Bison Jam

If you haven’t been to Yellowstone National Park, I just feel sorry for you.  I have had a couple of people say to me, “Oh, we spent a day there.”  No.  That is not a visit to Yellowstone.  You can barely drive through the park in that amount of time  It is a big place with four distinct environments.  You have to get out and walk around.  We were there two days and only scratched the surface.

I think my first visit was 1976.  It always made my mom and me laugh to see the opening of “Family Ties” because there was a picture in their scrapbook of camping in Yellowstone in 1976. I am sure camping there is still fun, but I am a middle aged grown up now and I stay in a cabin. 😛

The first thing we did when we got into the park was get stuck in a “Bison Jam.”  This was a herd of bison wandering down the road in the same direction we were. Here they are in front of our vehicle.

They were also like that in back and next to our car.  (Grrrrrr!!! I have just discovered I can’t play you a video without a $60 upgrade!! Grrrrrrr!!!)

This is not the zoo, friends and loved ones.  More people get hurt from bison injury per year in YNP than any other animal.  They think they can walk up to and pet the bison.  These are wild animals.  It didn’t really bother us from the safety of our large cross over vehicle, but the girls in the convertible in front of us were a little nervous.


13 thoughts on “Bison Jam

  1. Glad to hear about the good times in the park as we also spent 3+ days in the park a few years ago.

    Also, a good option for video is to setup a YouTube account, load the videos there, and embed the video into the post. This should be free (although I don’t know if WordPress limits this type of functionality).

  2. Y ou should be aware that by using the somewhat more scientifically informed term bison over the more colloquial term buffalo you have officially declared an allegiance in a culture war that has been brewing for over half a century. From the close of the Civil War up until about the post World War II era the economy of the American West was largely extraction based on and marked by minerals exploration & mining (gold, silver, copper, coal, crude, etc…) and ranching (essentially the conversion of prairie grass into saleable livestock.

    Post WWII there was a large influx of urban tourism into the ski slopes and wilderness areas of the American West. A new economy based on supplying the needs of tourists sprang up and has battled the Old West economy for dominance. The two economies are difficult bunk mates. The New West entrepreneurs recognize that their trade is threatened by strip mining and visible heap leach piles. They also note that wilderness backpackers are not prone to want to pitch their ultralight two-person tent in a pile of cow dung when they are trying to pretend they are the only people left on Earth. And the cattle ranchers and miners recognize that the biggest threats to their livelihood are the New Westers (New Westies?) running to the politicians to twist the arms of the land management agencies (Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service) to close more and more land to livestock, mining, and timber.

    To most people this is fairly academic and a matter of personal preference. But not so to the young people who have een brought up in western communities who seek to make a living in their home, the west. The reality of the two economies is that the economy of the Old West is a far easier place to make a living than the economy of the New West. The Old West needs heavy equipment operators, haul truck drivers, engineers, geologists, foresters, mechanics, drillers, journeyman electricians, railroaders, etc… The New West generally offers only seasonal employment for low paying jobs with little chance of advancement: cashiers, restaurant wait staff, hotel housekeepers. It is little wonder that the sympathies of the locals generally rest with the Old West rather than the New West.

    No they weren’t actually buffalo like you might find in SE Asia plowing rice paddies. But it was a close-enough term and it was what was used during the entirety of the Old West to connote the American Bison. We didn’t celebrate Bison Bill’s Wild West Show. The Sharps Rifle was not a “Bison Gun”. Those depressions on the Great Plains where they used to roll in the grass were not “Bison Wallows”. The word buffalo was a consistent marker in Old West culture before the National Park Service decided to start using the term bison. Locals still call them buffalo as a hat tip to our culture. Outsiders call them bison. It is the western shibboleth.

  3. Also explain this all to your sister. I was trying to communicate that “politics” drives the animosity that western locals feel towards tourists. I had to stop before I could fully explain because it seemed like there was a risk of things devolving into a broader discussion about American Presidential politics and I wanted to avoid that at all costs.

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