The Buffalo and the Field Mouse

The Buffalo and the Field Mouse

The little Field Mouse thought he could be Master of the Meadow.

Once upon a time, when the Field Mouse was out gathering wild beans for the winter, his neighbor, the Buffalo, came down to graze in the meadow.

The little Mouse did not like this. He knew that the buffalo would mow down all the long grass with his prickly tongue, and there would be no place in which to hide.

He decided to offer battle like a man.

“Ho, Friend Buffalo, I challenge you to a fight!” he yelled in a small, squeaky voice.

The Buffalo paid no attention, thinking it a joke.

The Mouse angrily repeated his challenge.

The buffalo went on quietly grazing while the little Mouse laughed with contemp.

The Buffalo at last looked at him and said, “You had better keep still, little one, or I shall come over there and step on you, and there will be nothing left!”

“Ha! You can’t do that! “replied the Mouse.

“If you speak to me again, I will come and put an end to you!” said the Buffalo, getting angry.

“I dare you! “said the Mouse.

The buffalo ran at him, trampling the grass and tearing up the earth with his front hoofs.

He looked for the Mouse, but he could not see him anywhere.

Just then he felt a scratching inside his right ear.

He shook his head as hard as he could and twitched his ears back and forth.

Bellowing madly, he ran as fast as he could in circles, then stood trembling.

The Mouse jumped out of his ear, and said, “Do you agree now that I am master?”

“No! “bellowed the Buffalo, and again he ran toward the Mouse, to trample him under his feet.

The little fellow was nowhere to be seen, but in a minute the Buffalo felt him in the other ear. Once more he raged in pain, and ran over the prairie, leaping high in the air.

At last he fell on a rock and lay dead.

The Mouse came out of his ear, and stood proudly upon his dead body.

“Ho, Ho!” he boasted. “I have killed the greatest of all beasts. This will show everyone that I am master of the of the meadow!”

He jumped on the carcass and called loudly for a knife to cut up the buffalo.

In another part of the meadow, Red Fox was hunting mice for his breakfast.

He was very hungry and suddenly saw the little mouse. He jumped upon him with all four feet, but the little Mouse got away.

All at once the Fox thought he heard a distant call: “Bring a knife! Bring a knife!”

Red Fox started in the direction of the sound. At the first knoll he stopped and listened.

Just then he heard the call plainly, but in a very tiny, thin voice, “Bring a knife!”

Red Fox ran toward the voice as fast as he could.

He came upon the huge body of the Buffalo lying on the grass. The little Mouse still stood upon the body.

“I want you to cut up this Buffalo for me and I will give you some of the meat,” ordered the Mouse.

“Thank you, my friend, I shall be glad to help you,” replied the Fox, politely.

So the Fox butchered the Buffalo, while the Mouse sat upon a mound nearby, giving orders.

“You must cut the meat into small pieces,” he said to the Fox.

When the Fox had finished his work, the Mouse gave him with a tiny piece of liver. He swallowed it quickly and smacked his lips.

“Please, may I have another piece?” he asked quite humbly.

“No, I gave you a very large piece! How greedy you are!” exclaimed the Mouse.

“You may have some of the blood clots,” he sneered.

So the poor Fox took the blood clots and even licked off the grass. He was really very hungry.

“Please may I take home a piece of the meat?” he begged. “I have six little children at home, and there is nothing for them to eat.”

“You can take the four feet of the Buffalo. That ought to be enough for all of you!”

“Oh, thank you, thank you!” said the Fox.

“But, Mouse, I have a wife also and we are having bad luck hunting. We are almost starved. Can’t you spare me a little more?”

“Not a bite,” scolded the Mouse, “I have already overpaid you for the little work you have done.” However, you can take the horns, though!”

Suddenly the Fox jumped on the Mouse, who gave one faint squeak and disappeared.

Remember, if you are proud and selfish you may lose everything in the end.

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

The Friendship of Brother Crow and Brother Buffalo

The Friendship of Brother Crow and Brother Buffalo

Every time the Shawnee set out to hunt buffalo, Crow would warn them and they would escape before the hunters arrived. Photo NPS.

The Shawnee needed buffalo for food and skins. But every time the Shawnee went out to hunt buffalo, Crow would warn them and they would escape.

Crow was pure white in the beginning. He was brother to the buffalo.

One day the Shawnee hunting party gathered around the campfire to prepare for a hunt.

Cawanemua said, “We must do something about Crow. I will dress as a buffalo and when Brother Crow comes to warn the buffalo of our hunt, I will grab him.”

