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|On the date after
funeral, October 14, 1844, a man brought a load of flour father had
bought in Iowa City, piling it up under the porch where also two
barrels of salt were stored as father had been making arrangements for
a stock ranch. An Indian Runner stopped and talked to Peter
Kramer. From what I could learn, he had been sent by Big Chief to
the settlement at Paris, now called Valley post office to see if they
could buy some salt and flour. Ponies tired, we camp at German
Creek. The Indian produced a pair of fine moccasins.
Swap? J. Peter wanted them bad, to put on his wooden shoes in
place of socks while working in a shop during the winter. He gave
a pint of whiskey and 25 cents for them. The Indian never let up
tasting it till the bottle was empty. Kramer tried to stop him,
saying, "Indian heap far to go." It was then near sundown.
To show his agility, he leaped up to make heap run, imitating the deer
by an upward spring, in a good 200 yard run, he soon disappeared out of
sight over the prairie.
J. Peter Kramer and John Schuster went to bed "up stairs" that is, up under the roof – at about 9 o’clock. John Joseph Kramer arrived from Burlington, sitting by the chimney, he was relating the latest news; three Mormons having attacked a German family, had killed the old man; his son-in-law had then brained one of the Mormons with an old musket. It had been rumored that the German family has some 200 to 300 dollars in the house. Kramer had two big watch dogs, one of them he had bought from an Indian. It was a large and savage beast. Mother and Anna Marie were listening to this tragic story, congratulating themselves on having watchful dogs and three trusty men to protect them. I had just gone to bed too, and John Joe was also about to climb up the ladder to turn in, when a knock at the door was heard, he returned to listen; another knock, this time louder. John Joseph called Han Peter to hurry and come down, there are some people outside, and no barking from the always watchful and fierce dogs. Everyone in the house was greatly alarmed. In the mean time I had taken down fathers gun, which was hanging on the wall in easy reach of my bed. After replacing the cap I put a little fowling piece under the bed cover, aside of me with my hand under the lock awaiting further development. Han Peter came down the ladder double quick reaching up for an old gun that had refused to go off, having been loaded for more than six months and well rusted up, threateningly holding it up in his right hand he demanded, "Who is out there?" A strong guttural voice replied, "aha."
We all felt pretty relieved when we found that it was only Indians. Han Peter partly opened the door. A very large Indian with a long barreled rifle before him, tried to enter, but Han Peter, assisted by John Joe, pushed the door against the Indian, fastening him for a moment in the entrance, saying to him, Indian man can come in but not with gun." To this the Indian replied, pointing to his gun: "Only one gun, you have gun, boy has gun too." Like a flash of lightening it dawned upon my comprehension as the chief’s eyes pierced into mine, that some of his "braves" must have been guilty of a violation of the rules of refined society, by looking in the only window. I shoved my hands above the bed cover, he then placed his long barreled rifle near the door and came in and with him eleven others all unarmed, one of them, a fine young boy of about 15 years, who brought in his bow and arrow.
The chief seemed very much surprised to see mother and Anna Marie, a regular family in there, as Peter Kramer and myself were the only ones the Indians could see in the afternoon while making his moccasin swap, evidently seeing the pile of flour, the barrels of salt and a barrel of whiskey in a cave, had come to the conclusion, that this was a regular trading post and had so reported to the chief, which we understood was Keokuk, but we thought that he claimed to own Keokuk County.
As soon as the chief’s eyes rested on mother, he said, "Bonjour madame! Parlez avous francais?" She replying in french, asking them to sit down on long benches.
Peter Kramer handed the chief his long German porcelain pipe, the chief looked with apparent interest at the long stem and then told mother that he wanted to buy some salt and a hundred pounds of flour. She let him have it at cost; he paid 50 cents in silver and a two dollar bill for the flour. The bill proved afterwards to be a counterfeit but the Indians were genuine.
Motioning to him, mother said: Allons Monsieurs!" but they hesitated, they wanted some whiskey. It was explained to them that we did not keep a store. The chief then requested to give each a petite glassful, so mother instructed Han Peter to give each a little whiskey glass full. Then they filed out, the boy first and the chief, who bid mother goodbye like a French gentleman, last.
