Reed, Redwine tell tale of boyhood buffalo adventure

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Jim Redwine laughingly calls himself and Ron Reed "the last of the buffalo hunters" as they offer recollections about their boyhood encounter with seven bison that got loose from the Boots Adams Ranch and ran unrestrained through fences on the Reed Ranch.

Now they're thoughtful older gentlemen with lively senses of humor, but at the time of their encounter with the bison, Jim and Ron were adolescents -- boys made wide-eyed by their brush with the previously unknown.

Ron recalls that he and his brother, Melvin, were checking cattle (a process also referred to as "prowling cattle") one hot summer day in 1960 when Ron spotted what looked like several cows. He went to have a look, and it turned out the beasts were actually bison.

"It just surprised me that they were buffalo," Ron says, explaining he decided to ride up aggressively toward a bison bull.

"Well, that was a big mistake," Ron recalls. The bull buffalo charged his horse, and the alarmed horse bolted. It took Ron about a quarter of a mile to settle down his horse.

What followed was that Ron and Melvin rode a couple of miles to a pickup with a two-way radio, alerted their father, Phillip, to the presence of the bison on their land, and their dad got in touch with Boots Adams. In turn, Adams dispatched cowboys and rifles and the cowboys shot the bison, and then used a winch to load them on a flatbed truck. The meat was reportedly donated to the needy.

Jim Redwine's observations of all this were a result of his working on a fence-building crew for the Reed Ranch. His dear friend, Jim Reed, who later served in Vietnam, got him involved in putting up barbed wire fencing on pasture land. The normal reward for the task (remember, this was 1960) was $7 a day and a hamburger for lunch at the cafe in Foraker. On the day the bison got loose, there was less fence building and a lot more wide-eyed observation.

Jim, who grew up to become a judge in Indiana, recalled in a newspaper column he wrote about the adventure that "it sure beat building fence" in the heat of an Osage County summer.

As Jim and Ron swap memories about that day, they interject names of some of Boots Adams' cowboys who were present, and they discuss geographical details about the location of creeks and railway lines. They don't just recall an unusual and exciting event from their boyhoods; they can place that event in a specific part of Osage County and tell you something about how they reacted at the time.

"It was a true buffalo hunt," Ron says playfully.

"It was. I don't care what anybody says," Jim responds, also playfully. Not exactly, but it is a story from another era, when Oklahoma's frontier past was still much bigger in the rearview mirror.

Jim Redwine, now a retired judge, lives on a ranch out from Barnsdall, and Ron Reed is still actively involved in cattle ranching. In fact, he had a rough encounter with a bull just the other day. Redwine finished at Pawhuska High School in 1961, and Reed in 1967.