Friday, March 16, 2012


In 2010 Mrs. Chatterbox and I made a road trip to Yellowstone National Park. We arrived in the park in May, and while it was amazingly cold (all of the lakes were frozen) we had a great time.

Aside from the marvelous scenery and remarkable geothermal activity, such as Old Faithful, it’s the animals that most tourists go to see. I remember traveling down a road and stopping because fellow tourists were leaping out of their cars to see a grizzly bear in a meadow. People were actually running across the meadow to snap close-ups of the bear. Common sense, and quite a few episodes of Animal Planet, convinced me this wasn’t good idea. After all, these animals weren’t tame.

During our trip to Yellowstone we spotted elk and moose, but buffalo were the most fascinating. The only buffalo I’d seen up close were on nickels. In Yellowstone there were lots of them, not as many as back in the day when millions of stampeding buffalo shook the Great Plains, but enough for reassurance that we hadn’t hunted these magnificent animals into extinction.

On several occasions Mrs. C. and I pulled over to watch the enormous shaggy beasts, creatures that looked like they should have been ridden by sand creatures in Star Wars. They stared at us from a distance, seemingly bored by our attention as they chewed green shoots poking up from the receding snow. We were disappointed when we rounded a curve in the road and saw cars pulled over to watch a female who’d dropped to the ground to deliver her calf. We’d missed the birth by only minutes, but we did manage to see the baby rise up on shaky legs and bawl at its mother for milk.

When we’d seen enough we headed for a park exit. The road was winding and I was driving slowly, a good thing because around the next bend was a herd of thirty buffalo ambling down the center of the road, coming straight toward us. Leading the herd was a massive old bull, bigger than any of the other buffalo we’d seen. I hit the brakes, hard.

A car was practically glued to our rear bumper preventing me from backing up. I thought about inching forward but what if I startled the buffalo? He might charge us. I was painfully aware of the fact that we were on a collision course with a wild animal the size of a Sherman tank. I considered telling Mrs. C. to get out of the car and run, but I was momentarily paralyzed by indecision. In the end I decided that the best thing to do was stay in the car, which is what we did.

The old bull looked like he was engaging us in a game of chicken, one in which we would surely lose. I held my breath, and just when he was about to plow into us he swerved to the left, the sound of his hooves clattering on the road.

He paused beside our car, which seemed to offer about as much protection as a plastic lunch box, and stared at me for a moment, his eye as big as a t-rex’s. At the moment, that old bull could have had his way with us; his menacing horns were as long as my arm and could have opened our car like a can opener, but he just licked my window with his colossal tongue and continued on his way, his harem close behind. Our windows were closed but the air inside our car was thick with their musk as they engulfed us. They passed so close to our car that later I’d need to readjust my side mirrors.

When they’d gone I was reminded of words I’d read in the brochure we were given

when we entered the Park. Yellowstone wasn’t a zoo. These animals were wild, and we

were visitors in their home.

The photo at the top of this post resembles what we actually saw, but this bottom one

is what it looked like to me.

Aside from hunting, have you ever had a close encounter with a wild animal?


  1. I've not, but hubby had a chat with a bear on one of his mountain hikes he used to do. He had a gun though, but thankfully didn't have to use it.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  2. About the only animals I see when I go walking are Canada geese, swans, squirrels, chipmunks, and the like. Once I saw a fox and another time a deer but that's about it.

    There are still buffalo in Michigan. There are some by the headquarters of Domino's Pizza on a farm outside of Ann Arbor and on vacation in Traverse City I saw another farm with buffalo. I wanted to get a picture of the latter but by the time I came back with my camera they had gone. At least they weren't in the road though.

  3. "I considered telling Mrs. C. to get out of the car and run, but I was momentarily paralyzed by indecision..." that line is gold!

    We have some regular encounters with wild animals from our area, including javelina, snakes, coyotes, etc. I used to raise baby bobcats and fawns when I was in school. I would never, ever run TO a grizzly.

  4. The stupidity of people visiting game parks is mind blowing. There are often tourists that get mauled by the big cat or chased and trampled by elephants and rhino and hippo etc. Even locals forget that they are wild animals not pets.

  5. We, too, encountered buffalo in the road at Yellowstone. They are massive beasts! One walked so close to the car I could have opened the window and petted it, but I wisely refrained from the urge!

  6. I've always wanted to go to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Maybe someday. I guess the weirdest "wild" encounter would be hanging out (ha!) with cave bats when I was young and foolish and went caving for fun.

  7. A close encounter of the buffalo kind! Yowza!

  8. GS and I were at Yellowstone in August of 2010. It was cold and wet. This is about as close as we got to any wildlife while we were there.

