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Buffalo at Sidney, 1872

Thousands of buffalo still roamed the plains of Nebraska as late as 1875. As the prairies filled with homesteaders, the buffalo inevitably came into conflict with them, occasionally destroying crops or using newly plowed ground for wallows. Sometimes they wandered into towns, which had appeared along their free-range byways. Numerous incidents of this kind were recorded in Nebraska newspapers. One was reported in the Omaha Daily Bee of Wednesday, December 4, 1872:

"Last Sunday while the citizens of Sidney were quietly enjoying the repose afforded them by the Sabbath, a drove of eight buffalo came galloping over the rolling hills, and entered the town, and took a spin around the streets. In less than ten minutes the alarm had become so general that every man, woman and child in the place were armed with shot-guns, rifles, revolvers, dirk-knives, and pitchforks, while at the barracks every soldier was on duty at once, and prepared to meet and vanquish the foe, or die in the attempt. In fact, it was a question of buffalo meat or no buffalo meat with them.

"The enemy was out-flanked, and a detachment of one buffalo became separated from the main body of the monarchs of the plains, and was driven inside the post. Then the grand hurrah began in dead earnest. The soldiers flew around the buffalo in the enclosure, as did the gladiators of old the infuriated bulls in the amphitheatre. Col. Dudley, the commandant of the post, acted as Chief Director of the thrilling sport, which lasted some time.

"The buffalo was finally cornered, and killed, after receiving shots too numerous to mention. . . . Music, too, lent its charm to the thrilling scene as a couple of Italian harpers, who travel on the Union Pacific, were engaged in thumbing their instruments during the hunt.

"In the meantime the seven buffaloes in the town were having a red-hot time." They eventually escaped, "then turned tail on the town, and cantered over the hills, and far away, after creating an intense excitement."

(February 1997)



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