Buffalo Plaid - its Origins
Malboro Man wore it . . . Roy Rogers wore it . . . Tom Mix wore
it . . . as did the mythical Paul Bunyan, legendary lumberjack of a
thousand comic strips. And no self-respecting gunslinging cowboy
would be seen without it . . . .Buffalo Plaid . . . as American as
apple pie! Or is it?
Officially, Buffalo Plaid or check is " plaid with
large blocks formed by the intersection of two different color
yarns, typically red and black." Hang on a minute . . . .isn' that
the Rob Roy tartan? It most certainly is and it's said that
it was introduced to north America by a descendant of Rob Roy - one
'Jock McCluskey' sometime lawman, bounty hunter, fur trapper, gold
miner and eventually Indian trader.
In the Indians' eyes, McCluskey was no ordinary white man. Awed by
his strength and size, he was hailed an invincible warrior. Both
feared and revered, he was equally admired for his compassion. In
the anti-Indian holocaust that followed Custer's Last
Stand, he was a rare white man indeed who dared to champion
their cause. His reasons were as simple as they were personal:
Their persecution and plight mirrored his own family clan' descent
from nobility to hunted criminals.
Befriended by the Indians, McCluskey became one of the era's near
vanished middlemen: A white man welcome among the Indians
who effortlessly mingled between two warring rivals without fear or
retribution. From the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne, McCluskey bartered
for buffalo pelts, offering a myriad of finished goods in exchange,
the most coveted among the Indians were the heavy woven Scottish
blankets, their dense, hearty weave colourfully emblazoned with his
clan tartan' signature red-and-black colours.
According to McCluskey's great nephew, Gregor McCluskey, Sioux and
Cheyenne warriors were in awe of its colour. None had ever seen
such a deep, rich red. They believed its intensely rich hue of red
to be a sorcorer's hex, a dye distilled from the spirit blood
and ghostly souls of McCluskey's prey and enemies, a belief
McCluskey did little to correct. Worn in battle and draped across
their war ponies, it was prized as a good luck talisman and revered
as a spirit guardian that would deliver immortality, even in the
face of death itself.
Sioux and Cheyenne warriors called it " plaid" (the Gaelic for
it was pronounced pladjer) as did U.S. Army outpost and
fort traders who bought McCluskey's bartered skins and plaids.
Hence was born, sometime in the late 1880s, the unique and
confusing American term plaid referring to tartan itself
rather than the use to which it was put. It was a very short
step from there to the tartan of McCluskey's Rob Roy blankets
becoming known as Buffalo plaid.