Thursday, March 05, 2009

Buffalo Gal

Once you get to know them, it turns out bison are kind of gross.

I met a herd yesterday in San Angelo. Their heads are huge, horned, and shaggy. They chew without ceasing. They have long, ropy strands of spit hanging from their mouths, catching in the wind and blowing against our ankles. My cohorts were in jeans and boots. I was in capris and sandals. Well, now I know.

At different times, several beasts cut loose with a torrential cascade of wee, walking through the resultant puddles with complete unconcern. A mother, beset by the hungry attentions of a calf about 2/3 her size, attempted to dissuade her offspring's attempts at nursing by walking away, shoving, and finally, gently kicking it in the head. "There's a calf that's just about ready to be weaned," observed the park ranger.

My youngest wasn't fully weaned until just after her third birthday. "I think I know how the mom feels," I remarked.

But bison aren't all piss and spittle. Oh no. "Do you know," the ranger asked me, smiling down into my face, "why bison smell so bad?" (It was this guy, by the way.)

I arched my eyebrows, smiling back expectantly. But he didn't say anything. After a few moments I realized this could go on all day. "No, I don't. Why do bison smell so bad?" I asked.

"They belch," he told me. "That's why they don't bloat up like cows do if they eat too much. They have a way to get rid of the gas."

I'll be damned: sure enough, though the wind was (mercifully) high, the grasses and trees rustling noisily, every so often you'd hear a bovine "b-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-R-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-P!!!!!" that would, in the heyday of the 3MBG, have put my dear friend Billy to shame.

Frankly, I was entranced. Who knew bison were so cool? I'm so crazy about my wonderful job. I just have trouble dressing appropriately.

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