Jun 4, 2012

For The Love of Buffalo

American Buffalo of Yellowstone

We were going to hit the road and find some Bison, or American Buffalo to observe. And maybe look at some other things and, more than likely, do a little fishing. I mean, why wouldn’t ya? We thought we’d head south through Paradise Valley into Yellowstone Park.


The lure of bison is pretty strong, I have to admit. I’m fairly certain that they are my mother’s favorite animal. She just can’t get enough. Everyone has their addictions and it just so happens that she is addicted to Buffalo. Living in Maine, it’s pretty tough for her to get her fix, so when she pops out for a visit, she has a tendency to OD on them. But that is ok, because I’m rather taken by them as well.

I remember when we were cruising north out of Jackson, Wyoming one sunlit morning, towards the Gros Ventre Range, we intercepted a big line of them. Mom was riding shotgun, and when she spotted the herd she let out a little cry of joy: “Oooh… Buffalos”

“Oh pull over Mikey.”

“Yea I will, I just want-“

“Oh pull over, pull over, we don’t want to miss them! Pull over.”

“I will, we’re not going to miss them. They’re moving about zero miles an hour.”

The herd was slowly cutting across the sage to our right and seemed likely to cross a little further up the road.



“You know that the plural form of Buffalo is Buffalo, right?"

“I do? It is? Are you going to pull over?”

We edged off the pavement into the dirt shoulder just in time for the first one to step before the hood.

“Aww, that one looks skinny. Do you think he’s going to be ok?”

“Oh yea, he’ll be alright. If the big bad wolf don’t get him.”

“What, wolves? There are wolves out here?

“Oh yea. Lots”

Not to exaggerate, but we sat there for almost an hour, watching this ambling parade of fir, horns and hoof. Such wonderful beards they have, those buffalo. And what rhythm; the way they’re heads bop up and down with every step, almost as if grooving to some inner reggae number.

“That one has a scar on his back. Do you think it had a fight?”


“Aww, lookit… a baby. Aww.”

Eventually, detail was lost to distance.

“Well, what you think? Have you had enough?”

“I guess so. I wish they’d come back over this way. “

“Well they probably won’t for a while.”

“Ok, we can keep going. I guess we can keep going. Will we see them in Yellowstone?”

“Oh yeah.”

Later, amid the towering spray of Old Faithful Geyser I offered,

“Mom, you know how Old Faithful got its name?”

“No,” she replied, blinking.

“Well up until the big earthquake in ’59, it used to erupt at regular intervals right down to the minute.”


After the quake, it’s been a little less faithful. It still fairly predictable, but now it has a short interval eruption as well as a longer one.”


All heads locked onto the gushing candlestick. All but one: Mom’s.

“Is that a buffalo over there?”

A brown lump was pinned on the far edge of the smoking basin.

“It must be.”

Then on to Hayden Valley: green and nudging every bit of the surrounding horizon. Brown flecks sprinkled over the plain.

“Oh pull over, pull over.”

“You want me to stop, again?”

“Yes of course, could you. Oh look, there’s some big ones right up there next to the road, please pull over. Let’s stop, could we?”

I didn’t know what I was enjoying more – the collection of these iconic, lumbering, free-grazing beasts or my mother’s tendency to transform her senior-self into the callow likes of a 5 year old girl.

“Aw, looook, that one’s going potty.”

“Yes Mom, and what a big potty it is.”

We had pulled off into a bumper to bumper, well, Bison Jam: Exhaust, people, cameras, Bison…

“Don’t you think they’re getting a little close?” She questioned.

“Yea, that guy there, he just might get it,” I replied as I readied my camera. After all, what’s better than an action shot? Surely, it would be one for the press if I could capture that guy wearing the tall socks caught in mid flight some 5 feet over the horns of that 2000 lb bull. The bull’s head would be cocked up to one side and that fellow- he’d have a mixed look of surprise and anguish while clutching his ribcage in flight there before Hayden Valley and the sky in the backdrop. Maybe smoke puffs out of flared nostrils?

Although it does happen, it didn’t.

“What, we’re leaving?”

“Well, we’re almost to Canyon, Mom. Don’t you want to see The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone?”

“Oh, I guess so. Ok”

“It’s really beautiful.”


We pulled out and pointed it north towards one of the most stunning ditches in the country, rubbernecking our way along the expanse.

“How long until we get there?” She asked, sort of pouting out the question.

Oh, were not those the days… when I would call out those very words to her from the hind end of an ’82 Plymouth Voyager? When I grasped and yearned so anxiously, so innocently as a young boy could. And she would answer me and say not to worry, that we would be there soon.

“We’re almost there, Mom.”

“Oh, ok.”

“Why, don’t you want to see the canyon and the waterfalls?”

“Well… I don’t know.”

“Well, what would you like to do?”

“I guess I’d like to go back and see the Buffalos.”


We hit the road.


Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Lower Falls - Yellowstone River

Cistern Spring - Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin

American Buffalo of Yellowstone


Madison River Outfitters - West Yellowstone, MT

Madison River

Madison River Rainbow

Pelicans - Madison River

Spring Flare

Have a good time,


  1. Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hahaha...Get ready to see the buffalo again very soon!

  3. such a wonderful place. thanks for stopping by


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