Saturday, September 4, 2010

Part Four: Lost But Not Forgotten

In the next several months, Scotty’s horns were even larger and more spiked, but, just because he was growing into a big boy didn’t mean he was as strong in spirit. Besides Edgar’s dad talking to him, he just seemed lonely—standing alone in the middle of the pasture, the two sheep each other’s company across the field. Scotty’s loneliness precipitated another present for Gay for her birthday in May.
On her birthday of May 23, 1986, Edgar again prodded Gay to take a walk down to the old farmstead. She knew something was up—another animal of some kind, most likely. She mentally prepared herself: Could it be a kind of fowl this time? Perhaps a goose or a few ducks or maybe a swan or peacock, which Gay had hinted she’d like having?
But no feathers did this present wear.
When he opened the door to the same stall wherein he had first introduced his wife to Scotty, she gasped. It wasn’t fowl, that’s for sure. It was small, just like Scotty had been, but it was not another Scotty. It was something far more exotic with black, tightly curled hair. And behind its low-carried head, a small lump protruded on its back.
“Okay,” Gay said, staring at the creature before her, “I give up. What is it?”
“She’s a buffalo,” Edgar said, smiling as grandly as when he had shown Gay Scotty. “How do you like her?”
“A buffalo? What do we need a buffalo for? Mowing grass again?”
“As a friend for Scotty.”
“What if he doesn’t want a buffalo for a friend?”
“I think they’ll get along fine. They just have to get used to each other, you’ll see.”
“Thanks for the birthday present. Sandals would’ve been more practical.”

Buffy, too, had come from the Game Preserve where she had been part of a herd of twenty-some buffaloes. Edgar discouraged our trying to tame her—buffaloes were instinctively wild and fairly untamable. After acclimating the buffalo to the back stall for a week, Edgar decided to let her out with Scotty. The sheep were already way out in the pasture, and Scotty was in the barnyard sniffing at the last dribbles of hay. His horns were still just five-inch stubs, but he had taken over as king of the pasture. The sheep were peasants in his kingdom.
Edgar opened Buffy’s gate, and the small buffalo roared out of the stall, head down like a battering ram, and skipped down the ramp and into the barnyard where Scotty, eyes wide, took one look at her, spun around, and barrel-assed right through the barnyard gate. He ran as fast as he could to the safety of the sheep. Buffy hadn’t meant to chase him; she had only wanted to run and be free. When Buffy stopped in the barnyard to take in her surroundings, she just stood there, pawing the ground and sniffing it, evaluating her environment and the animals she would share the fields with.
Though Scotty’s initial reaction to the alien caused the destruction of the barnyard fence, once he found that Buffy was no threat, they quickly became friends. And, then, once friends, they became inseparable buddies, walking the pasture together, coming into the barn in the evening together, basking in the sunshine together. They had grown so close that they were virtually inseparable, like a couple of closely-planted sweet potatoes grown into one another.
Though buffalo may look lethargic, tankish, with hardly energy to move let alone jump a fence, they are hardly sedentary or clumsy. As Buffy got older, looking every day much more like a TV buffalo, with that big, blocky head, the small muzzle and large expanse between the black eyes, and as her hump grew larger and her rump smaller and more compact, she became more athletic as well. Now, with a Scotch Highland steer, two sheep, and a buffalo munching all day on the pasture, the grass was becoming thinner and scarcer. Suddenly the grass on the other side of the fence was looking much tastier.
Seeing the lush grass on the other side of the fence got Buffy devising her escape to greener meadows. One day, in an effortless manner, she leaped the fence. She flew through the air and over the barrier with the agility of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Seeing her hopping the fence, Scotty was, at once, both impressed and agitated; his buddy had left him. Scotty was so afraid of being left behind he backed up, put his huge head to the ground, and charged the fence where, beyond it, Buffy was gorging on the high grass. He bashed into the wooden fence, and it gave way under the bull-dozing weight of the Scotch Highland steer. Once through the fence, he and Buffy stood for hours grazing in never-before-grazed-on grass—until Edgar’s dad went for his daily walk. When he saw the fence down and the animals on the other side, he ran after them, trying to get them back into their pasture.
Knowing that far tastier grass lay just feet from their own scruffy pastures, Scotty and Buffy didn’t want any part of going back. They much preferred munching the virginal grass. Panic-stricken, Edgar’s dad ran back to the house to call his son for help, but Gay was the only one home.
“Buffy and Scotty are out of the pasture!” he yelled into the receiver.
“I’ll be right down,” Gay said. Only a week before, Gay had had liposuction done on her hips grown so large over the years she looked like a pack llama carrying two overstuffed sacks. Now, trim and slim, no longer wider than she was tall, she was recuperating at home while the bruising and pain dissipated, and her doctors had ordered her to wear a nasty-looking surgical garment. Though the doctors also ordered her to take it easy for at least two weeks, rest she would not have—not with a buffalo and a Scotch Highland on the loose.
Gay had been dutifully wearing the long-legged white surgical girdle she was to wear non-stop for at least two months, and she wasn’t about to screw up the surgery by taking it off in favor of cooler-looking duds. So, overtop the girdle, she slipped on a baggy pair of pink shorts that happened to be handy, threw on some sneakers, and bolted out the door. She ran down the driveway to the country road bordering their property, the dividing line between her in-laws’ farm and their place. She stopped dead as she saw the road backed up with traffic—a road upon which only a few cars passed every few minutes. Everywhere cars were stopped dead in each direction.
Then, feeling very much exposed and vulnerable in her white knee-reaching surgical garment with baggy shorts over top them, she ventured out into the middle of the road. Down Cherryville Road and across from the old farmstead’s house, Gay saw Buffy was standing in the middle of the road halting traffic like an employee from a PennDot road crew. The only thing she lacked was the flag, but, being a buffalo, she didn’t exactly need to get anyone’s attention. Every car was stopped dead. Buffy’s faithful partner, Scotty, stood a few yards away munching plants in the Balliets’ vegetable garden.
Forgetting all about her strange, semi-hospital-looking apparel and the fact that her doctor would’ve had a hernia knowing she was running back and forth, up and down Cherryville Road after a buffalo, Gay raced down the middle of the road toward the wild beast. While Edgar’s father held open the pasture gate for them, Gay flew at the buffalo, hooting and hollering, her arms flailing, trying to scare Buffy back into her pasture.
What the people in the cars were thinking was anyone’s guess. One thing they all did realize, however, was that there was a wild buffalo in the middle of a road with a woman dressed in a very silly outfit, yelling and gesticulating in its face. They weren’t getting out to help for no amount of money.
And what Gay was thinking as she ran after Buffy, who, then, skipped out of the road to join Scotty in Edgar’s parents’ vegetable garden, was, “Why aren’t any of these people in all these friggin’ cars helping me herd the buffalo and the steer back into their pasture? What’s the matter with everybody?” For at least fifteen minutes Gay first ran after Buffy, and Buffy, prancing lightly into the air, leaped away and galloped on tippy-toes up through the garden, mangling tomato plants and zucchini plants as she went. With Scotty right on her heels, he plunged, not nearly as light on his feet as she, clomping at a gallop, over the garden. Then, spying a particularly lush patch of grass, they both stopped to eat.
Gay was frantic, running another quarter mile to get to the patch of grass at which the two stopped. Meanwhile the cars and trucks, many of which she had noticed as she raced past them, sat stock-still. And most of the pick-ups had men in them—MEN! Why in the world wasn’t anyone helping her round up the animals? Were they afraid? She couldn’t believe no one would help, but she didn’t have much time to ponder the questions.

