By Karen Adragna Walsh
Getting a head start on my husband’s “bucket list,” my husband and I, along with family and friend, vacationed at Yellowstone National Park. Not that I’m putting my husband out to pasture quite yet, but he’s not getting any younger, if you get my (snow) drift.
Yellowstone is noted for having a continuously free-ranging bison population since prehistoric times. Buffalo were everywhere. They grazed in grassy plains; some leisurely straddled the yellow line in the middle of the road, stopping traffic.
Believe me, I would never dream of hitting one. Imagine cars behind us, circumventing 2,000 pounds of road kill. Speaking of road kill, we didn’t see any in the 3,468 square miles of the park. I guess nature played an expeditious part in the feeding of its hungry wildlife population.
Strange as it might seem, Yellowstone reminded me of attending a Buffalo Bills football game in December. Come to New Era Field, the stomping grounds of the Buffalo Bill’s NFL football team and you’ll see plenty of Buffalonians, in uniform or not, behaving like their animal counterpart.
Both species roam up and down snowy green fields, be it grass or artificial. And both creatures have been known to be quick, agile and aggressive when their turf is threatened.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell the difference between a football player and a buffalo. Helmets worn by football players make their heads look enormous; add a linebacker’s massive neck, shoulder pads and you have the physique of a buffalo with its majestic head and notable hump.
Never knock a buffalo’s hump, especially in winter, because it helps support neck muscles that allow the buffalo’s sweeping head movements to function like a snow shovel. Maybe we should cancel the plows and release the buffalo from the zoo to keep the stadium’s parking lots clear of snow.
And when start time nears, there is a mass exodus of herded fans charging like cattle, grunting and snorting a mist of exhaled breath as they pass through gates on their way to their seats. In Yellowstone, we also found buffalo socially lingering in parking lots, much like tailgaters. The difference is that they actually had tails. And it took a lot of bills ($$$) to finance that trip to Yellowstone … reminiscent of the cost of season tickets.
Buffalo and Buffalonians each have their own special watering holes. Buffaloes hang out in geyser basins and are noted for drinking several gallons of water a day. Likewise, some Buffalo Bills fans have been duly noted to have consumed humongous amounts of drinks at their local tavern.
And if we’re lucky and the Bills score a touchdown, the scoreboard flashes a herd of bison, with nostrils flaring, stampeding across the mega screen leaving a cloud of dust and the destruction of the opposing team’s spirit in its wake. The thunderous noise and exuberance of the crowd is enough to stop anyone in their tracks, be it animal or human.
In Yellowstone, I witnessed cars pulling over and people catapulting out of their vehicles to capture a wild buffalo on film, disregarding the 25-yard keep-your-safe-distance. I should have thrown a flag. But then again, I was doing the same thing, fearful not of the beast but of not getting “the” picture. Then came the illegal block, as I stood positioned with my camera focused on a bison a few feet ahead, a rambunctious fellow tourist jumps in front of me and blocks my perfect shot. I almost yelled, “Foul!”
As a free-range Bill’s fan, all I want to do is shout, “Go Buffalo!”
Karen Adragna Walsh lives in Orchard Park and is a free-range Bills’ fan.