Saturday, 23rd July
Before I tell you about out day here in the Badlands, I will tell you about another wildlife sighting that I forgot to mention last night. We were sitting around the picnic table in the dark, when suddenly we heard Butch utter a funny noise. He was looking at the ground, and of course our eyes followed. Out from under his feet slithered a 3 foot long snake. As it traveled away from the table, Ed followed it with his flashlight. It was identified as a Bull snake, one of the more common in the area. Fun to see, but we noticed that Myrna kept her feet up on the bench after that!
We awoke to a hot and sunny day. After breakfast we headed off in Butch's truck, minus his trailer, to look at the Badlands, and walk some trails. We found some wildflowers along side the gravel road, which are a nice contrast to the gray and tans of the hills.
Close by, out of the National Park, is a small town called Interior with a population of 76. We drove thru town, seeing their tiny post office, grocery store, Indian gift shop, gas station, church and jail. You will appreciate your police department building, Kurt, when you see the photo of the jail. We didn't see any sign saying that they had a police department, so don't know who would be in charge of it!! A poor looking town, indeed, with some houses abandoned, and only 2 other tourists walking on the sidewalk. We believe that some of the residents are Indian. We have noted that the people out west refer to the Native American's as Indians, as they did for many years, and have not changed to the more "politically correct" name. We went into the Indian shop, where we had the opportunity to talk to the store owner's husband, who was "minding the store" for the day, giving his wife a day off. He has a small ranch 25 miles from the store, raising Angus. They own 7 horses which he uses on the ranch. It sounded as if they have a difficult time earning a living, especially since the last 4 winters brought little snow. The melting snow is necessary for this dry climate. Many of the residents are employed by the National Park Service, mostly in the summer. The remainder are ranchers. A tough life out here and it makes you wonder why so many stay. Certainly the Park Service helps with their economy.
We actually relaxed in the afternoon, mostly inside the air conditioned camper. I wrote on the travel diary and connected for the first time with a wireless internet company which is available thru 2 near-by towers. Another computer experience learning to use that. The campground sells cards for 1 or 4 hours of use. The time ran out when I was uploading some photos of the Badlands and the Bighorn Sheep. I also thought I had a photo of Eric and Shawn on the day of Ed's birthday, but it didn't seem to appear on the travel site. I will send them along another time.
We cooked dinner at noon in the campground and ate in the air conditioned camper as the temperature, in the shade, had risen to 106 degrees F!! No clouds were visible, but at least there was a little breeze.
At 5:00 PM we left for what we hoped would be a "wildlife tour" in the truck. The evening was spectacular!!! We did see deer, hundreds of prairie dogs, rabbit, magpie, and a hawk, but the prize were 2 herd of buffalo, or bison as they are called. The first herd consisted of about 400 bison and they were unbelievable close to the road. Actually, during the time we stayed there watching and photographing them, many of them went back and forth from one side of the gravel road to the other. It seems as though at least one of the cows is ready to be bred and the large bulls were following her around, jostling with the others, and all making a growling sound, attempting to show the bull near him that he didn't have a chance! Several "head butting" fights were seen. There were bison of all sizes and ages, including many young ones born this spring. What a spectacular sight it was!! We got out of the truck for photos but made sure we stayed close in case a bull decided to charge us. We could see right into their eyes as they watched us. And at 2,000 pounds, we would not like for a bull to decide that we were threatening him.
We had a picnic supper in another area in the park, under a cedar tree where the bison often stood, hoping to get a little shade during the heat of the day. We learned that when the Badlands National Monument was established in 1939, there were no bison left there. The bison were reintroduced in 1964, the herds growing steadily since then. It truly was a wonderful day!