Butcher’s Crossing (2022) | Transcript

An Ivy League drop-out travels to the Colorado wilderness, where he joins a team of buffalo hunters on a journey that puts his life and sanity at risk. Based on the highly acclaimed novel by John Williams.
Butcher's Crossing (2022)

Butcher’s Crossing, released in 2023, is a gripping drama set in the 1870s American West. Directed by Gabe Polsky, the film is based on the highly acclaimed novel by John Williams.

The story follows a young Harvard dropout, William Andrews, portrayed by Fred Hechinger. Rejecting his privileged East Coast life, William ventures west to the bustling outpost of Butcher’s Crossing. He seeks a real-world education and believes that joining a team of buffalo hunters will provide just that.

Nicolas Cage stars as Miller, an accomplished hunter with a dream of finding a valley full of buffalo in the Colorado Territory. Other notable cast members include Jeremy Bobb as Fred, Xander Berkeley as Charlie, and Paul Raci as McDonald.

Butcher’s Crossing explores themes of man’s greed and tyranny over nature. It connects the historical near-extinction of the buffalo to modern concerns about human-influenced extinctions.

* * *

[Tender tune plays]

[Wheels rattling]

Dear Father, I’m sure you know by now I decided to leave Harvard and travel west.

I hope to find a stronger purpose and more meaning in my life.

Expand my understanding of the world beyond Boston.

It’s something that I need to do.

You may not understand this…

but I hope you can accept it.

I will be back before winter.

With love…


[Flies buzzing, creature bleats]

[Indistinct conversations]

[Metal clinks]


Two bits extra if you want water brought up.

Be here long?

I’m not sure.

Sir, do you know where I can find a J.D. McDonald?

You here for business? No, sir.

Well, if you follow the road to the end of town, you’ll see his shack.

That is impressive.

[Horse neighs]

That ain’t nothing.

You’re better off chopping wood.

[Horse neighs]

$4 a hide?

These ain’t prime.

Says who?

The market!

That’s who, goddamn it!

You want to be a hide man, you ought to go do it yourself!

Now, go on and kill some more buff, or someone else will!




Trudy Maloney.

Ah, Maloney.

[Muttering] Robert C. Hansen.

[Knocking softly]

Eva Marshall.




Come back tomorrow!

My name is William Andrews, sir.

I reckon you don’t remember me, huh?

Goddamn it, if I’d remembered you, I’d have said something when you first came in!

My… My father is Edward Andrews, sir.

He is the minister of the Unitarian Church in Boston.

We took you in about 14 years ago.

You come out looking for work.

Here, I-I-I saved your letters.

All of them.



My father spoke of you often.

I wasn’t anyone for him to speak of.

I think he admired you because you were the only man he knew who came out here and made a life for himself.


[Thud] That’s right!

That’s right!

I did 400,000 buffalo hides last year, and it’s just the start.

I send out parties, they bring in the hides.

I plan on doing my own curing and tanning…

[Tapping] right here, do it all myself!

Your father’s a Harvard man.

Shouldn’t you be in school?

I-I went, but I’m just not interested in that kind of education.

Want a job!

God knows I can’t keep up!

I’m already two months behind!

I didn’t come out here for that.

I want…

[Scoffs] Well, what is it, boy?!

Uh… Spit it out, already!

I would like to see as much of the country as I can.

Get to know it?

Uh, maybe you could send me out

with one of your hunting parties, sir.

Boy, I won’t be responsible.

You start going out with those men, it’ll ruin you.

It’ll get in you, like buffalo lice.

You’ll be rotten from the inside!

I’m sorry to have bothered you, Mr. McDonald.

You got it all figured out!

No, sir, I-I don’t have anything figured out.

[Pages rustling]

[Pages strike desk] Hell was I?

What are you talking about?

[Suspenseful music plays]

Hup, hup, hey! Whoo!

[Horse snorting]

Didn’t have no business being there in the first place.

[Indistinct conversation]

Excuse me, sir, um, I-I believe, uh, I saw you earlier today.

What can I do for you?

I would like to go on a hunt, sir.


Ain’t no tours around here.

Not a tour.

A hunt.

