Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Liam loves bison. The bison is his favorite animal, and has been since he first saw them in North Dakota when he was little. Bison help him tap into the prairie landscape and Native American history.
White Cloud and this year's calf, who carries her albinistic genes...
And my little towhead has embraced the Native American reverence for the rare albino bison, and the white bison has become his spirit guide. Some kids have superheroes or the Incredible Hulk; my boy dreams of white bison. There's a symmetry to that which pleases me, especially since you can't tell a child what to dream of; he must come up with it on his own.
He watched the bison through a spotting scope for quite awhileand then let Phoebe have a turn while he called his friend Will in Ohio to tell him the amazing news that he, Liam, was standing before not one, not two, but three albino bison in Jamestown, North Dakota!
It was hard for Liam to convey to someone who's never dreamt of white bison what this meant to him. Perhaps his snow-white hair makes him feel a kinship with them the rest of us can't. He's a pale rider.
So I have found him a little turquoise deerskin pouch, and in the pouch is a carved white bison fetish, and a tuft of hair from the white bison at the Buffalo Museum. We got it by reaching through the chain link and grabbing it off some weedtops. He wears the pouch with its precious inclusions around his neck, and tries very hard not to take it off and forget where he put it down.
Liam's spirit pouch has already been forgotten in a pocket and sent through the wash once, and everything is fine, except that the wool no longer smells so deliciously of bison.
Liam asks me often if it's OK to have a favorite animal that is so rare. At a Montana museum, he saw and was deeply moved by an exhibit on the extermination of American bison. We reassure him that bison are still very much a part of the American landscape, and their numbers are rising again.
Even the white ones, the powerful and sacred ones.