The next day, Cawanemua pulled a buffalo skin over himself and joined the buffalo herd grazing near-by.

Sure enough, Crow flew in warning the buffalo as the Shawnee hunters approached.
Crow was crying, “Caw, Caw, hunters afar!”

Cawanemua jumped up, grabbed Crow by the legs and carried him back to camp.

That night, around the fire as the hunters discussed the fate of Crow

Panseau , the smallest brave listened and watched Crow.

Some wanted to kill and eat Crow, since they were very hungry and Crow had spoiled the hunt by warning the buffalo.

Others wanted to let Crow go, thinking that he had learned his lesson and would not warn the buffalo again.

Cawanemau was getting more and more angry. He grabbed crow and threw him in the fire.

Little Panseau seeing crow turning black from the fire and soot, grabbed him out of the flames.

Cawanemau was furious with Panseau. 

He shouted, “Crow deceives us. We are hungry and cold because he warns buffalo!!! Yet you save him from the flames!!”

Panseau, in a small voice, quietly said, “Crow warns his brother. Just as I would warn you, my brother.”

Crow, who was shaken and blackened from the flames, heard Panseau and felt hope.

Everyone was very still, thinking about what Panseau the smallest brave had said.

Crow spoke, ” I am blackened for warning buffalo, who is my brother. I now say Shawnees are my brothers also.

“I will never again warn buffalo of your hunt. And you, Brother Shawnee, will remember to give thanks to buffalo for giving himself to you for food to fill your belly and skins to keep you warm.”

Cawanemau stood. “Crow is our brother. Buffalo is our brother also.

“We will only hunt buffalo when we need food and skins. We will remember to always give thanks.

“Brother Crow will remain black, so he too can remember and remind us of his promise to never warn our Brother Buffalo.”

This is how Crow became black and made good friends with both Buffalo and Humans.
(Archived on Shawnee site.)

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

How Humpback’s Buffalo Broke Free to Run on the Plains

How Humpback’s Buffalo Broke Free to Run on the Plains

Humpback’s buffalo broke out of the corral and ran free over the earth.

In the first days a mean and powerful being named Humpback owned all the buffalo.

He kept them locked in a corral in the mountains north of San Juan, where he lived with his young son.

The buffalo were crowded into the corral, without much to eat, and most of their food was covered with dust. They longed for the green grass and sagebrush they saw on the mountainside.

Not one buffalo would Humpback release for the people on earth to eat. And he refused to share any meat with hungry people or animals who lived near him.

Coyote and his family lived in a village not far from the mountains.

One summer game was very scarce. Coyote and other hunters traveled many miles in all four directions and found nothing to eat.

Everyone in the village grew thin with hunger. Coyote’s children cried because their bellies were empty.

Coyote decided something had to be done to help the buffalo escape from Humpback’s corral. He called the people to a Council.

“Humpback will not give us any buffalo,” Coyote said. “Let us go over to his corral and make a plan to help them escape.”

They travelled to the mountains near Humpback’s place and camped. After dark they inspected his buffalo pens.

They found the stone walls had no opening. They were too high to climb, and the only entrance was through the back door of Humpback’s home.

After four days Coyote summoned the people to another Council and asked them to offer suggestions for releasing the buffalo.

“There is no way,” said one man. “To release the buffalo we must go into Humpback’s house, and he is too powerful for us to do that.”

“I have an idea,” Coyote said. “For four days we have secretly watched Humpback and his young son go about their work.

“Did you notice that the boy is lonesome? That he does not own a pet of any kind?”

The people did not understand what this had to do with freeing the buffalo, but they knew that Coyote was a great schemer so they waited for him to explain.

“I will change myself into a killdeer,” Coyote said. “In the morning when Humpback’s son goes down to the spring to get water, he’ll find a killdeer with a broken wing.

“He will want this bird for a pet and take it back into his house.

“Once I am in the house I can fly into the corral, and the cries of a killdeer will frighten the buffalo into a stampede. They will come charging out through Humpback’s house and be free to run upon the earth.”

The people thought this was a good plan, and the next morning when Humpback’s son came down the path to the spring he found the killdeer with a crippled wing.

As Coyote had planned, the boy picked up the bird and carried it into the lodge.

“Look here,” the boy cried. “This is a very good bird!”

“It is good for nothing!” Humpback shouted at him. “All the birds and animals and people are rascals and schemers.”

“It is a very good bird,” the boy repeated.

Humpback wore a blue mask over his face and fierce nose. Through its slits his eyes glittered. Buffalo horns protruded above his ears. 