I can be helpful and, um…

I’m listening.

Around the camp.

I’m a rather quick study.


This here’s Charley Hoge.

He’s my camp man.

Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Hoge.

Put ‘er there.


Don’t mind Charley, son.

It’s just his idea of fun.


Have a seat.



Francine’ll get the drinks.

Hi. How do you do?

Why don’t you tie up with one of McDonald’s parties?

Mr. McDonald and I don’t see it the same way.

McDonald’s a crook.

We do the work. He takes all the money.

I work for myself, or I don’t work.

Miller don’t work for nobody.

Things are changing around here.

Used to be you could get 1,000 head in just a couple of weeks of hunting.

Now, the herds have scattered.

It’s getting harder to make a real kill.

But there are still places that they can be found.


What kind of places?

[Glasses clinking]

[Liquid pouring]

I can trust you, boy?

Yes. Yes, sir.

In the fall of ’64, I was trapping beaver

up in the Colorado Territory.

Took my mule up into the mountains

to find some bear,

and I came upon a place where the mountain

dropped off sharp into a valley that wound in and out.

I had a feeling no man had ever been there before.

There was buffalo.

Scattered all over like a great black sea.

Fall fur, but thicker and better than a winter

for all the plains grazers.

Maybe 10,000 head.

That’s the country of the devil.

Charley lost that hand up in the Rockies.

He… He ain’t liked mountain country since.

Hellfire and ice. Ain’t no place for human man.

Why haven’t you gone back since?


I haven’t been able to get together

the right kind of party for it.

What kind, uh, do you need?

The kind where it’ll be my hunt.


Could you get a party up, this late in the year, yeah?

I could.

But I need about $500 or $600 to do it.


that’s about all I got.

Now, you know

McDonald’s guys can go out

and bring in small load after small load,

but this will be one of the biggest hauls

anyone has ever seen.

A hunt like this happens once in a lifetime.

You wasting my time, son?

No. No, sir.

Good. Alright.

Good. [Laughs]

Now all we need is a skinner,

and we’re going to need a good one

because he’s going to have to break you in.


[Pats table]

Here’s to it. [Clink]

[Chuckles] [Clink]

[Liquid pouring]

[Indistinct conversations, laughter]


[Jaunty tune plays] [Carousing]

Mr. Andrews.

[Laughs] [Thudding nearby]

[Glass shatters] Let’s go.



[Slam] Whoo-hoo! Oh!

You… You have such a nice place here.

I have the only rug in town.

I think you’re

really nice, um,

and very nice-looking, uh.

Are you ashamed of me?

No, I just…

I’ve never met a lady like you before.

You’re very young.

All the men here are old and hard.

But for now, you’re…

young and soft.

[Bed creaking]



Will, what’s wrong?

[Bed creaking] I can’t.


[Footsteps depart]

[Door creaks open]

[Door closes]

[Footsteps approach]

[Glasses clinking]

[Footsteps approach] [Grunts]

Will, this here’s Fred Schneider.

He’s a hell of a skinner.

My God.

Hello, lady.

Hello to you.


You’re something special.

Alright, go on, now, Francine.

We got some business

to talk about. Mm-hmm.

Thank you.

Where we going?

Colorado Territory.


You ain’t said nothing about no mountain country.

That’s what I wanted to show you.

The land’s nearly level, right up to where we’re going.

It’s too much of a gamble.

Be gone two or three months,

you might have nothing to show for it.

Fred, I have a real herd staked out.

We won’t be gone longer than six weeks.

There’s real herds 30, 40 miles from here.

Their hides are thin as paper!

This will be big!

Make more money than you’ll know what to do with. [Scoffs]

Well, at least I ain’t completely wasted my time.

‘Cause that’s about the prettiest whore I ever saw,

and I’ve seen a good many fucking whores.

Fred, you’ve worked with me before.

You know I wouldn’t lead you into something

that wasn’t good. You hear me?

I know for a fact

that you ain’t been out in that country

for eight or nine years.

Nobody else would go with you.

That’s the only reason you’re talking to me.

That’s just fine, then.

There’s a couple of skinners staying at the bunkhouse.

