I say it’s a buffalo, but it’s actually a bison.
Catching him was my biggest challenge.
So I thought.
People, like you, watching, thought I was crazy, insane, foolish, whatever.
Yes, that is true, in the grand scheme of things.
But I don’t judge. That’s not for me.
When I stepped closer he flinched, then kept his eye on me as I slowly circled around.
First, I must say, for your edification, this was at the Earth Arena –
a large enclosed area where others like me sought to ride our favorite creatures.
One guy saddled a giraffe, and galloped to the horizon.
Falling off the planet, in someone’s fond memory.
I’m not saying this is for everyone, but for me, getting on a buffalo … er a … bison,
I mean, was like one of those things that had to happen.
When I looked at the saddle blanket, I wondered if it was too small.
A lot of what-ifs came into my head,
like I could be trampled, broken to bits,
circling around me like annoying gnats.
Yeah, I forgot about those things.
The bison had a bunch of winged company,
the kind you just want to swat away on a hot summer’s day.
Now his eyes saw that I held the saddle blanket and rope.
He was feeling his oats, or cud, or whatever.
Then stamped his feet, taking a defensive posture.
We were face to face. Who would win?
But I took the herdsman’s wise advice, don’t show fear.
“They can smell it. In fact, he’s more afraid of…”
Yeah, I heard it before.
I decided to talk the bison, not with words, but pictures.
I asked permission to come forward, showing him my gentle touch.
His grunts softened.
The weight and girth of my new friend amazed me as I drew closer.
Finally I rushed to lasso him with the thick rope, and threw on the saddle blanket across his wide back.
Like legends of old, from fables growing up,
like the cowboy who lassoed a tornado,
my larger than life feat was about do or die.
He waited for me to take a running start, seeing me in midair,
he stepped out of the way. I landed hard on my ass. My ride had to wait.
From a dusty cloud, I returned to my feet, but this time I held the rope tight.
With all my might I clambered up along his broad shoulders, grabbing a tuft of mane,
digging in my heels along his beefy sides,
we were off.
His gallop was like thunder, each thud sending shivers through me.
His breath was like a freight train blowing snot along his face.
Thank God for the goggles and kerchief I wore.
I couldn’t help but think of the rope around his broad neck,
of throwing it off him.
Holding more tightly like a desperate hug,
I peeked over his shaggy mane to see that we were joining his herd,
a big brown mass melded together in this wild run.
Clouds of dust engulfed us.
To my left and right their mighty hooves shook the ground.
For an instant, I listened closely to the sound.
A truly overwhelming life force.
Of truly feeling what it was like for them.
Being in one’s heart.
For I felt it too. Not just feeling, but knowing.
It didn’t matter where we were, but just that we were going.
I wish you could have been there too.
Though we (humans) talk about it a lot as some nebulous concept.
Honestly, we’re full of crap.
This was something I’ll never forget, something etched into my soul,
being in this indescribable moment, one I believe we should all have,
not just a fleeting concept, here and there and forgotten.
As I rode along the broad back of my bison friend,
he seemed to be inside my head,
knowing what he was giving to me,
for in this moment…
I was truly free.