Encounters With Buffalo
Sadly and ironically, the surest way to ensure that buffalo are preserved from going extinct is to eat them, and they make a delicious burger if cooked with a pat of butter on top because the meat is sweet, very lean, well-structured, tender, and tasty. Buying buffalo burgers supports buffalo ranches, which is where most buffalo live now. They are too large, too smart, and too dangerous to allow free range in most areas near people.
Buffalo Encounter 1.
The first time I encountered American bison, more commonly known as buffalo, was when I drove through a buffalo-viewing park in South Dakota (such parks are now called buffalo herd nature preserves.) I was working at the University of Minnesota at the time, and I took a mini-vacation to see South Dakota by leaving right after work on Friday and returning about the same time on Sunday. I drove a two-day loop around the parameter of South Dakota, seeing the major sights in one fell swoop: corn palace, painted desert, black hills, and a herd of buffalo. This was in the 1970’s, before digital cameras, and I did not take a single photograph, just enjoyed the sights, so I’ve attached a screen capture below of someone else’s buffalo encounter which gives an idea of the size of these animals, standing taller than a car. Long story told short, I drove through the buffalo-viewing park with trepidation, and when a large, crowded buffalo herd, about a hundred animals, decided to cross the road around my car, with one of them moved to jump over my left front bumper and scrabble across the hood, it scared me silly and I left immediately, but with the annoying feeling of having been routed, defeated and caused to retreat in disorder.
Buffalo Encounter 2.
When I saw him the old bull was penned up in a park like setting in pretty Kansas City, Missouri on a sunny day, at about naptime. I was driving by looking to see what might be seen near Swope Park, and I did a 180º when I saw him. I sat in my car and checked his fence carefully, then hopped out to see if he was pettable. At six foot tall with massive muscles, he definitely was not pettable, at least not by me. I stood at the fence calling to him (he came over), talking to him and telling him how huge, shaggy, and smelly he was (he listened), poking grass through the fence at him (he ignored it), and just generally fiddling around and playing at him (he stood large about five buffalo lengths away in front of me, breathing and softly snorting a little.) Was he smelling me like I was smelling him? Most likely. After a while I was relaxed so I sat on the ground in front of him, thinking He’s not so tough, more like a big old cow with formidable horns, when he abruptly charged the fence, which seem to become invisible leaving me directly in front of a 2000 pound charging bull buffalo. It knocked the monkey-in-me on my b-ask-et. I sprawled out on the park lawn and frantically crab-crawled away backward as fast as possible. My amygdala had sprung into hyper-drive, bypassed the rest of my brain, and gone directly to fear, flee, save-me-mode. He smiled, I swear the Sacred Truth he smiled. Then he went back to chewing his cud, and I went back to my life, my respect for huge, healthy mammals renewed.
Caption: screencapture from “Yellowstone bison rams a minivan”
published by icaughtatrout, August 23, 2010