In an effort to keep weight gain, a hereditary trait born to most all of Pennsylvania Dutchmen and women, to a minimum, Gay had long ago taken up running. Daily she put on her sneakers and headed out along the woods where Edgar kept a mowed path for her to run and ride the horses. At last her stamina came in handy in a practical sense: for chasing down escaped animals. The main trouble was, with very little effort the two animals could bound away as soon as she ran up to them, and while their steps were three times hers, they covered more distance with less effort. Herding them on foot seemed futile: why would they ever go back into their comparatively barren pasture when all this wonderful grass was outside their pasture. The task was daunting.
By some stroke of luck, however, Gay charged up to Buffy, arms out and spitting syllables Buffy found distasteful, “Git awt! Sh—sh—sh—shh! Sh—sh—sh-shht! Sh-sh-sh-sht! Go on! Get back!” Buffy obviously didn’t liked being “shushed,” and she, with Scotty lumbering behind, finally trotted indifferently into the pasture with Edgar’s father closing the gate behind them.
When the auto audience saw the animals finally locked into their pasture, Gay got a horn-blowing ovation from the cars backed up on Cherryville Road. Drivers tooted their horns, and Gay heard a couple others cheer. Exhausted, Gay raised an arm to acknowledge their support then disappeared, acutely aware of her silly garb, behind the farmhouse until the traffic had disappeared. She locked the animals out of the pasture with the torn fencing, and that evening Edgar fixed it.
Buffy continued to leap the fence a few times a month, and each time Scotty barreled down the fence so that he could be with her. But the neighbors and travelers in this area, ones that used the road regularly, soon got used to driving slowly on that stretch of Cherryville Road where on any day Buffy could be standing in the road or out in the middle of an unfenced alfalfa field. The Balliets received many nonchalant calls from people on their way to work, “Your buffalo and steer are standing by the side of the road again. They must’ve escaped.” And then Gay and Edgar would go down to the farm and herd them back into the pasture.

Part Five coming tomorrow.

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