Chapter 4: Ecosystems at your service in South America
Spend time in Patagonia as a tourist from the United States and you are bound to imagine what the American West might have been like 200 years ago. Envision a scene with enormous and almost unpopulated lands where settlers have created a fascinating relationship with an extreme environment. Two of the early “settlers” to both the “Wild West” and to Patagonia were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. While fishing the Limay River in Patagonia, I was not lucky enough to catch fish but was fortunate enough to come across an old hangout of Cassidy and the Kid. Being from Montana, where Cassidy’s posse, the Hole-in-the-Wall gang, pulled off their last job – a holdup of a Union Pacific train – before fleeing to South America, I was happy with this historical find. Legend has it that Cassidy became friends with Jarred Jones who ventured down to Argentina from Texas in 1887 to make his fortune. Jones did not discover gold but he did manage to open a general store at the mouth of the Limay. The old store, which is now a restaurant, still holds the shop’s books, old photos, and a frontier atmosphere of a century ago. Jones earned enough money at the store to purchase two large ranches, which he fenced off with barbed wire. As the story goes, this was the first of this novel material to be seen in Argentina. Today, barbed wire is strung across much of the Patagonian Steppe (an area nearly the size of Alaska) to enclose vast quantities of sheep.
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