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Writing Challenge: A Little Boy Meets A Bison in Yellowstone National Park

Updated on July 10, 2012
The star of our story:  Mr. Bison
The star of our story: Mr. Bison | Source
The traveling family!
The traveling family! | Source
Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park
Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park | Source
The Absoraka Range in Yellowstone
The Absoraka Range in Yellowstone | Source
The Yellowstone River
The Yellowstone River | Source
A wallow
A wallow | Source

“Hey, buddy, what do you think of your writing so far? Are you satisfied with it? I mean, you are a pretty good writer; not great, but you have some game. How about pushing yourself to be better? How about leaving your comfort zone and seeing if you can’t improve your craft?”

That was the conversation I recently had with myself. The fact is that I am getting stagnant. Without a challenge there is the same old regurgitated crud being spewed forth and that’s not why I became a writer. So I talked to Bev about it because, well, she is my sounding board, the person I trust completely, and because she will be honest with me.

I was telling her about “The Grapes of Wrath” and how I could pick any paragraph in that book and it would be better than anything I have ever written. Now that’s a humbling thought, isn’t it? I write between 3,000-4,000 words per day and nothing I have written so far matches one paragraph by Steinbeck! How’s that for sobering? How’s that for putting things in perspective?

So Bev sweetly challenged me to get better. She has this way about her where she sounds like Mother Teresa but inspires like a Marine drill sergeant! She knows I gobble up challenges like a man gulps water in a desert. She knows you can dangle the carrot of competition in front of me and I’ll chase that carrot until I can’t walk any longer….and then I’ll crawl after it. She knows…..me!

So here is her challenge! She wants me to write about a five year old boy who sees a bison at Yellowstone National Park for the first time. She also wants me to concentrate more on developing a scene. What follows is my response to her challenge.

ICE AGE MEETS THE ME GENERATION

A gentle breeze flows down from Montana, gently caressing the west flanks of the Absaroka Range, following the path of the Yellowstone River into the park known as Yellowstone. The tall grasses of the Hayden Valley gently sway to an ancient rhythm that has played the same melody for tens of thousands of years. Ponderosa Pines stretch to the heavens, towering guardians of this lush valley, and the wildflowers, fireweed, verbena, yarrow, et al, bend toward the sunshine that bathes this valley in golden hues of warmth.

Tourists are seemingly everywhere, rushing from vehicles to capture the perfect photo, posing for posterity with nature’s beauty as a backdrop. A picture, however, fails to capture the subtleties that are everywhere, the vast array of pink, golds, yellows and reds. How can a picture do justice to the bald eagle as it soars hundreds of feet above the river, searching for a meal in much the same way as his ancestors have done for centuries? Where are the thermals in that picture? How can a Nikon capture the glint in the eye as predator receives signal from brain to dive?

How can a picture give witness to the history that surrounds those tourists? This hallowed ground was walked upon by giants of the fur generation, the John Coulters and the Jim Bridgers, men who understood the intricate balance between man and nature. This hallowed ground was home to the Piegans, the Crows and the Shoshones, proud races who revered Mother Earth and considered this area sacred. These were the men, women and children who could read the tracks of a black tail, intuit weather by a shift in the wind, and protect themselves from brutal weather conditions using only that which Akbatekdia, their supreme god, had given them.

Long before any of these two-legged travelers, however, there roamed a four-legged furry beast, docile in appearance but prone to behavior bordering on psychotic. Following the ice bridge from Siberia to North America during the last great Ice Age, the bison searched for food, eventually inhabiting the lush Hayden Valley in what is now Yellowstone National Park. There they have remained for tens-of-thousands of years, a private sanctuary, their own Shangrila.

In days gone by they were almost exterminated by man. Today they are still hunted by man except that today the weapon of choice is a digital camera mounted on a tripod. They graze on the lush grasses of the Hayden, seemingly unaffected by the crowds, following instincts passed down from generation to generation. What do they see when approached by a tourist in checkered shorts and sun hat? What impulses reach their brains when a child of five cautiously steps out of his parents’ car and waves at these behemoths?

THE ENCOUNTER

The American bison weighs, on average, 1,800 pounds as an adult. They are capable of running 30 miles per hour and have horns that can easily penetrate a car door with the flick of the head. The American child, one Bobby from Topeka, weighs thirty-five pounds and can run, on a good day, four miles per hour. He has two green eyes, two dimples and a smile that can easily penetrate the heart of most adults.

Bobby stares in silent awe, clutching his mother’s hand as fear gnaws and excitement rushes through his system. Bison chews on some grass; it is not readily apparent that he even notices Bobby, but upon closer inspection that dead, prehistoric eye is constantly aware. The tail switches, the mouth chews, but that eye….that eye is registering every detail of this all-too familiar interloper with the iPod and baseball cap.

Bobby has heard the warnings by the Park Rangers, stories of bison outrunning a car, battering the side panels in a rage fueled by a shift in the wind, the drop of barometric pressure, or perhaps some primitive signal we will never understand. What would it be like to pet such an animal? Would his hair be rough? Would he snort? Would he just walk away or would he turn in anger, lashing out that powerful head? Even at such a young age, Bobby is fully aware of the danger, and yet, like most of us, there is an almost magnetic quality to danger, drawing us toward it despite repeated warnings.