On the next day the 15th of October six inches of snow fell, the following day these same Indians passed by riding single file. The chief, a grand looking man, was mounted on a Kentucky bred animal; the rest rode common Indian ponies. The chief only dismounted, apologizing to mother for coming that night, she shook hands with him and learned from him that he was bound for St. Louis.
Dutch Creek was well named as 2/3 of its first settlers or more are German from various provinces and a few Pennsylvanians. Richard Schnakenberg and Curt Myerdick were two of the first settlers. Henry Schnakenberg, our ex-county treasurer, was born on the place now known as the Louis Bruening farm. A tree from an apple seed planted by Richard Schnakenberg 63 years ago, I was told had some 18 bushels of apples on 2 years ago.
August Klett was born near Dutch Creek 62 years ago.
When the new purchase was opened for settlement, May 1843, a rush was made by the Germans for the German Creek timber. This was one of the best timber districts.
Mr. Mohand, Seaba, Schnakenberg and Reinhart settled east of the timber belt, their fields on the nearest prairie. Hartman, Chas. Wolfe, west near the creek from Schnakenberg. South from Hartman's, John Killmer, Casper Klett, on the old Sigourney road near the Creek bottom, a little east of Klett's, Peter Hellwig built. Casper Klett's nearest neighbor north was a Lutheran preacher, a jovial gentleman, Mr. Helder. This was a well educated and refined family. Chas. Merz was a German college graduate in law. He had located on a farm near Peoria, Ill.
Mr. Merz possessed a fine lot of books of the most eminent German authors, the works of Schiller, Goethe, Schocke as well as Shakespeare's, Euseley's, Darwin's, Spencer on Evolution. This was the most interesting to me of his English works. Many an evening we spent in reading, through his kindness lending these works to me.
Casper Klett came from Baltimore. He landed there after a three months service as a sailor; got acquainted with John Killmer's wife’s step-sister Louise, whom he married. These families then came west, located on Dutch Creek until 1843, when Klett, Sr.- learning of his son’s marriage and settling in the new "purchase" left Suhl-Germany, came over here and took a claim near Casper's.
This old gentleman made three or four trips to the old country, crossing the ocean in a sailing vessel. On his return here came Paul Seeber, who settled south of Sigourney near Snelson's Ferry, also Val. Triebel, Jacob Stoermer, Dietz Bros., Meisel, Stephen-Schilling and his brother Gottlieb, Aug. Steigleder, the Seibel family, nearly all of them settled near German Creek making this a very sociable settlement.
Stephen Schilling, a tinner, by trade, moved to Sigourney- the first German of Sigourney. All of these people, with the exception of the Seibel family, came from the manufacturing town, Suhl, had learned trades, were well educated and therefore poorly adapted for farming, as all details had to be learned yet.
The first named, Casper Klett, was an exception; he had become an expert in woodcraft during his residence on Dutch Creek. In his prime and strength, with natural ability to see and observe, enabled him- to split 200 rails in one day and return, after dark on his bay horse, from German Creek to his family at Dutch Creek. I presume his father helped Casper to secure good horse teams which enabled him to become the chief freighter for the merchants of Sigourney, hauling their heavy freight from Burlington and Keokuk.
Upon the advice of his friend, Richard Schnakenberg, Casper took a claim of 160 acres of fine prairie land adjoining the timber region, the farm upon which Wm. Klett the youngest son lives today.
The three most prominent among the German pioneers in improving and opening land, were Jacob Goodhart, Casper Klett and Richard Schnakenberg. Each had his special abilities, although in different ways. In 1852 Casper Klett and Jake Goodhart joined breaking teams. Goodhart was an expert in hammering out shears, setting and adjusting these big, bulky plows George Hartman tended to Klett's plow, Fritz Blaise 17 years old, and August Klett, 10 years old, driving the 7 yoke of oxen. Goodhart and myself had 9 yoke of oxen hitched to an immense weighty plow, calculated to do away with brush cutting and grubbing of stuff not over 8 or 10 feet high but it took lots of yelling and bullwhacking when nearing a heavy brush patch. These two outfits broke 140 acres during the months of May and June. Some 30 acres of these were brush land.
Goodhart, having just moved onto a piece of raw prairie land that spring, had no harvesting to do, while Klett had 120 acres in small grain to cut with cradles.
