Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Two Hundred Sixteen

On the eastern edge of the Lost Quarter there is range of hills, taller than any others on these great plains. They are a world apart, forested, with different weather, inhabited by animals not found elsewhere on the prairies until one gets near the mountains. The hills were a borderland for Those Who Went Away before they were driven into exile. The northern trapping confederacies would sometimes camp there, while the bison hunting confederacies were always in the area, though they rarely ventured into the hills themselves.

Later, when the bison were being driven from the plains, the first of Those Who Came in these parts set up trading posts in the hills. None of those forts lasted long, even when the Greater Dominion government sent a policing force of redcoats to keep the peace. A group of Dumont and Riel’s people settled there for a time after they were forced from their homes in the Red River valley. Some of their descendants may still be there, but most have long wandered away. The great confederacies were broken – by the loss of the bison and the spread of disease – and were forced from the Lost Quarter to forgotten corners where their lives were immiserated.

Ranchers, coming from the grand old empire to the south, ruled the plains for a time and they filled the newly emptied lands with cattle herds, trailing them up from as far away as Texas. There were herds nearly as large as the bison herds that only a few short years before had traversed the plains. But the preeminence of the ranchers and their cattle herds was short-lived in the Quarter. An early winter, as we seem to be having this year, did them in, unrelenting with storms and cold.

That year the fall round up was never completed. The ranch hands went out to gather the herds and drive them to winter feeding grounds in valleys where hay had been gathered. Storm after storm, and bitter cold, thwarted their efforts, forcing them off the plains and to their winter lodging. The herds were left, scattered on their summer range where there was nothing to eat. There were more dead than the wolves or coyotes could eat and the spring melt brought rotting carcasses everywhere.

Some of the ranches survived, mostly in the arid parts of the Quarter where farming was impossible, but those along the eastern range of the great hills withered and died like the cattle trapped there for that terrible winter. A new kind of settler followed in the wake of this destruction, filling up the land that had been emptied again. These were farmers who broke up the grasslands, ensuring there would be no return of any great herds and the ways of life that went with them.

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