I think of this bird in 1877 singing the saddest of swan songs on the mantle of one of these mighty beasts as he breathed his last. As with Oscar Wilde’s swallow prising a piece of gold leaf from the Prince, I imagine this bird singing a final lullaby to the bison as he took just a small piece of his great coat with reverence and care, promising he would weave the story of the bison into its nest so it would not be forgotten. While the bison’s bulk grew stony and cold, the nestlings would be safe and warm wrapped in his soft and luxurious wool.
With a wool as soft and warm as cashmere, ethically sourced bison fibre is making a resurgence in the wider fashion and textile community too. May the bison the and the bird roam and rule the plains once more.
P.s. I am currently working on honouring the story of the bison and the bird in a nest sculpture that explores the textile transitions of North America through the avian eye of the Western Kingbird. Based on a series of archival specimens, I am grateful to curator Carla Cicero, at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and artist Sharon Beals for their invaluable assistance and SandyValleyBison for the incredibly dense, soft and warm shed fibre and wool collected from their paddocks.