OH, GIVE ME A HOME, where the buffalo roam…
Whenever I think of buffalo, those lyrics pop into my head. My classmates and I sang the words during informal music time at Vesta Elementary School some 50-plus years ago.
Or, whenever I think of buffalo, I remember childhood visits to the small zoo at Alexander Ramsey Park in Redwood Falls. There a tall wire fence separated us from these massive animals I associate with Native American buffalo hunts on the prairie.
Or, more accurately, bison hunts. These powerful animals are technically bison, not buffalo.
On a recent weekday afternoon, we drove to Mankato into bison territory. Literally. Vehicles turn onto a gravel road that winds through the Minneopa prairie, home to about 20 bison. Having grown up on a dairy and beef farm (with several mean bulls), I respect animals that outsize me, especially those with horns.
I didn’t even question the validity of signage warning visitors to stay inside their vehicles because bison are dangerous. I watched in disbelief as a woman stood outside a car taking photos with the bison herd within stone’s throw. What on earth was she thinking? Only moments earlier a sheriff’s car passed by and I wished the deputy had seen, and ticketed, her.
We had a bit of a scare ourselves when a bison walking nearby suddenly bolted toward our van, but veered away at the last second. I envisioned horns impaling the metal.
These animals command respect. They are massive, powerful and beautiful, a part of our state’s history.
To share space with them upon the prairie is not only an experience, but an honor.
© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling