By Mary Anne Andersen
Cedar City Arts Council
So there we were, my husband, our three grown daughters, and I at a roadside pullout in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone Park at dusk, having made a two and a half hour trip from our accommodations in the hopes of seeing some wolves. We had been told to watch for people pulled over with binoculars and scopes. We didn’t see anything like that, but we were looking at a fair-sized herd of bison about a half mile away across the river valley. We started counting the calves—about eight to 10—and watching them enter the stream to drink.
They slowly made their way in our direction, most of them making the soft growl that apparently requires their sticking their tongues out to do it. There were cars to the right of us and we commented on the foolish behavior of some of the occupants who were getting out of their vehicles and venturing across the field toward them.
Suddenly, it seemed, the animals were all around us, a veritable bison migration toward the valley on the other side of the road. When they were close enough to be touched from the window, we became scared—-the side panels of the van didn’t seem so strong—-and at first chance, we slowly started to back out, along with several other cars which happened to be moving in the opposite direction from us. It took some careful driving on our daughter’s part to back across the street and onto a rather lengthy bridge. The rest of us were commenting and taking pictures when the driver said, “What is that coming at us down the road? A motorcycle?”
No. It was a bison, charging straight for us, trapped in our lane by a long line of cars on the left and the bridge railing on the right. He just kept coming, as the level of screaming in the car increased:
“Back up!” “YOU TURNED THE CAR OFF!” “I was reaching for the emergency flashers.” “Back up!” “No, stop.” “I don’t back up well!” “We can’t get off this bridge and neither can he. He’s still coming.” “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE.” “Just back up. There’s no one behind you.”
Finally, he came to the end of the bridge and made an immediate turn to the left, leaving us laughing and all talking at once. The pictures taken from behind the driver’s seat, blocked by the seat back and head rest, showed much arm waving and hair flying. We immediately sent photos to family and I began composing this column out loud, speaking of “bison migration, charging right at us……”
But wait. There is always a killjoy in the group. “That isn’t how it happened. It wasn’t a migration, just a few lead animals on the left side of the car. He was not close to us on the road and moving very slowly. We weren’t in any danger…”
Nope. That is my story, a great one for the grandchildren, and I’m sticking to it.