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Wild Idea

Buffalo and Family in a Difficult Land

Dan O'Brien

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: Bison Books
Published: 09/2014
Pages: 248
Subject: Biography and Autobiography
eBook ISBN: 9780803286368


For more than forty years the prairies of South Dakota have been Dan O’Brien’s home. Working as a writer and an endangered-species biologist, he became convinced that returning grass-fed, free-roaming buffalo to the grasslands of the northern plains would return natural balance to the region and reestablish the undulating prairie lost through poor land management and overzealous farming. In 1998 he bought his first buffalo and began the task of converting a little cattle ranch into an ethically run buffalo ranch.   Wild Idea is a book about how good food choices can influence federal policies and the integrity of our food system, and about the dignity and strength of a legendary American animal. It is also a book about people: the daughter coming to womanhood in a hard landscape, the friend and ranch hand who suffers great tragedy, the venture capitalist who sees hope and opportunity in a struggling buffalo business, and the husband and wife behind the ranch who struggle daily, wondering if what they are doing will ever be enough to make a difference. At its center, Wild Idea is about a family and the people and animals that surround them—all trying to build a healthy life in a big, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous land.    


Dan O’Brien is the author of numerous novels and memoirs, including Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch, winner of the Western Heritage Award for best nonfiction. His books Stolen Horses, Equinox, The Indian Agent, and The Contract Surgeon are available from the University of Nebraska Press.


"[Wild Idea: Buffalo and Family in a Difficult Land is] a book that elegantly explores the tension between hope and futility in one man's effort to kindle restoration on the Great Plains."—Carson Vaughan, High Country News

"Making strong, lasting connections between the rugged land and the strong people is a staple of life on the Great Plains. Dan O'Brien's gift is helping people understand this connection and the basic and difficult truth that sustainable living is not simple; it is as matted and dense as the thick fur that defines the buffalo's very nature."—Tom Daschle, former U.S. senator from South Dakota and former U.S. Senate majority leader

"Dan O'Brien's book strikes me as a gentle but badly needed confrontation. . . . Figuring out how to realign the way we live with the health of the ecological systems that support us is the single most important challenge of the twenty-first century, and that makes O'Brien's book an essential meditation."—Edward Norton, actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity