Not counting on television or maybe at a zoo, I saw my first buffalo on Uncle Bob’s ranch in western Nebraska. I loved going to Bull Canyon Ranch because it was so dang big. It was traditionally a cattle ranch, but Uncle Bob was a free thinker and he figgered he would branch out. What he done, you probably guessed from the first sentence, was to add buffaloes to the ranch population.
At this point I better educate the more ignorant amongst us. The critters are properly called American Bison by scientists and such. I am not a scientist, so I call them buffalo like Buffalo Bill Cody and Buffalo Bob on Howdy Doody done. Now this educating can only go so far. If you don’t know who those fellas are, just quit reading now cuz you are in over your head.
The mascot for the University of Colorado is Ralphie the Buffalo and the athletic teams are the Colorado Golden Buffaloes or Buffs. I know there are scientists at that school but, apparently, they looked the other way and did not insist on using the word bison.
Bison, aka buffaloes, are more independent creatures than are cows, bigger too. I have rounded up and herded cows on occasion, many times on twenty mile cattle drives. It is pretty fun. I have worked at brandings and the unmentionable collateral process of turning baby bulls into baby steers. (Are you keepin up or must I explain how bulls become steers?) I consider myself a cowboy. But that’s where I draw the line. I ain’t a buffaloboy or bisonboy. I don’t herd buffaloes. I don’t rope buffaloes. I don’t brand buffaloes. And I don’t castrate buffaloes.
I’ll tell you why. Buffaloes are bigger, tougher and meaner than cows. They require stronger fencing. They can do what one tried to do to Uncle Bob.
Bull Canyon Ranch has (guess what?) a canyon. It is what is known as a box canyon, which means there is only one way in and out. So Uncle Bob fenced across that one opening. He used tall sturdy fence, which turned out to be a pretty good idea.
I wasn’t there at the time, but Cousin Tom reported to me what happened, which was that after Uncle Bob (well, Tom didn’t call his father Uncle Bob) and his help got that first group of buffaloes into their new home in the box canyon, one of the critters was ungrateful about the free rent arrangement and decided to leave. The way he went about it was to rush the fence and crash into it while Uncle Bob was looking the other way. Tom said the buffalo was going after his dad and the fence just happened to be in the way. As a country lawyer, I sometimes have to deal with legal issues that involve motive. In this case, I’m not too sure about the charging buffalo’s motive. I’m just glad Uncle Bob could build a good fence.
These photos were taken by Miss Sugar last summer when our neighbors got a dozen two-year-old buffalo heifers. Their fences are not as sturdy as Uncle Bob’s. They could use a nice box canyon.