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Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch Paperback – October 8, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037576139X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375761393
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Some 20 years ago, Dan O'Brien, intoxicated by the Black Hills region of South Dakota, purchased the Broken Heart Ranch and began running cattle on more than a thousand acres. Though the decision ultimately cost him his marriage and, at times, his peace of mind, he feels a connection to the land and the lifestyle that continues to justify the decision. When necessary, he has even worked as an endangered-species biologist or English teacher in order to support his ranching habit. His engaging book, Buffalo for the Broken Heart, details both the rebirth of his ranch as well as himself.

"Desperate to rediscover purpose" in his life and disillusioned with working like a serf for the bank while supporting cows--those lumbering, small-brained icons of the plains that O'Brien describes as "a sort of reverse beast of burden. I was carrying them!"--he made a snap decision one day in January 1998 to take in 13 orphaned buffalo calves from a fellow rancher. Later, after much soul searching and contemplation of both practical and emotional matters, he decided to jump headlong into buffalo ranching. He expected differences between the two animals, of course, but was pleasantly surprised by the buffalo's self-sufficiency. Since buffalo are native to the plains, they are much gentler on the land and are able to find most of their own food and water. Plus, their meat is healthier than beef (and delicious to boot), and buffalo do not need the heavy doses of antibiotics, steroids, and hormones that cattle require--a process O'Brien likens to "locking children in a room with ice cream and potato chips and treating the health problems that result with expensive medicine."

O'Brien is a splendid storyteller, and his narrative is a skillful weave of the history of the buffalo on the Great Plains, colorful portraits of fellow ranchers, descriptions of the plains' rugged beauty, and a clear-eyed account of the harsh realities of ranching in this unforgiving landscape. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran writer, rancher and environmentalist O'Brien (The Rites of Autumn) deftly chronicles his decision to restore buffalo to his 1,000-plus-acre South Dakota ranch for the first time in more than a century. Some 20 years before this life-changing decision, O'Brien was drawn by visions of "grass swaying in the wind to infinity and a sky that takes up half the world" to purchase the Broken Heart ranch. Despite his passion for the Great Plains and "the wild things that share the place," most of the intervening years were devoted to making a going concern of his cattle operation. Then, in January 1998, a recently divorced O'Brien sold his cows and purchased 13 buffalo "runts" from a neighbor. From this initial "crew of ragamuffins" he eventually built a herd of 100, assuming considerable financial risk to acquire the animals and construct eight miles of five-foot-high, barbed wire buffalo fence around his property. O'Brien reflects on how the symbiotic relationship between the animals and the prairie helped return his land to health. In contrast, he documents the difficulties of raising cattle, "sort of ungulate tourist[s]" ill-suited to the harsh plains landscape. Relying on his natural storytelling ability and a gift for character development, O'Brien interweaves his own experiences with a history of the region and engaging portraits of his neighbors. The result is a moving story of one man's love for a place and his desire to "make the land whole again."

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Outstanding book, a recommend read for everyone.
kittirabbit
The story, as it unfolds, is full of the personal details of Great Plains life, and the honest self-exploration that make O'Brien's books a pleasure to read.
Jena Ball
Dan O'Brien has a view of the Great Plains that he shares through his decision to convert his cattle operation to a buffalo ranch.
Gwen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Never having heard of Dan O'Brien before, I picked this book up because of the author recommendations of the back cover. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and could hardly put it down.
It is sad what we've done to America with all the overgrazing of cattle, especially in the Great Plains. This book gave me a glimmer of hope to see how one man tries to make a difference. I believe anyone who reads this book will feel inspired by Dan O'Brien's gifted writing and his honesty. I don't consider myself an environmentalist, but even I began to realize how badly we've mistreated our natural resources and especially the Great Plains. It's a great story!
Dan O'Brien is a gifted writer and I'm so glad that I "found" him! I already know of three people who will be thrilled to receive this book on Christmas! :-) I highly recommend it.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By B. A. Moseley on November 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a bison rancher myself, I think Dan O'brien does an excellent job of seeing the buffalo through the eyes of both a cattle rancher and a wildlife expert while tying it all together with the social life of the small ranch owner on the edge of a bigger town in Northern Plains. He observantly notes some things about bison that make them stand out from cattle - like their herding instinct, the willingness of young bulls to take on older bulls no matter the odds, how a bison never gives up, and how protective the herd is during calving season. This is an excellent book for the layman and the experienced rancher. Dan himself is a fascinating person as well as shown by his bringing in his Falconry skills and some of the politics of endangered species recovery.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jena Ball on February 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
O'Brien's quest for meaning in life, as defined by his relationship with the land and the animals that call it home, continues here. In his previous novel, Equinox, he explored the dichotomy in his life between the pull of the wild, and the demands of a stable relationship that required more than he was able to give. In Buffalo for the Broken Heart, we find him feeling lost and ruddlerless, both in his personal and financial life, as he struggles to get past a failed marriage and looming financial disaster.
As O'Brien gradually comes to the conclusion that buffalo are the logical answer to his dilemma, it becomes clear that they are stand for a balance and wholeness he has been trying to restore to his land and his inner landscape as well. The story, as it unfolds, is full of the personal details of Great Plains life, and the honest self-exploration that make O'Brien's books a pleasure to read. As so often happens, his inner doubts and fears are reflected in the events and lives around him. The weather is unpredictable, farm costs rise, friends go bankrupt, he is beset by worries over the buffalos he has purchased, the list goes on and on until by the end of the novel, O'Brien comes to tenuous terms with his land and his new means of making a living. The buffalo are not the final answer, but it is clear that they have helped him find another piece of the puzzle he is working so hard to solve.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Flint on September 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is full of thrilling ideas - that the grass and the prairie birds and insects remember and revert to the way they lived together when bison shaped the land; that individual humans can really help heal the land. This story was riveting and that is unusual for me to say about non-fiction. The science was good and the personal drama seemed genuine. This is my favorite book of the year so far.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rita C. Berman on October 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
In his latest book, "Buffalo for the Broken Heart," Dan O'Brien lets the reader accompany him as he switches from raising cattle to raising buffalo. In spite of worrying about how to pay for the stock, getting along with neighbors, the weather and other trials, O'Brien radiates confidence. His descriptions of the buffalo are authentic. I, too, have been captivated by these huge creatures having seen them closeup at the Custer State Park Roundup. O'Brien's prose is a joy to read. And educational too, whether he is describing how he built a fence on his property, survived a severe winter, or provides insight about his Great Plains neighbors and their emotional attachment to land and livestock. A biologist and English teacher, he writes from the heart.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By denny j Huber on September 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Ted Turner is #1 Bison rancher in herd size, but O'brien gives best overview on how to protect prairie ecology from cattle over-grazing..beginnings of a conservationist trend. You recognize how & why plains Indians treated bison with reverence. Not included: map of ranch, or any photos. See online resource- wildideabuffalo.com
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Russell Grantham on October 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
O'Brien's story of getting caught on the horns of an idea that won't let him go--reintroducing buffalo to his ranch--is enchanting. So are his descriptions of some of the characters in his life, including the most important one, the high plains. You end up rooting for him and all those other folks enthralled by that hard land.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By hivon on August 22, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As I've been involved in agriculture my whole life, I tense up when I start reading generalizations about the industry. But this author has lived it himself and presents alternatives and kindly criticism in a very non judgmental way. It was interesting, provocative, and exciting to see someone so passionate about their calling in life. A great read for entertainment or to make you think.
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