Big Shaggies

I have loved buffalo (bison) since I was a kindergartner in Wichita. My aunt taught me how to draw them using a buffalo nickel, and I drew them on everything. On my way home to St. John from Great Bend, Kansas, I decided to stop and take pictures of a little herd of buffalo outside town. When I pulled off onto the road’s shoulder, there was a man with a truckload of hay at the gate to the buffalo pasture. He had just arrived, and the animals were excited. Suppertime! They came running. I introduced myself and asked if I could take some photographs. Bob said, “Sure, but can you help me first?” He asked me to drive his truck into the pasture while he made certain none of them ran through the gate onto the highway while he closed it.

Now I’ve heard stories about how dangerous buffalo are. They are unpredictable. The National Bison Association writes about controlling them: “You can lead a bison anywhere he wants to go.” “These are my pets,” Bob said, and so I drove the feed truck into the pasture. The buffalo quickly surrounded the truck and started munching on the rolls of hay, even before Bob could unload them. Should I get out? Bob seemed happy walking among them, and he didn’t tell me not to, so I gingerly got out. They stopped eating. My heart skipped a beat. They looked at that big Nikon and me, and I saw tomorrow’s headline: “Foolish Preacher Gored by Bison!” Here in front of me, and beside me, and behind me, were thousand-pound critters with horns! Then they smiled a buffalo smile, licked their lips with long purple tongues, and went back to eating. Bob laughed and told me, “Just move slow, and don’t look aggressive, and you’ll be fine.”

It was a wonderful experience, and there is a lesson for all of us. How often do our preconceived notions control us? Jan met a woman at the library the other day who was terrified because two black men innocently walked past her on the sidewalk in Wichita. I remember listening to an old German lady in Berlin spewing curses on the “dirty” Turks in her town. Japanese look down on Koreans. During the Great Migration of the Dustbowl days, Californians use to make “Okies” sit in the balcony at the movies. Even Christians are not immune from prejudice, and it makes me sad. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:27 – 28).

Perhaps it’s time to get out of the truck and meet some “big shaggies” in person!

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