Sebastain Striegel, Jr. and Christ Striegel who, it was said had cut 10 acres of wheat for Mr. Mohland, came to help Klett cut oats. Jacob Goodhart, a raw-boned giant, born in Illinois on the land upon which Bloomington now is located, a sort of Lincoln type man and Casper Klett in his prime, these four men made a harvest team of athletes not often seen together. The first day, when supper time came, Fritz and myself slipped across the patch cut down, to estimate how many acres the four men had harvested, it being a 40 acre length and 33 rods wide made it 16-1/2 acres. Two acres of heavy grain like this was considered a fair day’s work for one man.
An old Virginian by the name of Blue and his gray-headed son showed Fritz and myself how to bind the sheaves in a better and more expedient manner than we had learned. These lessons came handy when the harvesting machines came in use, when each man had to bind a station.
Harvesting today is but child's play. We still fondly dwell upon the remembrance of working at Klett's. Nobody was ever urged, everybody was jolly and then such good dinners. Mrs. Sophia Klett was an excellent cook, such bread and biscuits as she baked out of the home raised grain, ground in the old-fashioned way, with the grain thoroughly cleaned the bran and shorts only separated. With this kind of flour, plenty of lime and germ substance remained in the starchy part of the flour, although not to be compared in fleecy whiteness to our patent flour of the present day, which in my humble opinion is making Breakfast Food a necessity and Dentistry a lucrative profession.
A BIG LOAD OF HAY
After harvesting and grain stacking, haying commenced in earnest. It, too, was continuous hard work, cutting the grass with a scythe. The last days hauling in hay for Klett, at the dinner table, Goodhart was telling Lawrence Adrian- in Pennsylvania Dutch- about priding himself hauling the biggest load of hay into Bloomington, Ill., nearly 3 tons on one load.
Klett estimated that he had about 4 big loads cut which would finish his job that afternoon, making two loads for each team to haul. Hurrying down with the big horse team- old Pete and his mate- we had this team nearly loaded when the 3 yoke of oxen team arrived. There were left some 60 well settled and good sized hay cocks, 15 of which would make a common good two horse load. Lawrence Adrian, who was doing the loading, said to Fritz and MYSELF: "Boys, this is a new, wide-track wagon, the rack is 22 feet long and ten feet wide, I can extend the load 2 feet more, if you hand the hay to me in compact forkfuls I can put the entire lot on this one load and beat the Bloomington Jake." I had pitched a few loads for this style of loading for Mr. Horras. We knew that Adrian had been chief or main servant on Herr Von Nell's extended landed possessions near Trier and the farm hands doing the loading of grain and hay there, generally were experts. Turning our backs to the load and standing close to the wagon, we handed up moderate forkfuls, which Adrian took with his hands rolling and pressing it into a kind of a large sheaf and packing them down firm, commencing to build ahead of himself like a stone wall, extending it beyond the rack until the load was 26 feet long and over 13 feet wide. Fritz and Mr. Valentine Triebel would prepare the forkfulls ready for me to hand them up. As good luck would have it, Mr. Triebel had brought an unusually long handled fork such as were used in finishing very tall stacks, with this we succeeded in handing up all. When finished it was a monster of a load. The ground was well beaten and dry, the three yoke of oxen, big and powerful; it was all they could move. We made slow and careful progress. As we commenced to crawl up the last hill Casper came trotting down the hill with his big horse team and – whistling - Fritz and August were driving and I was walking behind the load until I heard the whistling, which always was a pretty safe indication that Casper was out of humor - we evidently had taken too much time to load our wagon. Goodhart was pitching from the load to the stack and Klett was doing the stacking. They had got uneasy and tired waiting for the second-load until the big load came in sight, Lorenz Adrian on top of the load. Casper had no idea that this load contained the whole lot. He thought it was a bad managed affair and wanted to drive on for another load. It was hard work to convince him that there was nothing left for him to go after. I got on the empty wagon with him and we drove home to unhitch before the oxen would bring the load up hill.
Casper then said to Jake: "You will surely have to give it up, that load of hay now coming is a world record beater." When it arrived at the stack, Goodhart said: "Here is over four tons of hay to pitch. Lorenz Adrian felt proud of his load and said: "We both can soon pitch it off." Fritz Blaise volunteered to help on the stack, Goodhart confessed: "I am "zei mal" surprised, first-how straight and square like a stone house this immense load came to the stack, and again, how extremely easy it is to unload, more so than bundles of grain, and when unloaded Jake slapped Adrian on the shoulder, saying: "You are the captain hay loader, I doubt if ever anyone sees another such a load."
