Bison and Bucket Lists

Over the long break at a modeling job recently, some artists were chatting about their summer plans. Travel, naturally, was the main subject with one person talking about heading up to Maine for a relaxing couple of weeks, others hoping to go to Europe for painting sojourns in Italy and elsewhere. One of the artists mentioned that she was likely going to visit one of the National Parks with her husband, which particularly struck a chord with me. With the exception of a Hajian family vacation in 1973, which included a visit to the Grand Canyon that I can barely remember given that I was five years old, I’ve never set foot in any of America’s National Parks. State parks sure. But no Nationals. Not Yellowstone, not Yosemite, not the Everglades, none of them. And it kind of disappoints me.

When I think about the magnificent North American landscapes – their wildlife, rivers and hot springs, deserts and lakes and coniferous forests, flora and fauna and waterfalls, wolves and otters and eagles – I feel like an American who is missing out on “America’s Best Idea” as PBS called it. I really want to see bison. I do! I’m somewhat obsessed with bison. Why, you wonder? Well, why not? They are the largest land mammal in North America. They are herbivores who will charge your ass at 30 mph if you threaten them. They are the tough, enduring symbol of the American West. They have outlasted adversity at every turn. Bison have been slaughtered by Indians and ranchers alike. Bison bounced back from the brink of extinction in the late 1800s. Bison survived the Ice Age. They are sturdy, stubborn badasses who just don’t give a fuck. This is their continent, we just live on it. Also, their babies are incredibly cute.

American Bison photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

The explorers Lewis and Clark wrote in their journals that enormous herds of bison “darkened the whole plains”. And in 1871, U.S. Soldier George Anderson wrote in a letter that it took a full six days for his men to pass through one herd of what seemed to be “millions” of bison in Kansas.

The Bison Trail by Charles M. Russell, 1908:

Although it can be an interesting, and at times revealing, exercise in exploring personal aspirations, compiling a “bucket list” isn’t something I’ve given much thought to. But to the limited extent that I have, going to Yellowstone National Park and seeing the bison would definitely be on my bucket list. Maybe the time has come for some of us who are middle-aged to start contemplating bucket list goals after so many years spent in a carpe diem style existence. I’ve never been much of a long term goal planner. Nor do I possess a go-getter, ambitious nature. I just don’t have that driven, ‘make things happen’ personality. But hey I can still assemble a bucket list! I think all the summer travel talk at that art class triggered something in me …. regrets over the places I’ve never been, and the things I’ve never seen or experienced.

But imagine a bucket list that allowed for time travel! Now THAT would be tremendous, because we could involve scenarios with individuals who are now dead. For me, that would include being a back-up dancer for Prince, getting bombed on gin & tonics at a bar in Paris with F. Scott Fitzgerald, seeing Charlie Parker perform at Birdland, and modeling for Raphael. Hell yes to all of those.

So here we go … my bucket list. One of these might actually happen and is sort of in the works. Another one was supposed to happen several years ago but never materialized. The others, well, let’s just put them in the “never’ category … for now 😉
1) Go to Burning Man
2) Get up on stage and tell a story at The Moth StorySLAM
3) Visit the Holy Land
4) Open a no-kill animal shelter
5) Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef
6) Yellowstone + bison
7) Learn to play Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #23
8) Help build a home with Habitat for Humanity

So what’s on your bucket list?

12 thoughts on “Bison and Bucket Lists

  1. SauceBox says:

    I totally agree with this. I’d love to see those massive creatures in person. Cool stuff! You’ve got my follow. Check out my comedy blog and give it a follow if you like it!

  2. I’ve never really thought that I was a bucket list sort of person. But perhaps I kind of am. But I’ve been extremely fortunate. If a thought crosses my mind that sounds interesting or if someone mentions something I’d like to try, I just do it. Or, when I’m lucky, I’ll get a job that helps me do it. When I look at my list, I guess a lot of people might think that I’ve done a lot. But the key thing is that if you want to do something, then do it! So my bucket list is really a “feel good list”. Sometimes life can interfere with your plans, so stop waiting!

    Become a figure drawing model
    Learn to fly airplanes
    Become an Eagle Scout
    Become a CPA
    Visit Australia and New Zealand
    Sing for the Pope (Benedict)
    Learn Italian (a little)
    Go to Disney World
    Learn to downhill ski
    Donate 18 truckloads of used office furniture to various charities
    Go to a nude beach (Mazo)

    All the Best,
    Ken

    • artmodel says:

      Ken,

      Great list! I really need more of that “just do it” attitude. The one time I did it with commitment and determination was twelve years ago – when I became an artist’s model. That turned out well, so I really have no reason to hesitate on other things.

      Learning to fly and get a pilot’s license is a popular one. Definitely not for me! But I can see the appeal. And I had no idea there was a nude beach in Wisconsin. Do you live in that part of the country?