His basket headdress was painted black with a zigzag streak of yellow to represent lightning.

“Take it back where you found it!” roared Humpback, and his frightened son did as he was told.

As soon as the killdeer was released it flew back to where the people were camped and changed back into Coyote.

“That plan did not work,” he said, “but I will try again in the morning. Maybe a puppy will be better than a bird.”

The next morning Humpback’s son found a small dog by the spring, lapping at the water.

The boy picked up the puppy and hurried back home.

“Look here!” he cried. “What a nice pet I have found.”

“How foolish you are, boy!” Humpback growled. “A dog is good for nothing. I’ll kill it with my club.”

But the boy hugged the dog tightly and ran away crying.

“Oh, all right,” Humpback growled. “But first let me test that animal to make certain it is a dog. All animals in the world are schemers.”

He took a coal of fire from the hearth and brought it closer and closer to the dog’s eyes until it gave three rapid barks.

“It is a real dog,” Humpback decided. “You may keep it in the buffalo corral, but not in the house.”

This was exactly what Coyote wanted.

When darkness fell and Humpback and his son went to sleep, Coyote opened the back door of the house.

Then he ran among the buffalo in the corral, barking as loud as he could. The buffalo were badly scared because they had never before heard a dog bark.

When Coyote ran nipping at their heels, they stampeded toward Humpback’s house and smashed down the rear door.

The pounding of their hooves in his house awakened Humpback. He jumped out of bed and tried to stop them, but the buffalo crashed through his front door and escaped.

Thus it was that the buffalo escaped from Humpback’s corral at last. They scattered over all the plains and grazed on the lush green grass in the sunshine.

After the last of the big shaggy animals had galloped away, Humpback’s son could not find his small dog.

“Where is my pet?” he cried. “Where is my little dog?”

“That was no dog,” Humpback said angrily. “That was Coyote the Trickster. He has turned loose all our buffalo and we can never get them back again.”

The buffalo did not go back into the corral and were free to roam all over the earth.

There Coyote and the people could hunt them when they were hungry.

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

Race with the Buffalo

Race with the Buffalo

As the largest of animals, Buffalo wanted to be chief of all. But the human people disagreed and accepted his challenge in a race. SDT.

Traditional storytellers believe that old stories are best told in the native language and to listeners who understand their culture.

They say an amusing story is “not as funny” in English. Much of the spirit, humor and excitement gets lost in translation.

Often the venerable grandmother with a twinkle in her eye entertained with hilarious tales about coyote tricksters and other mischief.

The following story may have been told just for fun with its twists, turns and surprises, for a giggling circle of attentive children

Many years ago all the animals lived in peace. No one ate anyone else. All the animals were the same color, because they had not yet painted their faces.

Buffalo was the largest of the animals and he was getting hungry.

He wanted to be the chief of all the animals. He wanted to draw strength from all the other animals by eating their flesh. Buffalo wanted to become the grandest of all the animals.

He said he deserved this as the largest and strongest of all.

 But the Human People disagreed. They wanted to pull strength from the other animals and become the most important.

So buffalo challenged the Human People to a race. The winner would become chief of all the animals.

The People said they would accept this challenge, but since buffaloes have four legs and People have only two, the People claimed the right to have another animal run the race in their place.

The buffaloes consented.

The People chose Bird People to represent them in the race. They selected Hummingbird, Meadowlark, Hawk and Magpie.

All the other animals and birds wanted to join the race, too, each of them thinking that just maybe they too had a chance to become chief of all the animals.

All the animals took paint and painted their faces for the race, each according to his or her spiritual vision.

Skunk painted a white stripe on himself as his symbol for the race.

Antelope painted himself the color of the earth. Raccoon painted black circles around his eyes and around his tail. Robin painted herself brown with a red breastplate for the race.

The race was to be held at the edge of the Black Hills at the place known as Buffalo Gap.

The competitors would race from the starting line sticks to the turn-around stick and then back to the starting line.

All the animals, painted according to their vision, lined up between the sticks.

Among the animals were the Bird People—Hummingbird, Meadowlark, Hawk and Magpie—who would run the race with their wings for the Human People, and Runs Slender Buffalo, the fastest runner of all the buffalo.

The cry was given to begin and all the animals and birds burst from the starter stick.

Hummingbird took the lead, ahead of Runs Slender Buffalo, but his wings were so small that he soon fell behind.

As the animals neared the turn around stick, Runs Slender Buffalo took the lead. Then Meadowlark came up beside Runs Slender Buffalo, and the two went along side by side right into the turn. Runs Slender Buffalo wheeled around the stick, her hooves thundering, and she pulled away from Meadowlark, who flew wide to make the turn.

