Buffalo – Magestic and White?

Frontier Village in Jamestown, ND was one of the sites on our “to-see” list. And, while it was interesting in a “hey haven’t we seen this before” kind of way, something else on site grabbed our attention for longer.

We pulled into Frontier Village just after 10:00 in the morning about a half hour before they opened and took the self guided tour of Main Street.

No matter the “fill in the blank” portion, these “historic” villages are pretty much the same. Whether its pioneer village, old-west town, or revolutionary war city, they mostly just get a bunch of donated antiques from a similar – if even close – time period or replicas of tools from a time too long ago to remember and spatter them around badly-posed mannequins dressed in hackneyed outfits. Frontier Village is no different with a post office, one room school house and blacksmith shop.

But Frontier Village does have a few things going for it besides our enjoyment of bad museums. The first is the World’s largest buffalo monument, memorializing the millions of powerful bison that used to roam The Great Plains but were hunted almost to extinction.

The second, for $5 per person, is a ten-minute ride in a replica stage coach. The coach is pulled by two horses (Ivor and Ivan) over a variety of surfaces from the asphalt of Frontier Village, to a dirt path and onto a rugged prairie trail. It jostled us just enough in those ten minutes to imagine traveling in this “luxurious” coach for hours or days on end. Let’s just say we are glad we brought the Volvo.

The biggest and most “real” draw at Frontier Village is the National Buffalo Museum. The museum, like the enormous buffalo monument celebrates the thundering herds of North Dakota.

The small facility covers all aspects of buffalo from their prehistoric ancestors to the native Americans who hunted them and how they hunted them. It also covers their eventual decline to over-hunting and the conservation efforts since. I was most impressed how much original art work was collected including many beautiful sculptures and classic Wild West paintings.

It really felt like we were in the West finally.

On our second try out on the buffalo view platform, we were able to catch a glimpse of the museum’s herd, which number a dozen or so and roam freely over 200 acres owned by the organization. Most shocking and beautiful is the albino buffalo.

She is over a decade old and had white, yellow and brown fur covering her massive shoulders and body. The cow has mothered a number calves while living on the ranch and but all were of the standard brown variety. However, just last year, one of her brown daughters gave birth to an albino grandchild. He was also on display and his coat, new and shiny, brilliantly reflected white against the sun – much more spectacularly than his grandmothers.

The National Buffalo Museum is definitely worth a visit, and since you made the drive you might as well walk through Frontier Village to get to the giant buffalo monument.