      Thanks so much for your comments and for sharing your bucket list!

      Claudia

      • I live outside of Chicago, but traveled up to Mazomanie (Wisconsin) Beach as often as I possibly could. Fortunately, I was able get up there 12 times in 2015. Absolutely loved it there. A free, public beach with no threat of prosecution unless you were behaving in a “lewd” manner.
        Nudity alone was adjudicated as insufficient for prosecution. Full of like-minded people, who had no “issues” with nudity. I never heard a single cross word when visiting, and while some were quiet and others more gregarious, they were all quite nice people. Frankly, it was Utopian!

        Yes, certainly you’ve noticed my past tense. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources closed the beach in 2016 because of complaints of lewd behavior. People stepping away from the beach and into the woods to, let’s say, do the “Horizontal Mambo”. The DNR also said that they would be redeveloping the beach as a part of their Master Plan. The DNR solicited comments and got plenty of nudist requests (mine included) to keep the beach clothing optional. Time will tell. Nothing has been done in over a year, except to padlock the gate to the parking area.

        The beach had been open for clothing optional use for well over 40 years.

  3. Bill says:

    Well, at 66 I suspect that my bucket list item involving Beyonce and home plate in Fenway Park probably won’t happen. She seems to be pretty busy. 🙂
    I like your list — you know, if you have some down time this Summer, maybe you could look into #8? That may not require as much planning and expense?
    All seriousness aside, though, I’m not sure that bison don’t give a fuck. I personally know several bison who’ve spent years in therapy trying to deal with this stereotype.
    P.S. Have you ever considered visiting Arcadia? No bison, but it’s a lot closer than Yellowstone, it’s a national park, and it’s drop-dead gorgeous.

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      Your bucket list item about Beyonce and home plate at Fenway Park is just you giving her batting tips on how to hit a curveball, right? 😉 🙂
      My #8 does involve planning. What I really like is Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program: https://www.habitat.org/volunteer/near-you/women-build
      That’s what I want to look into.
      And yes I’ve heard about Acadia. Looks and sounds magnificent. Lack of bison isn’t a deal breaker, so definitely a place I would consider. Maine really is such a beautiful state.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  4. I have been up close, too close, to bison and looking into the black eyes of one particularly nasty one, I can tell you I have no further need to see bison! As far as National Parks go, don’t over look the more obscure or less visited parks. We have an amazingly beautiful country . . . I just wish more people appreciated that rather than financial gains and the like. I am from Kentucky where whole tops of mountains are removed for coal. We can be so devastating, so yes, I think preserving land within our park system is one of “America’s Best Ideas.” Some of my bucket list would include:
    – Exploring the tepuis of Venezuela
    – Patagonia
    – The Galapagos (but I hear that is being loved to death)
    – A life drawing session with Museworthy

    • Your last bucket list item should have been my first! What a great idea!

    • artmodel says:

      Todd,

      You definitely had your fill of bison with that scary encounter! They are temperamental for sure. Best viewed from a distance!
      I totally agree about the lesser known parks, and I should have indicated in my post that, for me, Long Island and upstate NY offer so many wonderful opportunities to experience nature. Bird sanctuaries, wildlife preserves, and shorelines are all within easy drives of the city. There is also great whale-watching off Montauk, something I’ve long wanted to do and should have included on my bucket list!

      I too have heard about Galapagos being ‘loved to death’ as you put it. Tourism has gotten out of hand and brought unwelcome problems. Good read here: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/01/05/galapagos-tourism-backfires/

      And you are just too kind to include a “life drawing session with Museworthy” 🙂 Never imagined I’d have a place on someone’s bucket list! But I’m flattered. Thank you Todd. And thanks for your great comments!

      Claudia

  5. Dave says:

    Claudia,

    You should definitely make plans to go to Yellowstone and see the bison. It’s worth it, trust me. I went last winter and got to encounter some bison up close and personal while cross-country skiing, with geysers erupting in the background. Life really doesn’t get much better than that. You should go!

    I’ve been very, very fortunate, so I feel like my bucket list is nearly complete–skydiving, running a marathon, arguing before the Supreme Court, nude modeling, climbing a 14,000 foot mountain. But I’d still love to go to New Zealand. Some day . . .

    • artmodel says:

      Dave,

      I can picture the scene you described! The geysers, the cross-country skiing, and the bison! Sounds amazing. You’ve given my bison pursuit a big boost!

      You certainly have been fortunate, as those are some impressive bucket list successes. Well done, friend. I’d love to hear more about your case to the Supreme Court! As for New Zealand, that part of the world – New Zealand/Australia – is a desired trip I hear a lot. Commenter Ken upthread included it too. A woman I know who runs a life drawing group just vacationed there last year. She loved it. The long flight was the only thing she didn’t like!

      Thanks so much for your comments!

      Claudia

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