Photo by ailatan used under a Creative Commons license.
Dan O’Brien, Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch (Random House, 2001).
O’Brien had owned the Broken Heart Ranch, near Bear Butte in the Black Hills of South Dakota, for more than 20 years, though like many ranchers he has had to work other jobs to pay the bills. In 1998, recently divorced and disillusioned with the economics of cattle ranching, O’Brien impulsively decided to take thirteen buffalo calves from another rancher. Before long, he decided to switch completely from cattle to buffalo. Buffalo bring their own challenges. O’Brien had to re-fence his pastures, and learn to handle wilder animals. But they are much better suited to life on the Great Plains than cattle are. They’re also easier on the range — in particular, they don’t linger by water, like cattle do — a theme which fits with O’Brien own story of recovery.
Here’s a bio of O’Brien on the site of Wild Idea Buffalo Company, where you can also buy his buffalo meat. For more on his recent ventures, see this. Here is blog reaction from Raymond Pert, Gaia Gardener, and Jeff Reed. Listen to an interview with O’Brien on Minnesota Public Radio. Or listen to a piece about O’Brien and the book on NPR’s “Living on Earth.” The Guardian‘s Matthew Engel sees O’Brien’s herd of buffalo as part of a trend.