Here’s a sad old story told new. An unexpected twist has been added.
We all know the tragic story of the American Bison. Buffalo hunters slaughtered them for their hides, left the precious meat to rot and the bones to scatter. The hide-scalper’s greed was encouraged by those who understood that an effective way to turn proud warriors into reservation derelicts was to pull the ecological rug out from under the Western tribes, though at the time they didn’t call it that. And then, of course, greed was joined by its’ favorite companion, reckless ignorance – passing travelers shot bison from railroad train windows for mere amusement. Very sad. Tragic, really. A shame.
But wait, there’s more. Settlers eventually moved across those empty and haunted killing grounds. They built farms and tilled the soil. The ploughs of the farmers in Kansas clogged with old bison bones. It was a problem first but then the farmers discovered they could collect the bones and sell them to fertilizer mills that would grind them up and sell them in bags and barrels, ship them here and there. In pre-chemical America, bone meal was a favorite plant food. The remains of the great bison herd were thus reduced to dust and the dust was churned into the soil of grain fields, fruit orchards, and home gardens across the nation.
For several years the essence of bison could sometimes be tasted in the succulent meat of a tomato, in the horn hardness of a cherry pit, or in the rich marrow of a summer melon. Bone became fragrant hedge and green blade. Bone became the flowers given by boys to blushing maidens. The real Ghost Dance was this fading of form, this morphing whisper as beings become bones and bones become food, seed, beauty, life.
Amazing, those noble bison. Even after death they surrendered one more generous and life-affirming gift to the very people who killed them.