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Liam and Bison

Sunday, June 8, 2014

 A Carolina wren pair raised a brood of babies in Liam's bison skull, which hangs on the side of our garage. He found it on a bison ranch in North Dakota years ago...maybe 2008, and he wanted it so badly, but we were flying and it wasn't exactly carryon size. Our friends the Ashers from Cincinnati volunteered to bring it back in their van for us. And darned if Jean didn't get it to us, and up it went on the garage under the eave, and there it has hung ever since.

Photo by Rondeau Ric

There is a classic post about how Liam found that skull and lost his stuffed monkey at the same time.
Read it here.

 Flashing forward six years...I kept seeing the wrens perched on the skull with food in their bills, and it took me a little while to realize that they had made a neat little nest down inside the brain case. Before long we could hear the baby wrens piping in there, and soon they were big enough that the adults would pop onto the skull, poke a spider or caterpiggle into the foramen magnum, and be gone. They were a very sneaky wren family, and I never saw them fledge. I think they did it during a thunderstorm when I was inside all day. When we took the skull down to look there was feather sheath dust in the nest, which generally means the babies made it to fledging. Being wrens, they kept their nest spic and span.

I got to thinking about Liam and bison. About all the times we've had with bison.
The bison is Liam's totem, and he was obsessed with them for a long time. It was a nice obsession, one we were happy to indulge. 

In 2009, when he was 10, we took him to Jamestown, North Dakota, which has two white bison--one the male calf of the first female they got. This is her.

And here's her boy calf, with the long thin horns.

OK, they don't look too great in June, because they're shedding old winter hair. Liam didn't mind. He was transfixed. He watched them through the spotting scope.

Then he called his friend Will back in Ohio to tell him all about it. 

In 2010, when Liam was 11, we had the most awesome family trip ever to western North Dakota, Montana and Yellowstone.
In Medina, ND, we tracked bison in the weird clay that makes up Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

And found this monstrous gentleman scratching himself on a guard rail.

Now that's a BISON.

We saw a candidate for some Darwinian selection.

Who was fortunately not selected out, at least while we were watching.

After both of them left, we went and looked at the shiny rail. Obviously he comes here often.

We spotted our first-ever elk.

and bought Liam a NDSU hat at Scheel's in Fargo.

I can't see to type.

 I'll be going out to North Dakota by myself this year, to work the 11th annual Potholes and Prairie festival. Bill's got other travel; Phoebe's got a job, and Liam wants to spend as much time as he can with his sister. They've been biking and swimming and reading together under the Japanese maple. I'll be doing my last packing as you read this.
I am thankful for all the times we've taken Phoebe and Liam along. I'll miss them terribly this year. 
Life changes on you, and before you know it the kids are elsewhere, no longer in the back seat wherever you go. That's when the memories kick in. 

These photos all raise such a lump in my throat I need to stop writing now. 

This grand and glorious bull said good-bye to us on our last day in Yellowstone in 2010.

It is something, to have an animal the size of a car, that could squash you in a New York minute, scratching itself on a lamppost right handy by.

There is nothing like showing an animal like that to your kids. I'm so glad we did, when we could, because animals like this one don't come along every day.

Neither do boys like Liam.


Don't you mean,
" wasn't exactly 'carrion' size" ?

The first time I was at Theodore Roosevelt NP a herd came and surrounded me as I was reading a Scott Weidensaul book on the picnic table in my campsite. Many of them had dark green splotches on their sides. This made more sense the next day when I saw a ranger painting pipes NP Service green, and he admitted the bison came up and rubbed against the newly painted pipes. Another bison came and rubbed itself against the Marietta College van on the road one day.

I wonder how many others feel the same way I do after reading your two blogs. They were so full and painfully sweet that it is hard to even comment. I think what you have done today is make us quietly reflect, it's what you seem to do best.

Posted by Lucy from MN June 8, 2014 at 8:52 AM

Pretty dang beautiful...

Ditto what Lucy from MN so eloquently said... Thank you for the soulful post, Julie.

Bison do make lovely memories. I went to Jamestown also to see the white bison. Got barely a glimpse of her laying down WAY back from the viewing area.

And I got to watch the rut close up while volunteering at National Bison Range.

Finally, you should bring Liam to the roundup at National Bison Range this October. It's not on their calendar yet but is early in October.

Lovely memories. My son and I tried to see bison @ Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR today, but we were not successful. Want to try again tomorrow. Stormy today.

Posted by DallasD June 8, 2014 at 4:43 PM

Exactly what Lucy said. So beautiful and bittersweet.

Another ditto on what Lucy from MN so eloquently said. Thank you Julie. We too have a Liam in our Trace.

I remember how upset Liam was about
losing his monkey but also excited about his bison bones.

You raised your children well and given them lots of memories of special times spent together.

You dun good mom.

yeah, I thought of that "carrion" pun when reading this too! Got no bison memories, but we did go to Rocky Mountain National Park when the elk were calving....they wander all over Estes Park- on the golf course, in the used car lot, at the municipal building....everyone gives them wide berth because they are elk and supposedly a bit snippy as new moms..

I was just thinking it should be about time for the Pothole and prairie festival and weren't you posting on facebook. So I went looking for this recent post that I had been too busy to read, and by golly here is North Dakota and Julie. Both make darn good memories that Liam will appreciate more and more as he grows older. Hugs and hoping you are having a wonderful time! I know everyone enjoys having you there.
Kathy in Delray Beach

I like LIam's totem animal. I'm glad that he's gotten to spend time with them. Oh, the stories he'll tell his grandchildren someday. There was this bison… as big as a car…

I missed my sister terribly when she left for college. It's a bittersweet time for both of them. And it's the beginning of a new adventure they cant yet imagine. Savor the moments.

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