Wallows have been used for:
- A dusting bowl for bison
- Tank for holding water
- A place for new life to form
- Hiding place from the enemy
- Hiding place for stolen goods
- Starting a garden
1888 Definition: BUFFALO WALLOWS – (1) Curious depressions in the prairies are so called. These, says Colonel Dodge, are formed in the following manner. A heavy rainfall deluges the hard and level country. The water is soon absorbed by the thirsty soil, or licked up by the hot sun-rays: a portion of the soil, a little more moist that adjoining, opens in cracks such as can be seen in any ordinary dried up mud hole. Another hard rain comes: these cracks are filled up by the earth washed from their edges, which, packed more tightly, and retaining moisture longer that before, cracks again wider in drying. This process is repeated again and again, until quite a depression is made in the soil, which in now so tightly packed as to retain water for a considerable time. When the buffalo is shedding his coat in the spring, he is constantly endeavoring to get rid of the superfluous hair, and, in the absence of trees against which to rub, he is frequently rolling and rubbing himself on the ground. These small water- holes are his especial delight. The buffalo is in no way necessary to the formation of the buffalo wallow, it being found in parts of the country where there are no buffalo. The process of formation is exactly similar to that of the Hog Wallow (q.v.) of Southern Texas. Given certain conditions of soil, position, and rainfall, and prolific nature does the rest.
Note: Definition of hog wallow
a: a depression in land made by the wallowing of swine (same for bison)
b: a similar depression said to be due to heavy rains
Spring 1871 Solomon Valley Kansas -Diary
May 8 – Mamma and I waded the river and went over to our claim. We have peas, potatoes and
pumpkins up in the buffalo wallows. We saw 5 buffalos off on a hill about 2 miles. They were lying down.
The men went after them. They killed one and broke the leg of another, which they finally killed after it
ran down into the river. Then they got the team and cut up the buffaloes and brought them home. The
buffaloes smell like skunk.
The Conservative NE
In 1873 Oklahoma
The last wild buffalo that I ever saw was a herd of five in the breaks of Salt Fork of Red River about twenty miles from the present town of Magnum, Greer county, Okla., in the early spring of 1875. The herd consisted of one young bull, two old cows and two young calves. One of the cows had two arrows sticking in her back, and the blood which had recently oozed from the wounds had congealed and dried. The animals were very poor and thin, and we hadn’t the heart to disturb them. A day or two later we found an aged bull, equally poor and emaciated, lying in a buffalo wallow. He got upon his feet as we approached and slowly trotted away. We did not disturb him. I could but almost consider him the last of his race in his native wilderness, verily the remaining vestige of the millions of these great shaggy animals that roamed the plains less than half a dozen years ago.
S. S. P.
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Nov 23, 1878
THREE INFURIATED BULLS
“A funny incident occurred a few days before the mules were stolen. I had been out among the sand hills, and had planted seven bullets in an old bull. He was a tough old fellow, but was finally brought to his knees. I thought he would surely die, and wasted no more ammunition. On returning to camp I told Davis where he lay, and he and Welsh said that they would take his hide early in the morning. That night the wolves scented the old fellow’s blood, and made an assault on him. He fought like a tiger, and would have gone under had not two other bulls come to the rescue. All night long they kept the wolves at bay. In the morning Welsh and Davis went out to look for the wounded bull. I was going up the River, but pointed near where he lay, and told them they would find him in a little hollow near the sand hills. Welsh took his needle gun and went on foot, and Davis followed, mounted on a mule, taking a swingle, or whiffletree, to drag the green hide back to camp. On nearing the hollow Welsh saw the three buffalo lying down, and said to Davis: “why, he’s wounded three instead of one, and left us to finish them.” Davis stood up in his saddle, looked at them. “I don’t think he’s hurt any of them.” he said. “Johnny, just try ‘em.’ Welsh crept toward the trio. Two of the Bulls got to their feet, and stretched themselves. They gazed at him in astonishment, and began to paw the ground and shake their heads. Welsh dropped on one knee and blazed away. He probably miss them, for infuriated by the assaults of the wolves, they raised their tails, lowered their heads, and with bloodshot eyes charged upon him. He saw them coming in after a sharp raise went into a buffalo wallow like a prairie dog. The bull then went for Davis. He had scented danger, and headed the mule towards camp. The beast however, was fat and lazy, and did not seem to take in this situation. Davis pounded him with the whiffletree until the blows resounded over the prairie, but could get no head of steam. “Shoot at ‘em, Johnny !’ he shouted. “Shoot at ‘em, but Johnny lay in the wallow, shaking with merciment, and could not shoot. Seen that there was a slim chance for reaching camp, Davis headed his mule for a mesquite tree, fancy and he could find a shelter among its thorns. The slow lope of the mule brought the maddened bulls nearer. Davis finally jumped from the saddle and ran for the tree. He went up the trunk like a squirrel, and had barely perched himself on a top limb before the bulls dashed underneath in pursuit of the mule. Like Davis, the mule took good care of himself, and reached camp and safety.”
The typical surface of the country is underlain by the Ogahalla formation of the high plains of western Kansas, buffalo wallow; shallow circular depression on the level surface, in the foreground. Haskell County, Kansas. 1897.
