Canada Day Special:
Glory and grisly death, for food and clothing.
⁓The Voice before the Void
“The Buffalo Hunt”
Pierre Falcon and Agnes Christina Laut
Now list to the song of the buffalo hunt,
Which I, Pierre, the rhymester, chant of the brave!
We are Bois-Brulés, Freemen of the plains,
We choose our chief! We are no man’s slave!
Up, riders, up, ere the early mist
Ascends to salute the rising sun!
Up, rangers, up, ere the buffalo herds
Sniff morning air for the hunter’s gun!
They lie in their lairs of dank spear-grass,
Down in the gorge, where the prairie dips.
We’ve followed their tracks through the sucking ooze,
Where our bronchos sank to their steaming hips.
We’ve followed their tracks from the rolling plain
Through slime-green sloughs to a sedgy ravine,
Where the cat-tail spikes of the marsh-grown flags
Stand half as high as the billowy green.
The spear-grass touched our saddle-bows,
The blade-points pricked to the broncho’s neck;
But we followed the tracks like hounds on scent
Till our horses reared with a sudden check.
The scouts dart back with a shout, “They are found!”
Great fur-maned heads are thrust through reeds,
A forest of horns, a crunching of stems,
Reined sheer on their haunches are terrified steeds!
Get you gone to the squaws at the tents, old men,
The cart-lines safely encircle the camp!
Now, braves of the plain, brace your saddle-girths!
Quick! Load guns, for our horses champ!
A tossing of horns, a pawing of hoofs,
But the hunters utter never a word,
As the stealthy panther creeps on his prey,
So move we in silence against the herd.
With arrows ready and triggers cocked,
We round them nearer the valley bank;
They pause in defiance, then start with alarm
At the ominous sound of a gun-barrel’s clank.
A wave from our captain, out bursts a wild shout,
A crash of shots from our breaking ranks,
And the herd stampedes with a thunderous boom
While we drive our spurs into quivering flanks.
The arrows hiss like a shower of snakes,
The bullets puff in a smoky gust,
Out fly loose reins from the bronchos’ bits
And hunters ride on in a whirl of dust.
The bellowing bulls rush blind with fear
Through river and marsh, while the trampled dead
Soon bridge safe ford for the plunging herd;
Earth rocks like a sea ‘neath the mighty tread.
A rip of the sharp-curved sickle-horns,
A hunter falls to the blood-soaked ground!
He is gored and tossed and trampled down,
On dashes the furious beast with a bound,
When over sky-line hulks the last great form
And the rumbling thunder of their hoofs’ beat, beat,
Dies like an echo in distant hills,
Back ride the hunters chanting their feat.
Now, old men and squaws, come you out with the carts!
There’s meat against hunger and fur against cold!
Gather full store for the pemmican bags,
Garner the booty of warriors bold.
So list ye the song of the Bois-Brulés,
Of their glorious deeds in the days of old,
And this is the tale of the buffalo hunt
Which I, Pierre, the rhymester, have proudly told.