The Buffalo Hunter

by Larry Lefkowitz

On the keelboat going up the Missouri, Clearfield and I became friendly. Normally, I don’t think he would have been interested in me — it seemed buffalo hunters were only happy with their buffaloes for company. (I wasn’t surprised, the smell that emanated from him was enough to discourage anyone — the French crew gave him a wide berth because of it.) But the combination of the Frenchmen avoiding him, the fact that they avoided me, and the fact he didn’t like “foreigners,” soon made us companions. The nose adjusts to smells–even what I gathered was buffalo smell; and Clearfield was a valuable source of information to someone like me, in sore need of it. Sometimes he could be unnerving, as when he would suddenly pop off with his buffalo gun at some lone tree or other object that took his fancy. “Gotta keep in practice,” he explained. This practice of keeping in practice scared the pants off the Frenchmen. The first time he did it, the captain of the boat asked him to discontinue it, but he threatened him to “use you for a target if you don’t get back to runnin’ your boat instead of your mouth.”

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