Fall of 1882 in North Dakota “Mysteries of the Plains” LOC
“In the fall of ’82, the first venturesome settlers penetrated into Dickey county in what is now North Dakota, one of the most beautiful pieces of prairie country in the James river valley. Two chance land hunters whose names may now be lost, unless they can be dug out of the old files of newspapers published at that time in Aberdeen, were prospecting in that region.,
“One evening as they were heading towards the river in search of a good camping place, they passed a grass-grown buffalo wallow. Here there burst upon them a sight which they probably never forgot. The circumference of the wallow was literally lined with bones of men and horses, other skeletons lay within the circle.
“Although the bones had been scattered some, investigation indicated that the horses had been used for defense in place of earthworks. United States army buttons and brass belt buckles were found, also badly rusted barrels of muzzle loading guns of the old army musket type, with their stocks rotted away or burned away by prairie fires. Rusted bits, iron stirrups, canteens and other metal parts of soldiers’ equipment were also found here—all of which went to show that this was a troop of United States cavalry.
“Reports made at the time stated that the skeletons of 28 men and a like number of horses were found, but nothing was discovered that showed to what regiment or company this troop belonged. If this was the result of a battle, it is probable that the Indians carried away anything of the soldiers’ equipment that struck their fancy. This would account for nothing remaining that would identify the troop.
“The bones looked as if they had been bleaching in the sun for years and years, inquiry was made, sometime after, of various members of Drifting Goose’s band of Sioux, located on the reservation west of the Missouri. These Indians once claimed the territory in what is now-Spink county and vicinity. They had their main village on Armdale Island in the James river some sixty miles to the south of this tragic spot. The Indians could throw no light on the subject, and it may be that this fight occurred before their advent here.
Among the theories advanced to account for the wiping out of this cavalry troop is one to the effect* that these men perished in a blizzard. What gave rise to this idea was the fact that no broken bones or perforated skulls, showing the effects of gunfire, were found. From this, the idea was gathered that these men and their mounts did not perish in battle. The story went around that these men were a part of a cavalry regiment stationed at some post along the Missouri, about the time of the outbreak of the Civil war. That they were either recruited from the South or were with the South in their sympathies that they had deserted sometime in March of ’61, and headed for James river with the view of working their way down into the Confederate states by that route.
Clinch Valley News
Jeffersonville, VA Aug 4, 1893
Many of the earlier travelers across the plains have noticed conical holes in the prairie, which were filled with water after each rainstorm. These holes are still to be found in the remote portions of the Western States. They are called buffalo wallows and were made by this animal pawing the dirt out for a considerable space and then deliberately sitting down in the excavation and spinning round and round very rapidly, with heels and head together, until he gradually reamed out a wallow. This he found to be a very pleasant resort directly after a rain, when full of water, as he could dislodge the troublesome gad flies and at the same time scratch his own’ back in a land where rubbing posts or trees were unknown. The history- of the wanton destruction of, these animals by hunters and amateur sportsmen is a chapter of shame.
Topeka, Kansas, Aug 13, 1896
HOW TO MANAGE BUFFALO WALLOWS.
Editor Kansas Farmer:- Please state, in your columns, how to treat “buffalo wallows” so that the soil will produce a good crop of green as can be grown elsewhere. W. McKay Dougan, M.D.
White Rock, Nev.
The editor of KANSAS FARMER has no experience with buffalo wallows in Nevada, but submits a few remarks as to their treatment in Kansas. Persons who saw buffaloes in their freedom on the prairies, as they existed in Kansas a quarter of a century ago, know that they were much given to wallowing, either in the dust or in the mud. Whether this was to rid themselves of lice, or for some other purpose, does not matter in this discussion. After a rain, the traveler along one of the transcontinental trails or roads would find the buffaloes rolling in the soft mud, much like a horse rolls. Away from the roads they would wallow, one after another, in the muddy depressions known, then as now, as buffalo wallows. In dry weather, the bottoms of these wallows were wrought into dust instead of mud, and the wallowing was then less observed on the hard trails but was scarcely less frequent in the wallows.
The result of the wallowing in the mud was the complete puddling of the bottoms of the places frequented whenever the soil was of a nature to puddle. These puddled basins were almost water-tight, allowing but slow seepage. As the water dried up in them the moisture which raised from below brought with it the soluble alkaline salts and left them at the surface, as it, too, was evaporated. In many cases, the action of the frost of winter broke up the puddled surface and allowed the moisture to pass more easily downward, but with the repetition of the wallowing the puddled condition was renewed and the alkaline salts were again brought to the surface as before. If thus came about that the soil of the buffalo wallows is of different texture and different composition from that around them. That it is less productive every farmer who has experience with wallows knows.
In seeking a remedy, it is well, if possible, to discover and remove the cause — a truism of which it is scarcely necessary to remind our correspondent, who is a medical man.
The first thing to do is, to fill up the wallows, or, if possible, to provide drainage. In some way, water must be prevented from accumulating and standing in them and drying up in them.
