UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims at DVinfo.net

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Old April 3rd, 2013, 10:26 AM   #1
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UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Treasure almost lost but saved; almost lost again, saved again.

NOTE: For best effect, before viewing imagine you have just had a big tin plate of pinto beans and cornbread and are now sitting around the Chuck Wagon cook-fire.


This story is of the type known as a Cowboy Campfire Story which is a type of Tall Tale for which Texas was once famous (or infamous). As a tall tale it is based upon many facts, none of which are allowed in any way to interfere with the telling of the tale. This is a true story. Sort of.

Here are some of those facts:
Charles Goodnight is famous to the world for such things as starting the great cattle drives, inventing the Chuck Wagon and blazing the Goodnight Trail. In the Texas Panhandle the Goodnights are famous as agents of civilization. They founded and funded the first banks, colleges, libraries and fire departments in the region. Their graves are still much visited.

Palo Duro Canyon is known as “the Grand Canyon of Texas”. Goodnight originally started the ranch with his partner George Adair (pronounced like “a dare” with the accent on the “a”) in the upper canyon in the vicinity of Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Later they split and the Goodnights moved down canyon to the area that is now Caprock Canyons State Park. The two parks are about fifty miles apart as the buzzard flies or about 150 miles apart by good road (as in “you can’t get there from here”). The original Goodnight homestead was located just outside the first park and in the 1950’s it was lovingly disassembled and reassembled inside the park. I remember playing in it as a boy. Eventually it collapsed and an almost identical new structure using a few of the original timbers was built. This is the dugout home in the video.

Goodnight originally tried to drive the bison from the canyon- several times. They came back. He finally gave up and tolerated them. He allowed the buffalo hunt to get rid of them. The bit about Molley (Mary) chastising him is true enough- as told by her in later years. He did bottle feed the calves. They each drank three gallons of cow’s milk a day. Although he looked and looked the three older survivors were found by neighbors and brought to him. Without them and their knowledge of what it means to be a wild bison the calves would have just become furry cows. [By the way, a recent genetic study shows that Texas Longhorns trace their line directly back to the first dozen cattle brought to the New World by Columbus.] Goodnight originally wanted to save a few bison to cross them with cattle in an effort to improve his stock to local conditions. He was the first to do so and called them beefalo. The bovine genes which plague our surviving bison herds can be traced back to his experiments. Fortunately he was an early proponent of barbed wire and he scrupulously kept his “wild ‘uns” from his beefalo. After he died, his relatives had the experimental herd slaughtered along with most of the bison. The ones which survived were across the wire on Adair’s ranch at the time.

The bison weren’t quite forgotten. In the 1970’s the owners proposed to kill them off in what they promoted as “The Last Great Buffalo Hunt”. It was to cost $100,000 per hunter. Public outcry put an end to the plan. We think. It is interesting to note that none of the substantial deposits to hunt were returned and that in this time period the herd mysteriously dropped from 180 to about 30. It is alleged that the hunt took place in secret and, once again, the ones which survived were across the wire at the time.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department didn’t exactly jump at the offer. At first they said “No”. Two years later a German bison genetics researcher urged them to reconsider and protect the herd because it was so valuable. Of the various herds of all five surviving species of bison this was the only one with pure bison genes from one species. [Most of the bison in North America have genes from cattle and almost all of the Plains Bison include genes from Wood Bison. The three Eurasian species have all acquired genes from North America.] At that point the bison hadn’t been seen in two years and it took five days of searching from an airplane to locate them. Unfortunately there was the genetic bottleneck (it probably wouldn’t have occurred if all 180 had survived the ‘70s). Yellowstone does not have any stock only from the Goodnight line. All of their bison include genes from all the early surviving herds. Many of them also have cattle and Wood Bison genes. There are some small groups which are free of the foreign species genes but all of the Yellowstone bison now carry Brucellosis and federal law prevents their transfer. [Brucellosis is a cattle disease which bison can carry. It does not harm the bison but infected cattle have very reduced reproduction. Ranchers hate it because it destroys their profits.] The best compromise turned out to be the stock from Ted Turner (media mogul and largest land owner west of the Mississippi as well as ardent conservationist), which originally came from Yellowstone, because they were free of cattle genes. The jury is still out on the effect of the new genes but we are cautiously optimistic.

I shot this over a period of three days and had some trouble cutting it together because one day was quite overcast with poor light, the next bright sunshine and the last mixed clouds. I did the best I could to combine them. Comments and critique are welcomed.

In the note I mentioned pinto beans and cornbread. There is an awfully lot of, to my mind, truly awful wheat-flour and egg based “corncake” going around as cornbread now, so I take the liberty of giving you an authentic cornbread recipe. I have made it this way literally hundreds of times.

Cowboy Cornbread

In a well seasoned cast-iron skillet melt three big wallops of grease, lard or shortening.

In a big bowl put-
two right-smarts of masa, cornmeal or Indian Meal
a pinch of salt
two big pinches of baking powder
a small dab of sugar (if available)

Stir in unsweetened tinned milk until soupy (fresh milk if available).
Pour in the melted fat and stir then pour back into the skillet and bake over the coals of a good fire until the bread is done when it pulls away from the sides and just begins to crack on top.


