“I read that President Obama signed legislation naming the bison the official national mammal of the United States,” I said at lunch today.
“Why the bison?” a coworker asked. “They only live in a small part of the country.”
“Yes, but they are such an American icon,” I replied.
“True,” replied another coworker, “But it does seem like an odd choice.”
I thought about this for a bit. It was just funny to me that other people would not be as enamored by the idea as I was. To me, the bison is America. It’s cowboys and Indians, it’s the Great Plains, it’s survival in the most difficult of elements, it’s Yellowstone National Park, it’s Montana and Wyoming and the Dakotas, it’s that look of grandeur. I’m from New Jersey but I’ve travelled extensively across America and the bison is “da man”. In my head I can’t separate certain images of the beautiful west from the great animal.
So I decided to try a different tack with my coworkers.
“Well, bison are just a natural part of the prairies and the plains. They belong there and help keep a healthy balance. Cattle on the other hand damage that delicate land. We could probably restore vitality to a lot of the grasslands in the midwest if we had more bison being farmed there instead of cattle,” I explained.
“Well, how? What does the bison do for the grassland?” I was asked.
I then launched into my explanation of the symbiotic relationship between the bison, the grasses and land of the prairie, and the migrating birds. I spoke about the grazing habits of bison. I explained how the migrating birds depend on the variety of grasses and seeds that grow as a result of these grazing habits. I spoke about the wallowing bison do and how that behavior helps bring the all important ground water up.
It was then that I noticed their faces, my coworkers were looking at me with the oddest expressions on their faces.
“How do you know all this?” one of them asked me.
“Oh, I read a book,” was my reply.
They both gave each other that knowing look. “How did we know you were going to say that?”
Everything I know I know from a book!