  9. We used to go backpacking in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. We routinely walked right by elk, buffalo, wild turkey, etc. One evening after dinner we were walking around letting our food digest when we hear a ROAR, as in big cat (cougar?) ROAR. We froze in place, then slowly backed out. We never saw it, but it obviously saw us. We also went hiking in Glacier National Park and were advised to wear "bear bells" tied to our shoe laces to ring as we walked, letting the bears in the area know of our presence. They say the bears are more afraid of us that we are of them. I question that. :)


  10. We encountered wild camels a few weeks ago outside of Dubai on our road trip to Musandam, Oman. They proved to be very docile especially since we had apples. Rule of thumb when traveling in an area that might have stray wild animals . . .always bring a bag of apples - we don't leave home without them!!

  11. We've been to the Land Between the Lakes region in Kentucky - they have an Elk & Bison Prairie that you can drive through. Truly amazing beasts! Wonder when Dr. M & I can get that way again?

  12. Went camping in Canada once in the elk rutting season. I hardly slept a wink all night not just because it was so freezing cold but also I was convinced that an elk would mistake my tent for a rival male and charge it. Well , your mind does funny things to you at 4 am.

  13. We've driven through such parks before, and one farm that had ostriches. Up close they are even funnier looking than far away, proof indeed that the Creator had a sense of humor.

  14. I'm trying to imagine you and Mrs. Chatterbox sitting in a car, being approached by a buffalo. Not sure what I would have done...screamed? ...held my breath? ...furiously take pictures?

    Here in Florida, the biggest and baddest creatures that I encounter on a regular basis are alligators. They always look like they smile at me, but I'm not sure if it's because I carry a camera or because I look tasty.

  15. I've been to Assateague Island to see the wild ponies, who aren't one bit wild except in someone's dreams. They're so accustomed to having tourists around that they stand still for petting and, sadly, some people feed them junk food. We also saw a small bear one time when we were driving in California. My husband, now ex, shouted, "Lock the doors! It's a bear." Yes. That little cub was going to chase us and open the car doors. What a wuss Dr. X is. I shall follow you because my LegalEagle likes you. I would be most pleased if you emailed me at for an invitation to my blog, which is private because of the aforementioned ex.

    Janie Junebug

  16. Sometimes when I have to shout at my dog, Sadie the German Shepherd, I become aware of what she could do to me if she got angry!
    I owned a bad tempered rooster once, that attacked me once too often. He came off worst eventually!

  17. I touched an elephant once and posed with a lion, but not at the same time.

  18. My dream is to go to the Grand Canyon. I also had an alligator living in my house once. I live life on the edge.

    I would be more cautious of wild animals not living in my home, though!

  19. i used to write some articles for our works newsletter, and might revisit one of my regular columns on the blog one day, but we had a crow with a broken wing that got nicknamed Colin (though i still think that Russel Crow would have been a better name) - and we took it to the local animal rescue centre so it could be looked after

    Whilst I was there the man who ran it mentioned that he had recently rescued a fox - and brought it out for me to stroke. It was amazing

  20. You are very fun person :). I always enjoy reading your posts :). So many are in pending .

    Have a good day ,

  21. Reminds me of my family trip to the Bison National Park in Montana...Buffalo are amazing.
    We happen to have the Dances with Wolves soundtrack in the car. When we saw our first real live Buffalo the music playing along could not have been scripted better.
    Live animal encounters...have you read my story "Stripes"? It even has a video. :)
    Check it out if you get a few minutes.

  22. I had mean dogs attack me while on my paper route when I was a kid. I was terrified. Fought them by throwing rolled up newspapers at them and beaned a couple on the head.

    1. I tried to rescue a chipmunk from our cat, and was bitten as a token of thanks. I was the laughingstock of the county health center, where nobody seemed to know if chipmunks carry rabies.

  23. AAh, Stephen, I laugh and laugh when I read you! What a great post, but then all your posts are stellar. Thanks for visiting and wishing this new Irish girl a welcome into the clan. I raise a pint t'ya, my friend.
    If you are so inclined (I remember that you used to illustrate for a living) I have started a new Artist's Play Room weekly challenge link up. I dare you to come on over and enter a piece of green art! Hope to see you there.
    Jenn of

  24. OMg I would have had to adjust more than just my side mirrors - I would have had to check my pants! When I see Yellowstone National Park I always think of my favourite cartoon character,Yogi Bear!
    Great to connect with you and thanks for dropping by my blog and saying "Bom Dia"

  25. Hello,
    In from Artist playroom at Jenn's..Just Add Water Silly. Really enjoyed your post above and loved your Peas in a Pod posted on her site, but I can't find it here on your blog yet. It could be because it is late and I am propping my eye lids open to stay awake. Newest follower and I will be back to check it out.

    In From Jenn's