Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blacktop Time Warp

During the winter I take interpreting assignments that I wont even consider during the growing season. Every Thursday this winter I leave around 6am and as long as the weather is agreeable, I hop off the highway and strike off across the countryside on county blacktops. It isn't a relaxing drive, too many deer moving around at that time of day. But parts of the route are beautiful, and watching the sun rise up over the rolling, southern Iowa hills is always a sight to behold.

Not long ago I was tooling along when I noticed a large herd of dark brown cattle grazing in a pasture. Something seemed strange, but it took me a minute to realize that they weren't cattle, but bison! Holy cow (ahem), a huge herd of bison...right there beside the road. Luckily no one was behind me, because I came to a complete stop. It was hard to comprehend so many of these animals, there were hundreds of them, bulls, cows and calves...all just grazing in the cool morning air, just as they must have hundreds of years ago.

I was just blown away, and totally disgusted that i didn't have a camera to record this amazing sight. I went on to my assignment, but over the succeeding weeks I tried to catch a photo, to no avail. Either I forgot my camera, or the bison had moved to a new pasture, or the weather was miserable. Regardless, I always watched for them, and was occasionally awarded with a good view of them. I became a bit obsessed, and through some high-tech gumshoeing I finally discovered that I was driving past Tall Grass Bison, here's a blurb I found about them:

Tall Grass Bison, the largest bison producer in Iowa, maintains their herd of over 300 grass-fed bison on 1000 acres "as close to natural conditions as possible." The animals are free-range and graze on native prairie grasses; no corn or other grains are fed. Herds are managed for natural family order, an evolutionary development that minimizes stress, the precursor of pathogens, illness and tough meat. Healthy stress-free lives mean they have never needed nor been given a shot or antibiotics in their life.

So this has become my Thurday "moment" and finally this week the camera, the elements and the bison all came together...

The photo quality isn't very good, and doesn't really represent the massive size of the individual animals or the scope of the herd as a whole, but they do show that yes indeed, here on the rolling prairie there are still remnants of what one might have seen so long ago.

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