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"As the snow recedes, exposing the earth, more of the bones Jane and I first saw are exposed as well. They are everywhere. One can hardly walk without stepping on them. They belong, we are told, to the buffalo that once populated this land by the millions. Papa says the beasts were slaughtered by white hunters who came before use and are coming here still. I try to imagine their living forms, their humped backs, their pounding hooves. They must have been fine to see."
Polly Rodgers[3]

Land of the Buffalo Bones: The Diary of Mary Elizabeth Rodgers, an English Girl in Minnesota is a fictional diary by Marion Dane Bauer. It is Bauer's first and only entry in Dear America and the thirty-first book in the series overall. The book was published in April 2003 by Scholastic. It was followed by Love Thy Neighbor.

Polly Rodgers' father organizes a colony to immigrate to Minnesota, where they face unforeseen problems.


"For my mother, Elsie Lillian Hempstead Dane Barker"

Book description[]

"Monday, 8 September
"We are cursed," Mother Rodgers said. "God never wanted us to come to this land."
I thought of Ozawa and his people, starving because so much of the game had been killed off by and for our people. I thought of the bleached bones that covered the earth... I looked at the bleakness of this house, like a cave carved out of the earth, and at the bleakness of the land, stripped of all that could sustain life.... And I looked at the face of my stepmother, he eyes deeply shadowed, her mouth tight to hold back her misery.
And I thought,
She is right...we are surely cursed. "


In March 1873, fourteen-year-old Mary "Polly" Rodgers and her large family are heading across the Atlantic Ocean to America. The trip was organized by her father, the Rev. Dr. George Rodgers, who made a deal with the Northern Pacific Railroad to bring a colony to Minnesota. The voyage is a hard on the passengers, including Polly's beloved brother Cal who is sick the entire way. A tragedy strikes her best friend, Jane Thompson, when her brother passes away from a serious illness.

After reaching New York City, the colonists board a train to their new home. It takes several days to reach the site, which is to be called New Yeovil. They are first shocked to find themselves trapped in snow in the middle of April. Next, they find many of the Railroad's promises to be empty. The townspeople direct their anger at Polly's father, feeling he failed to describe this new land accurately. Later, while Jane's father is away, her mother drowns herself, having been depressed since her son's passing.

The townspeople agree to build the pastor's family a house, specifically one of sod. Polly's stepmother, Emily, not exactly excited about having a house made of "dirt", makes the best of it by planting flowers on the roof. In July, Polly and Jane meet an Indian named Ozawa. Polly later begins to suspect that Jane sees Ozawa in secret. During this time, Jane becomes withdrawn and her father starts drinking heavily. In September, the town experiences a disaster when they are visited by a plague of locusts.

Worried about Jane, Polly asks her to make a vow, promising to help each other. After Christmas, Cal and her half-sister Laura fall gravely ill. Polly goes to Jane, who gives her a remedy that heals the two. In the spring, Jane comes to Polly to have her go with her to the Indian reservation. A few days later, Polly and her father entreat her to return home at Jane's father's request. She refuses and Polly's father compromises by marrying her to Ozawa. Perhaps the last straw, the town decides to no longer have him as their pastor. As they leave, Polly realizes how much she loved her new home despite the hardships.


Historical Note[]


Main article: List of Land of the Buffalo Bones characters
  • Mary "Polly" Rodgers, the fourteen-year-old daughter of Reverend George Rodgers. Like the townspeople, she slowly loses faith in her father after immigrating to Minnesota.
  • George Rodgers is a pastor who organizes a colony to create a settlement called New Yeovil. An impractical man, he fails to recognize the shortcomings of the land.
  • Emily Rodgers is Polly's stepmother who she coldly refers to as "Mother Rodgers." She quickly becomes a strong and hardened woman from the trials and problems she faces in this new land.


Main article: Marion Dane Bauer

Marion Dane Bauer is a children's author who grew up in a small town located in Northern Illinois. After teaching high school English for a short time, she began a career in writing. She focuses on contemporary novels for young people. When asked to write for Dear America, Bauer agreed only if she could use her family's story. She spent a year researching her great-grandfather, George Rodgers, and other Great Plains settlers. Bauer wrote the novel for her mother, whom she described as "the keeper of family stories."


"Many thanks to Robert A. Brecken, editor of the 1972 Hawley Centennial book Journey Back to Hawley. Few communities have so through and professional an accounting of their founding and their first one hundred years as that fine book affords.
Thanks to Mark Peihl, archivist of the Clay County Historical Society, for his assistance with photos, and to the McCone family, who built the Sod House B&B, for providing me with a true frontier experience.
My appreciation to my cousin Mabel Jackman, daughter of Elva, the last child to be born into the Rodgers family. She is the only one in the family who remembers Mary Ann Elizabeth Rodgers, and she gave me the gift of the name Polly.
My thanks, as always, to my partner, Ann Goddard, who accompanied me on more than one trip to Hawley, stayed overnight with me in the Sod House B&B, and tromped with me through miles of restored tall-grass prairie, despite a very thorough aversion to snakes.
Finally, I thank my mother, who gave me the foundations for this story.


  • The portrait on the cover is a detail of a photograph provided by the New York Historical Society. The background is a detail of a photograph provided by the Minnesota Historical Society.[4]


  2. Present-day Hawley, Minnesota
  3. Land of the Buffalo Bones, Marion Dane Bauer, page 53
  4. Land of the Buffalo Bones, Marion Dane Bauer, page 220

See also[]

Dear America

A Journey to the New World | The Winter of Red Snow | When Will This Cruel War Be Over? | A Picture of Freedom
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
West to a Land of Plenty | Dreams in the Golden Country | Standing in the Light | Voyage on the Great Titanic
A Line in the Sand | My Heart Is on the Ground | The Great Railroad Race | The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
A Light in the Storm | Color Me Dark | A Coal Miner's Bride | My Secret War | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
Valley of the Moon | Seeds of Hope | Early Sunday Morning | My Face to the Wind | Christmas After All
A Time for Courage | Where Have All the Flowers Gone? | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall | Survival in the Storm
When Christmas Comes Again | Land of the Buffalo Bones | Love Thy Neighbor | All the Stars in the Sky
Look to the Hills | I Walk in Dread | Hear My Sorrow


The Fences Between Us | Like the Willow Tree | Cannons at Dawn | With the Might of Angels | Behind the Masks
Down the Rabbit Hole | A City Tossed and Broken

External links[]