Governor rides in CSP Buffalo Roundup

By: 
Ron Burtz
At precisely 9:42 on Friday, the shout of “There they are!” rang out across the north viewing area on a hillside near the Custer State Park (CSP) buffalo corrals. At that point, several dozen bison could be seen far away on the ridge to the southwest, right above where thousands of spectators were waiting in the south viewing area. 
About 40 minutes later, the last of the herd crossed the road in the valley below to enter the corral area and the 54th annual CSP Buffalo Roundup entered the history books. 
In between that first sighting and when the final beast thundered through the corral gate, there was plenty of excitement to keep the thousands of spectators on the hillsides entertained. 
Within minutes of the first buffalo appearing on the ridge, more could be seen coming down the hillside, still so far away they looked like ants crawling across a log. 
A light drizzle started at about 10 a.m. as the herd disappeared behind the smaller ridge where the south viewing area sits. The rain was more of an annoyance than a real soaker and the crowd on the hillside merely huddled together under their umbrellas and makeshift shelters. Most people were wearing waterproof jackets and one man donned a large black garbage bag into which he had poked a hole for his head. 
While most of the herd was out of sight for a few minutes as the bison made their way down the valley, a huge bull appeared on the opposite side of a fence in the valley below which forms the final approach to the corrals. He stood there for a few minutes, then comments and laughter could be heard from people in the crowd as twice he lay down and went for a roll on the prairie sod. 
Minutes later, a small line of running buffalo could be seen toward the bottom of the valley making their way toward the corral area. Horseback riders appeared shortly afterward, pushing them on toward their destination and within seconds the shrill whoops of the riders and the cracks of bullwhips could be heard. At least one rider even appeared to have a handgun from which he was presumably firing blanks to press the beasts onward. 
By 10:12 a.m., the herd had all made it to the bottom of the basin just a few hundred yards from the corral gates. They stopped, milling around, not seeming to know which way to go. Or perhaps they did know the way, but prior experience told them not to go there. 
At any rate, the riders and the dozen or so pickups formed a line on the far side of the herd with the obvious intent of pushing the hairy beasts toward the corrals. 
The next 10 minutes were a blur of brown as the herd seemed to travel in every conceivable direction. The crowd “oohed,” “ahhed” and laughed as one smaller and perhaps younger critter made a break for the fence behind which the old bull stood. At least twice the smaller bison crashed into the woven wire fence, drawing reactions from the spectators. 
A gate was opened and several riders and a couple of pickups passed through to deal with the bull. He was having none of it, however, and at one point appeared to charge a  white pickup. Then one of the cowboys on the opposite side of the fence fired several shots in his direction, causing him to move back from the fence. Eventually he made a break for the gate and passed through to join the rest of the herd. 
By 10:21 a.m., the last of the bison had crossed the road and gone through the gate, prompting a cheer from the spectators on the south ridge.
The north side crowd cheered as riders carrying the American, South Dakota and POW/MIA flags passed by at the base of the hill. Those riders, which included Ms. Rodeo South Dakota Jordan Tierney, Ms. Range Days Victoria Hagg and Phil Randall, were later joined for a photo op by Gov. Kristi Noem, who was also  on horseback. 
“We believe she had a great time assisting in the roundup,” said CSP visitor service program manager Kobee Stalder, adding that he believes the governor “walked away with an appreciation of what it takes to put on the annual event. It was great to have her there and we hope she wants to come back again and ride next year.”
Stalder said over 1,400 bison were rounded up on Friday. When the annual buffalo auction is held Nov. 2, 445 of those animals will go on the auction block. 
Stalder says the official spectator count for the event was 19,441.  

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