Hollowtop Smoke Signals
Every summer, it’s the same scenario: an appalling number of tourists come out on the losing side of physical altercations with animals in Yellowstone National Park. Such incidents are almost as predictable as Old Faithful’s geyser eruptions. Even some small wild critters can be intimidating. After all, a wee, perpetually angry, weasel is fully capable of putting an NFL lineman-sized guy to shameful flight. Nevertheless, the most newsworthy encounters involve larger mammals.
For example, a while ago, I saw on the TV news that a woman had been head-butted (bashed) off a trail by a buffalo in the Park. Thankfully, the victim did not suffer any major injuries. Still, she can’t be faulted for not trying her best to get pulverized. Obviously, the assaulted lady hadn’t been taught one of the basic rules of human/wildlife interaction—“Never dispute trail right-of-ways with an animal which has the capacity to butt your butt over a medium-sized lodge pole pine!”
At that critical moment, many Park visitors come to a shocking realization. Though they may appear cumbersome, buffalo can outrun even the speediest of 60-pound-overweight, grossly out-of-shape humans. Still, because smart phones make for paltry weapons, assuming a fixed defensive posture isn’t a good idea either. With that grim scenario in mind, I think it’s high time for the National Park Service to offer buffalo-bashing survival training.
To begin, said training could focus on teaching potential victims how to position their bodies at the optimal angle from the enraged animal’s massive head in order to deflect the most shock. Next, because it only encourages the attacking beast, they should be encouraged to abstain from unsightly flailing of their extremities while airborne. Instead, tourists should be instructed in how to, like a thrown bronc rider clearing a corral fence, artfully sail over the afore-mentioned tree. Moreover, during the ensuing descent, they should strive to maintain a semblance of athletic form by keeping their feet from separating upon reuniting with the ground, head first.
Immediately after said impact, fortunately, the offending buffalo is often unsure of where its victim has landed. Therefore, as I see it, it’s vital that the catapulted party be trained to roll to his feet and beat a hasty retreat, in one fluid motion. After all, precious time spent thrashing around, while moaning and groaning, allows the beefy antagonist more time to locate its prey and muster another uplifting butt lifting.
If, heaven forbid, all the above-detailed survival methods fail, the desperate tourist needs to take a lesson from the buffalo. In particular, the targeted person should “accidently” bash into one of the multitude of clueless foreign visitors who are engrossed in filming what they’re convinced is a staged Wild-West re-enactment. By so doing, the original target can draw the furious beast’s attention away from himself and toward the flattened, flailing alien.
When, oh when, are people going to learn that wild animals really are wild? Perhaps that’s why they are so often seen running around loose. Furthermore, because they’re free to go where ever they danged well please, the untamed critters will sometimes take grievous personal umbrage when people get in their way.
Still, one would think that, considering the numerous bison/human altercations which have occurred over the years, folks would wise up. However, around four million vacationers visit Yellowstone National Park each year. Thus, each year brings a fresh crop of naïve buffalo-bashing-bait. Hopefully, by enacting my common-sense training the Park Service can at least lessen the severity of tourist injuries. Only time will tell.
Art lives in Harrison, Montana. His essays, stories, and poetry have been published in newspapers, journals, literary magazines, and on-line magazines.