Thursday, September 19, 2013
In 1934, a great drought beat down about the Great Plains region. Intense heat and no rain created an almost unbearable environment.
Leroy Hankel, a farmer from York, Nebraska, remembered the thirties in an interview. He said 1934 was the worst year of the decade, adding: “We just took everything in stride. Just, when it didn’t rain, we was praying for rain. But it just wouldn’t rain.” In Utah, historian Leonard J. Arrington wrote that “Even the grasshoppers were starving.”
In North Dakota, the drought was still big news on this date. Crops failed and man and beast alike suffered…in more ways than one. In fact, the Sargent County Teller published some recent reports out of Dickinson, that nearby buffalo were driven mad for lack of water:
“Days of the ‘thundering herd’ in western North Dakota stepped from the history books to confront residents of Sentinel Butte recently as buffalo, maddened by drouth and heat commanded streets and stockyards and terrorized the town. Wild old tales of buffalo stampedes, of hundreds of thousands of heavy bodies thundering over plains to water, of settlers and pioneers huddling in their wagons as the seemingly endless flood rolled by, were revived as the beasts stalked through the streets.”
According to the report, some buffalo may have joined cattle herds that were driven into Sentinel Butte for part of a federal cattle purchase that was to provide some drought relief. Once there, of course, the wild buffalo did what they wanted—pushing through fences, walking wherever they wished.
One resident, a man by the name of Dick Stover, reportedly ran into the buffalo—almost quite literally. He was driving a truck down Highway 10 when he “met a shaggy giant face-to-face like a ghost from the past.” He backed up, and drove around the buffalo and into town. Once there, he found that more buffalo already reached the town, and people were learning the difference between “a dazed beast behind a park fence and a surly brute with an empty belly and a desire to run amuck.”
Needless to say, the citizens holed up wherever they could…but after a few hours, the buffalo moseyed off, heading in the direction of Williston, “giving way to neither trucks, cars nor buses.”
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
Sargent County Teller, Sepetember 27, 1934, p1
Beach Advance, Sept. 20, 1934, p2