The animals in the lead passed the late runners who were still headed for the stick.

Meadowlark fell behind and cheered on Hawk as he passed her.

Hawk gained on Run Slender Buffalo, and it looked like he might pass her. Her heart was pounding and her legs were tiring. But Hawk’s wings were tiring also, and he soon fell behind.

Runs Slender Buffalo was nearing the finish line as the winner.

It looked like the Buffalo would become eaters of all the animals!

Then, behind the buffalo woman, wings beating steadily, came Magpie. She was not a quick starter, but her wingbeats were hard and true. Her heart was strong. Her eyes did not wander from the finish line.

She never looked back. Her wings were wide and she drove herself forward with beat after beat after beat.

All the other animals had fallen behind. Runs Slender Buffalo looked over at the magpie, but Magpie never looked away from the starting sticks.

With each beat of her wings she moved past Runs Slender Buffalo by no more than the length of her bill.

At the starting sticks, many animals began to line up to watch the finish.

Raccoon, who had fallen out of the race early, had returned to the starting sticks.

Now he stood up between the sticks and put out his little hands for the runners to touch as they passed. He would feel the touch of whoever was in the lead, and turn toward the winner.

Closer and closer came Runs Slender Buffalo and some of the animals feared Raccoon would be trampled.

Magpie gradually flew nearer to the ground so she could brush Raccoon’s little hands as she flew past. Raccoon did not move, but stared straight at the onrushing pair.

Magpie seemed to be pulling ahead. Runs Slender Buffalo leaned forward as she ran to touch Raccoon’s hand with her great nose.

But Magpie’s wingtip touched Raccoon’s little hand and he turned toward her an instant before Runs Slender Buffalo thundered past, surrounded by a great cloud of dust. All the animals waited breathlessly for the dust to settle.

At last, there stood Raccoon with his little hand raised toward the path of Magpie.

The Human People had won the race!

Thus, they became great hunters and chief of all animals. They feasted on buffalo meat while Buffalo wandered the great plains eating grass and chewing their cud.

But the Human People never ate the Hummingbird, Meadowlark, Hawk or Magpie, who had befriended them and won the race for them.

( )

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

Kiowa Farewell to the Buffalo

Kiowa Farewell to the Buffalo

The buffalo came in the mists and disappeared into the mountain. The face of Mount Scott swung shut and closed on them forever.

The buffalo provided everything the Kiowas ever needed.

Their tipis were made of buffalo hides, stitched together with sinew. So were their clothes and tough moccasins.

 They ate dried buffalo meat and pemmican all through the year. Containers in which they kept food and provisions were made of hide, bladders and stomachs.

 Even more important, the buffalo sustained the Kiowa culture, their spirituality and religion.

When possible, a white buffalo calf must be sacrificed in the sun dance.

 The priests and medicine men used parts of the buffalo to make their prayers when they healed people or when they sang to the powers above.

 Buffalo were the lifeblood of the Kiowas.

 When white men built railroads, or when they wanted to farm and raise cattle, the buffalo still protected the Kiowas.

 They tore up the railroad tracks and gardens. They chased cattle off their ranges.

 The buffalo loved their people as much as the Kiowas loved them.

 But war raged between the buffalo and the white men. The white men built forts in Kiowa country, and the woolly-headed buffalo soldiers shot the buffalo as fast as they could.

 But the buffalo still kept coming on, coming on, even into the post cemetery at Fort Sill. Soldiers were not enough to hold them back.

 Then the white men hired hunters to do nothing but kill buffalo. Up and down the plains those men ranged, shooting sometimes as many as a hundred buffalo a day.

Behind them came the skinners with their wagons. They piled the hides and bones into the wagons until they were full, and then took their loads to the new railroad stations that were being built, to be shipped east to the market.

 Sometimes a pile of bones rose as high as a man, stretching a mile along the railroad track.

 The buffalo saw that their day was over. No longer could they protect the Kiowa, their people.

 Sadly, the last remnant of the great herd gathered in council, and decided what they would do.

 The Kiowas camped one night on the north side of Mount Scott, those of them who were still free to camp.

 One young woman rose very early next morning.


The dawn mist was still rising from Medicine Creek. As she looked across the water, peering through the haze, she saw the last buffalo herd appear like a spirit dream.

 Straight toward Mount Scott came the leader of the herd, walking with determination. Behind him came the cows and their calves, and the few young males who had survived the last hunting raid.

 As the Kiowa woman watched, the face of the mountain swung open.