I’ll go see them in the morning.

Calm down.


[Liquid pours]

I’ll do it, but I ain’t taking no shares.

Taking no chances.

I’ll take $60 a month straight.

That starts the day we leave here

and it ends the day we get back. [Scoffs]

You think you’re the first one

Miller tried to get in on this deal?

He’s been talking about that herd so long,

everyone thinks he made it up!

You can still back out.

Miller will be mad, but he won’t make no trouble.

He’s a damn good hunter…

[Hushed] …but he’s never had a big kill.

But… But I’ve given him

my word. Christ! I’ll send you out

with one of my parties.

You won’t be gone more than three, four days!

No, no, thank you, sir.

I just wanted to let you know my plans.

You don’t listen to a word a man says.

[Buffalo rumbling]


Look at that!


That’s just a little, itty-bitty herd.

Ain’t never seen a herd so little in the old days.

I’ve stood in a place like this.

All you could see was black.

A hundred thousand buffalo, packed in so tight,

you could walk on their backs.

You’ll see them again, like we used to.

I ain’t got my hopes up too high.

[Buffalo lowing]

Hard up. [Laughs]

That was before you found the Lord.

I’m going to go back to the wagon

and blow my fucking brains out.


What you got there is saddle rot.

You better let it have some air.

That’ll creep up to your balls,

make ’em swell like grapefruits. No bullshit.

It’ll take some getting used to.

Couple days of riding, you’ll be alright.

[Whooping in distance]

What’s that?

Buffalo hunters.

Probably one of McDonald’s outfits.

They’re going too fast.

Can’t have many hides.

Ain’t worth a damn.

Nothing out here but stragglers.

Worthless living.

If all you got’s stragglers,

then you hunt the stragglers, don’t you?

♪ I went upon a spree ♪

♪ With money at last, I spent it fast ♪

♪ And got drunk as drunk can be ♪

♪ And when me money all was gone ♪

[Continues singing indistinctly]


[Continues singing indistinctly]

[Owl hooting]

Where are we going?

Leaving the trail.

If you want to resupply, how are we going to do that,

if not at Fort Wallace?

There’s a new outpost in the foothills.

That’s Indian Country to the north.

You’re going to cut us right through it!

That’s a fact, Fred, but there’s no way around it.

Son of a bitch. [Horse snorts]

He’s going to get us killed.

[Suspenseful music plays]

My father’s a minister.

Well, I’ll be, boy.

I was saved by a traveling preacher in Kansas City.

There’s the outpost, straight ahead.

He’s the one who gave me the Book,

opened me up to God, and kept me from the devil.

So, you’re a God-fearing man yourself.

Why fear God?

You don’t know?

I guess you don’t know.

You’ll see.

[Laughs] You’ll see.

[Door creaking, thudding]

[Sighs] They cut the poor bastard’s balls off.

They don’t like hunters.

Savages. [Cocks gun]

You wanted Indians, here’s your Indians.

We need water.

We’re low ourselves.

Where you folks come from?

We’re lost.

We got separated from our party.

They don’t look well. Should’ve known the land

before heading out.

We need help.

I don’t mind.

Stop. Please.

Head south here till you hit the Smokey Hill Trail.

Fort Wallace is 60 miles west.

[Cocks gun] Get your hands off that rifle.


God ain’t got no mercy for the foolhardy.


[Wheels rattling]

Where we going, Miller?


We’re bound to hit water tonight or early in the morning.

Shit, this is a big country out here.

We’re not bound to do anything.

How long has it been since you was out here?

There’s water for a body who knows where it is, Fred.

It ain’t too late to turn south.

Day, day and a half, we’ll run into the Arkansas.

That’d put us more than a week off.

I know this country, Fred.

You don’t know it so well,

you don’t get lost in it, do you?

Goddamn it.

I got half a mind to cut outta here on my own.

We’re damn near out of water. You won’t make it.

You don’t know this country.

Now, there’s no need to get in a panic.

I’ll get you water. I’ll get you water,

if I have to dig for it myself.


What do you say? It’s your money.

We made it this far.

L-Let’s stick with Miller.

Come on.