The bison, on the other hand, has no thoughts, only impulses, and a reputation for being, at best, unpredictable. On any given day he is capable of ignoring the approach of a human or wreaking havoc at a moment’s notice. His are actions predicated upon loose wiring, comparable to a ’55 Chevy with spark plugs well past their warranty. The child he sees before him may be a piece of sagebrush or a sign of danger that requires quick and devastating action.

NEAR AND YET SO FAR APART

And so it goes! Similar encounters are played out daily, just as they have been for hundreds of years. The delicate truce between man and beast continues as the child climbs back into the car and the vacation safely continues. Bison chews for awhile longer and then wallows in another ancient ritual, dust rising in the clear mountain air. More photos are taken, more memories are partially captured and time marches on.

Bobby will return to his home in Des Moines, Topeka or San Diego, and tell his friends of the day he almost harnessed his fear. Bison will travel with the seasons until the day comes when old age or predators signal his last trip through the Hayden.

The wind will continue to kiss the Absoraka Range and the tall grasses will continue to dance to the silent song of life.

P.S. Bev had me read this to her; when the reading was done she said, “well, that’s nice; not quite what I was looking for, but nice.”

See what I have to put up with around here! On to the next challenge!

2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

For more articles on the National Parks, see the following:

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/My-Love-Affair-With-Mount-Rainier

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/National-Parks-Week-Celebrate-The-Majesty-of-Nature

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/Yellowstone-National-Park-A-Lust-Affair

To purchase any of my books on Kindle, go to:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=William%20D.%20Holland

Have you ever been to Yellowstone?

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Raci; so nice to see you. I hope you are well!

    • raciniwa profile image

      raciniwa 5 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

      nice one Bill...and i am enjoying the comments too...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, every time I go to Yellowstone I wonder if this will be the time their primitive brains see me as the enemy and they will charge our vehicle. They really are a scary animal.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I grew up in northern Indiana, near Ft. Wayne, but there was a small state park in Bluffton that had a few animals native to the US. The Buffalo was the big attraction. They only had three, old timers but they were still a little scary when you saw them up close.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, thank you! I love bison; I'm actually fascinated by them. Where did you grow up? Anyway, thank you my friend.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      We had a couple of these lovely creatures in a park close to home when I was growing up. I felt like Bobby upon close encounter. You did a great job on this one!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey pickles, good to hear from you. I have to go see if I've missed something by you; I'm still not getting all notifications about new hubs....anyway, thank you so much my friend.

    • picklesandrufus profile image

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      I think Bev is onto something Billybuc. I really enjoyed reading your very descriptive hub. You did a good job with this piece. More, more!!

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 5 years ago

      Well, being funny is not one of my personality traits, so it's going to be a challenge to add a humorous note to this short piece. We'll see how it goes :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vox, that's a great idea; I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 5 years ago

      Billy, just to share my idea - I was thinking about writing a piece on how a 12-year-old girl feels after having recieved a dream gift from her big sister - tickets for the Justin Bieber concert coming up next year lol I don't even have to use too much imagination because my sis has responded with a million of sighs and excitement which is not very typical of her (she doesn't normally show any feelings) lol

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very true Ann! Thank you for the second visit. Have a wonderful day!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 5 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Yes, I know what you mean - he was one of my Dad's, too. I read some of it; that's how I knew your descriptions sounded a little like him. I never was into westerns, much, although I love the movies. I just don't like reading them. Lamour, though, had such beautiful imagery.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, Lamour was my dad's favorite author...maybe some of it rubbed off by osmosis! LOL Thank you my friend!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 5 years ago from Orange, Texas

      billy, the description of the valley was beautiful; for a minute there, I thought I was reading Louis Lamour! lol Good job. Voted up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Trinity, thank you my friend! As always, I really do appreciate you and your lovely comment. I'll keep trying to get better and we'll see what happens.

    • Trinity M profile image

      Trinity M 5 years ago

      Well billybuc I’m not sure how you feel about the results of your challenge, however, from where I’m sitting I can safely say that you not only met it head on, you also managed to ride right over it. Not to disrespect the great Steinbeck, but I had to study “The Grapes of Wrath” in school and was truly bored out of my skull. Not so with your beautiful story that made me feel as if I was facing that bison myself. Lovely piece of writing and looking forward to your next challenge. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, it is amazing you said that; I am putting the finishing touches on such a hub right now and then will turn it over to TToombs, and so on and so on. Great minds think alike, wouldn't you agree? LOL Thank you my friend.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Sometimes there is a circle of challenging going around Hub Pages and people join in with their story, starting with the last line of the previous hub. I loved doing this. Ruchira started it and it was fun, perhaps you might like to start one. Enjoyed..Thank you..

