We went to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area to see the buffalo roam. That is not quite what happened. According to the information on the website, there were numerous buffaloes to be seen, and having only seen them on television, I was game for a nearly three-hour drive to see those impressive animals.
It was a pleasant drive up to the site, and we were both so excited. Douglas found where in the park the buffalo were and we drove there. We paid $5 fee to drive through the buffalo habitat, being reminded to not get with 200 feet or so of the buffalo and to not try to feed them or leave food for them. With our windows down, driving at 15 miles per hour, we started around this wide area, all the time looking for the buffalo.
We stopped to read a plaque that told the history of the buffalo in the area. Douglas got out to read it and to take pictures, but Miss Scaredy Cat stayed in the car, no bravado from me. I was paying attention to the warnings, and staying put inside the car. So, I missed the first glimpse of the animals. Douglas was all atwitter at how big they were, while I was just hoping not upset a herd of huge buffaloes and possibly have them ram the car in self-defense of these strange two-legged varmints.
As we continued to circle with three or four other cars, we looked right and left, but saw no animals. After about 30 minutes of this, I was completely bored and wondering if we could get our $5 back. We could not turn around, as it was a one-way lane, so we just followed the others. But, suddenly the car in front of us stopped, and you could feel the excitement increase.
There they were: real live buffaloes! We parked, and my first reflex when we exited the car was to get closer so that I could really see them. But, they are not small, fluffy things. Instead, some of them were huge, and I understood why the park requires people not to get too close to them. Douglas got some good long-range pictures but, sensibly, did not try to get closer, and I got into the safety of the car once again.
What a sight! There were males and females, with their babies. The biggest of them was a male laying in the middle of the gang or herd, majestic and regal, surveying his kingdom. They are very hairy, so they were situated where there was shade, for it was one of the hottest days of the summer. They were chilling, not bothering anyone, and we kept our distance, so as not to disturb them.
And of course, there were people who parked and were determined to get as close as they could, danger and rules be damned! I am always amazed at human beings who think we have a right to interrupt the life of animals for our benefit. Seeing them move in on the buffalo, I decided it was time to depart, for I did not want to witness the encounter between a man and a male buffalo, knowing that the outcome would not be pretty.
It was worth the drive to glimpse them from a distance. To think that at one time they roamed in Tennessee in great numbers. I don’t think there was even fifty of them that day, and oh, how that saddened me! If we are not careful, even those few will be gone, and future generations will miss the beauty and pageantry of these wondrous animals.
As I sat in my car looking at them, I thought of Genesis 2: 19-20, “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals…” Oh, that we would let them roam free once again!