EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Before Yellowstone, I never thought about the murderous qualities of buffalo. After Yellowstone, it was all I could think about.

In the fall of 2007, my then-girlfriend Katelyn and I were on an epic cross-country road trip. Passing through Wyoming, we made a detour to visit America’s oldest national park for a few days. As we drove up to the main gate, we were stopped at a booth by a park ranger in a wide-brimmed hat. “Is this your first visit to Yellowstone?” she asked.

“It sure is!” I answered. She nodded and handed over a small packet of papers that Katelyn flipped through as we drove into the park. It contained all of the expected materials: a detailed map, a large spread on various wildlife, a leaflet on camping regulations.

Then Katelyn pulled out a bright yellow flier that made us glance at each other, horrified. It was an illustration of a hapless park visitor, arms and legs outstretched, mouth in a round “O,” being launched into the air by a hulking buffalo. The beast’s sharp horns were inches from the man’s rump. “WARNING! MANY VISITORS HAVE BEEN GORED BY BUFFALO,” the page screamed in bold, capital type, “These animals may appear tame but are wild, unpredictable, and dangerous. DO NOT APPROACH BUFFALO.” More… “When Bison Attack”

Matt Grant is a Brooklyn-based writer. He is a staff writer at LitHub and a contributor to Book Riot. His work has appeared in Longreads, The Huffington Post, and The Brooklyn Rail, among others. You can find him online at www.mattgrantwriter.com or on Twitter: @mattgrantwriter.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

 

Given the state of the natural world right now, it’s hard to get through a book of nature writing without getting depressed. It’s not about documenting these trees, this stream, that coastline. It’s these disappearing trees, this dying stream, that polluted coastline. The most optimistic nature writing in the last several years was Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, which assured humans that once we are wiped out by the plague or manage to kill off one another, the world will restore its balance. The damage is not permanent, as long as we disappear one way or another.

This state of the world is reflected in the title of Jonathan Rosen’s The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature. Rosen writes, “Birds bring news of this [man-diminished world] like nothing else — they are like… More…