If but few and not very large wallows are to be filled, a common slip scraper may be used, care being exercised to avoid making other water-holding depressions in obtaining soil to fill those now in existence. If much of this work is to be done the writer has found most effective a land grader made as follows: Take lumber, two pieces 2×10 inches, 16 feet long; four pieces 2×8 inches,2 feet long; two pieces 2×8 inches, 21/2 feet long, two pieces2x8 inches 41/2 feet long. Bolt to one side of each of the sixteen-foot pieces a strip of iron or steel, say two inches wide, in such a way as to project half an inch beyond the edge. With these ironed edges down, fasten the sixteen-foot pieces in position by spiking the two-foot pieces between, making all flush at the upper edges. With four iron rods, each twenty-nine inches long, secure the 2×10’s in place, passing the rods through them near the lower edges of the cross-pieces. Bolt the two and a half foot pieces across the top at the ends of the sixteen-foot pieces. Bolt the two four and a half foot pieces across the middle, allowing them to project one foot in front of the grader. Fasten about 300 pounds of stone or other weight on the front ends of these four and a half foot pieces. Hitch to this four horses, attaching the evener to chains or ropes extending to the top cross-pieces at the ends of the grader. When loading this grader, stand on the rear ends of the four and a half foot cross-pieces. When unloading get off. Of course, the soil to be moved should be first plowed.
With such a grader buffalo wallows may be filled rapidly and easily and without much liability of making other depressions.
Such filling will usually, but possibly not always, secure the wallows. If the spots have become strongly alkaline and so puddled that the soil runs together at every rain, it sometimes happens that the amount of fresh soil required to fill the depressions is insufficient to effect a cure. In such cases, some farmers in central Kansas have resorted to sand and manure as remedies, with good success. Twelve loads of sand and twenty-five loads of manure per acre will generally bring this soil into good condition. It will be well to continue to get vegetable matter into the soil each year by sowing clover or alfalfa, by plowing under green crops, cornstalks, etc. Such treatment is reputed to be effective for all alkali spots as well as for buffalo wallows.
Baxter Springs News –LOC
Baxter Springs, Kansas Dec 20, 1890
THE BUFFALO’S BATH
He Revels ln Mud and Slush and Delights ln Stagnant Pools.
A buffalo wallow, once one of the most familiar objects on the Kansas prairies, is a circular depression, having diameter of from six to thirteen-foot the average, perhaps, about twelve feet. In approaching a large herd during the summer the first indication of the presence of the huge animals was an immense cloud of dust rising high in the air, for the buffalo, as do many of the wild beasts, loves to revel in the fine sand or dirt, which he furnishes by digging it up with his horns. “Like a bull in his wallow,” was once a frequent saving on the plains, and it had a very significant meaning with those who had ever witnessed a buffalo bull endeavoring to cool himself off in a wallow.
Many years ago, in the early days of travel on the great plains, the travelers believed those curious rings to have boon made by the Indians in their dances, but the idea prevailed only for a short time. The buffalo, whose hair is remarkable for its intense shagginess and thickness, must necessarily suffer severely from the heat, and then he will seek the lowest ground on the prairie, where there has been a little stagnant water left if he can find it; of course, the ground being soft under the short grass, it is an easy matter for him to make a mud-puddle of the spot in a very short time. He accomplishes this by getting down on one knee, plunging his short horns, and at last his head, into the earth, and he soon makes an excavation into which the water slowly filters. This makes a relatively cool bath, where, throwing himself on his side as flat as he can, he rolls forcibly around, and, with his horns and hump, he rips up the ground by his rotary motion, sinking deeper and deeper, continually making the wallow larger, which fills with water, in which at length he becomes completely immersed, the water and mud, mixed to the consistency of mortar, covering him perfectly, changing his color and general appearance. When he rose the mud dripped in great streams from every part of his huge body, a horrible-looking monster of mud and ugliness, too horrible to be accurately described. It was generally the leader of the herd, who took upon himself the business of making the wallow, or if he found another had commenced the excavation he would drive him away and wallow until he was satisfied, standing in a mass of mud and water in the hole until he got ready to give the others a chance. It was always the next in command who stood ready, and when he came out the next, who advanced in his turn, and so on according to rank until all had performed their ablutions. Frequently a hundred or more would patiently wait their turn, each one making the wallow a little larger, and carrying off a share of its mud, which, drying to a whitish color, gradually fell off.
It required about half an hour to make a decent wallow, and the depth was about two feet The water naturally drains into the boles, together with its accompanying vegetable deposit, and the result is a remarkably rich soil, where the grass and weeds grow with a luxuriance so marked that a buffalo wallow can be distinguished long before it is reached. The prairies are covered with them all over the central and western portion of Kansas, where the plow has not yet disturbed the primitive sod. The first thing a Kansas farmer does after a rain is to examine the buffalo wallows; if they are filled with water the rain has been a good one, and the saying common in that region, both by the individual and the newspapers, is, when speaking or writing of a soaking rain: “The buffalo wallows are full.” When the weather was dry the buffalo had to content himself with the comminuted dust he could make in the hole, and as the weather was generally dry the whereabouts of a herd could usually be located by the cloud of dust rising above it. – Kansas City Star.
The Wichita Daily Eagle – LOC
Wichita, Kansas., January 09, 1898
THE LAST BUFFALO WALLOW
In William Matthewson’s pasture lying between his home and Chisholm creek, tenderfeet may yet see Buffalo wallows. Ten years ago everybody in Wichita knew a buffalo wallow when he saw one, but so many eastern people make up the population of the city now that comparatively few know what one is. A buffalo wallow Is a depression in the ground and J. P. Mead tells how one is made. In the spring a buffalo sheds his fur, instead of the individual hairs dropping away as in a horse, quite large slabs of the hair peel off. The buffalo, to aid this process and to satisfy an itching sensation, seeks out a dusty spot, lies down in it, and begins to roll and kick, this action whirling him around and around on the ground. When he is up and away, another buffalo seeing the same place repeats the operation. The ground becomes dustier and dustier and the “wind blows the dust-out and away leaving a depression which stays there for years. The belief that buffalo wallow in mud is erroneous. In all his experience on the plains, Mr. J. R. Mead never saw a buffalo wallow in mud and never saw sand or mud in a buffaloes forehead as so frequently has been stated by those without practical experience. In the Canadian north, in the Red River country and Lake of the Woods country, where there are millions of mosquitoes, buffalo would lay down in the water to get rid of them. There were no mosquitoes on the great plains of Kansas in early days, says Mr. Mead.
The Omaha Daily Bee Sep 15, 1898 – LOC
PENNED IN BUFFALO WALLOW
Bat Mastersons’ Story of the Brave Deeds of a Frontiersman.
LIFE RISKED TO SAVE A SOLDIER
Marvelous Heroism of Amos Chapman
In a Desperate Battle with Indians In the Southwest Peril of the Scouts
Mr. Bat Masterson of Denver, a gentleman with considerable experience of fighting men, remarked the other day that he knew of no parallel to the heroism of Amos Chapman, “To fight Indians was bad enough,” Mr. Masterson said to a correspondent of the New York Sun, “but to be corralled by them In a buffalo wallow, and held there by them, and water up to your neck that is h–I with the lid off.
“I knew Chapman quite well. He had been on the frontier a long time. He was from the east. He had hunted buffalo, traded with Indians, fought with them In 1868, and finally married a Cheyenne. He was not more than 30 years old, tough, sure hot, a good interpreter, fearless rider and as brave a man as could be.
“It was in September 12th 1874, that General Miles’ command was camped on the Red River, In the Texas panhandle, where It had followed the retreating Indians, or rather the main body of them. Prairie Dog Dave and I were selected as the two scouts to carry dispatches from General Miles to Major Compton, whose command was located on McClelland creek, about seventy-five miles to the north. Some of the dispatches were really intended for Camp Supply, In the Indian Territory, still further north, but our instructions were simply to deliver them to Major Compton. Dave and I hoped to be sent on to Camp Supply with them, for we needed some new and warmer clothes, as It was beginning to be cold nights.
“We were not clad In buckskin and beads, as scouts are usually pictured. Our clothing simply consisted of a pair of cheap overalls, calico shirt, soft hats, and a pair of boots. We had lived In them all summer, and thought It about time to change them.- We reached Compton’s camp without incident and cursed our luck when we received return dispatches to Miles, while ours | were turned over to Billy Dixon and Amos Chapman to take to Camp Supply. Later when we learned what they went through we took It all back. It was known that there was a marauding band of red devils somewhere in the vicinity, but, like the Irishman’s flea, it was a difficult matter to put a finger on them. They might be in one spot one day and fifty miles or more away the next. It was considered best to send a sergeant and five soldiers with the scouts for greater security, and, as was customary, they took an unbeaten, trail to their destination.
Attacked by Hostiles.
“ Now it happened that this roving band of reds, numbering fully 300 warriors, had been laying a five days’ siege to Jack Callahan’s twenty-five six-mule government supply train in the sandhills of the Wichita river. The train was bringing supplies from Camp Supply down to General Miles. It was surprised at this bad place for a fight and was forced to go into corral. This Is done by putting two wagons together In A shape, stringing the rest down the sides, and closing them up at the other end V way.
“The mules and horses are kept comparatively safe In the inclosure made by the wagons, while the teamsters and soldiers get what protection they can from behind the wheels or by digging rifle-pits beneath the wagons. There they can shoot with little danger of being hit. Such a corral can stand off an army of Indians until the water gives out. The Indians attacked the train for five days, killing one lieutenant, two soldiers and some of the animals. Their loss was heavy. Soldiers of Company K, Sixth cavalry, Captain Kingsbury, from Camp Supply, had appeared upon the scene, driven off the Cheyenne and relieved the besieged- .
Chapman and Dixon, with their little escort, had crossed the Wichita, some three or four miles below where the pack train had been held up, but, of course, knew nothing of Its presence or that of the Indians. On a rolling prairie country such as they were in. It Is a difficult matter to see any great distance on account of the knolls and hollows. They were coming out of a small draw or canyon when suddenly they espied the savages, who were almost directly upon them. There was but one thing to do, and that was to get out on the open prairie, where there would be a chance to fight. Temporary protection would be afforded by getting behind things In the canyon, but It would only be a matter of a short time when they would be surrounded and shot at from all directions. As experienced men, they knew this. A dash was made for the prairie, and they reached it in a shower of shot. It Is impossible to shoot well from the back of a rapidly moving horse.
In the Wallow.
