Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

November 15

Saints du jour include Gertrude, Leopold, Arnoul, Desiderius, Albert the Great (patron of students, scientists, and of all the natural sciences), Valeria, and Eugene.


Sam Waterston (61), (Judge) Joseph Wapner (82), and Ed Asner (72) are all birthday boys today.


November 15, 1999:

Custer State Park in Custer, South Dakota, is holding its annual buffalo auction today and between 500 and 750 people from all over the country are expected to attend. Just out of curiosity, what is the weather currently in Custer, South Dakota? Predictably, it is snowing and the temperature is expected to get all the way up into the 10's. This should make the 300-500 "surplus" buffalo nice and frisky.

And they had better be pretty darn frisky, too, since buffalo aren't cheap. At the North Dakota Buffalo Association Fall 1996 sale held on December 14 in Mandan, North Dakota (where the weather had to be even worse than in Custer in November), the cheapest buffalo, bull calves around 385 pounds, went for $500-825 per head and 2-year-old bred heifers (females who haven't had calves before but are pregnant now) went for $2,295-4000 per head.

According to the NDBA, the "heighlight" [sic] of the sale was that 616 head of buffalo brought in $1.2 million. That would have been the heighlight to me.

Now, the NDBA isn't interested in merely sponsoring buffalo sales--it is actively promoting the buffalo industry. Their site has an entire brochure entitled "Why Raise Buffalo" that is bound to bring a smile to your face. Just for starters:

"Why Raise Buffalo? You'd like to get into the buffalo business, but you're
a little hesitant because you're not all that acquainted with the management
of buffalo."

Why, yes, that is ONE reason that I hesitate.


It was like driving down a glacier and I was terrified. However, after an eternity of plummeting down the mountain we leveled off safe and sound on the outskirts of Haines and there I saw my first Alaskan bald eagle.

Actually, I saw hundreds. It was an eagle sanctuary and it was the time of year when the eagles gathered in droves, or whatever eagles gather in, to take advantage of the spawning salmon fighting their way up the Chilkat River. Eagles stood shoulder to shoulder in the icy shallow water surrounded by struggling fish. Eagles unable to eat another bite filled the branches of the fir trees at the river's edge. Eagles everywhere you looked.

Luckily, there was a ferry leaving Haines that night and we arrived long enough ahead of its departure that I had time for a brief tour of the town. It was one of the places I had considered when I was picking my destination and now I was very glad I had settled on a different location.

Dropped at the terminal, I straightened out my ticket with no trouble but I had forgotten about getting the dogs on the ferry. If all had gone as planned, they would have stayed in the car for the trip--several times a day people were allowed to go to the car deck to take care of pets. Without a car, I didn't have a way to contain the dogs. Again, I got lucky. The terminal at Haines provided free kennels, requesting only that they be sent back with the boat. Apparently people less attached to their pets used to just abandon them rather than buy a kennel, and it cost the city less to pay for kennels than deal with the strays.

And so I was finally on my way to Wrangell. The dogs were on the car deck safe and sound and I took my pile of stuff and went to the passenger area where I got my first exposure to Alaska food prices, decided I wasn't hungry so much as tired, found a spot to throw down my sleeping bag, and fitfully slept.

Morning was lovely. The sun was shining and everything looked like a travelogue. The blue, blue water and the blue, blue sky--no pollution here. Mountains leaped out at us, all snowy and sparkling bright. It was more beautiful than I could have imagined and I was used to living with natural beauty. This was different. It was what breathtaking is all about.

I met a couple of guys who lived in Petersburg, on an island one stop short of Wrangell. They were vehement about my rethinking the Wrangell plan, saying that Petersburg was cleaner and far more civilized. These guys didn't look all that clean or civilized to me, so I decided that if they thought that Wrangell was somewhat barbaric, I probably DID want to move to Petersburg instead. Besides, the ferry was stopping in Petersburg at noon, so I would have four whole hours of sunny daylight to find a job and a place to live.

Tomorrow: Petersburg

Shortcut to Petersburg (November 16)

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Marilyn Jones 1999-2001