O Give Me a Home...

There's no antelope playing in the Wisconsin of my childhood. Deer, on the other hand, were ubiquitous. And buffalo roaming? Heck yes, about three miles down the road.

Our neighbor had a game farm permit, and a small herd of bison in his woodlot. Maybe a dozen total, and I never really knew what he did with them. This was well before the popularity of bison burgers and the promotion of beefalo as the new, heart-healthy beef. For all I know, he just liked to look at them.

We certainly did. Us kids would pester Mom and Dad to take the long way home along the back roads after church, then slow way down as we passed the 8-foot game fence while we tried to catch a glimpse of the dark, shaggy forms amidst the trees.

I never got to see a tawny yellow buffalo calf at his place. That pleasure was reserved for the annual Altar Boy/Choir Girl picnic, which traditionally happened every summer at Wildwood Park in Marshfield. They had a small zoo, running heavily to foxes, raccoon and exotic pheasants, and a big fenced pasture filled with elk, wild sheep and buffalo. Pretty much every year we'd see at least one calf, sometimes two, startlingly bright compared to their brownish-black parents.

I started painting bison on stew mugs some years back as a special request for a friend whose daughter and son-in-law were working at Yellowstone. I recently returned to the pattern for a table service order, and have been enjoying their reappearance on dinner and dessert plates, tall mugs and various baking and serving dishes.

Who knows where they'll roam next?