These bison may only be a few years old. But when surrounded by a herd, you feel as if they know what human beings did to their kind just a few generations ago. It’s as if the knowledge of the blood baths is ingrained in their heavy hides.
“… I felt motion in the landscape; in the fresh, easy-blowing morning wind, and in the earth itself, as if the shaggy grass were a sort of loose hide, and underneath it herds of wild buffalo were galloping, galloping…”
— Willa Cather
In a Field of Bison
The small herd of domestic bison
plods away from us, heads swinging,
at the pasture’s far end.
We step carefully, snapping photos,
whispering, hoping for more than this.
Soon one is spooked, and the whole herd,
along with a dozen calves, swings around
to our flank and parades by, snorting,
chuffing and chewing. We pile
in a red pick-up that bumps slowly up
green pasture swells, and idles
at the crest as prairie rises and falls
on all sides of our tight circle
under a cumulus shimmer of blue sky.
I know so little about you,
but our kind has been imprinted
in your blood-soaked soul. You know
who we are, what we have done to you.
The heavy, humped bull, head to the side,
never, ever takes his eyes off us.