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.