We’ve all visited tourist attractions notable not because they are historic or particularly beautiful, but because they are weird. The Spillway at Pymatuning Lake comes to mind – the place where the carp flop over each other as they fight for bread the tourists toss into the water.
The other is a safari near the Lake Erie shore in Ohio. There, you drive a path that’s lined with dozens of deer, llamas, buffalo, goats and a couple of giraffes, all of whom are begging for a handful of the wildly expensive kibble and greens the workers sell on your way in. With the animals clumping in groups around the cars, the whole thing has the feeling you would get riding in a parade and tossing candy to the people along the route.
We went through the gauntlet last week – my daughter, her boyfriend and I. Not being particularly enamored of close encounters with animals, he sat in the backseat, as I drove and Grace rode shotgun.
The signs along the path cautioned us to reach out the window with the cups of food, to allow the animals to safely nibble.
“If an animal tries to take the cup, let him have it,” the sign said, and that was about as menacing as the warnings got.
These were not dangerous beasts surrounding our car, but they were hungry beasts, and insistent.
As we crept past the first bend in the path and a herd of polite deer, we arrived at the home where the buffalo roam. While we marveled at the cute babies standing with their mothers near a pond, the fathers approached, one on each side of my car. With our windows all the way down, there was enough room to accommodate their large heads.
Up close, a buffalo head is the size of a prize-winning watermelon. The hair is golden and rough. Its tongue is dark gray and wet and the size of a hoagie bun. Even with its mouth wide open, a buffalo isn’t as smelly as you would expect.
I offered my cup of kibble out my window and my buffalo emptied it, the pig.
Meanwhile, a drama was developing next to me.
There, an even larger buffalo had inserted its head into the passenger-side window. While Grace offered a cup of carrot greens, the beast tried to push further through the window, aiming its snout insistently at her chin. Squeals, Grace’s, and snorts, from the buffalo, ensued as Grace tried to retreat from the attack.
That is when her boyfriend sprang into action.
From the backseat, he grabbed Grace by the shoulders, bracing her against the possibility that Mr. Buffalo, deciding that my daughter was the most delicious thing in the car, might try to pull her out through the window. It was as chivalrous a move as I’ve personally witnessed.
We mothers hope our daughters will choose male companions who will protect them from hungry beasts. I needn’t have worried. Grace has chosen well.
She was never in danger.
The buffalo could have bitten her nose off if he wanted, but he was a lazy, gentle beast just looking for a snack, and his horns blocked him from coming too far into the window anyway.
Besides, Grace can fend for herself. But it was nice to know her boyfriend has her back.
It was one of those weird moments charming enough to stay with me. It cost us about $120 to take that 20 minute jaunt to feed the animals. The memory of Grace’s handsome young man reaching out to save her?
Totally worth it.