The Bison in Us


The translucent man took off his thick sunglasses and squinted into the harsh sunlight at the Bison standing in a field. He looked closely, moved a couple of steps in its direction before deciding it was not the mechanical bull.

Johnny sat on a wooden milk crate, turned over and used as a seat while he replaced the B string on his Yamaha guitar. Molly had seen better days, too many days forgotten out in the rain, too many nights close to the fire made her warped, pock-marked, and peeling veneer. Still, in Johnny’s deft hands, Molly could strum out a melodious tune, full bodied and generous to most people’s ears. He slipped the guitar over his shoulder, shifted it around to his back, picked up an empty gas jerry can and walked to the highway, occasionally fingering Slim’s two hundred dollars in the front pocket of his jeans.

Across the street from the Shell gas station, Hombre’s Little Texas Bar & Grill enticed Johnny inside for just one beer. The bar was dark but had a warm, friendly vibe and as he spun a barstool around, Johnny noticed a mechanical bull in the far corner chewing up dandies and throwing them to the floor. He was only on his second sip of Coors when a silver tongued gent in a cream colored suit and black Stetson rolled up to the stool beside him. He introduced himself as Big Hank, and while eying up Johnny’s old Yamaha, boosted that he was a country and western concert promoter out of Pittsburgh doing a show in Ellwood City and looking for an opening act for the Dixie Twins, his top performing group in his vast stable of artists, his words. If he drank only one beer, if he got a can full of gas from across the street and if the old van would turn over, he promised Big Hank the Coyote Apples would be in Ellwood City the following night.

Johnny polished off his beer and was heading for the exit when he overheard a rowdy conversation between a couple of real estate agents extolling the virtues of a land deal they were setting up in the state of Missouri. For two hundred bucks, a twenty acre parcel of ranch land waited for those with the guts and  grit to go for it. The agents had ten parcels of land, deeds and titles were sitting upstairs in a strong box in their room.

Steve stayed in the bar for another beer, while Johnny and Mike went upstairs to finalize the deal. It seemed like a long time to be in the washroom, so Johnny knocked tentatively on the door and it squeaked open a bit and he looked inside at the open window. Mike and Johnny’s two hundred dollars were in the front seat of a white Continental, its suicide doors flailing uncontrollably as it sped down the gravel laneway leaving a thick plume of dust as it headed out of town.


How he came to this place was a tale only twisted strands of debauchery could reveal, as this and many more have been divulged over treachery and time. How does this breed coalesce over brutality and convert the repulsive into the ordinary and the bland? Perhaps it is the scattered march of a directionless world unencumbered by its own trivial contemplations that does not see any sketches on the wall, any documents in the desk or pronouncements of any kind.

Bison skulls piled fifty feet high and a hundred sorrows to the east and west can not compete with other tragedies because the scales we have created have criteria of significance, measurable accounts of misery and estimations of how we center ourselves along the line of the equation. In the shortness of our geologic time, whether in help or hindrance, a hierarchy of milestones dominates the passage between the ancient and the modern, but the elasticity that binds the two gives rise to confusion of who is ahead, who will dominate and will anything or anyone come out on top. Unfortunately, the repetition of history is more complex than we have been led to believe because the cause and effect are driven by both the devious and the favorable, with the ends and the means lining up very differently.

Today this Bison stands on a piece of land a mile from Plot 82. There is no fence, no herd…just this lone creature with the purpose in his eyes to participate in a new piece of history and if he is lucky, influence the criteria.