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|Shadows on the Trail (Click to Order)|
Recently, I was driving down a Rocky Mountain graveled county road on an early morning jaunt to one of my favorite artifact hunting places. A sea of sagebrush and prairie surrounded me in every direction. My right eye caught some movement out on the prairie alongside my pickup truck. I glanced over and there was a pronghorn antelope buck racing with my pickup. I peered down at my speedometer and saw I was traveling around thirty miles per hour. I looked back at the pronghorn buck and he did not appear to be even exerting himself. I took a gander down the county road to make sure the road was straight and then decided to give Mr. Pronghorn Buck a run for his money.
|Pronghorn antelope buck loping along in the sagebrush|
and greasewood. Photo by Author.
I backed off to thirty-five miles per hour and that was when the pronghorn buck decided to zoom across the road right in front of me. The last thing I remember was that pronghorn buck’s white rump waving goodbye to my pickup truck and me. After crossing the road, the pronghorn buck headed out onto the prairie where he finally slowed down and stopped. I watched the pronghorn buck in the rear view mirror as I headed on down the road. I guess he was just showing me who the fastest dude on the prairie was.Pronghorn antelope are the second fastest land animal in the world, right behind cheetahs. At thirty miles per hour, pronghorns appear to be loping along. At forty-five miles per hour, they appear to be cruising right along. At sixty miles per hour, they are literally hauling!
High Plains archaeological sites are well represented with the remains of pronghorn antelope. Investigators have found the remains of pronghorn antelope in Folsom-aged strata at two key archaeological sites, the Lindenmeier Site in Colorado and the Agate Basin Site in Wyoming. This is important to me since my trilogy, Shadows on the Trail, is about the Folsom people.It is now time to climb into our time machine and set it for the late Pleistocene, sometime around 8,700 B.C. We will join three young hunters from the Folsom People tribe. These three young hunters are key characters in my prehistoric odyssey novel called Shadows on the Trail. They are on a difficult trek across the Arid Plains. The three young hunters are named Chayton, Wiyaka, and Keya and they are almost out of water and food. It appears things are getting worse when this scene happens.
|Pronghorn antelope doe loping along in a large prehistoric |
campsite. Photo by the Author.
Wiyaka suddenly stopped in his tracks, causing Keya to run into the back of him. After scolding Keya for his clumsiness, Wiyaka pointed his finger towards the parched prairie, northwest of them, where a huge dust cloud rose into the clear blue sky. The three hunters watched the dust cloud with curiosity, unable to determine what was causing it.
“Prairie fire!” Chayton spoke into a strong northwesterly wind.
“Hee ya, – No,” Wiyaka responded. “It is the wrong color and we are downwind, we would smell the smoke.”
“Animals?” Chayton suggested.
“Perhaps, maybe bison, I am not sure?” Wiyaka yelled into the wind. “Let’s get closer.”
The three hunters slowly crept forward, hiding behind the tall sagebrush and greasewood, their spears ready to thrust. As they got closer, a low rumbling sound filled the dusty air. Crouching down, Wiyaka signaled to Chayton and Keya to join him.
“We are close enough!” Wiyaka called out to his companions.
The dust cloud was heading directly at the three hunters and Chayton looked around for something for them to climb up, but the naked prairie offered nothing. The rumbling sound became louder and the dust in the air became thicker. As the dust cloud headed straight at the three hunters, Chayton covered his watering eyes against the barrage of dust and dirt. The dust cloud was right in front of the three hunters when Wiyaka’s dirty face lit up in a broad smile. He jumped to his feet, waving his spear and screaming at the top of his lungs. Chayton and Keya still hunkered down, looked up at Wiyaka as if he had lost his mind. Wiyaka jumped high in the air, throwing his spear while screaming at the top of his lungs.
In as much time as it took to scream, the lead animals of the herd sharply veered to the right of the three hunters. The hunters watched hundreds, if not thousands, of tatoke – pronghorn antelope race past. The three hunters could no longer see each another in the dense dust cloud that shrouded the plains. When the sound of thundering hooves finally faded away, the dust cloud dissipated and the hunters looked at each other.
|Pronghorn antelope does as curious as cats.|
On a wide-open environment like the Arid Plains, pronghorn antelope are almost unapproachable. They have phenomenal eyesight and they miss very little, even at very long distances. If you are a hunter from the Folsom People tribe, armed with a spear or two and without any mode of transportation besides your feet, it is not hard to imagine the dilemma you would have hunting pronghorn antelope.However, for prehistoric hunters who hunted pronghorn antelope, there was hope. Although pronghorn antelope are unapproachable on a wide-open prairie, they become confused when dealing with physical barriers or surrounded by humans. Trap them in some kind of arroyo or manmade fence and pronghorn antelope will run around in circles until they literally collapse with exhaustion without ever attempting to break out of the enclosure. Prehistoric hunters took advantage of this by building brush fences that funneled the pronghorn antelope herds into enclosed areas. There, the prehistoric hunters dispatched the pronghorns with spears or stone mauls.
Pronghorn antelope also have another weakness. They are inherently curious. If most pronghorn antelope see something unusual on the prairie, they have to find out what it is. They will go as far as walking towards the object just to find out what it is, even if it is a hunter. I have tested pronghorn antelope’s curiosity more times than I care to admit while hunting for artifacts on the wide-open prairie. When I see a pronghorn in the distance, I will wave my walking stick in the air to get its attention. Once it locks on to me, then I have it. I will wave my walking staff occasionally and usually I can get the pronghorn to walk towards me a few steps each time. The game usually ends when I lose interest, not the pronghorn.Read about pronghorn antelope in the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy novels. Books by John Bradford Branney (Click)
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