August 27, 2009

A.G. Patrick recalls a buffalo encounter

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

A decade plus, prior to his varied enterprises in Grasshopper Falls, A.G. Patrick, son of a printer, became a very young typesetter and left home at an early age to serve apprenticeship of his trade in Terre Haute, Ind.

He worked as a journeyman printer for numerous newspapers in Kentucky and Indiana. At one time was persuaded to publish a paper; however, lack of financial aid compelled him to relinquish the effort after five issues. Following a short stint in merchandising with his brother, he decided to go to California and joined a company organizing a wagon train.

His experiences and encounters prompted him to write his recollections, which he shared with F. C. Scott, publisher of the Valley Falls New Era, predecessor of the Valley Falls Vindicator.

An early episode he recalled occurred after leaving St. Joseph, Mo., for the gold fields.
“The first buffalo that we met was (sic) in the neighborhood of Ash Hollow on the North Platte, seven- or eight-hundred miles west of St. Joseph. It was a herd of a dozen or so and men on horseback were chasing them in every direction. The thought struck us that we (Note:Patrick is referring to himself in the style often used in those days) might get a shot at one, so we took our gun and walked ahead of the wagons and hid ourself in the tall grass near a pond of water. We did not have to wait long before the old bull buffalo was heading directly for us. The mere thought of his coming made us quite nervous, for we had often heard a wounded buffalo would attack and trample a man to death.

“By the time he was close enough to get a good view, we had a sudden attack of buck ague and with difficulty held on to our gun. His very looks was (sic) enough to frighten anyone, his eyes flashing like balls of fire, tongue protruding from his mouth and snorting for all that was out, his heavy tread making the earth fairly shake.

“What to do revolved quickly in our mind. We were afraid to shoot, as that might be the last of us, so we deliberately threw our gun into the tall grass; jumped into the pond and took a long dive coming up at least a hundred feet away spouting like a porpoise, and on looking around saw the buffalo heading in another direction.

“It took at least five minutes to find our gun, and the next day traded it to an Indian for a pony, not wanting any more buffalo in our sport.”

Jamie and Julie Durand will be hosts at the Valley Falls Historical Society from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29. Admission is free.

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