(originally posted September 5, 2016)
Proud and terrified, I was now the stewardess of eight magnificent buffalo! First, there was Heidi and Teddy (previously named and twins). I could not leave their yearling mate and mother figure, so Missy joined and made three. The band grew before we even left Wyoming. There were two more orphans at the inspection corrals and Buffy and Hywa (bull calf) were loaded into the trailer with an IOU and a handshake to the owner. Arriving home with our treasure, I was greeted with news that a family in Switzerland wanted to sponsor more! A trip to a sale happening in South Dakota added Mama, Snow, and Wind, a two year old bred heifer. Now I am going to have a calf in the spring!
My mother was so excited and said, “Now we needed a bull.” We had two bull calves but that did not satisfy her and she wanted to contribute. Good breeder bulls were very expensive and I did not know where to look. I started assisting with the roundups and handling of a buffalo herd about 100 miles away for practice with huge corrals, squeeze chutes and the works. It was noisy and the animals often lost horns as they slammed into the catch. Was this my destiny? How could I do this? Where would the corrals and equipment come from? This was a first class operation run by a fellow lady buffalo owner, Hilda. I often spoke of my fears, asked for advice and finally mentioned the bull we were looking for. Destiny stepped up once again. Hilda showed me a huge bull buffalo in a side pen. He was gorgeous and worth a small fortune. She looked at me with very knowing eyes and made me an offer no one could refuse.
We opened the door of the trailer, a flash of dark brown exploded out and he was gone before we could lift a camera. He headed straight for my tiny band, moving like a graceful mountain. What if he hurts them?! How could I be so foolish?! I was told to put him in a small corral until he settled down and then turn him out with the others. My corrals would barely hold a tumbleweed.
Long past dusk, I sat with prayers of gratitude on the hill overlooking my new family. They were calm and content. “What is your name?” That was only one of a myriad of questions I was asking. He dwarfed the others. I honestly do not have words for how it feels to witness such a magnificent being. I felt humble certainly, yet there was a palpable power in the air. “Rainbow.” He was talking and I could hear him! I argued that it was a very sweet name for such a big and mighty one. I heard, “ Rainbow Tribe.” The One Tribe of all humanity often spoken of by Elders and prophecy. How does one say, “Thank you teacher,” in buffalo? His messages and lessons in the years to follow will forever live on the wind for all of us.
Destiny reminds me of a swift river. Once we step in we will be swept along often feeling quite out of control. I don’t remember taking the step but I have surely been swept, and control has been replaced by the inevitable and obvious gifts of collaboration. I swallowed a lot of water, gulped for air and grabbed for shore many times. Rainbow was a tough, no nonsense teacher and I loved him for it.