You don’t look like you ever been thirsty a day in your life.

Not real thirsty.

[Birds cheeping]

You ain’t hoping to find water like that, I hope.

[Horses grunting]

[Horse snorts] Okay.

Okay, okay. [Horse snorts]

Keep the swelling down.

I don’t think they’ll last another day.

Let’s get the animals moving.

[Distantly] We stop now,

we’ll never start again.

[Distantly] We’re not going to make it another day

unless we find water.





[Bell ringing]


Why fear God?


I hope to find a stronger purpose…

Miller! Meaning…

in my life.


You’ll see.

[Panting] You’ll see.

[Horse grumbles]


[Water splashing]


Aah! Oh! Oh.

You disappear in this country, you’re gone!

[Water splashing]


Ah! Get up there! Hup! Hup!

Oi, get up there now!

Ah! Ah! Ah!

Get up there!


There it is!

Just beyond that peak.


And push!



That’s it.

[Horse neighs]


[Distantly] The air’s thin up here.

You got to move easy, alright?

[Horse neighs]

[Distantly] Push!





[Birds chirping]

You can only see a small part of it from here.

I’ll be damned.

And by some buffalo.

My God.

[Echoing] Whoo!


This is God, Charley!

This is God!

[Distantly] Easy does it, young fella.


Charley, this is what I wanted to see.



[Flames crackling]

Well, that was a hell of a trip. [Clears throat]

Wasn’t so bad.


“Wasn’t so bad.”

Son of a bitch.

He said it wasn’t so bad.


How about you, Mr. Andrews?

Did you get your money’s worth?

Well, Fred, you know, we’re here, so, yeah. [Sniffs]


You are about as much fun as a one-legged whore.

One-legged and one-armed.


Shit, I gotta piss.


It wasn’t so bad. Dirty, filthy son of a whore.

He’s got the taint in him.

He’s tough on the nerves, Charley,

but we’ll have to tolerate him.

I do, um, I do have a question.



Hunting buffalo.

I mean, it’s clearly dangerous, hard work, uh,

there’s no guarantee of a payoff, and…

there’s many other ways to make a living, so,




[Metal clanks]


There’s a way to killing buffalo.

Through the lungs is the best shot,

if you’re meeting them head-on.

[Click] [Grunts]

But if you’re coming from the side,

aim just below the shoulder.

Heart shot.


You got to get the

leader of the herd, first.

You can’t tell just from looking.

Something you gotta



You can never know what a buff is thinking.

All a man can do is just plow into them,

kill them when he can,

and not try

to figure anything out.

You think too much, you get yourself into trouble.



They can hear and smell us at distance,

so we stay downwind.

[Hooves thundering in distance]

[Tender tune joins]

Wind’s just right.

At distance,

bit of wind will push or pull it a foot or more.

[Gun cocks]


[Hooves thundering]

[Breathing deeply]

See the big one with the scars?

Hide ain’t worth a damn.

That’s the leader.



[Buffalo grumbling]


You missed.

I didn’t miss.

A heart shot buffalo will go 100 yards sometimes

before it falls.

[Hooves thundering]

[Buffalo rumbles]




We got the leader,

so they won’t run so far the next time.

That there’s the one they’re following now.

Through the lungs. Watch.


[Buffalo rumbling]

[Buffalo rumbling]

[Buffalo sniffing]

I got them.

By God!

I’ve got them buffaloed.

Run back to the camp. Gave me a fresh rifle

and more cartridges.

Bring back a bucket of water. Get!

[Cocking gun]

[Gunshot] [Buffalo grunts]

Those darn buffalo,

they just stand there and they let him shoot them.

Yeah, but I never seen it so fast.

You better hope they run pretty quick,

else we’ll be skinning all night.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

He taketh away and, if you’re lucky, He giveth back again.


How many we get?

Clean ‘er out. She’s getting caked inside.





Damn it!

A lick shy.

Think about what a bump’s going to do,

and you get yourself into trouble.

I could’ve had the whole herd!

Your head?

The whole herd!



It was a big stand, huh?

I never had bigger.

You and Fred start skinning now.

He’s going to need your help.





This cutting edge, that’ll last you all day,

almost, without having to resharpen.

