Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Bison in The Badlands

"O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before and laid Your hand upon me”—Psalm 139:1-5.

The sound of thunder rolled in the distance, but there was no storm. Dust swirled into the night sky, but there was no wind. We drove on through the South Dakota Badlands, waiting for the unseen phenomenon to show itself. The darkness became a light shade of tan—we caught movement on the right. Huge shapes careened down the hills and through the draws, crossing the road in front of us. Bruce hit the brakes as bison of every size and shape flicked through our headlights like an old western movie. As quickly as the stampede pounded through, it disappeared, leaving us awed and bewildered. We had truly come to a wild land.

Arriving at the campground very late and trying to be inconspicuous in our diesel truck, we camped at the far edge where the tent sites bordered open land—wildlife abounded, and we wanted to be right in the middle of 'em. Little did we know ...

We woke up to a beautiful, crisp morning—and a mysterious sound of snorting, munching, and stomping. We wanted to see wildlife, but by the sound of things we were beginning to think we had gotten a little more than we bargained for.

I opened the flap of our tent and stared out at a world from centuries past. Everything from the twenty-first century was erased from view—by a couple of hundred bison! They grazed everywhere and all around our tent and truck! Two little curious calves stepped cautiously toward me as I held my hand out through the opening. I tried to touch their noses, but that was a little much for them, and they scampered off.

We were having great fun—until their mama snorted and pushed her nose against the back of our tent. Bruce and I looked at each other and realized we could be in a precarious situation. But as she didn't seem to be interested in trampling our tent, we again turned our attention to the thrill of the scene outside our little door.

We heard another ominous noise and were again pulled back to another uncertain situation. A humongous bull patrolled past us, swinging his head and grunting. And with every swing, he gave us the "stink" eye. Now I've hung out with animals, wild and otherwise, my whole life. I've never been afraid, but always respectful. But when I looked in that eye, instinct told me that this bad boy meant business. Bruce and I shrunk back inside our tent and prayed that this brute would move on. After a couple of passes he finally did, as well as the rest of the herd, and we crawled out of our tent.

We wandered over to the information post in the campground and found abundant literature, complete with warnings, about how dangerous these animals can be. Of course we read this stuff after the fact—ignorance was definitely bliss in our case. However, as I surely pushed the limits of my ignorance, I also thanked the Lord that my battery went dead as I tried to get a picture of the bull. If the camera bulb had flashed, that guy would have really been ticked off!

True to our "trail" experiences, epiphanies abound with the stories, and this was no exception. God understands the "stampedes" of life that threaten to overtake us, but He protects us before we hurl headlong into the midst of the fray. Likewise, when we push ahead against sane wisdom because of momentary excitement, God's gracious hand is evident when He brings our precarious plans to an abrupt halt, saving us from ourselves.
(Psalm 91:9-12)