Buffalo Gift

buffalo east of Cimarron

Wet shiny noses under cloudy sky

See if you can pick out the males. They weigh twice as much (2,000 pounds!) and have bigger humps. Keep in mind these animals can run at forty miles per hour, too, then imagine Native warriors chasing them down on horseback with lances or bows and arrows—and on foot for centuries before Spanish horses ran wild… This is our country. This is America.

We came across these beasts about five miles east of Cimarron on the return leg of my birthday trip to Capulin volcano. There were almost three dozen in all. Obviously a rancher’s private herd (most had ear tags), since they don’t roam free these days—more’s the pity—but that made no difference. I hit the brakes at sixty miles per hour and pulled to a stop. The presence of the animals was staggering for what they meant to me. The Utes, Comanches, and other tribes considered them sacred signs of the Creator’s plan. They represent prayer and abundance. Last Wednesday morning, it all washed over me. After very carefully approaching the fence some distance from the herd, I took a great many photos before returning to the car, where I sat in the driver’s seat and started to cry. This was about more than buffalo, but very much related. I don’t know if I can ever get that across or whether I should even try.

It has to to with finding the way back. Not historically, but spiritually. (The landscape of New Mexico has much the same effect.) For me, it’s as if my life has come full circle and I’m free again. Don’t let anybody tell you that can’t happen, and leave some markers on the way.

  • Joe August 15, 2016, 2:44 PM

    The big ones are the males?

    • JHF August 15, 2016, 3:35 PM

      I figure!

  • Frank Powell August 15, 2016, 2:50 PM

    Truly a great and majestic animal. I would liked to have seen the
    thundering herds of the 1800’s.

    • JHF August 15, 2016, 3:37 PM

      They don’t spook, either. There’s a place in Colorado where we saw some without any fences between us. I shot photos from behind the car. 🙂

  • John August 15, 2016, 3:07 PM

    Happy rebirthday John!

    • JHF August 15, 2016, 3:37 PM

      Thanks, John. We’ll see!

  • Marti Fenton August 15, 2016, 4:58 PM

    Long ago the Kiowa gave some buffalo to the Pueblo. They now have a good sized herd. The Taos Pueblo people call them the Vanishing People. The young boys undergoing kiva training eat pre-white man traditional food including the pueblo’s buffalo. You can often see these animals from El Prado, or even closer on El Salto.

    • JHF August 15, 2016, 8:06 PM

      Thanks for these details. But I’m wondering if you’ve ever read my first book, Buffalo Lights. 🙂 From “Prologue: The Myth”…

      “We were driving home after dark from Taos to San Cristobal the way we usually did, past the Indian lands to the east. As we neared the place where Kathy liked to spot the pueblo’s dark brown buffalo herd at the foot of the mountain, she stared into the deepening gloom and mused, ‘They sure would be easier to see if they’d put lights on them.’

      Buffalo lights! How utterly improbable yet somehow plausible in the context of this place. Whether she knew it or not, she had created a nugget of myth that would tie us to the great beasts forever, for neither of us would ever pass that way again without remembering.”

  • Carolfrombatonrouge August 15, 2016, 6:16 PM

    Also the cow’s horns curve in more than the bull’s

    • JHF August 15, 2016, 7:59 PM

      Yes, I noticed that!

  • M.J. August 22, 2016, 8:44 PM

    Great beasts! Beautiful picture! Reminders of my ancestor’s past.

    • JHF August 23, 2016, 12:59 AM

      Ain’t they somethin’?

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