My son Zach went on a walk in the early morning a couple weeks ago. A little while later we got a call from the school dispensary. Apparently, he saw a bison and the bison saw him. Zach’s story, which is often exaggerated, was that a bison went after him and Zach went to hide in the bushes – in doing so he got a scrape on his hand.
These bison are intimidating. And they can get startled. Chances are, neither one was expecting the other. Did it really chase Zach? Yes, it’s possible. He has recently been worried about them. He tried to convince me there was a killer bison murdering people daily. All because a rogue bull bison somewhere at sometime has attacked and fatally wounded someone. “Zach,” I said, “do you really think this school would exist if bison were murdering the students? Would parents allow their kids here? Would the school allow the bison to roam here?”
As I was writing my poem, revising actually, five bison came into our yard. One of them looked at me, unsure. My aya was drying her sweater in the yard, so she quickly went to get it and quickly got back on the porch. Apparently running from them is the worst thing one can do. As she quickly walked back up the steps, one bison lifted its leg, trying to decide whether to charge. I looked at it, my hands locked behind my back. “I’m not going anywhere, “ I gently said, “it’s okay.” It put its leg down and continued eating.
The day before the bison visited, there were monkeys eating from our tree and bush branches. I did the same thing. Zach was chanting to them, doing a monkey puja, and I came out of the house and walked towards them.
“Dad, their teeth,” he said, “they can bite.”
“I know,” I answered, matter-of-factly, “but I’m not worried.”
“Dad, they can attack you and steal things.”
“Zach, I’m not worried.” I wasn’t. I walked up to them, not super close, enough to respect boundaries. They watched me for a bit, my hands behind my back, and then continued with their breakfast. I watched them for a long time, until a neighborhood dog came and barked at them.
Who says we can’t live among animals? We can’t, if we treat them poorly. Security guards – and Indians in general — are making things worse, as I have said before, by chasing them and throwing stones at them.
As I tell Zach all the time, we need to behave as if the god in all life matters. But we also need to be careful, as danger exists. Don’t run from bison. If you are uncomfortable, walk away. Don’t stop too long with something in your hand and watch monkeys. Close the screen door so they won’t get in the house.. But also enjoy animals, let them know you respect them. There is a balance, one just needs to find it.