Ralph Rasmussen owned the land next to the Big Beaver Buffalo Effigy in southern Saskatchewan. He was a second-generation rancher, mainly cattle with a few acres of crop. I first met Ralph when I was on my second visit to Buffalo in June 1996. Short, straw-hatted, middle-aged, raw and rugged wearing one of those 1950s beaded belts with RALPH in standout colours, he came rattling up the hill in an old half-ton, parked and we chatted for half an hour.
A self-avowed bullshitter, he talked about the spirit pole and the rocks as being the grave of Standing Buffalo. He remembered this place from his childhood since the family home was right at the base of the effigy hill. Buffalo is on municipal road allowance land and when they were building the road, they wanted to go over the hill destroying the effigy. Ralph claimed he convinced them to go around the hill, which is what the road does. He told me about a Mandan elder and his son who came here every summer solstice to pray and smoke the pipe. It’s Ralph’s Herefords who are leaving cow plop all over.
On my return visit in 1998, I ran into Ralph, playing a confused game of solitaire, at Aust’s General Store in Big Beaver. He’d moved off the family farm, which could no longer withstand the winters. When Linda and I traveled the area together in 2000, we saw Ralph in Aust’s again. He was making little pins out of dimes and gave us one. I heard a few years later he’d passed away. I have fond memories of Ralph, how willing he was to share, how curious he was about me and what I did.
This first picture below is the current state of the Rasmussen farmhouse and yard where Ralph and his family lived, taken in summer 2010. The house is in a traditional Norwegian style set at the base of a ravine.
This is some of Ralph’s rusting junk sitting next to the Texas gate into the effigy site. Besides the outhouse and the rusting Massey-Harris combine, there is a maroon Ford LTD Custom 500 with a vanity plate that says RALPHO and a bumper sticker that reads, “Eat lamb. 10,000 coyotes can’t be wrong.” The Ford seems to be settling comfortably into what could be its final resting place. At the top of the rise is Buffalo effigy.