"Buffalo hunters' camps were made in every conceivable place; some at the head of coulees; some on the banks of bluffs; a great many cribbed up with poles or built of rock and alkali mud, and a ridge pole covered with buffalo hides. (There was a surplus of old bulls whose hides were not good for anything else). The most common were tents put up Indian fashion, or just a pup tent made of green buffalo hides stretched over a pole and used to sleep in or store goods in.
"A camp outfit generally consisted of a team and wagon, and a saddle horse or two. Some of the larger outfits had more horses - some four head of work horses and three or four head of saddle horses.
"The camp cooking outfit consisted of a good-sized frying pan, a dutch oven, good-sized kettle, dish pan and smaller pans to put cooked food in to serve. Also included were knives, forks, tin plates and cups. It is quite an art to cook on an open fire and not black your vessels or burn them.
"A hunter's supplies consisted of a 50-pound sack of flour, 50 pounds of sugar, 50 pounds of coffee, side of bacon, beans, baking powder and 50 pounds of different kinds of dried fruit. The most essential item was the ammunition, consisting of 100 to 500 pounds of lead, 50 to 100 pounds of powder, primer caps, 500 shells, reloading outfit and one or two Sharps rifles. Some used 45-120 and a great many used 40-90 calibre rifles."
The speaker went to some length to explain the animal's habit of dividing into large family groups when grazing on the range. The hunters found it convenient to utilize that habit to prevent stampedes. The leaders had to be killed first. It was not well to shoot into a herd, for an injured animal would run and stampede the herd. The usual technique was to shoot the outermost ones, the leaders or guards, through the lungs. They appeared to become numb from the resulting internal hemorrhage and would hump up and lie down.
"There were two kinds of hunters", Lamb said. "One kind went out and began shooting when he got close enough. Maybe he would get one or two and sometimes three. Probably that would be all he could skin. The other kind was the man who wanted to get a stand on a bunch and kill anywhere from eight or ten to 30 or 40, and sometimes more. They would go out and stalk a band of buffalo. This was where a good hunter came in, for he generally had to shoot from 500 to 1,000 yards for the first ten or twelve shots. If he made good on them he could work his way sometimes to a position within 100 to 200 yards. The greatest difficulty was to guage the distance. A man to be a good hunter had to be a good judge of distance.
"Only the hides and tongues of the buffalo were saved. the rest was allowed to rot. Hides brought from$1.50 to $3.50 and the tongues were worth 25 cents a pound, dried.
"The hides had to be taken to the camp or somewhere near it and spread flat on the ground and stretched clear of wrinkles, and staked down so they would not shrink up - using 12 wooden pegs to the hide. When dry, the hides could be taken up and put in piles. They were doubled down the center (fur on the inside) and placed alternately to make a solid pile.
"The tongues were cleaned and put in curing vats. The brine was of Salt and Saltpeter (potassium nitrate). The vats were made by digging a square hole in the ground and lining it with old buffalo hides green and staked down around the top, and covered with dry skins and weighted down with anything convenient. When cured the tongues were taken out and hung on poles or placed on rocks to dry. Then they were tied in bundles.
"Next came the job of getting the stuff to market. There were trading posts along the river where there were always buyers or trading post operators who would buy from one to any number of hides, tongues or cured meat the hunters had to sell.
"Stormy weather and snow covering the grass did not bother the buffalo as long as the snow was not crusted. They would use their heads as brooms and sweep or brush the snow from the grass so they could get down to it. You could get on a vantage point and watch them for hours swinging their heads from side to side and moving as much snow as a man with a snow shovel. Buffalo always face and go against a storm, never with it.
"I had spent two years, previous to the time of this story, in the country along and north of the Missouri Missouri river and north of Miles City. At the time of this story I was located on the head of Horse creek, some 25 or 30 miles north of Rosebud. I was in a comp consisting of Sam McGuire, head hunter; Ernie McGuire, general man; John Fargo, teamster and Benjamin F. Lamb, skinner. During the four months we saved and marketed 3,800 buffalo, 1,800 antelope, and some 4,000 buffalo tongues. I have skinned as many as 60 buffalo a day."
The speaker concluded by saying that probably half of the buffalo killed were never touched, never skinned. they went to waste. "That was the last of the buffalo. What was left over of the once vast number went away when spring came and never returned. Elsewhere there was a final roundup, in 1881 and 1882, when 300,000 were slaughtered."
Lamb added that extermination of the buffalo had a taming effect on the Indians of the west. After the Custer battle the Sioux had gone north into northern Montana and in 1881 they got to the head of Fallon creek after crossing the Missouri. Soldiers from Fort Keogh went out and brought in 3,000 Sioux who were destitute and hungry and in a miserable way through the loss of the buffalo. They had resorted to killing their dogs and horses for food. The Indians were later shipped to Standing Rock.
Mr. Lamb was born June 29, 1857, in Jasper county, Iowa, the son of Alexander and Eleanor (Reynolds) Lamb. When he was three years old his parents moved to Guthrie county and the family lived near Stuart, the nearest town. Mr Lamb was in his early 20's when he came to Montana. For many years he has been a resident of Laurel.