It was the plan to find a buffalo wallow, lie as flat as possible in It, and shoot until dead. Before such a place was found the scouts and soldiers dismounted, so as to shoot better and keep the Indians from getting too close before they could get into cover. A couple of dead Indians will stop 100 live ones from coming too near. Ono soldier held the bridle reins of the horses while the rest of the men retreated behind them and shot at the advancing host. The Indians likewise dismounted, so that they could also shoot better and not be such good targets. It may seem strange that such a large body of Indians would not make just one charge and overwhelm the white men by force of numbers, but that Is not the Indian way. They will not take a risk if they can help It. They will not trade anywhere near even with the white man when life is at stake,
“Before a Buffalo wallow could be found the soldier holding the horses was shot and killed and the animals stampeded. Then there was a race for life to the nearest hole. Some thirty feet from one another soldier was shot, but not killed. He lay there and yelled in the agony of fear and pain.
‘Don’t let them scalp me, boys! For God’s sake, don’t let them get me! ‘he shrieked. The rest had safely got into the wallow.
“It was with this appeal ringing In his ears that Amos Chapman, without a word to his mates but just a yell, ‘I’m coming,” sprang up out of the wallow, his six-shooter in hand, ran to the wounded man, seized and sought to drag him back, The Indians fired a volley at him and make a rush toward him. I don’t know how many shots were fired at Chapman, but the only place he was hit was below the left knee. The bone was shattered to splinters. Some of the bullets hit the dying soldier and hastened his end. Chapman’s leg gave way under him like a piece of rubber, but he never weakened or let go. Reaching ahead with his good leg, and with the knee of the left, he dragged the soldier along with his left hand, piece by piece, firing his gun with his right.
Rescuing a Wounded Soldier.
“The men in the wallow kept up a fusillade and the Indians were held back. Painfully but persistently *Chapman dragged himself and the man along. Sometimes he sought to rise, hoping that the leg would hold, but it doubled under him. It did not take many minutes for all this to happen. Chapman and the wounded soldier reached the hole, where the latter died in a little while. Now, if that isn’t an example of heroic bravery, then I don’t know what is. One might criticize his judgment, but not his bravery. He could not and would not see that soldier slaughtered and scalped, and put his own life In peril to prevent it. Had he been killed, the lives of all the others would have been placed in still greater jeopardy by the loss of a defender, but those things were not thought of. There was but one idea, and the instant It was conceived it was put Into execution. Dixon would have done the same thing had not Chapman been quicker. When I think of such things today I believe that men like Chapman should have a monument. He got a cork leg from the government and a second lieutenant’s pension when he retired.
“I cannot go into the details of the uneven fight that followed, for I was not there, and only know the story from what Dixon and Chapman afterward told me. The ordinary buffalo wallow, which is made by buffaloes rolling and wallowing around in the soft earth, is about a dozen feet in diameter, and perhaps or three feet deep. The men cut away the dirt from around the edge with their knives and threw the loose material up In front. This afforded greater protection, as only the head was exposed, and then only when firing, which had to be kept up. “They stood off that big band of cowards all that day, and It must have been something awful. The shooting on the part of the’ Indians was almost continuous, for there were a lot of them, and they had plenty of ammunition, as they captured a lot on the horses. Three more of the soldiers were killed, the sergeant was shot twice, and, in fact, the only one to escape with a whole skin was Bill Dixon.
Just to illustrate curs Indians are, they just camped around that buffalo wallow, hiding behind their horses, shooting, some of them yelled in English to Chapman to come out and fight. Just think, they wanted him to stand up and be shot at by the 300. They were anxious to kill him particularly, for he had married one of their squaws and was against them.
Terrors of a Stormy
“That night there was a terrible rain storm, which filled the wallow to the brim with water. The wounded men had to keep their heads above water so as not to drown, and they had to keep their guns and ammunition dry and be constantly on the watch for an attack. I need not dwell upon the horrors of that night and of the sufferings of these men, who rested their bodies upon those of the dead ones below and sat through the long hours in the water, thick with the blood that oozed from their wounds and from the remains of their companions. It must have been a fearful experience.
As. Dixon was the only one uninjured, he crawled out of the wallow during the worst of the storm and started south toward Major Compton’s command for help. He had no trouble in passing the Indians, for they were intent upon protecting themselves from the downpour. Indians do not like water. Dixon traveled fully thirty miles on foot that night in the drenching rain and as day broke he took refuge in a clump of wild plum bushes. During the forenoon, he saw a body of horsemen in the distance, but It was some time before he assured himself that it was a party of soldiers out scouting. He fired his gun and attracted their attention.
The party at once started back to the rescue, but some precaution bad to be taken. Dixon, with remarkable instinct, brought them back to with in a few rods of the wallow, but it was dusk, and there was danger of being mistaken for Indians, who, by the way, had cleared out for reasons known to themselves. It was some time before Chapman could be convinced that it was Dixon calling him and not the Indians, who had tried to lure him out by talking English.
All that day the men had been in torture and still, they were a long way from the hospital. Chapman rode seventy-five miles on horse back to Camp Supply, where the leg was amputated below the knee. He was out In a month but always had to mount his horse afterward with his right leg, as the Indians do. He and Ben Clark escorted Dull Knife’s band of Cheyennes down from the Dakotas to the Indian reservation in 1877. Chapman is living with the Indians now and Billy Dixon has a ranch at the old ‘Doby Walls.”
