Yes, we braved the bison on Friday as we (David and I, Chris and Louise, and Avila) drove out to Antelope Island to watch the annual bison round-up. Okay, maybe not too much bravery was required, although Louise did tell Avila that bison were so big, she was afraid of them, to which Avila replied, “I’ll help you be brave!” It is true, though, that many folks think of bison as big, shaggy cows, not realizing their truly wild nature. One doesn’t want to “brave” them too closely.
We look out of our living room across the Great Salt Lake to Antelope Island, home to a herd of 600 to 700 bison (along with antelope, big-horn sheep, and other critters) so we feel a special affinity with the island and its wild inhabitants. Each fall they round all the bison up to do some overall health checks and cull the herd back to the 550 or so that they’ve determined is the number the island can support.
The herd coming down over the mountain
It’s a two-day event, with about 300 horseback riders on hand to help. (Despite it being a lot of “hurry up and wait,” I’ve added riding in the round-up some year to the “bucket list” that I don’t have. What more could you ask for—a gorgeous fall day, riding a beautiful horse, participating even peripherally in something as exotic as rounding up bison! And you don’t even have to own a horse—which is a good thing since I don’t see that in my future—you can rent them just for the day.)
We weren’t entirely sure what to expect as spectators, but we sure lucked out. We arrived there around 9 in the morning and headed down the east side of the island toward the ranch. Turned out to be excellent timing since the cowboys (the pros) and the other riders were basically starting at that end and “driving” the herd toward the pens on the northern end of the island.
Yes, those dark dots are all bison (with cowboys in the foreground)
From what we understand, “driving” the herd is a loose concept since bison have a tendency to do what they want to. Since they do this every year, I’m sure the pros have developed some techniques to help, but even so it seems the best they can do is encourage them along a bit. They have a mind of their own, we’re told!
Avila checking out the bison with her 'noculars
Avila was great and enjoyed using her ‘noculars. We weren’t too sure if she was really “seeing” things through them, but as she waved them all around, looking this way and that, up and down, she exclaimed suddenly, “I see the moon!” which was, indeed, right up there where she was looking. So apparently she got the knack of the ‘nocs pretty readily. Of course, her true love—picking up random gravel and other rocks from the road—competed with the bison for her attention, but hey, who are we to say what’s fun and what’s not to a toddler.
Since we all love bison meat—and it’s a very healthy meat, too—we’ve been fantasizing about some year buying one of the animals and splitting it amongst several of us. But the sheer size of a bison suggests that a heckuva lot more freezer space than we currently have would be needed.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to enjoy the majestic sight of these fine animals in the wild. The bison (sometimes called the American Buffalo) has made a remarkable come-back from its state of near extinction in the 19th century. There are now reportedly about a half-million bison in commercial herds inthe U.S. and another 30,000 in conservation herds. We’re glad to have our 500 nearby enough to visit!
So, what about “being bumped” you ask? Ah well, luckily we weren’t bumped by any bison. We were, however, bumped from our flight this past week back to Salt Lake. We’d spent the weekend in Shreveport for a really wonderful event on Saturday in memory of my dad, mom, and little brother David, all of whom have passed from this physical incarnation back into the spirit world—David nearly 20 years ago, Mom, of course, just a few months ago, and Daddy back in ’07 in Costa Rica. Old friends and colleagues of Mom and Dad’s put on a beautiful reception and many folks came by to “remember” them, sharing stories and memories.
I can do it MYSELF!
It was a quick trip for all of us, and Avila traveled like a trouper. She was quite insistent on pulling her own weight, literally, as she rolled her own suitcase along the airport corridors. (This is not as easy as it sounds when you consider she was being rolled along herself in a stroller!) Although we’d all bought our tickets at the same time, weeks before, and reserved seats, when Jen and Avila checked in for our return flights on Monday, their “boarding passes” for our second leg, from Houston to Salt Lake, carried the somewhat alarming phrase “not assigned” where the seat number should be.
Sure enough, turns out the flight was overbooked and they’d randomly bumped Jen and Avila. (They’d also bumped one other young woman who was practically hysterical in the Houston airport—her bags were already on the plane, she was going to miss making a presentation in Salt Lake, and to top it off she was on crutches from some recent injury. Understandably when they did eventually free up one seat, we gave it to her.)
But, wait, you say, I thought it was Jen and Avila that were bumped! Well, yes, but surely you didn’t think we were going to leave them adrift in Houston while we flew back to Salt Lake without them?! Of course, we gave them our seats, not concerned about inconvenience for ourselves but still worried about not being along to help with Avila, handling bags, and so forth. But luckily they managed fine, and we got re-routed through San Antonio and arrived home only a few hours later than originally scheduled. PLUS we got vouchers for future free flights, so it was a classic case of all’s well that ends well.
So, there you have it—our excitement for the past week. I’ll close with some more random pictures of our cutie. (And you do know, right, that you can click on any of the pictures to open it up full-size.)
Fall is in the air here and we’re thoroughly enjoying it. Hope that wherever you are, your life is bringing you even half the satisfaction and contentment that ours is—in which case you’ll be very happy indeed. And, hey, don’t forget to comment. I LOVE comments, even if it’s just to say hi.
Avila meets her first bison (statue at the entrance to the island)
Our first attempt at taking Avila's picture at the statue
A really tall tower of blocks!
Grandma and Avila at the library
You'd think she was praying, right, not just watching Clifford the Big Red Dog
Poppy trapping Avila's shadow
This is what happens when you put hair up in curly piggies when it's wet and then take it down later, coupled with eating a blueberry lollipop
Picking out pumpkins
The outfit of choice (HER choice) for running errands