You can see here how thick that gets.

Getting through that’s a bitch.

Things start coming across.

Don’t happen quick.



I always keep the balls.

Those are good eatin’ and put starch in your pecker.



And we start coming off of here.

[Birds chirping]





Give this to Charley.

It’ll keep us from getting sick.





O Lord!

Do you deliver us from evil?

Come get it.

Come get it.

[Flames crackling]

Miller, um,

what was Charley doing earlier,

with the powder?

It’s wolf poison.

That was strychnine he was using.

He does that, we won’t have any trouble with wolves.

He thinks wolves are the devil himself, Charley does.

And the… the rock circle?

Oh. What was that?

These are all Indian burial grounds.

I chose a sacred place to camp.

So, we’re not the first

to hunt this herd, after all, then.

Those Indians have been hunting these here buffalo for ages.

But times are changing.

Ain’t that right, Charley?


Oh, nothing, no thing is permanent.

The eyes of our Lord are upon us from the very beginning of time

to the end of days.

Ain’t that right?


how do you know Fred?

He’s… He’s a… He’s a savage desperado.

He’s like a damn bandito, isn’t he?

Don’t trust him, far as I could pick him up and throw him.

Why would you hire him, then?

It’s hard to find a skinner

who ain’t had a brush with the law.

Makes a good hand, works hard, works fast.

Most don’t run their mouths off quite like him.

Boo! [Laughs]

Did you have to do that so loud?!

My ears are still ringing from the rifle.

I was getting damn sick of your cooking, Hoge.



All a body needs now is a woman.

It’s carnal temptation of the woman’s flesh that’ll getcha.

[Chuckles] You saying you ain’t never had a woman, Charley?


Well, I guess you still got one good arm to pull your pecker.


Ah, shit.

You remember that little whore, back in Butcher’s?

What was her name?


Francine, that’s right.

That’s a damn pretty whore.

Eh, Jezebel, shit-ass whore.

Work of the devil is what it is.

That’s the first thing I’m going to do when I get back…

see old Francine.

I reckon she’s pretty heated up for you, Will,

way she was looking at you.

I didn’t notice that.


You didn’t notice?

You sure as shit noticed.

Well, how was she?

Give us all the details.

Was she your first? [Grumble]


You ain’t even had her.

Look at him.

That’s the finest piece of tail I ever saw.

He ain’t even had her.

That’s enough, Fred.

Out here, thinking about what you can’t have

will drop you off your feed.

Ah, lighten up, Miller.

What else are we going to talk about out here, killing animals?

Not when young Will here’s in love.



I can’t wait to get back to St. Louis myself.


Women, pocketful of money,

some good eats. You like it too high, Fred.

You like it too high.

Yeah, too high.

I’ll be damned, too high.

I know you.

This ain’t no living, out here.

Ripping hides off dead animals in the middle of nowhere.

Hell no.

[Buffalo grumbling]

Alright, just breathe easy and don’t overthink it.




Miller, there’s no sense shooting more

than we can skin. [Sighs]


Now, I told you before that I’m not skinning stiff buff.

I told you that.

I’ll help with the skinning, if need be, but help you or not,

you will skin them, Fred.

You’ll skin them if they’re bloated.

You’ll skin them if they’re froze.

You’ll skin them if you have to pry their hides off

with a goddamn crowbar!

Fred, when you crawl away from here,

you crawl away quietly.

These buffalo spook,

I’ll shoot you.

Goddamn it.

Give me a fresh one.



You know, the Indians used to use this bone

for just about everything.

Everything from needles to war clubs

and make a knife out of it so sharp,

it’d split you right in two.

Toys for the little ones and combs for the women.

I’ve seen necklaces carved so pretty out of this stuff,

you’d think it was made in St. Louis.

Goddamn waste.

We don’t belong out here.

God’s always watching you.

Wherever you go, there He is, watching you.

[Grunts, chuckles]








This will clean you out.

[Gagging] Drink it.

Drink it!


[Buffalo rumbling]

[Rumbling continues]

[Woman grunts]

[Buffalo rumbling]

[Bed creaking]

[Woman panting]

[Bellowing] Miller!