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Donnah! I value your opinion and will try another challenge in the near future with your suggestions in mind. I appreciate your comments and your loyal following.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      A great job here, Bill. You actually do remind me of Steinbeck, as your description reminded me of the description of the setting at the start of "Of Mice and Men." Steinbeck set the scene by describing the land and setting the mood, as you have done beautifully. I disagree on the comments regarding POV. I am always telling my students to get rid of the ambiguous YOU in their writing. I say reserve that POV for self-help books and advertisements. I like your approach above. If you were to play with POV, then I would like to see the story told in the first person from the boy's perspective. How would the boy describe the setting? How would he react to the bison and the scene in general? Would he be telling the story as it happens or after the fact? Anyway, love it and voted it up.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      TT...I will refrain from comment! :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Debbie, thank you, but I think you are selling yourself a bit short on the talent.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vox, you are welcome!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Sorry. :) I never liked Steinbeck. I preferred Hemingway. :)

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 5 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      Bill, I say "thumbs up!" Your writing far outshines mine and many of us hubbers here, and I always enjoy reading what you have to say!

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 5 years ago

      I sure will! And, thank you :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vox, I love it when someone gets an idea from one of my hubs....let me know when you write it and what the idea was.....looking forward to it.....and thank you!

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 5 years ago

      Hm, excellent idea for a hub! It enlightened me so much that I came up with new ideas. Love this kind of influence you have on me :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great suggestion Julie! I appreciate the advice and value your opinion. Thank you!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Bill, I enjoyed this too but agree with others that second person will make YOU want to write more because you will get inside their heads and become them and then we'll have you developing your already interesting set up even further. Bev gave you a great challenge and you rose to it - there'll be no stopping you now :o)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kelly, if you find that paragraph then for God's sake pass it along; it would make me feel good for months. LOL Thank you my friend, as always!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Shoot, TT, don't be doing that nice thing with me; I'll get all mushy! :)

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Very nice Bill...lol. I can't help laughing at Bev:)

      I do know all weather begins at the equator! And I do care about the rain forests:)

      Excellent hub, and contemplating! I'm sure I could find a paragraph you can beat in the Grapes of Wrath - though I am a HUGe Steinbeck fan:)

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      It is my honor to be your friend. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Josh! Like most writers, stepping out of our comfort level is difficult and I'm not different. I'll keep working at it because I see the advantages to doing so. I appreciate your comment, nephew!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Bill,

      That was an awesome idea from Bev! I love how you challenged yourself with this writing. Your imagery was impeccable in that first paragraph as you laid out the background. You did great with this challenge. I am not going to beat a dead horse, with what everyone has been saying regarding the second person POV. Just keep challenging yourself, and that will come! I echo TT's comment about weaving the imagery, I really enjoyed that and felt as if I was there! So, all in all, great job uncle Bill. You have done well! Many votes here Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      TT, I am blessed to have her, and friends like you, who care so much! :)

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      She must really love you if she encourages you to be better and that she can see the potential in you. You are one lucky guy! :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      TT, I agree completely. It is a part of my writing that I need to work on and improve. Believe me, Bev points this out in a very loving manner. LOL Thanks Sis! I always respect your opinion.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Hiya Bill. Well, I could really tell when you put your teacher's hat back on in this: "The American bison weighs, on average, 1,800 pounds as an adult. They are capable of running 30 miles per hour and have horns that can easily penetrate a car door with the flick of the head."

      And I have to agree with Mark. I think if you wrote it in the second person, your reader would be more personally 'connected' to the story - like I'm an expect either. :)

      You did weave some very beautiful imagery, though, and I could imagine the wind playfully blowing through the tall grasses and mischievously stealing the scent of the flowers to taunt Bobby with the delicate perfume as it gently ruffles his hair. :) VUM to the max! :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Shampa!

    • shampa sadhya profile image

      Shampa Sadhya 5 years ago from NEW DELHI, INDIA

      Voted up and interesting!

      You have successfully cleared the challenge. I liked it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh Debbie, I will, for sure, keep listening to Bev. She is my guiding light on many days.

      Thank you dear friend.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Tell Bev I said thank you for pushing you and you writing this.. I really enjoyed it.. all I can say is keep listening to Bev... She is wise..

      Great story.. I hung on every word.

      Sharing

      Debbie

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well Lord, I guess I felt good about it. I always feel I could do better but.....the reality is, for that place and that time, that was about as good as I could do.

      Thank you my friend; it's a pleasure following you and being followed as well.

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 5 years ago

      BillyBoy,

      Bev was right by pushing your buttons. Curiad made a suggestion...and eh doesn't sound amateur at all. Lol! Great story and we felt as though we were there next to that little boy. Cute indeed. Your challenge was met, as long as you felt good after done. Thanks for sharing your world dearest friend. Your words captured our own emotions. We are still kids inside..right Billy?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mark, I'm only laughing because that is what Bev told me to do. LOL....you are no amateur my friend; you have paid your dues as a writer. Thank you!

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Not bad Bill, This is more of a Narrative, like a nature program on TV. My challenge to you is to rewrite this in second person, telling the story of the boy, the land and the interactions they have. Weave the boys thoughts and reactions into a story that spans some time period.

      LOL , listen to me the amateur telling the writer how to write!