Friday, September 23, 2011

White Buffalo

Three or four times a week I can be found peddling my bicycle from Blanding to Bluff during the early morning hours. Jana and the kids leave for school around 5:00 a.m., and I usually tag along. After dropping Kira off at dance practice and a little speed training with Grange at the high school track, I climb aboard the bicycle and head south along Highway 191.

Great Pyrenees

About five miles into the ride I approach a small farm located just west of the road. Although I have driven past it countless times, until I began riding this particular route on a regular basis, I had not paid much attention to the property. On the first morning I road my bike past the parcel, I noticed two enormous white dogs inhabiting the property. Dog breeds are not my specialty, but these looked an awful lot like they might be of the Great Pyrenees variety.

Working hard to cover the distance from the intersection of Center and Main in Blanding to the porch of Twin Rocks Trading Post in under an hour, I did not notice the canines until they came thundering across the field. Mentally gauging my speed against theirs and the distance they had to cover versus my own, I assumed I would soon be doggie treats for these flashes of white lightening. My calculations did not, however, take into account the gate, which is about 30 feet from the pavement. So, as they crawled under the barricade I safely sped past, leaving them empty-handed.

After this same scenario played out with similar results over the next two weeks, I became comfortable in the knowledge that I could outrun the hounds. Once my fear subsided, I was compelled to name the largest and fastest of the duo, giving him the title “White Buffalo.” This was in honor of his size, color and the white turquoise of the same name that is found near Tonopah, Nevada.

Having successfully evaded the mutts for several days, I decided it was time to even the odds, so I began howling at them to signal my approach. I once again tried to gauge our individual speeds so their notification arrived just in time to allow for a safe margin of error.

Although my edge continuously declined, this contest continued successfully for about a week, with me avoiding their assault each time. Then one morning, I did not see the dogs milling about the outbuildings where they usually awaited my approach. As I came abreast of the gate, I noticed the tall weeds in the bar ditch along the roadway begin to sway. To my surprise, White Buffalo sprang from the tall grass, barking excitedly, but holding his position on the edge of the blacktop. I squealed out a horse note and cranked the pedals wildly. He just stood there as if to say, “I could get you, but I choose not to.” It was then that I realized he was enjoying our game of pursuit as much as I.

The next few mornings, I would bark out my signal and White Buffalo, far ahead of his companion, would come catapulting across their land in plenty of time to stride along side me a few paces before I pulled away. Never trying to nip my heals or upset my progress, he seemed to understand that we had forged a bond, dog and cyclist.

Determined to strengthen the tie we had developed, I decided I would stop and give him a pat on the head or scratch behind the ear during my next journey. As I approached the farm, however, there was no movement. When I arrived at the gate, I noticed a large white patch lying quiet and still about 15 feet from the roadway. “It was surely White Buffalo,” I thought, “His latest ploy.” I slowed my speed in anticipation of stopping to say hello. It was not, however, a trick. He had apparently been struck a fatal blow the night before, and our game was eternally over.

These days, as I ride past his deteriorating body I wish I had stopped before the great tragedy. While White Buffalo’s carcass rapidly returns to Mother Earth, I realize you can never predict where you will meet your next best friend, or how soon he or she will be lost. Best to let them know as soon as possible how much they mean to you.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and The Team

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