Posted by: Kirsten | Saturday, 16 February 2008

The American Bison: Clean as Dirt

A couple of weeks ago, the tub in our bathroom seemed to have sprouted a leak where the drainpipe meets the tub.  We had been thinking of re-doing the bathroom at some point anyway, so this was the excuse we finally needed to get a new tub and take down the awful-brown-plastic-molded-piece-of-junk-sorry-excuse-for-a-shower-wall we inherited when we bought the house.  After two weeks of taking bird baths at the sink, the first shower in our new tub this evening was very satisfying.

Now, I have gone for a week or so with no shower back in my Army days, and a few days on recent camping trips, but to feel those itchy crawly tingly prickly tickly sensations all over your body for two weeks straight isn’t really enjoyable.  And it’s not like I’m getting some benefit out of being dirty like a nice canyon view or some time away from the stress of the daily grind.  But finally the wait is over, and I’m clean — really clean, once again.

So (finally getting to the bison part, hang in there) as I was letting out the family dog this evening (Phoenix the golden retriever), I watched him as he did his usual thing: 1) immediately find a toy he wants to fetch and stare back at me, 2) sniff around the yard for several minutes for just the right spot to go, and 3) refuse to come back in because he wants to play frisbee or wait for me to rattle the treat bucket.  So while Phoenix is getting impatient waiting for me to realize it’s playtime (it wasn’t), he reverts to optional step 2b, which involves squirming around on the ground rubbing every square inch of his body to scratch various itches and shed unneeded hair (don’t worry there’ll be more hair tomorrow). He particularly enjoys it when there’s a light dusting of snow on the ground.  If you’ve ever watched an episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog with the little ones, it’s basically the same thing Clifford does sometimes — with feet straight up in the air and wiggling like a giant worm. 

Soon after arriving in Yellowstone National Park last August, my son and I were treated with a similar display from a HUGE bison near Lake Yellowstone rolling around in a sand pit.  It might seem strange, but seeing a 1,500 pound animal squirming around like that was one of memories I’ll keep with me for a long time.  At first it was “Hey look at the size of THAT bison!” and it quickly turned into “Wow, now there’s the most awkward bath I’ve ever seen!”.  Bison use their “wallows” to cool themselves off from the baking sun, keep insects at bay, and rub against trees and rocks to help shed their winter coat in the springtime. You know, that sounds a lot like a golden retriever to me.

Now, looking back, I feel a little closer to our friend the bison.  There were times at work these past two weeks where I just wanted to back up against the wall and rub, rub, rub those itchies away.  And all this time I could have just headed out to the back yard with the dog and taken care of all my personal grooming needs at a moment’s notice.  What was I thinking?

Parke Diem!
— Jon

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