[Screeching] Miller!


[Screech] [Gunshot]

[Gasps] [Singing indistinctly]

[Howling in distance]

Getting damn sick of buffalo meat.

Damn sick of it.

Hey, goddamn it!

You hear me?!

I said I’m sick of buffalo meat!

We’ve been here three weeks.

That’s a week longer than we were supposed to be here.

Whaddya say we pack it out of here tomorrow?

Nights are getting cold.

There ain’t no telling what the weather’s going to do

this time of year. Isn’t that right, Charley?

Leave Charley alone.

Miller, goddamn it.

Even if we stay,

how are we going to get all them hides back?

[Suspenseful music plays]

We load what we can now,

come back in the spring and pack out the rest.

I know what that means.

That means you want to stay here

until you wiped out the whole herd.

It’s my party.

You can’t kill every goddamn buffalo

in the whole goddamn country!

Eat some buffalo meat!

[Flames whoosh]

You’re a goddamn lunatic!

Miller, I…


He’s right.

We’ve been here long enough.

How many more are you going to get?

When we’re done, we’ll sure have something to show for it.

We have something to show.


We got enough.


What are we still doing out here?!

I’m out here to hunt buffalo,

haul back their hides, and sell them.



[Buffalo rumbles]


Think you can step on my head?


You can… [Panting]

take your 2,000 pounds and try to

crush my skull in? [Gunshot]



Now, you’re all going to die.







I’m not fucking smiling.


[Hooves thundering]

Trying to get out of the valley. I need some help.

Well, there ain’t but 200 of them left.

Why don’t you let them go?

Get on your horse.

Will, get on your horse.

I’ll head down valley 200 yards.

All you have to do is stay here, quiet, and don’t spook ’em.

[Hoofbeats depart]

Do buffalo ever go crazy?




Do buffalo ever go crazy?!

[Buffalo rumbling]

Easy, easy, now.

[Cocking gun]

[Gunshot] [Horse neighs]

Goddamn it, Will!

[Gunshot] Stop!

[Gunshot] [Horse neighs]

Goddamn it, Will!

Go! Go!

Get outta here! Leave!


[Buffalo rumbling]

[Gunshot] [Horse neighs]




You damn fool!

You scattered them!

Is it worth your fucking life?!



You goddamn fool!

What happened? Scared my bison!

Now, we’ll be here another week longer or more.

Damn, let’s go.

You said it’d be alright.

You said we’d get out before the snow comes.

Let the animals lead us back to camp.

Come on.

I told you I didn’t want to come.

I told you.

[Shouting indistinctly]

Hey! We need cover!

She’s coming in fast!


Step up!

[Wind whipping]

[Shouts indistinctly]




Help me drag this hide.


Fred! Get over here!


Have you gone crazy, Fred?!

I’m taking care of myself!

You’ve never been through one of these blizzards!

Oh, leave me alone, goddamn it!

I know what to do.

[Grunting] Will.


As quietly as you can.

The more you move around, the more likely you are

to get froze.


[Wind whipping] [Shuddering]

[Wind howling]

[Wind whipping]

[Bird squawking]



You alright, boy?


Jesus Christ!

Can’t see a fucking thing.




Hit my fingers,

and my feet are damn near froze.


I’ll wake Charley and…

we’ll head back to camp.

Get a fire going.

I’ll take a look at that pass.



Well, how’d it look?

Huh? How’d it look? Ah!



We’re snowed in good.

I couldn’t get within a half mile of that pass.

I told you sons of bitches we had to get out of here.

You didn’t listen to me, and now,

look what you’ve gotten us into. Goddamn it!

How long will we have to be here?

We’re here until that pass thaws,

which won’t be until spring.



Six months, at the least;

eight months, at the most, so.

Might as well dig in good and get ourselves set

for a long wait. Unh-unh.

[Moaning] Not this feller here, huh-unh.

No, this feller here’s going to get himself out.

If you can find a way, Fred, you go to it.

Is the pass the only way out?

Unless you want to walk up over them mountains.

What’s wrong with that?! You can’t live off the land

in the high country in the winter.