THE FIRST MONUMENT ERECTED OVER A GRAVE IN WASHINGTON OR KEOKUK COUNTY
Miss Louisa Myer of Dutch Creek died August 5, 1842. A young German stone cutter showed his devotion to the departed, by quarring a suitable slab out of the flint hills at Burlington, properly dressing it down and chiseling the usual formalities, into the stone; then he walked on foot beside some ox teamster, who had the kindness to bring it along. He erected it in 1843 in presence of Caspar Klett, William Wells and others on her grave in the Dutch Creek grave yard south of the old Imes farm. This was the first grave stone put up in Washington and Keokuk County. A few years ago August Klett and myself visited this lonesome place, where we found also a few of the more modern tombstones erected to the memory of members of the Singmaster family and also a monument of French design with a niche and cover, with the portraits of Squire Varain and his wife, involuntary creating reflections of the past, the present and the future.
"The best laid plans of both mice and men gang aft aglee."
This forcibly applies to the Besser and Blaise emigration plan. Had father lived to carry out his undertaking, with his knowledge of horticulture and agriculture, love of fine stock, ready cash on hand, with the opportunities at hand our success would have been assured.
Grandfather was a renowned army surgeon for 26 years. Grandmother, a forester’s daughter. Father in his youth studied these branches in opposition to grandpa's wishes who wanted his only son to take up medicine and surgery. Right here in the new purchase, the very best part of Iowa was undoubtedly a good place for the development of his enterprise.
I have stated in my first letter that he had contracted for 50 head of long yearling steers at $5 per head, to be delivered Nov. the 1st. This was in 1844. At the same time and place he paid 200 franks in gold for a 2 year old short horn heifer eligible to registry. Peter Kramer, who had been sent with one ox team to Burlington after various goods, was to bring this heifer too. When Kramer arrived, father had passed away. Mother, prostrated with grief, was asked what to do with this roan beauty and her answer was: "What you men think best."
I had been sent to accompany Anna Marie one mile through the woods to Mrs. Whilpert's. When we returned, these wise men had butchered the fine heifer, one of the most valuable animals in this, then territory, of Iowa. To say I was astonished would put it too mildly. I was distracted, got raving mad, and called them ignorant fools. Their excuse no pen or lot being there to put her in and leaving her tied to the wagon, some of the cattle might injure the heifer. Living in the woods a sensible man could have cut poles and made a pen to do, in less than an hour. If they had only turned her loose I would have watched her, being tied there was no danger of straying away at once. More than that, coming 70 miles tied to a wagon it was like home to her. 8 or 10 dollars would then buy the best fattened heifer in the settlement south of us. Mr. Black, a Kentuckian, had brought her to town with her dame, an imported cow, weight, pastured on prairie grass, 1800 pounds. This heifer would have born a thoroughbred male about March the first, falling with the time she was bred; this gave me a forecast of what was to follow. Through this man's advice no provision was made to receive the 50 head of cattle.
Mother's delicate constitution, no relatives or acquaintances further than Mrs. Wilpert-Kramer brother's sister, unused to any business management and advised by Dr. Maley, not to worry, induced her to enter into a marriage contract with the older John Joseph Kramer. The contract was written by Jacob Wiemer and witnessed by Casper Klett. It was stipulated how much should be invested in timberland for us children- some $400, the balance he could use, also all the personal property, stock, etc., further; that we were to be sent off to some good school for at least two years.
Unfortunately for us, stepfather's brother, Peter Joe, was of a speculative disposition and not any too honest either. He, as business manager, had failed to have this contract recorded. When land came in the market and he was sent to Fairfield to buy some, the best 80 acres of the lot he had deeded to him self and John Joseph. I happened to see that deed when his chest was left open one day- and foolish boy like- I told mother about it she looked at me incredulously, soon got convinced by my earnestness. This was the greatest mistake of my life. Mother turned pale and fainted. Not long after this occurrence she took sick and died leaving as addition to us children, little Joe Kramer two years old and a one week old baby girl for my sister- 12 years old- to take care of. Mother died Oct. l3, 1847, the baby when two months old.
