremely expensive, which made it exclusive to only the very wealthy. The fact that Bob was bought off the wall of an estate owned by a wealthy railroad man. While there's no way to verify that story 100%, we know that Bob is an American buffalo, and a very old fellow, with at least 140 birthdays behind him.

Bob is going on a field trip today. William will show him to his classmates, and we will talk about a clash of cultures and the misery that resulted from it. The mass killing of the buffalo was seen by the US government as a way to control pesky Indian populations naturally. 

Our little 5 minute presentation will end up with some local artifacts found right here in our own area. The grinding stone that my sister found while moving dirt. The hide scraper I found. Arrowheads. The fact that you can go to a field in Irvine where the Indians summered and find the dirt still littered with the knapping of years and years of making flint arrowheads and tools as the Iroquois summered together at the place where the Brokenstraw creek and the Allegheny River meet. 

We are lucky to live in an area where you can find history while planting your tomatoes. It's sad that most kids have no idea. Bob aims to teach them. 

Oh look! I found a picture of Pete, aka 'he who cannot hang buffalo at his house'.

(Note to Bob: You probably need to make sure your wife is on board with your 'inheritance'. Pete and his wife are a very happy couple. I think probably the only thing they ever disagreed seriously on was that darn buffalo. )


  1. I'm glad Bob is going to school, I hope some of the pupils will learn a bit more about their history. It seems incredible now that there was such a deliberate attempt to wipe out the indigenous peoples.

  2. My dad acquired a camel-saddle in his youth. It had previously belonged to Lord Manifold (his names painted on the side). He never owned a camel to put it on. Now it get passed around the family as people take turns to let it clutter their places up. None of us would get rid of it for the world.

  3. A very educational post. Didn't know they shot buffaloes from trains.

  4. Enjoyed your Bob story and glad he finally got a home.

  5. Carruthers, the difference between your family and mine? There's been a very united decision that nobody wants Bob. I had to him to a fellow blogger named Bob.

  6. Bob provides various educational opportunities, which you seem to appreciate.

  7. How heavy is Bob? It must be a very good mount to hand him on the wall so he does not fall.

  8. Bob weighs over 150 lbs. He is hung by a lag screw that goes deep into the beam that supports the wall. It actually took quite a bit of thinking to figure out how to hang him. I cleaned him with a good application of fructis garnie, to make his coat shine again. He's been hanging there for a few years now. He'd benefit by another spa treatment, but it took 3 of us to lift him in place.

  9. My grandparents were friends with a couple who had a full buffalo hide for a living room rug. I remember as a kid playing on and under it while my grandparents were visiting and how heavy that hide was. It still had the horns attached so we would crawl under it so the horns were correctly positioned on our heads and pretend to be buffalo.

    Down the road about 40 minutes or so is a wildlife preserve where American Bison have been reintroduced. It is so neat to see those shaggy looking beasts from fairly close by.

  10. Make sure your bequest to the “fellow blogger named Bob” is signed and sealed in your will so (assuming I outlive you, which is a big if), I won’t have to come to PA to fight with your heirs who might decide Bob is worth something after all (which he is). He’s a treasure.

  11. Oh, wow....I kind of fell in love with Bob from this post. What a grand old fellow! It's a totem of our country, for sure, and I believe those schoolkids are going to get a lot out of this presentation. Heck, I wish I could be there! So interesting! And I'm glad Bob is part of a family that loves him.

  12. LOL. Bob, you laugh, but we are having our will done. You are in it. I kid you not.

  13. This is an amazing story! I didn't know they shot buffalo from the trains either. 150 pounds, wow! It sounds like you hung Bob carefully, but I still wouldn't stand underneath him. We have a place called Northwest Trek which has bison. They are imposing creatures, especially during rutting season.

  14. I remember visiting a park in Bismarck, North Dakota that had buffalo behind a simple wire fence. I became too curious and the bison took offense, charging the fence between us. I also saw many of them in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in southwestern North Dakota. They roam free and occasionally stop on the roadway, which causes drivers to stop at a respectable distance. Yes, those rascals are huge!

  15. Bob is rather large - not sure if I would trust that love seat beneath!!

    We used to have a crocodile on our piano - it is my uncle's (and therefore no longer on our piano as he moved out when he got married in 1975) and we used to thrill to put our hands in his mouth!!

    Enjoy the "field trip"

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  17. I can't believe Bob is full of concrete! That thing must weigh a ton. I never knew taxidermists used concrete back in the day.

    It's good that Bob is useful as a teaching tool -- it helps make the fact that he was robbed of his life a little more bearable. That photo of all the skulls is horrifying. I just don't understand what people were thinking in those days. Didn't it occur to them that they might wipe out the species? Did they just not care? (Passenger pigeons, Carolina parakeets, etc.)

  18. Steve, I don't think that it mattered to them. They were signing the death warrants on an indigenous population as they killed these animals. That didn't matter to them either.

  19. The Man would like a Buffalo like Bob, but he knows I would decorate it and Scale wise we have no placement for it except the RV Garage Walls. Bob has a very rich History and it's good his Story is a Show and Tell opportunity at the School... so much sordid History remains unspoken of. My Dad was Native American and my Mom European from a marginalized Ethnic group in her Home Country. There is a lot of Shameful stuff that went on thruout History and the best way not to repeat it, is to have knowledge of what went so Wrong. Be Well and Stay Safe... thanks for the introduction to Bob and "He who cannot hang Buffalo at his House", I LOVED that Nickname! *Smiles*


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