We should at least try it!

We have to try it!

You ever try to wait out a storm

on the side of a mountain?

You wouldn’t last an hour.

Especially you.

Well, it’s a chance. I’ll take it!

There ain’t nothing between here and Denver, Fred!

And Denver’s a long way off!

Well, pick me out some landmarks, goddamn it!

I’ll… I’ll find it on my own!

We need to get a fort set up before nightfall.

Fuck it.

I’ll sit here on my

fat ass

and I’ll collect my $60 a month.

And I want my money.

You better get that belt out and give me that money.

I trusted you.

It’ll be alright, Charley.

“It’ll be alright, Charley.”

I’m cold, is all.

It’s just that I’m cold.

Any-Anybody, anybody.

[Creature trills] [Muttering]

I fell asleep a little

and they throw my ass out in the cold?

They can burn in hell.


[Howling in distance]


[Footsteps approach]

No buffalo.

We ain’t got much meat left,

and the flour’s ruined.

We got one more sack of beans.

We ain’t too high to find game.

I’ll go out tomorrow and get us something.

Ow! You see the stock?

Oh, yeah.

They made it through, with luck.

With luck. Fred, I swear, you ain’t got

a cheerful bone in your body.

You got no call to complain.

I got call, and you know I got call.


How’s about a little story?

[Clears throat]

It says here, in the beginning there was

the heavens and the earth.

And it also says the heavens… That’s my Book!

She was formless.

That ain’t yours! That’s mine!

Give it back, you little cocksucker!

Now, Charley, is this the kind of God

that you believe in, huh,

one that does bullshit like this?

You get your greasy, thieving hands off…

That’s enough!

Here’s your Book right there.

No! Oh!


Oh, shit.

I’ll get you another Book when we get back, Charley.


Bleeding blasphemer!

I can’t hear what you’re saying, Charley,

but it doesn’t sound good.

Can’t you ever shut up?!



[Crying out]

You got any more in that pot, Hoge?


Yeah. There you go.




Oh, thank you, Charley.



[Wind whipping]



[Birds cawing]


[Birds squawking]

[Birds chirping]

[Panting, straining]

[Panting, straining]



Okay, Fred?

Something ain’t right.

I got the stomach of a buff.

[Flames crackling]


[Hushed] Hey!


You want to die out here?

Is that what you want, huh?

Look at me.

Miller’s gone crazy.

He’s crazy.

He ain’t even here.

And I ain’t gonna die for no fucking buffalo.

You hear me? I ain’t gonna do it.

We can get outta here.

You and…

[Scoffs] You and me,

we can slip out at night.

Will, help me dress this down.


You goddamn coward.



[Exhales forcefully]

[Birds chirping]

[Flames crackling]


[Liquid sloshing]


We can get through.

I went clean through the other side of the pack.

40, 50 yards of hard pack,

then clean as a whistle after that.

We can get through it easy.



Want to get loaded up?

We aren’t taking a chance on a cave-in!

Get those horses buried

under a couple of tons of wet snow and then what?


Aren’t you even going to go look?!

Still got a few days.

We’ll wait.


We’re going to wait.

[Echoing] All we’ve been doing is waiting!

Goddamn it.

Fuck you looking at?




Will, come with me.

Let’s get more wood.

[Owl hoots]

[Glass clinking]

What I couldn’t figure out…

if we were all eating the same thing…

why was I the only one getting sick?

I-I-I-I don’t know what… what you’re talking about.

Th-That’s for the wolves.

What’s that say in your Book, Charley, about killing?

If you going to kill a man, you ought to give him

a lethal dose, Charley.

‘Cause dying by degrees, that makes a man suspicious.

Now, suspicion, that ain’t a sin, is it, Charley?

[Crying out]

Oh, God!



Help me…


[Thudding] [Crying out]


[Sobbing] Oh!

Help me. [Crying out]

Oh! Ah-ah-ooh!




Going somewhere, Fred?


He tried to kill me with wolf poison.

Goddamn snake.

[Cocks gun]

I always knew you were a coward, Fred.

He tried to goddamn kill me.

I gotta get outta here, Miller.

I can’t stand this anymore.

