Pronghorn sunbursts

N. Scott Momaday

One morning on the high plains of Wyoming I saw several pronghorns in the distance.  They were moving very slowly at an angle away from me, and they were almost invisible in the tall brown and yellow grass.  They ambled along in their own wilderness dimension of time, as if no notion of flight could ever come upon them.  But I remembered once having seen a frightened buck on the run, how the white rosette of its rump seemed to hang for the smallest fraction of time at the top of each frantic bound — like a succession of sunbursts against the purple hills.

— N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain, p. 19.

* * *

In the early seventies, between Clayton and Springer, New Mexico, Charles Fairweather and I drove fast to the Sangre de Cristos for our yearly getaway with several other friends who had already made camp.  We came up out of the roadbed onto a small hill and to the right, off the highway about 200 feet, were several pronghorn.  Charles quickly stopped the car and pulled out his deer rifle.  Charles, I said, let the pronghorn be.  Besides, it would be poaching if you shot him.  He was a good man, but impulsive at times.  He re-sheathed his weapon without a word and drove on to camp.

* * *

Between Snyder and Post, Texas, large ranches abound.  On one ranch, the Covered S, I saw pronghorn graze five years ago.  In the last four years, with the placement of wind mills for power and an extensive clearing of brush, I see no pronghorn.  They grazed in pastures on either side of highway.  This holiday, as we traveled to Lubbock, I looked intently onto the eastern pasture of the Covered S, hoping to see white rump in brown and yellow grass.  I saw none on either day we passed the Covered S.  I counted plenty of oil wells, but no antelope.

* * *

In the Journals of Lewis and Clark, they reported that antelope would rub themselves against sagebrush in order to perfume themselves.

* * *

Pronghorn at Red Rock, Idaho (J. Purdue photographer)




Filed under Adventure, Life in Balance, Life Out of Balance, Sagebrush

11 responses to “Pronghorn sunbursts

  1. Randall Tate

    Larry Holland would relocate pronghorn from Idaho for the state.

    We would watch the videos of the roundup and then the state would release them on large tracks of land. Larry said you needed about 5000 acres of unfenced land with water before they would turn them loose. So Holland was responsible for restocking the state .

  2. I haven’t hunted antelope for about 6 years now, and then it was in the eastern part of Montana. I’ve heard though that they are still there in pretty good numbers. I remember seeing them not far from wind farms, but I always wondered if the wind farms would bother them if there were a lot more. Clearing a lot of brush certainly would, I think.

  3. Koda'sTotems

    I see hundreds of Pronghorn here in northeastern NM. Everyday. It’s a wonderful thing. This summer I actually had the incredible fortune of seeing a tiny baby being cleaned by his mother moments after birth. He wobbled around on splayed, spindly legs and I just knew that any minute he’d be ready to bolt off across the prairie… Magical.

  4. Our alternative energy choices have and will have an impact on wildlife. Some call it the urbanization of the wilderness. While I agree that we need to get off our oil dependency I also believe that we need to make wise choices with regards to site location for alternative energy. Case in point: California and the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently allowed the construction of a large solar electric facility in a part of the Mojave Desert where the rare and endangered desert tortoise resides. Meanwhile LA and nearby cities have dozens of already paved and abandoned shopping centers and other urbanized areas where the facility could have been located without any impact on wildlife.

    Enjoyed your article. Thought provoking.

    Similar situations are happening with wind machines on mountain tops and on shorelines. I am all for getting off the oil economy and reducing carbon admissions, but we must be careful where we locate our new energy production facilities.

    Jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire is never the answer.

  5. I love that spot in the road. The antelope are my waymarks, that I have truly arrived in the west. Your stories illustrate a nice personal history with it.

  6. Kittie Howard

    I really, really liked Bill’s comment. “Urbanization of the wilderness” is a scary thing in an already challenged eco balance. I’m wondering if the disappearance of the pronghorns could be related to birds dropping dead from the sky in Arkansas and in Sweden. Were there wind farms/facilities nearby? I’m a strong believer in alternative energy, but I am also a stronger believer in balancing nature and man. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    Another great post, Jack!

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