Sorry. I can’t share with you my family’s secret recipe for pinto beans. I might git shot.
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Old April 3rd, 2013, 02:02 PM   #2
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Like that one Mike. Nice story to go with some interesting footage.
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Old April 3rd, 2013, 03:43 PM   #3
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Yeehaw!

Always loved the wild-west, and pretty much anything to do with Texas, so I told my wife to start cooking your recipe double-quick-time so I could enjoy your campfire story....but she just gave one of those looks that told me 'Don't push it, buster'. Sheesh.

Anyway, I grabbed a bottle of Jim Beam bourbon and some ice (yeah I know its from Kentucky but I'm in Uganda so I have to work with what I have) and settled down to watch your movie.

I liked your light hearted tone. You actually delivered a lot of information in that 4 minutes, so as a tall-tale it really worked.

Your photography is great; the color of those red hills is really vibrant against the blue sky and green bushes. It looks great. Nice cloud time-lapses too.

The various sound effects really sell this story; bet you had fun doing that!

Your Bison shots are nicely done, and all in all I reckon your imagery matches your narration well. Maybe, in a perfect world it would have been cool to start and end the story with a bunch of guys sitting around a campfire, with the narrator telling the story...but maybe not.

By the way; I hear you Texans are pretty proud about your Longhorn cattle. I gotta tell you, here in Uganda we have cattle, the Ankole, that make your Longhorns look like a Mini-Beltie. I reckon if we ever get a UWOL challenge theme relating to farming you and I should go head-to-head, Longhorn vs Ankole; take that as a challenge, pardner.
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Old April 3rd, 2013, 06:19 PM   #4
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Mike....that was just great fun!

Historic and entertaining. Loved the "special effects." I am a big fan of western history and this really hit home...nicely done.

Now tell me...and I mean no offense...but is that your voice? Your real accent? Because it made the film for me...
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Old April 4th, 2013, 02:20 AM   #5
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Nice one Mike, really entertaining !
Good story and edited.
I'll second that Simon wrote about a camp fire... I would have loved that.
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Old April 4th, 2013, 09:11 AM   #6
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Hi Mike,

Interesting history and stunning visuals. A great match!
What an amazing scenery you have over there! Just like all the western movies I have seen. :)
The VO was really good. Made the film even better.

Thank you for sharing!
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Old April 4th, 2013, 10:23 AM   #7
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Thanks, Mike,

I loved this film!

Entertaining, excellent visuals - and left me wanting to know more.

Thanks!
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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:51 AM   #8
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Thanks, Chris, I’m glad you liked it.
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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:52 AM   #9
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Simon- Whoa Nelley! Are you a-callin me out? Video showdown at high noon? OK. OK. I capitulate. I’ve seen those Ankole and they are mighty impressive. Actually, the two are quite closely related. (Certainly closer than either is to the “improved” European breeds that now dot our landscapes.) Columbus got his cattle from the Cape Verde Islands and the stock had come from the mainland only a few years earlier. Africa has more breeds of cattle than anywhere else because they were first domesticated there and because so many of its cultures have revered them for wealth and status. Besides, I’m a three time Aggie (Texas A&M University) and our arch rivals are the University of Texas whose mascot is- you guessed it- the Texas Longhorn. It would be bad form for me to defend them too vigorously. ;)
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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:53 AM   #10
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Bob- I’m pleased that a western history buff enjoyed it. The VO is an exaggerated version of my own accent- sort of. I was trying to do a North Texas accent but kept slipping into my own South Texas accent (but a bit over the top!). I think of it as one quarter cut Slim Pickens, one quarter cut Festus Haggen (from Gunsmoke Math-yew) and the rest from memories of my Great-uncle Les and Uncle Nathan. A real Texan will note that I was speaking much too quickly so I could meet the time limit. Because of that they might not entirely trust me, or they might be charitable and allow that I must be an overly excitable type.
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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:54 AM   #11
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Thanks, Markus. I agree, Simon’s idea about the campfire scene is a good one. I could probably have shot it, but only in February when we have the Rodeo or later this summer when the cowboys are out working.
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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:55 AM   #12
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Hey, Trond! I’m glad you liked it. I’m especially glad you liked the scenery because I’m always so jealous of your Norwegian scenery! I’m also always self conscious about my voice-overs and wasn’t quite sure how this one would be received.
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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:57 AM   #13
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Thanks, Paul. I tried to give you more information in my long-winded first post to this thread. I hope you saw it. Let me know if you have any questions.
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Old April 5th, 2013, 12:26 AM   #14
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Awesome story.
Did that critter at the 00:03 mark just appear out of nowhere?

Some interesting quips.
Hell Yeaah! And life wuz good. Ted Turner heard about the herd.

I want to try that cornbread recipe, just got to get me a 'right smart' of corn meal
and the other fixins :)
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Old April 5th, 2013, 10:01 AM   #15
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Re: UWOL 25- Red River Survivors – Mike Sims

Hi Mike.

You provide a wonderful movie in this round.
Along with Dale, I think you have the best sound.
As a child, I never got enough of cowboy and Indian movies and books.
This brought up childhood memories, I dreamed about coming to America and still does.
Editing and comments are excellent performed.
What an amazing story that you describe in an elegant way.
Had to see (and hear) it several times to get all the points.

Great delivered and thanks for sharing.
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