From River to Classroom: Ancient Buffalo Skull Finds New Home
In late autumn of 1963, Redwood Falls Troop 97 Boy Scouts Keith Wolff, Lee Hollister, and Ivar Kaardal were out trekking on the banks of the Redwood River by North Redwood.
According to Ivar’s brother Loran, the boys thought they saw an oddly shaped log in the mud of the river bank. They decided to investigate.
What they uncovered was obviously not a log. It was a fragment of some sort of horned animal, and it was relatively huge.
The fragment weighed over 15 pounds when it was dried off, and the distance between the tips of the horns was a shade over two feet.
The Scouts took the skull fragment home to show Keith’s dad, Howard. They all believed it was from a buffalo, but they wanted confirmation.
Howard sent it to the Museum of Natural History. Several months later, right after Christmas 1963, the scientists sent it back with the decree it was a fragment from the skull of a very large buffalo — and not a modern one.
The scientists said the skull fragment’s age could not be determined, but it was from a species larger than present day buffalo species.
In fact, the buffalo in the Ramsey Park zoo were measured for comparison, eliminating the possibility that a park buffalo might have died and floated downstream to North Redwood.
When the boys got the skull fragment back, Howard said he would mount the trophy for the Scouts’ clubroom in the Elmer Kaardal home.
Flash forward 40 years. About 10 years ago, Loran Kaardal was going through his parents’ attic, sorting through their belongings after they moved from Redwood Falls to the Twin Cities.
The Kaardal family has long been involved in local Boy Scouts, with decades of memorabilia gathered in the attic.
Among the items was the old buffalo skull fragment. After dusting it off, Loran displayed it in his private deer camp for visitors.
Then, in Dec. 2013, the Gazette ran the original photo of the Scouts with the skull fragment as part of our regular Backward Glances feature, telling what happened in town 50 years earlier.
Loran instantly recognized the buffalo skull as the one in his camp, and decided it needed a wider audience.
On Sept. 26, Kaardal presented the skull - on loan - to Ron Bolduan, an environmental educator with the Riverside History and Nature Learning Center in New Ulm.
Bolduan speaks to a variety of groups across the region about the land’s history. Among the groups he speaks to most often - Boy Scouts.
The more things go around....