The evening before mother died she told the rest of the family to go and rest, Nicholas would stay with her. Being free from pain and feeling better, we all felt more hopeful. It was then when she exacted a promise from me- in case she was called away- to be faithful and stay with the family. "You know," she said, "what arrangements were made, see that justice is done to all and don't forget, little Joe is your brother too." "I am afraid Peter Joseph will continue to influence Pa."
This was putting a load of responsibility on my young shoulders too heavy for a 14 year old boy to manage with discretion.
We were satisfied with the contract made, although when I asked the advice of both Casper Klett and Herr Blaise, they were of the opinion that some good man ought to be appointed as guardian. M. I. Whistler had been proposed. Thinking the contract on record, we were told to remain together as a family and we therefore concluded to risk stepfather's fine promises. A few months afterwards, Peter Joe had hatched out another plot unknown to me which I will relate in the following.
Peter Joe went after Samuel Singmaster, brought him up and sold him six long yearling and one two-year old steers for $50. I was detailed to help Mr. Singmaster drive them to his place. Two of these steers I had bought when calves with the money obtained for a silver watch, presented to me by an uncle when we left Germany. When Mr. S. Singmaster- pointing to these very steers, remarked: "That a well mated pair they would make." I could no longer hold my grief, big tears swelled my eyelids, which the kind old gentleman noticed; then commenced a shrewd questioning in so kindly a manner, that I confided all my troubles and promises to him. "Cheer up, my lad." said he, "and stick to your promises all your life and you will come out all right too." This had the good effect to restore my usual good spirits to "try, try again."
I began to "size him up" and formed an opinion of him, which put in words would be about: A plain but shrewd man, with an immense business capacity, a great admirer and willing helper to any truthful, honest man, but always carefully guarding against chances against him.
As we arrived in the yards at the Singmaster place two big loads of rails were hauled by unusually big horses for those days. The first team was driven by a stout colored boy whom they called Phillip. The biggest load was brought by a rosy cheeked, well fed lad, apparently about 15 years old. Mr. Singmaster turned to me and with unmistakable pride and a smile said: "That is my son Charles, don't you think he will make a Rustler?"
Arriving home, I found that Peter Joe had persuaded stepfather to sell a fine young bay mare with a 6 month old colt beside her and a new set of flatback harness for one-half their cost to a neighbor for $55. Peter Joe thereupon rode off as my sister had overheard some of their talk- to Fairfield, again to enter some valuable timber land.
This accounted for the sacrifice- sales of stock. Peter Joe was induced to come to Lancaster to make some explanations about our estate. This was a ruse. He was detained there under some pretext until towards evening. Finally, when he noticed Casper Klett among a goodly crowd of men his "guilty conscience needed no accuser," he smelled the mice and concluded "a change of climate" would, be beneficial, he started for his horse, but one Joe Middleton took hold of him and his horse’s bridle, the crowd surrounded him and gave him the choice of between a ride on a rail in "a tailor made" suit of tar and feathers or the assigning of the title of that land to the rightful, original owners, by them returning to him the $100 with which he had entered it. It is needless to say the assignment was made. He came home in the middle of the night with a doleful tale blaming himself for being too "easily caught," but this was good news to me and sister Kate, who had overheard the plot. This land belonged as claims partly to father's friend, Herr John Blaise and 40 acres of it to Casper Klett. Kramers tried to excuse themselves to me; they wanted to teach other folks to mind their own business. I had never hinted a word to anybody about their advice, yet these former friends thought I did. It was years after when they learned better, but the Kramers had forfeited all respect in this community, which also rested to some extent as a dark shadow on our innocent heads.
The readers will excuse me for writing this portion of our history. Many, no doubt will wonder at my recollections of early times- written for the Hawkeye Journal, what made such a lasting impression upon my mind, to enable me after 60 years to give a fairly correct description of men and places that we came in contact with and yet so young at that early day.
These "ups and downs" will arouse a boy to thinking and observing if there is any "metal" in him. My spirits would rise like cork in water, the deeper the depression the higher the rise, with me it was, "Cheer up and try again."
The involuntary treatment of the "Kneip cure" that I enjoyed walking before breakfast through wet grass up to my waist during the summer months for 6 years, made out of a delicate boy, who had been kept at hard study from his fourth to his tenth year- a fairly hardy youth, a close observer of nature and a good judge of character and the ability of other men. This enabled me to enjoy life by helping others as well as myself and preserve a very good retentive memory up to the present day.
