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Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch Paperback – October 8, 2002
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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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The way the author combined his personal experience, history, and science in telling his story made it very interesting. His concern for the dignity of the animals he raised, even in death is commendable. I enjoyed learning about South Dakota, the High Plains, and buffalo.
When I got to the end of the book, I wanted to buy some of the meat he raised and was happy to find his website where this could be purchased.
I immediately went to his website and ordered bison steaks from his company because he made me believe in his vision for the Great Plains. God bless this man and his dreams.