- * The wounded soldier was George Smith and in one article published in 1903, it states that Chapman buried him in that wallow. (He was buried in the buffalo wallow where the fight had been bitter.) Chapman did not carry Smith back to the wallow, everyone thought him dead, as they did not see him move since he fell. It was Dixon who helped Chapman get to the wallow. Later when they realized Smith was a live, Dixon and Rath carried him between them to the wallow. Smith died in the night, after the storm, shot through the lung. Dixon and Rath were the two in question who would go for help, the men decided it should be Rath. Only later to return, unable to find the trail in the dark. In the morning hours it was decided that Dixon should go for help this time. In the end Smith was buried in the wallow, Chapmans leg was amputated above the knee. The Life and Adventures of Billy Dixon published 1913 pg 254
The Saint Paul Globe, July 27 1902
……“The first herd of buffalo I ever saw was composed of about twenty old bulls. The gentleman with me, Mr. Schultz, first notice them coming toward us, and we secreted ourselves in a shallow buffalo wallow, having to lie very close to the ground to prevent their seeing us.
The Kinsley Graphic., – LOC
Kinsley, Kansas March 11, 1904
Dell Gossett, of near Lewis, moved to George Cochran’s farm recently. While he and Miles Kearney were hauling the former’s goods to the new place they found a pile of wheat in a buffalo wallow south of the railroad track. It looked as though some one had stolen a load and dumped it there for safe keeping until it could be marketed. The party, who left the wheat used a wide-tired wagon. Mr. Gossett says the owner, may have the wheat by proving his title to it.
Evening Times-Republican – LOC
Marshalltown, Iowa May 30, 1905
BUFFALO WALLOWS’ COMMON
Saberson Believes That Settlers Might Still Be Found Who Had Seen Buffalo In Iowa In the Early Days
Special to limes-Republican. Des Moines, May 30.—H. T. Saberson, chief clerk in the office of the secretary of state is likely to claim the $50 reward “offered by R. I. Gorden of Tracy, Iowa, for proof that buffalo at one time inhabited Iowa. “I did not notice the fact that a reward was offered,” said Mr. Saberson today. “The man who made that offer either wasn’t well informed on the early conditions in Iowa or else something else is the matter with him. I never saw a live buffalo running wild in Iowa. They had all gone by the time I came here, but many a time while plowing I have had the plow jump out of the ground because of striking a buffalo bone. The buffalo bone is peculiar in its formation and easily distinguished from a cow bone. Horns of buffalo I have seen in large numbers. They are short and much thicker at the big end than any cow horn ever was known to be. I have picked them up many, many times in the northwestern part of the state. We didn’t want them out in the fields and whenever we saw one we would throw it into the wagon. They have laid around the house for years. If seeing the bones and finding them out in the open field is proof that the buffalo have inhabited the state I can claim that fifty dollars.
“Buffalo wallows are a very common thing over the country. There used to be a number about where I lived. A flat place on a high elevation or on a plain anywhere. The buffalo get together just as do cattle in a bunch to fight the flies. They stamp the ground and when it rains the ground holds the water. The buffalo gather there and drink the water and stand there in the water stamping the flies just as cattle are seen to do. When they leave they carry out dirt and this makes the wallow deeper. Early settlers have seen the buffalo gather in just such places. I believe If an effort was made early settlers might be found who had seen buffalo here in the early days. There are not likely very many living and possibly not any.” Secretary of State B. W. Martin says there was formerly a school house in Adair county named “Buffalo Wallow School House,” because of the fact that it was located near a buffalo wallow.
Mechanics town, Md., April 11, 1907
The Trail, the Wallow, the Rubbing Stone
Over much of the Western country, where the buffalo used to range, the plow has turned over the soil and burled the memorial which he left behind him. In the territory that has been cultivated no signs of the wild inhabitants remain. Even where the earth villages of the Indians used to stand along the streams, forming low mounds, as the supports and earth walls and roofs sank to decay, the plow, passing again and again over the soil, has so leveled it that the mounds are no longer seen. So in such regions, it is with the buffalo trails and with the buffalo wallows.
But In the arid Northern country all over the hills, the trails of the buffalo may still be traced. Often they are visible merely as green lines showing brightly against the yellow prairie over which they run, but sometimes they are deep worn, six or eight inches, even a foot below the surface of the surrounding soil. Today many of these trails are used by the range cattle, which occasionally are so numerous as to wear away the grass which has sprung up in the old path, but more often the number passing over the trail is so small as only to keep the grass worn down.
In ancient days in the soft chalky soil of Kansas, these trails wore sometimes so deeply worn that the buffalo as they passed along rubbed their sides against the walls of the trail, and over the herd, moving steadily onward at a slow walk, hung clouds of fine dust, a chalky powder as fine as plaster of paris but yellow, or cream colored.
When undisturbed the buffalo usually traveled in single file, often the nose of each great brute close to the hindquarters of the one ahead of it. Groups of buffalo followed established paths, and sitting on n high hill, overlooking some river or little prairie lake, one often saw the buffalo in long strings stringing in from all directions. For the most part, the trails led to water, or perhaps to some favorite crossing place on a stream. If they led toward a river, many of them would be parallel or nearly so, or they might converge toward some point where the descent of the bluffs was gradual and easy, for the buffalo always chose for himself the easiest ways.
To-day, as one observes these trails —memorials of ancient days—he may wonder why they stand out so brightly green upon a prairie that in late summer is sere and yellow. The reason is obvious. Millions of buffalo traveling for uncounted years over the same paths have fertilized them by their droppings, so that the soil there is now far richer than elsewhere on the prairie, for the buffalo chip deposited in the trail never grew dry and hard as it did on the prairie, but was at once trodden into the soil and reduced to powder, to nourish a subsequent growth of grass.
