Poem: My only ride on a buffalo

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.

Published by: frankmarquezwritings

I'm a writer, and have been for most of my adult life. Without making this sound like a resume, I wrote creatively in college, dabbling in poetry, short stories and play writing. Later, I became a journalist, public affairs specialist, copy editor and eventually a guy who ran his own newspaper. Now, I'm back to letting my imagination run wild in some new creations including a science-fiction novel. Somehow, I also managed to teach English to high school kids, and roam the battlefields of Afghanistan as a field historian. Field historian may be a misnomer considering all I did was write abstracts summarizing military unit profiles and missions that included hundreds of interviews of troops and contractors in combat. I grew up in a small town called Gering, Nebraska, before escaping to Pomona, California, where I spent my last two years of high school, graduating from Ganesha High School in 1983. I have a Bachelors in English from the University of La Verne (1987), and a Masters in Education from UNLV (2007). In between, I worked for government - the Army and TSA. I served tours in Panama, D.C., and Tokyo, all thanks to a teacher who encouraged me to see the world before I settled down. As hobbies, I run, hike and bicycle long distances. I have also been known to surf and ski. I now live in my hometown after moving back in June 2015. I get to see family on a regular basis, breath fresh air, and not have to ride the D.C. metro or get stuck in traffic. In fact, I ride my bicycle whenever I can. I'm happily married to my wife Lisa, and we watch over a pack of fur babies, our dog Charley, and three cats Spike, Bootsy, and Franky (his shelter name). If you should ever visit me in west Nebraska, be prepared to feast your eyes on paradise.

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