I am pretty sure that when it comes to life’s experiences there are two ways of learning. The first way would be to observe and listen to other’s and use that information for personal application, that would be the easy way to learn. The more difficult learning style, yet for sure the least boring, would be to decide to experience the realities of life for oneself. In my family growing up, I would have been the child that learned from other’s. If someone said “the stove is hot, don’t touch it”, then I believed them and went on my way. My brother Kyle however, most often learned the latter way. He had to find out if indeed that stove was hot and just how hot was it? One particular childhood summer in the late 60’s, he learned an important lesson on just how ‘hot’ the stove could get!
Our family loved going to Monument Lake in Colorado when time and money could afford us a vacation. We would travel there with a couple of other families and set up tents in the mountains and spend several days fishing, relaxing and soaking in the good life. The scenery was beautiful and the company enjoyable. There was fishing, hiking and sitting around the campfire. We kids would often take off to explore and see if we could find new discoveries that we were sure no one else was aware of. This was usually innocent and non-threatening, not to mention pretty uneventful normal kid stuff. However, all of that was to quickly change the morning that we hiked down the mountain and saw the buffaloes.
The buffaloes were often near the lake grazing and as children on an adventure and always curious, we found them especially interesting on this day. They looked so peaceful and quiet grazing there on the meadow. Kyle, always the animal lover wondered if there was a possibility that we could pet one of them. My thoughts quickened to the warning of my parents as we had approached the lake on the day we drove in, “don’t go near the buffaloes!” Of course Kyle tended to believe there was no animal on earth that couldn’t be tamed if you just won it over. He was pretty sure that if he wandered over to the buffalo that was standing off somewhat alone from the herd that he could reach out, talk to him and stroke his curly fur. The rest of us stood to the side not quite as convinced that this was such a good idea. What if the buffalo didn’t want someone to pet him? Maybe this is not a very wise thing to do and maybe we should find another activity. What if parent warnings were correct as well as our trembling legs and the gnawing apprehension that things might not go well for us if this plan is carried out?
Despite our misgivings and our warnings to Kyle, he decided to approach the buffalo as we curiously watched, backing all the while further away from the unfolding scene and closer to the mountain where we could find refuge if needed. What a mixture of excitement, fear and wonder for a half dozen bored kids looking for an adventure!
If action is what we were looking for then we most certainly were not disappointed in what happened next! From where I stood as a small little chicken-hearted girl (albeit a curious one!) at the edge of the mountain, this is what I witnessed; Kyle reached up to pet the buffalo’s head between it’s two horns. Like a shot, the buffalo smashed it’s head into Kyle’s stomach and I saw my brother fly several feet into the air! I think I saw him land but I was too busy running, screaming and trying to decipher if the sound of a stampede coming up behind me were the other kids running for their lives as well or the herd of buffalo!
Meanwhile, back at the camp, my mother hears the chaos and commotion and comes running halfway down the mountain only to find her daughter blubbering something about Kyle getting killed by a buffalo! While she was trying to get answers from me and the others who most definitely had indeed run for their lives as well, we heard a voice ahead of us ask “Shelli, what’s wrong?” I looked up only to find my brother standing there wanting to make sure I was o.k.! Much to everyone’s surprise, after the buffalo threw him, Kyle had hit the ground and took off running so fast that he outran the rest of us up the mountain! We couldn’t believe it! We were all certain Kyle was dead and convinced that we also would meet our demise that day in a buffalo stampede! But no, there he stood, fully functioning, no broken bones, wondering why people were so very traumatized and what was his little sister crying for! To this day I totally understand why my mother has high blood pressure!
There are many things I learned from the buffalo experience. Maybe there is a reason we should listen to advice from those who have traveled the road of life longer than us! Maybe because God is so rich in love and mercy He watches over us even when we don’t always make the wisest choices. There are many life lessons to learn from all of this. But one practical application that I will carry with me for the rest of my days is this….don’t ever, ever pet a buffalo!