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Close Encounters of the Bison Kind

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Bison 2

A bestial growl, almost feline in nature, first caught our attention. Somewhere off in the distance, a cacophony of grunts and bellows followed. We listened for a short time before deciding a couple of things: the noise originated from within our campground; a large group of animals were responsible; we had no idea what kind; if we wanted to find out, we’d have to go investigate. Grabbing my camera we headed for the door.

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Theodore Roosevelt Delivers

Teddy Roosevelt National Park

After awhile we began to lose hope. Mile after mile, hour after hour, we drove past boringly similar landscapes: more hay bales here, another farm there – hey look, a cow! We started to believe the stunning western vistas we’ve seen photographed so frequently were nothing more than a hoax. We traveled clear across North Dakota, nearly to Montana, and . . . “Holy Shit!”

It happened just that fast. One moment we were considering the virtues of yet another grassy hill, the next we’re catching a flash of the rough and rugged landscape of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Our first glimpse of Painted Canyon elicited that exact exclamation from both of us.

One of the things that surprised us most is how green the park was. We had expected brown, arid plains but instead found brilliant shades of moss and sage that reminded us, if only slightly, of the Emerald Isle. Once again, we count ourselves fortunate. Rainfall at the park was four times above average. This lush foliage isn’t typical. It seems as if Teddy Roosevelt dressed up special for our arrival. We’re deeply honored.

Why?

Worlds Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND

The sign read “Welcome to Jamestown, ND, home of the World’s Largest Buffalo.” At 26 feet tall and 60 tons, the concrete buffalo statue is unquestionably big. But world’s largest? Certainly humanity possesses the engineering capability to build an even larger buffalo. I know the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai rises 2,717 feet in height. With all that’s at stake, I worried for a moment that civilization might be teetering on the precipice of a largest buffalo arms race; with town after town rushing to build ever larger bison for the purposes of, well, what exactly?

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