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Press Photo by Jennifer McBride Randy Holler, Hettinger, shows how this form will be transformed into a buffalo mount Tuesday in Hettinger. Once complete, volunteers will take the buffalo to the Dakota Buttes Museum, where it will on display.

Hettinger project a beast

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Hettinger project a beast
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

HETTINGER -- A display in a Miles City, Mont. museum caught Dan Merwin's attention as a teenager and gave him an idea. Soon the 86-year-old Hettinger man will be able to look his longstanding vision in the eyes as it stands stoically at the Dakota Buttes Museum.


"We had so many buffalo in the area so I though it would be wonderful to have a big bull buffalo in our museum," he said.

Merwin's idea took off and soon the community was coming together to get the Buffalo Heritage Project started. Organizers held a raffle and the winner hunted and shot the buffalo in early January. Area ranchers Jim Strand and Don Archibald were instrumental in locating and donating the bull. The 2,000-pound animal was butchered and meat prepared for consumption. Dakota Packing Co. salted and cured the hide

Volunteers, including Randy Holler, prepped the buffalo in the field and now Holler is taking on quite a task.

The award-winning taxidermist is putting together the mount.

"I think it's important," Holler said. "It's a symbol of our heritage around here and will be a nice addition to the museum that people are interested in."

He has put together everything from weasels to deer, but never anything of this size. The form weighs about 160 pounds and the hide, about 150.

"The biggest challenge is the size," Holler said. "It's bulky, it's heavy and you don't just throw it on the table and sew it up."

His 17-year-old daughter Whitney will be helping with the project along with, "a couple of other area taxidermists who don't know it yet," Holler jokes.

The museum has large garage doors to wheel in what will likely be a 500-pound mount once complete. The goal is May 1.

The bull was an older bull that would have been harvested, even if it wasn't for the project, Holler said.

The Adams County Historical Society runs the museum.

"It is being done completely by a volunteer committee outside of the historical society and they are doing it just because they believe in it," Bonnie Smith, society vice president said of the project.

The display will include the buffalo on a base, which includes grasses so it looks like it is in a natural setting, along with dioramas of the history of buffalo in the area, Holler said. The display will cost between $6,000 and $8,000 and take about 120 hours, for the mount alone, he said, adding businesses and individuals have made donations.

The museum houses historical artifacts for the benefit of the public, Smith said. "It is the history of the life and times of the people of the area."

"It's been so fun. We set our goals high financially and we passed that in less than two months," Smith said. "It really hit a nerve in the area -- there are a lot of people who want this done."

Community involvement is nothing new to the museum. Three years ago 160-plus volunteers physically helped renovate the museum, Smith said.

"The museum belongs to the community and the area," she said.

The museum is located at 400 11th St. S. Call 701-567-4429 to see the museum during the winter.