It is not surprising that those trails over the hills are noticed by travelers who are whirled along in the railroad trains of to-day, nor that they inquire what they mean, nor that when their significance is explained the thoughtful inquirer should consider with interest and wonder the changes that have taken place over the broad land of the West.
Far less conspicuous than any other of the memorials that he has left is the buffalo wallow. This was simply a place where in the heats of summer, or when greatly pestered by insects, or when worried by last winter’s tattered coat which he had not yet gotten rid of, the buffalo throw himself down in some damp or wet place and rolled until covered with mud and water. The process has often been described and is well understood. The practice is not peculiar to the buffalo, since in the heats of summer the elk, and boars, and probably many other animals bathe themselves in this fashion. Sometimes a buffalo wallowing on a soil which was white, or nearly so, emerged from his bath a white buffalo instead of a black one, and more than once people have been deceived by this color, and imagine that they saw before them an albino buffalo, have chased it and killed it, only to find that the color came off on their fingers in white powder. Such an experience was had by Colonel D. L. Brainard, of Arctic exploration fame. In the same way, many years ago, I became highly excited over what I believed to be a black elk, which a closer inspection showed to be merely an elk that had been wallowing in a spring hole in the timber. Sometimes, too, the buffalo coming from such a bath coated with thick mud, dried off quickly, and the clots of dried mud clinging to the long hair of head and forelegs, rattled curiously against each other as the animals galloped away, to the ‘mystification of any inexperienced pursuer.
The buffalo’s practice of rolling on the ground, which, when the ground was wet, made the wallows that have been spoken of was, no doubt, often done for the same reason that a horse rolls; that Is, in order to irritate the whole skin by a thorough rubbing or scratching. In the timber country where buffalo were abundant, it was not uncommon in old times to see cottonwood trees browned and polished to a height of five feet or more by the rubbing against them of the buffalos’ bodies. A hundred years ago Henry the younger speaks of places where the bark had been rubbed off the trees by the scratching of the buffalo and a river not far from the old fort he occupied for years at Pembina was named the Scratching River.
Close to the mountains, or along streams where there is much timber, these scratching places are scarcely noticeable, because each one was used by only a few animals and at long intervals, and the evidences of their rubbing have been removed by the weather. But in some sections of the treeless Northwest over which in glacial times the great ice sheet passed, there will be found boulders dropped by the ice, sometimes very large, and at others projecting only a few feet above the level of the soil, which in ancient times the buffalo used as rubbing stones. It in traveling over the prairie on foot or on horseback, the traveler happens to see such a lonely erratic, it is worth his while to go to it and examine it closely. He will find it polished on all sides by the friction of the tough hides of buffalo, and if he passes his hands over its round smoothed surfaces he can still feel there the grease which has accumulated from the use to which the stone was put. All around it, and close to it, he will find worn a deep trench in which are boulders, stones, and gravel, but where there is no vegetation, for there is no soil to nourish it. This trench has been made by the buffalo as they walked about the stone and comfortably scratched their sides against it. Their ponderous hoofs have cut and torn up the soil and reduced it to fine powder which the winds have then carried away, leaving only the heavy stones at the bottom of the trench.
Of all the memorials which the buffalo have left on the wide plains where once they were so abundant, the rubbing stone is by far the most permanent. These huge erratic’s, brought thither by the ice of glacial times, and dropped seemingly haphazard here and there on the prairie, will endure for a long time. They will last until a day shall come, if it ever does come, when the vandal white man, having cultivated all the rest of the earth, will use on them some high explosive, break them to atoms and bury the fragments.
Several years ago there was printed in the Forest and Stream a mention of one of these rubbing stones, which I quote here. It is as follows:
“From a high hill which gives a wide outlook may be seen, far oft, on the verge of the horizon, where the sky bends down to meet the earth, a tiny speck. At first, it seems a haystack, then a cabin, then a wagon, at last, a buffalo; but it is none of these.
“Still riding on over the yellow rolling plains, where the short stems of the prairie grass quiver with a constant motion, where little ground squirrels flash across the horse’s path and hide behind tufts of grass, and shore larks with sweet, soft notes rise and swing away with undulating flight, where dainty antelope slowly walk to the top of the hills, on either side and look about with curious eyes, the object draws nearer. Sometimes from the crest of a hill, it seems close at hand, again, descending into a little valley, it is lost to view behind a swell of the prairie. At length, it is close by and its nature can be seen.
“In those ancient days when the vast ice sheet was melting, a great mass of stone was floated from the distant mountains. Carried on some huge berg, parted from the glacier which gave it birth, this rock journeyed from the west, and at length, falling from its long-time resting place, sank to the earth, and when the waters disappeared, remained there, a landmark on the prairie.
“Though it has traveled far on ice the boulder shows little wear. Its knobs and roughness are still sharp, but each protuberance and angle is polished with a bright brown gloss, like the corners of fence posts in a barn yard, against which cattle have rubbed their sides.
