Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup – The Day I Found Out I Was Meant To Be A Cowgirl

Each year Custer State Park puts on the Annual Buffalo Roundup. Cowboys rise early to gather the herds of buffalo that call the park home to be processed. Some of them are auctioned off, and the profits go towards managing the herds for the next year.
Not wanting to miss out on the action, hubs and I got our coffee ready to go for the next morning (he even made me make a special run to Cabela’s for a Stanley thermos (just like his Dad’s) so we could keep our coffee warm while we sat in the frigid cold), and set our alarms for a nice 4:15am wake up call. According to the reports of previous years, you need to be parked and in your spot by 6ish in the morning in order to get a good view. 

The next morning I opened my eyes and was a little surprised that there was so much light outside and that I didn’t feel like a zombie with it being so early. Then I realized my alarm hadn’t gone off, and instead of ARRIVING at the roundup around 6:30, it was already 6:48 and we were just rolling over in the bed. We both panicked, and sat there in shock for a few moments trying to decide if it was still worth it to make the drive. The actual round up wasn’t supposed to start until 9:30 but seeing as it would take us at least an hour to drive there without traffic being considered, we weren’t sure we wouldn’t end up missing the entire thing.

Finally I made the decision to just go for it. We were up and out of the house (coffee in hand…erh thermos) in a grand total of 15 minutes. 
Husband even remembered his swanky new hat.

We did end up having to wait in a little traffic, but fortunately we were able to get parked, immediately get on the shuttle, and get our chairs set up in a prime spot all by 9:00. 

As we waited for the buffalo, we acknowledged that we would have been pretty upset if we had gotten up as early as planned and had to sit there for hours in the cold. I think all-in-all our timing was about perfect.

The 9:30 start time came and went. A few people got excited about this lone bull that made his way onto the field. I decided he must not have felt like running that morning and went ahead and got a head start.

Then a few cowboys rode by and everyone ooohed and ahhhhed.

And finally they made an appearance. Way off in the distance we watched them crest the hill.

They worked their way around the North viewing area and down into a valley. 

Then we waited…and waited…and finally they were on their way towards us.

I’ll tell you right now, I’ve never had much appreciation for anything Western. I bought a pair of teal cowboy boots once, but only because I thought they would make a nice style statement. I only wore them two times. 
Living out here we see a lot more cowboys and ranchers than rednecks in camo baseball caps, and while I’ve found it a nice change of pace, I still haven’t gotten into the spirit.
That all changed for me at this moment. I had moved down to the fence for a hopeful close up shot of the stampeding buffalo, and as they barreled their way towards us, and the cowboys started racing by on their horses, hands in the air, yelling across the rumble to each other…my heart started racing right along with them. I would have given ANYTHING to have been on a horse racing against the wind and these magnificent creatures. The rush I felt was unreal. Even just typing this now my heart is pitter-pattering. 

One of my friend’s brothers tried to get in as a cowboy for the event, and as it turns out its a very prestigious honor. Even with his awesome connections it was a no go. I’m going to have to really work on my cowgirling if I want to get in next year’s roundup!

The cowboys worked to get the herd turned in the right direction, and as they started down the field a few stragglers started to cross back over the dip going back the way they had come. A few minutes later they were sorted again and were on the final stretch to the corrals.

I had really hoped for some close-up shots. I REALLY wanted to feel the ground shake beneath my feet from the hundreds of buffalo running by. But alas, they ran on the opposite side of the field.

One lone bull escaped. He held back behind the others, then all out sprinted in the opposite direction. I can’t say I blame him 🙂

And then it was over. 

It really was an exciting experience. I’m SO glad that we were able to make it this year since we may not be in South Dakota for the next one.
But that wasn’t the end to our buffalo themed weekend. The next day was the Arts Festival and we had a goal that involved horns.

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