Interview with a Buffalo in Golden Gate Park

PNNscholar1 - Posted on 11 January 2016

When I was a kid, my father would make me sit with him and watch old western movies on TV.  Those movies would be aired in the afternoon—cowboys on horses shooting at things—cowboys, stagecoaches, whiskey bottles—and, of course, Indians.  I looked more like an Indian than a cowboy and my dad would sit, his attention, his mind, his spirit inhabiting each scene, as if he’d been on horseback with a six shooter firing into the expanse of sky as the wild prickly cacti bore witness.  I’d see horses, badges, tumbleweed and gamblers on our little TV set but there was one thing I never saw—buffalo.  “Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam…” the song went.  Where were the buffalo?


All those classic westerns those afternoons with the old man and not a single buffalo, not even a mound of buffalo shit on the silver screen. There has to be a buffalo, one hanging around somewhere I thought.  So one day I left and went looking for one.  I get lost all the time—I have no sense of direction, especially if someone gives me directions.  If I’m told to turn left, I will turn right.  I found myself in Golden Gate Park—how I got there, I don’t know—I just put one foot in front of the other, my mind guiding me in a daydream without direction.  It was at Golden Gate Park that I came upon buffalo—4 or 5 of them, fenced in.  I stood outside the fence gazing at them. They stood chewing as the sky above seemed to move. 


I called out, “Hey buffalo” but they ignored me.  Hey buffalo, I said again.  “Get lost, kid” a voice called out.  I looked at their skin, a burnt brown with patches of wooly growth.  I stayed for an hour before going back home where my father was still watching that old western.  I am all grown up now, a reporter for Poor News Network (PNN). I still live in San Francisco but many people I grew up with are no longer here.  I recently visited Golden Gate Park to seek an interview with one or more of the buffalo in their refuge called the Golden Gate Park Buffalo Paddock.  It was my sincere hope to learn of their feelings about the city, about life; and, it was my hope that I wouldn’t be told to get lost.


PNN: Hey buffalo!

Buffalo: I thought I told you to get lost

PNN: That was you?

Buffalo: I might be a buffalo, but I got the memory of an elephant.  I never forget a face.  So, are you still watching those lousy western movies?

PNN: No, that was a long time ago

Buffalo: All lies anyway.  So many buffalo killed.

PNN: What have you been up to?

Buffalo:  I’ve been here, on the land.  The land has always been here.  People change, come and go, but the land is here.  But i'm worried, the way it's going out here, I hope I don't get evicted. I even had one goofy son of a bitch that came around the other day.  He asked if I was renting this place as a short term rental.  Short term rental?  Shit, these folks just got here yesterday and they're asking me if I'm living in a short term rental.  Then he told me that i could make some bread by listing this place on some shit called Airbnb.  I told him, I don't need no airbnb because the air I breathe is good and I can shit whereever I damn well please.  But the guy kept hanging around being a pain in the ass.  Home on the motherfuckin' range ain't what it used to be, i guess.

PNN: What’s changed in the city?

Buffalo: Well, who are all those goofy motherfuckers with beards running all over the place?  They all look like General Custard.

PNN: You mean Custer?

Buffalo: Custer, Custard—What difference does it make?  Someone should airlift some razorblades and drop ‘em.  All them beards running around like something out of burning man.  To me it’s a bunch of burning bullshit. 

PNN: They come around a lot?

Buffalo: yeah, standing by the fence, trying to get my attention, snapping pictures on their little phones.  They’re like flies landing on the ass of a warthog, swarms of them.  You just want to swat them.  I tell you brother, if this fence wasn’t here…

PNN: You ever try to escape?

Buffalo: I did, years ago.  But I ain’t no kid no more.  If I tried that now they’d call the cops and that would be my ass.

PNN: the cops are out of control

Buffalo: Damn right they are.  What they did to that kid Mario Woods was a damn shame.  It was an execution.  They need to fire the police Chief, what's his name, Slur?

PNN: I think it's Suhr

Buffalo: Well, i sure as hell ain't calling him sir.  And what's the Mayor doing?  He's pullin' a wizard of oz.  We'd do better with all-you-can-eat Shrimp Boy, he'd at least set us up with a little cheese bread, which is a helluva lot more than we get out of this mayor.  And I heard about something called text messages that the cops were sending on their cell phones with a lot of racist stuff on it.  Oh yeah, Slurs.  But I ain't in to cell phones...they're out of my range.  But yes, the chief, aesthetically he ain't lookin' too good.  Resembles head cheese under a heat lamp.  But yeah, the cops are off the hook.

PNN: How did you hear about it?

Buffalo: I get the paper.  Some of these old guys drop it off during their morning walks.  But I was reading about it.  5 cops shot that brother. That was wrong, just like they did Alex Nieto.  But you know, they been shooting at us forever.  So many buffalo slaughtered.  So many brothers shot.  Soon there will be no more brothers or sisters left in the city. 

PNN: The black population is 3% in the city now

Buffalo: Damn shame.  I’ve seen it.  A lot of brothers used to come out here and we’d talk.  Them guys were cool.  One of ‘em used to say, “Everything is everything”.

PNN: I’ve heard that one too

Buffalo: It’s true, everything is everything. We are connected to each other, to air and sky and water.  Problem is that you got folks that think everything is theirs.

PNN: Everything’s everything?

Buffalo: Everything is everything

PNN: Any last words?

Buffalo: Yeah…custer can kiss my ass



© 2016 Tony Robles


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