If I didn’t need your help getting off this mountain…


[Birds chirping]


[Melancholy tune plays]



How long you think we’ll be getting back to Butcher’s?

Less than a fortnight. We’ll get back quicker

than we came.

I don’t think I’ll hardly stop.

Just get some greens on my belly

and slosh it with some whiskey.

See that girl some.

Then I’ll be off to St. Louis.

You’ll never see me again.


[Tender tune plays]



We’re too top-heavy, goddamn it!

We’re top-heavy as hell, I’m telling you.

We’re not going to make it down.

If we take it careful, the axles will hold.

Hold on.


Whoa, whoa, whoa.


Easy, now, easy.

[Grunts] Easy.

We’re carrying 1,500 hides.

Better than 3,000 back at the camp.

So, 4,700 in all.

My God, that’s better than $18,000!

I don’t ever recall a hunt being that big.

I’m going to ride into Butcher’s Crossing

with a real load.

Watch their eyes pop out of their heads.

Hey, Fred!

You thought I was crazy?

You thought I was fooling around?

You’re going to be a rich man!

[Wagon creaking]

I asked for $60 a month, I been getting it.

Fred Schneider takes care of hisself.

Don’t ask nobody for nothing.

[Wood groaning]

Easy, now, easy.

Step up.

Step up.

[Creaking] Easy.

[Wood groaning]

Miller, goddamn it.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.


[Bellowing] Miller!






[Suspenseful music plays]

Where is everybody?


[Glass clinking] [Mutters]

Where’s McDonald?

[Door bangs]


Who’s that?!

What are you doing in here?

My God!

I’d given you up for dead.

You found your buffalo?

Biggest kill that ever come through this territory.

Just like I said it would be.


[Screaming laughter]

[Gagging, coughing]

Ain’t you looked around you?

The bottom’s dropped out of the whole market.

The hide business is finished, for good.

You’re finished!

You… We had an agreement.

$4 apiece for prime hides, and I aim to hold you to it.

I wish you could, but you can’t hold me to nothing

because I got nothing.

If you’d have gotten back when you were supposed to,

you would’ve got your money!

Those hides down at the pits I bought and paid for

when you was in the mountains,

I got 30,000, 40,000,

worth 10 cents apiece!

You want them?!

Just last year, prime hides…

That was last year! $4 apiece.

You remember beaver?

When they stopped wearing beaver hats, you couldn’t give the skins away.

Looks like everybody who owns a buffalo rope has one and nobody wants any more! I got 3,000 hides, winter prime, cached up in the mountains!

You don’t listen to me, do you?!




You had your hunt.

Yes, sir.

Yes, sir.

You lost your tail, just like I told you you would.

Tell me, boy… was it worth it?

I saw what I needed to see, sir.


Young folk.

Always think there’s something to find out.

Not enough to get a job and work.

Have to find something bigger.


[Continues laughing]

[Wheezing laughter]





For now, you’re young and soft.



[Flames crackling]

[In distance] He’s gone crazy!

[Shouting outdoors]

[Flames crackling]

What is he doing?!

Someone get the buckets.

Worked so hard for this.

I can’t believe he’s burning it all down.

He’s burning all the hides! Goddamn drunk!

[Indistinct shouting in distance]

We got to put this thing out!


[Indistinct shouting in distance]

[Indistinct shouting in distance]

Why doesn’t someone do something?!

My God!

My God!


[Horse neighing]

[Muffled shouting]

[Horse neighing] Oh!

[Hooves striking]

[Horse neighing]


In 1860, an estimated 60 million bison roamed the American West.

Two decades later, the bison population plunged to fewer than 300.

Today, there are approximately 30,000 bison in North America.

Native American tribes have helped conserve the bison population and it’s regarded as one of the greatest conservation stories of all time.
In 2016, the American bison was named the “National Mammal”.

This film was shot on land owned by the Blackfeet Nation in Montana.

All buffalo featured in the film were handled by the Blackfeet Tribe Buffalo Program.

It is their mission to care for the bison restored to their ancestral homelands, conserve wildlife habitat, aid in tribal food sovereignty, and revitalize buffalo culture.



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