Inside Mount Scott she saw that the world was green and fresh, as it had been when she was a small girl.

 The rivers ran clear, not red. The wild plains were in blossom, chasing the red buds up the inside slopes.

Into this world of beauty the buffalo walked and began grazing, never to be seen again. The face of Mount Scott swung back and closed on them forever. 

As told  by Spear-Woman (Old Lady Horse).

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

Buffalo Survival in Winter

Buffalo Survival in Winter

When snow lies deep on the prairie, buffalo swing their heads to sweep it away and find nourishment in the grass below. National Park Service.

Buffalo are known for their great natural vigor, surviving the worst blizzards of the north.

A freak blizzard in October 2013 killed tens of thousands of cattle in western South Dakota, as well as sheep and horses, when four feet of heavy wet snow with powerful winds drove them over banks, into creeks and waterholes and piled up against fences in deep snowdrifts.

Some ranchers lost fifty to seventy-five percent of their livestock and faced financial ruin.

Following that deadly storm, the National Bison Association checked with local buffalo breeders; none reported buffalo loss.

In another deadly storm the winter of 1997-1998, with heavy financial losses to livestock, the toll was apparently only one buffalo death. He was run off an icy bridge by an eighteen-wheeler.

Those who raise buffalo testify to their hardy endurance in cold weather.

The animals have dense hair growth, so dense—coarse guard hairs with soft wool underneath—that every square inch has ten times as many hairs growing as does an inch of cow hide, reports Dale F. Lott, University of California Wildlife, Fish and Conservation biologist.

In extreme cold when fat stores are low, this means “the difference between life and death,” says Lott. 

Buffalo face into the harsh blizzards that sometimes hit the northern plains, protected by their massive heads and shoulders. With forequarters well insulated by their heaviest hair growth, they stand or move slowly into the wind until the storm blows over.

Unfortunately, cattle and sheep do just the opposite—a sometimes deadly choice—turning their backs to a fierce blizzard. They drift with the wind into water holes and rivers or over high banks, where they may drown or die in pileups.

When snow lies deep on the prairie, buffalo plow down to find grass. Their humps contain muscles supported by vertebrae that allow them to swing their massive, low-hanging heads side to side, sweeping away snow to reach plants and grass.

When water is frozen, they eat snow. 

Ernest Thompson Seton declared their hardiness during the hard winter of 1885-86.

Reporting on a Manitoba herd in Canada, he wrote, “These buffalo receive no care beyond what is necessary to prevent their wandering away. . . They live on the open prairie summer and winter, subsisting on the wild grass, even when they have to dig for it through one or more feet of snow.

“Nor is it a bare existence that they so maintain. For when I saw them late in January, they were finding grass enough not merely to feed, but to fatten them.

“When a blizzard comes on, they lie down close together with their backs to the wind and allow the snow to drift over them, so that under the combined protection of the snow and their own woolly coats they are perfectly comfortable. 

“In January 1884 one of the cows calved on the open prairie and though at the time the thermometer registered 38 degrees below zero, neither cow nor calf appeared to suffer the slightest inconvenience.” 

“Buffalo face the storm and lower their heart rates and metabolism so their strength is maintained,” notes Mike Faith.

He says Native people see this hardiness as an affirmation of their own ability to survive adversity. 

The worst blizzard in North Dakota history was said to be March 2nd through 5th in 1966, taking the lives of 19,000 cattle. Nationwide, 175,000 cattle died. 

His whole herd went hungry during that entire storm, said one Kidder County cattle rancher.

“You couldn’t do anything, you couldn’t see nothing.” When finally able to get to his Herefords, they were in tough shape. “All the cattle had ice and snow on their eyes and they couldn’t see,” he reported. 

That blizzard prompted a South Dakota rancher who raised both cattle and buffalo to totally convert his herd to the species that survived the blizzard unscathed, according to author Douglas Ramsey in “One to Remember: The Relentless Blizzard of March 1966.” 

A record 15.5 inches of snow fell in Bismarck on the second day, and 35 inches piled up during the epic event, with relentless winds of 70 to 80 mph.

Snow drifts measured at least six feet deep in downtown Dickinson, and in some areas topped thirty feet, choking roads all across the state. A Northern Pacific passenger train carrying 500 people was stopped and buried by the storm near New Salem.

But buffalo survived, wrote Ramsey: “The buffalo, being native to the plains, form a ‘V’ shape with the bulls facing into the wind and the cows and calves inside.

“During the blizzard they moved three times. They move till the snow gets too deep, then they move again.”

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

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