With great pleasure I note that two more "old settlers" have taken "a seat" in the Hawkeye Journal's Chimney corner, relating- some of their highly interesting recollections of early days and I sincerely hope that they, as well as many others of the "old guard" will be heard from as often as possible. How I wish I could shake hands once more with our mutual friend W. R. Hollingsworth.
The letter from Cap. J. T. Parker ought to convince even Mr. R. I. Garden of Tracy, Iowa, that "it is human to err". The question: "To be or not to be" applied to the buffalos early habitation in Iowa, seems to be indisputably settled by the evidence produced by Mr. Parker. Mr. Garden bases his theory of the buffalo's non-residence partly upon the fact, that we never heard of any buffalo bones being found in Iowa. In 1844 I found upon a space of perhaps one half acre, what to all appearance seemed to be part of the bones of six or eight carcasses.· The thigh and knee bones well recognizable and partly imbedded in 'the sod. When picked up they crumbled like lime. This was in a wide slough, where, as a rule, the grass made its appearance first in spring and at the same time offering a good outlook over a scope of prairie. This led me to enquire of my friend D. N. Henderson, who had settled in the east part of Clear Creek Township in 1838, one of the most wide-a-wake pioneers or that day and at this date a resident of this county for 67 years. He informed me that an old Indian had told him, that, long, long ago there came a big snow storm, a very cold week in June causing the death of many buffalos, the old grass having been burned and the young shoots of grass were tender and washy. From all my observation and knowledge gained, I have come to the conclusion that for perhaps a hundred years or more there have not been many buffalos in eastern Iowa, wherefore Mr. Garden's idea is some what excusable. I was personally acquainted with Mr. Jacob Kensler, who used to live south of Delta, also Hon. A. C. Price and Mr. M. P. Donahey now of Washington County, all men whose credibility and integrity was never disputed. Thirty years ago in Barton County, Kansas, I examined some buffalo bones, some of them in about the same condition and identical with these I found 60 years ago here in Iowa.
Some time ago I was requested by some through the Courier to write about the Paul Peiffer family of Clear Creek Township, mention of which I had made in my former memoirs of that township. I will here relate an appalling misfortune which befell that family in an early day. Two of their boys, John and Mike, lads of about 5 and 7 years of age were playing one day after dusk near their cabin. One of them, I think it was the youngest, Mike, picked up what he took to be the heavy end of a discarded ox-whip and playfully hit his brother with it; but the "ox-whip" proved to be a good sized rattlesnake, which stuck its fangs first into John's arm about three or four inches below the shoulder, and then into Mike's hand. Mr. M. Berg, a near neighbor, mounted a horse and in a gallop started for Rev. Daniel Heidene's, a missionary, who as such possessed considerable pioneer experience and also some knowledge of medicine, practicing physicians were not as numerous in those days as now. In the meantime Mr. Wendel Horras and Mr. Peiffer tied a bandage above the bitten part of the arm to prevent the poison from circulating toward the heart, until other help would arrive. Unfortunately, this tight bandage was left on the arm too long. I was present when Mrs. Peiffer took off the poultice and bandage and the little arm dropped off at the elbow joint. The entire flesh, till within two inches of the shoulder had decayed and easily washed off, exposing the bone to the elbow. The flesh close around the bone remained healthy, granulation soon appeared like pin heads all over, which gave hope that nature would eventually help to preserve the arm to the elbow joint. Elder bark and witch-hazel boiled in lard, together with the child's inherited healthy constitution completed the cure. Mr. Paul Peiffer, the father, had served 3 years in the artillery at Fort Luximburg, Germany, and was by no means a nervous "chicken-hearted" fellow, but this time he was almost distracted with grief. Mrs. Peiffer is still living and is now in her 94th year. Her maiden name was Magdalena Redlinger. She is an aunt of Valentine and Peter Redlinger. May she live to see her direct descendants reach the number of 200 which is not very far off any more.
It makes me shudder to think of the many snake bites and the more numerous narrow escapes from such in early days; to relate them all would more than fill the entire paper, but fortunately the dreaded rattlers - like the buffaloes - are getting scarce.