“For ages, this great erratic has been the buffalo’s scratching post. Here in passing, the dark herds have turned aside and halted, and mighty bull, sleek young cow, and playful yearling have sidled up to this massive rock, and with grunts of contentment, have pushed their rounded bodies against it, and been jostled and crowded and struck by the horns of others, eager to take their turn. About this stone, they have walked to and fro and cut up the soil with their hoofs and made it fine dust, which the unceasing wind has carried away and scattered far over the prairie. So, after the lapse of centuries of time and the passing away of many generations of buffalo, a deep trench has been worn about the erratic, and it stands on a pillar of soil, the top of which is level with the prairie.
“Never again will the boulder witness the sights that it has beheld in the past. It stands in its old place as firm and steadfast as of yore, but the friends that used to visit it have passed and are passing away, in these latter days no Indian crouches behind it for shelter from the storm, nor do buffalo crowd about it. No graceful antelope sweep by in rapid flight seldom does a wolf approach it, or an eagle from its top look with unclenching eye toward the sun.
“The life of the old prairie has passed away.”—G. B. G., in Forest and Stream.
The Wainwright Star
Wainwright, Alberta July 9th, 1909.
Superintendent Ellis and his assistant, Louie Bioletti, gave every assistance to the party and we were enabled to see the buffalo at ease in their new home. They were scattered here and there in small herds, while an occasional one would be found enjoying a dust bath in one of the innumerable buffalo wallows, which were made by the wild herds many years ago.
Passing of the Buffalo
The destruction of the immense northern herd of bison, which is stated to have numbered 4,000,000 head at the beginning has never been told with any degree of accuracy. It is certain that very few were left in the Canadian west when the Canadian Pacific Railway had been completed. The construction gangs of this road disposed of the stragglers of this once mighty herd, as was the case in the building of the Union Pacific railroad in the U. S. To this day, however, the whole of the vast west is scarred and pitted with their groove-like trails and basin-like wallows, which are permanent records of the migratory marches and daily dust-baths of these heavy beasts.
The Topeka State Journal – LOC
Topeka, Kansas April 22, 1921
MUST DRAIN WHEAT FIELDS.
Western Kansas Farmers Would Prevent Too Rank Growth
Pratt. Kan., April 22. Farmers of Pratt county have been engaging In a systematic campaign of draining their wheat fields. This is being done before the wheat reaches a growth so rank it would interfere with running drainage ditches. Irrigation and drainage experts from the State Agricultural college have been here assisting the local county farm bureau in the undertaking.
The purpose is to have the ground free from swampy conditions for the harvest. Time saving machinery is heavy and requires a firm footing. Much of the wheat area is what is known as “buffalo wallow” grounds. It having been a favored wallowing grounds for the great buffalo herds of the early days.
Western Kansas World – LOC
WaKeeney, Kansas July 28, 1921
TAKES ALLIGATOR FROM POND
Taking a real living alligator from a western Kansas buffalo wallow is indeed surprising. Such an animal was taken from a pond west of Oakley last Sunday. The little fellow was splashing around and snapping at the bull frogs, and having a good time in general. Parties passing by saw him and after many attempts managed to get him out. However, the alligator had been put there by showmen from Grinell. -Oakley Graphic.
The Kansas City Kansan
Kansas City, Kansas May 10, 1922
THE BUFFALO WALLOWS STILL SEEN IN KANSAS
DRIVE out into the country aways in most any direction from town to where there is a stretch of virgin sod; probably north into the sand hills would be the most convenient. Get out of your high-powered limousine and wander across the pasture. Keep .your eye on the ground. Soon you will come upon a depression in the earth; It will not be barren now but will be overgrown with grass and weeds. Walk a little farther and you will see another, depression. And farther on, still another. In fact, in the course of time, you will find many of these curious hollows, Thus writes a reporter for the Hutchinson: Gazette. These depressions are all that remain of historical buffalo “wallows.”
The average “wallow” was approximately a dozen feet in diameter by two feet deep in the center and was surrounded by the short but succulent “buffalo grass.” There are yet numerous “wallows” in the unplowed fields of Kansas; even Reno county is not without; them; although but little of the grass is present.
Perhaps the oddest thing about the buffalo’s monument is that each “wallow” looked like it had been created by the hand of man. Almost a perfect circle with the walls sloping symmetrically around the ring. By some, it is claimed that the animals pawed these holes in a frantic effort to drive away the hordes of flies and mosquitoes which pestered them; that several buffalo would stand, in a circle with their heads together and paw the dust into clouds around them. Thereby continually wearing the hollows deeper but packing the bottoms harder.
But there seems to be ample proof that this’ was not the only, nor the main reason for the creation of the hollow spots. .There undoubtedly was a method to the madness. For during rainy spells the “wallows’ would catch water and hold it for weeks thereafter. This providing at one time plenty to drink and a place to bathe. It is not unreasonable to believe the animal’s instinct urged the beasts to provide water holes against the days when dryness was almost sure to come.
One of the peculiar traits of traits of the American bison, one which is said to have made him an easy prey to the killers, was in fact that he was ‘continually in search of fresh pastures; especially fond of the tender grass that comes up after a prairie fire. The hunters made it a point to burn off certain areas the winter before in order to trap the buffalo the following spring. Another characteristic, according to one of the old-time hunters, is” that the sexes lived apart or in separate herds during the greater “part of the year, altho several aged bulls usually remained with the female herd. .The creatures were highly dangerous during the rutting season and would not hesitate to attack a man in great savagery.