Nov 16, 2011

A Buffalo in the House

by R.D. Rosen

When I first spotted A Buffalo in the House  on the library shelf, I thought it was about the guy featured on the tv show Fatal Attractions (about people who keep dangerous animals as pets, often with disastrous results). It wasn't the same man and bison, but a story even more interesting.

Roger Brooks' artist wife Veryl Goodnight was the descendent of a couple who had helped save the buffalo from extinction, bottle-raising two orphaned calves in the 1870's. She decided to create a sculpture of her great-great-great grandmother (I don't know how many greats) feeding the calves, and so when the opportunity came for them to take in their own orphaned calf they were thrilled. Veryl used the calf as a model for her sculpture, and her husband Roger became increasingly attached to the animal. He started out living in the house, but eventually Charlie the buffalo became too big and potentially dangerous. He was moved to a corral outside but continually poked his nose in windows, browsed on flower shrubs, and went for walks in the countryside with Roger. When the bison was at his "teenage" stage they tried to introduce him to his own kind, hoping to integrate him into a regular herd. But an accident injured his spine and left him disabled. Amazingly, Roger kept the buffalo, increasingly dangerous not because of his nature (he was very gentle for such a huge animal) but because he was now prone to bad falls (and very difficult to get back on his feet again).

The story of Roger's dedication to Charlie is one I could not put down. Interwoven in the narrative is a brief history of the American bison, from their near-demise to the handful of people who protected the animals and helped bring them back from the brink. The latest chapter in this story astonished me; I had no idea that the bison herd which lives in Yellowstone was threatened- of all things by cattle ranchers in Montana. This book was written four years ago and apparently the killing is still going on- bison which migrate out of the park in search of food are shot because of supposed threat to grazing cattle (even though there's never been a documented case of a cow catching a disease from a buffalo). Spurred by his love for Charlie, Roger Brooks worked tirelessly to get the Yellowstone herd protected, but it hasn't happened yet.

rating: 3/5 ........ 242 pages, 2007


Nymeth said...

I heard about Roger and Charlie just the other day, though I can't remember where now. I didn't know there was a book! Sounds like a very interesting read :)

C.B. James said...

Wow. I'm a bit stunned by this story. I've spent some time around cows, and a little bit around buffalo, but never considered them really smart enough to form an attachment like the one you describe here. I'll keep an eye out for this book.

I hope things work out for the Yosemite herd, too.

Jeane said...

Nymeth- Did you see something about it on TV? I'd love to see footage of Charlie and Roger (probably could find it on youtube)

CB James- it's pretty amazing. Roger kept mentioning in the book how much smarter the bison were than cows, more alert, observant of their surroundings, etc. I didn't realize they could be so affectionate, though. Even when fully-grown, Charlie still wanted to suck on Veryl's fingers (she had bottle-fed him).