Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Where the Buffalo Roamed

There is a small "herd" of buffalo here--maybe 10 animals. Every time I see these buffalo, or others penned in, I have an overwhelming urge to see them unpenned. I find it sad that these most migratory of American mammals are confined by barbed wire to a few square feet of stubble and manure.  

No other animal was more wedded to the prairie than the bison--even their deep brown color matches the soil. With an instinct to move born over tens of thousands of years, it must be maddening to the great beasts, even perplexing, to be confined thus. Humans denied freedom kill themselves or go nuts. And yet, most caged humans have committed some crime against the rest of us; the buffalo's only crime is merely existing.

Even though these past ten generations of bison here in Hays, Kansas, have never known a single day of freedom in their lives, the urge to move hundreds of miles each spring and fall must still beat heavy in their hearts. I have no doubt that if the gate was suddenly thrown open, these buffalo would begin drifting south within days, if not hours. Next spring, I'm sure we would see the same animals moving by here on their migration north.

Do not trouble me with small matters of money or logistics: Would it not be glorious to some day establish a Migratory National Park--a swath of prairie say 200 miles wide stretching from the Missouri in the north to the Rio Grande in the south, in which a herd one million buffalo strong could live and roam as intended? Think of those nature films of the Wildebeest migrations in Africa and how impressive they are with the bellowing roar of thousands and the clouds of dust roiling on the horizon. That's a scene we could have here too . . . again.

Sorry. Just dreaming with words.