I remember the buffalo lining the road, blocking traffic and refusing to move. I remember the female moose that scared the daylights out of my father. I remember the elk Mom stood less than 5 feet from in order to get a 'better photo' of them, and I remember my visitor at my tent side that evening.
Life for me has been a series of adventures, one after another. I guess I get a part of that from my mother. While some would say it has caused me to grow old at a young age, I would argue that I've done enough living for a multitude of people. Even if I die before I'm 40, I will have lived life as though I had nine lives handed to me daily. I wouldn't want it any other way. I've lived through danger, adventure, stupidity, recklessness, world travels and ordinary days that were turned into extraordinary weeks and wild escapades. Nothing I've done in my life has resulted in a regret of any form, for what I've managed to accomplish and survive through has all made me into the person that I am today - independent and strong, no longer willing to roll over and let someone walk over me like a door mat.
Anyway, I got a little off subject there.
As we drove through Yellowstone on our way to the camp site, Mom noticed a large group of people ahead of us pulling off the road and jumping out of vehicles. They seemed to be walking slowly into a field, as if in a trance. A group of people had already formed a loose circle around something obstructed from view by the mass of bodies. Mom was sure it was animals of some kind. It was a bright day out, but the occasional flash of a camera could be seen coming from the group. Dad was stuck in traffic, so without a word she jumped out of the car, camera in hand.
As soon as she discovered it wasn't some bloody carcass left behind by a bear or a pack of wolves, she beckoned for me to join her. I jumped out of the car, eager for the adventure. She was every bit as crazy as I was, I thought. We were both always up for some sort of adventure. She marched straight up to the crowd of people and pulled me along side her. When we were close enough, she pulled me between a couple of people so that I might have a better view.
There before us stood two of the largest Elk I've ever seen anywhere, including photos, videos and paintings. These two were HUGE. Their antlers were so large that they could have easily scratched the top of their thighs just by leaning their heads back a little bit. They were massive.
The two of them seemed almost to pose for the pictures. They would turn their heads first this way, then that. They would look directly at the cameras, almost smiling at the people as they stood 30 feet away; what they thought was a reasonable distance. Finally the elk seemed to grow almost bored with us and went back to chomping grass. Seeing they were at ease, a few brave people in the crowd inched forward a bit, my mother being one of the few. I was right behind her.
They grew tired and their eye lids began to flutter. They lifted their heads and looked around at all of us again and stood there for a long moment. They grew even more drowsy as they stood motionless, letting everyone take incredible photos of them.
"I wish I had your father's camera" my mom said from about 25 feet away from the elk. "It has a much better lens. Even from here my camera makes them look really far away." Mom knelt down a bit, and a few of the other close-up photographers followed suit. They inched closer to the two massive beasts little by little. The elk stirred a bit, and the crowd froze. All it would take is one solid charge from either of the two and anyone in the group could be gored to death.
Instead of charging, the two amazing giants bent their front knees and dropped to the earth. Everyone froze as they watched in disbelief. Both elk were going to lay down on the grass and fall asleep with no less than 50 people standing incredibly close by. It was amazing, watching the two animals trying to figure out what to do with their heads. Their antlers reached clear back past their tails! People inched slowly closer, crawling on their hands and knees - from 25 feet to 20 feet. One of the elk fell asleep with his head sitting straight up in the air. They inched up a little at a time to 15 feet. The other elk fell fast asleep. My mother, bless her for the guts and courage she passed on to me, kept right on going. She said that 15 feet was still too far away for her camera to get a good picture, so she kept right on inching closer.
When all was said and done, I stopped at about 10 feet away, my heart pounding nearly out of my chest. She got all the way up to about five feet away from these two monster elk and held the camera out even closer than that with both arms stretched before her. She got some of the most incredible shots of anyone that day, and certainly had more guts than every other person in that field. I could hear whispers from people saying how crazy she was. I was proud to call her "MOM" on that trip.
That night as we were camping, I got even closer to a buffalo than she got to the elk - purely by mistake!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Buffalo Moon