A guide to dealing with buffalo.
Excited? Don’t be. This is not what that is. The things mentioned here…don’t. Seriously, do not try this at home.
So many stories over the last year have me shaking my head. All these people trying to touch buffalo. Take selfies with buffalo. Getting way too close to buffalo. Or bison, if that is what you prefer to have them called. We could argue the semantics and the reality of the word, but I grew up in a time when they were indeed just buffalo. And though I do know they are not really buffalo, that is what I grew up calling them. Plus, I am Oklahoma girl.
What does being an Oklahoma girl have to do with it? Oklahoma girls are stubborn. Boy are we stubborn. It’s about like trying to get a stuffed mule to do tricks when dealing with the likes of us. We like what we know. This is especially true when that is the way that is always has been until someone up and decided it should be different. We also don’t rightly like change when it just doesn’t seem necessary. I’m sure that could be applied to all women, though. All people? Just the same, I like what I know and I know what like. Or something like that.
Thinking about it, I also kind of blame Gene Autry. Good ole Gene and his whole, “Give me a home where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play.” Yeah, Mr. Gene? And where might this place be? I’m having a tough time finding it, because apparently it doesn’t actually exist. At least not in the states. Doesn’t exist? Blasphemy. Stay with me as we take a quick side trip.
Let’s talk about antelope for second. Antelope? Yes, antelope or the lack there of. That’s right, antelope is another one. Another one that doesn’t actually exist in the United States. You didn’t know? Yeah, me either. That was a nice little burst to my bubble. The pronghorn, is what we have here. The pronghorn, another animal mistakenly labeled until some hoity-toity scholar realized the error and couldn’t let it be. Anyway, I digress. Back to our course. Where was that again?
Right. Right. All these people getting way too close to these wild beauties.
People. People. People. We are visitors in their world. Yes, it is true. Despite what many two-legged mammals think, we are just merely visitors in the world of animals and not the other way around. I know. I know. This is a little hard to digest, but trust me.
Also trust me when I say…Animals have bubble issues, folks. They’re no different than us two-legged mammals. They like their space and they don’t always want someone in it. They just have those days. You know the whole, “Why are you in my bubble? Did I invite you in?” days. And like a lot of humans, they are going to let you know mighty quick if you have crossed a line. It’s nature.
It’s okay. I’m right there with you, big boy. I hate it too.
Standing there in the Walmart line when someone is suddenly breathing down my neck. I’m talking to you, space invaders. The, “I see that you are standing a bus length away from the guy in front of you, but I’m going to breathe down your neck anyway,” folks. That’s right. You know who you are. I’m not standing this far away because the guy smells. No. I’m trying to indicate to stay out of my bubble. Something that I thought was obvious when I then moved away from you, to the side, and not forward. Oh, you thought that I was saying, “Please move closer to me?” No-no-no. I’m nicely trying to say, “Back off before I shove that cart where the sun don’t shine.”
Anyway, I’m bad about getting a little too close to these wild beauties myself. It is not always my intention and I really do try my best to respect their space and pay attention to the signs. You know like those big sultry eyes staring you down as they start pawing at the ground. Nostrils flaring. Fire shooting from their head. Okay, so that last one is an exaggeration, but we have all seen animals display that, “back up off me now,” sign. Even if we want to pretend otherwise. So far it has fared well for me. The acknowledging those signs, not the pretending I didn’t see it. But again…DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.
Have I made my point? Do not push your luck with wild animals? I’m tired of hearing and seeing videos of that one person. The one who pushed their luck and got tossed by buffalo or kicked by a wild horse or knocked down my elk. Knocked down by an elk? Oh, you missed that video? Yes, a woman wanted a picture on her cell phone of an elk. She walked closer and closer to him as some gentlemen tried to warn her against it. Next thing you know, that elk comes running towards her and she goes flying backwards. Not by her own good graces. No, that is how hard that wild beauty had head butted her. Lesson learned.
I was just driving along looking for anything worth taking a picture of. I stop on a dime, so it was a good thing no one was following me. As I rounded a corner and passed this gravel drive, what to my eye should appear? A beautiful, furry, buffalo walking towards me. Okay, well at the time, he wasn’t really waking towards me. He was just walking.
I pulled off and got out of my car. Now, in my defense, at the time, he was like three to four fancy RVs away. Plenty of space to NOT be in each other’s bubble. Safe distances.
I loved watching him walk down that gravel road under the trees. His long beard swaying back and forth. The sun gleaming off the shiny horns upon his head. Those deep eyes. It was like being a little girl on the prairie as the herds migrated to greener pastures, but you know….without the other 2 or 3 or 4 or five. However many it takes to make a herd. Just the one.
I snapped away as he walked towards me. I thought that he would stop where he was or go off in another direction. He did not.
As he got closer, I found myself unsure as to what to do. I know what I wanted to do. Noooo, I didn’t want to pet him. Okay, well maybe I did, but I’m not that fearless. No, I really just wanted to stand there and continue to take pictures.
But would he let me? Stand there and continue to take pictures? How far did his bubble extend? Would he allow me in it? We were about to find out. He was coming up on me fast and my feet were glued. Much like a tongue to frozen metal pipe in the winter, I wasn’t going anywhere. This was not my stubbornness coming out, though. It wasn’t me being fearless. Oh no. Nope, fear was my super glue.
I found myself scared of what he might do. Afraid to make any sudden moves. Afraid I was going to have figure out how fast I could get back in my car. Scared he wasn’t going to be the gentle giant he looked like. Afraid the next dent in my car may very well be the impression of my body. With all that running through my head, I thought it might be best to just remain standing, calm and collective, where I was.
What’s that smell? Is that fear? Do they smell fear? I hope it is not too strong. Why is he looking at me? Can he sense my uncertainty? Is he turning towards me? Did I lock my car door? Am I even trying to get back in my car? What is going on?
It’s okay, big boy. I don’t want much from you. A picture . Or two. Or three..or, you know what, I’m just going to keep clicking way. At least until you make me stop or are out of sight, you know…which ever comes first. But don’t worry….I’ll stay right here, big boy. Just keep on walking.
He did just keep on walking by. We did locked eyes for quite a while, but he didn’t come off as threatening nor did he seem threatened. An spoken respect maybe? An understanding? I’m not sure, but what I am sure of….he was just over an arm’s length away and anything could have happened at that point.
He let me continue to take my pictures as he watched closely. I had allowed him in my bubble and not invaded his. I guess that was where the difference came into play. I wonder if animals truly know the good from the bad. If they know the stupid from the not so stupid. If they have the same level tolerance for it as I do. I wonder if he was just so focused on his mission that he didn’t care there was a human inches away from him. I doubt that last one, he clearly cared a little. I mean, he didn’t take his eyes off of me until he reached road. Mysteries of the buffalo.
I don’t know what the case may have been, but I can now say that I’ve been inches away from a wild buffalo and survived. Maybe he was just that thirsty or maybe he knew that I was harmless. Either way, it is not something that I recommend or encourage. They are dangerous and this could have gone either way. I’m just glad that I won’t be the next “not so smart” person that you have to read about in that article.
Have a beautiful day and tomorrow.
Montana Rose Photography