A Political Allergy…..
You Don’t Get Buffalo in Tarzan Films
Thursday May 3rd 1979, everyone was occupied with the General Election that took place on that mid-summers day, more so because of the possibility of the first woman Prime Minister being elected.
Schools were utilised as polling stations and Cony and Rusty had made plans for their day off.
Cony was late in coming.
“What kept ye?” asked Rusty.
“A wis watchin a Tarzan film tae see if there wir any buffalo in it.”
“A told ye A’d be bringin this book,” replied Rusty, clutching at something in his small haversack, “anyway, you don’t get buffalo in Tarzan films.”
Cony was a small boy, scruffy but outgoing and carefree, whereas Rusty was a good bit taller and ‘far too young to be so serious’ as was often pointed out to him.
Seeing as they were having the day off school, their teacher suggested spending it on a nature ramble, instead of sitting in front of the TV all day.
Tracking a herd of buffalo would be the tops of all nature rambles.
“Have you no brought any pencils or paper?”
“Naw A forgot, sorry, “replied Cony, as he noticed Rusty looking stern, “anyway, whit’s that book about?”
“Well it tells you all ye want tae know on Buffalo.”
“Rusty went on to relate some facts from the book – Buffalo – Largest land animal in America – Huge head – Great hump – Massive horns – Sixty or seventy million once roamed America. At every pause, as Rusty flicked through the pages Cony would respond with Is it! – Hus it! – Dis it! – Ur they!
The descriptions made the boys impatient to be where the buffalo roamed and they decided to run their fastest to their destination.
The place they were heading for, was, until recently, a safari-type park, on the loch side, which was owned by a family of local landlords. A new leaseholder, a German, was in the process of creating new ideas to regenerate the venture.
“Ma Da says it’s a Big German that owns it noo.”, said Rusty.
“Did he, hey dae ye think he could be a Nazi?” asked Cony.
“Aye, he could be.”,replied Rusty, being more his age.
As they made their way up the approach road, now walking, having had run their fastest for the moment, the idea of an encounter with a Nazi prompted them to furnish themselves with weapons. A full armoury was available from the small silver birch trees that lined the roadside.
The boys tested their rifles before continuing on.
“Dae ye think buffalos bite ye?” asked Cony
“Adono, they might charge.”
“Whit, tae get in the park ye mean?”
“Very funny, Cony.”
Not immediately realising he had made a joke, Cony smiled, then asked,
“Ur you allowed tae go up the loch side, Rusty?”
“Aye of course, A am ten, when A wis a weeboy A widni be, bit A am noo.”
Eventually, the boys arrived at the loch side, by now well into the grounds of the park. They were in private property and too much out in the open so they took a pathway through the thickets of the oak trees to cover themselves.
“Make it we’re cowshies goin tae kill the buffalo, eh Rusty.”
“Aye if ye want.”
New rifles were required, so they discarded their World War Two weapons for Winchesters which were available from the fallen branches of the trees. At times the sun would shine through the canopy of the green leafed branches, blinding the boys, as they slapped their backsides to make their horses gallop faster.
“Is it much further?”
“It canny be.” replied Rusty, not a hundred percent sure.
“See that Labour Party stuff, A hate it, dae ye no?”
“Disni bother me, how dae ye hate it?”
“Och its ma Da, he’s goin on aboot it, an argues wi ma Maw.”
“Adono, ma maw say’s that Mrs Thatcher will know how much messages cost an ma Da shouts and bawls that it’s the unions that she’ll cost, an he’ll likely lose his job.”
Breathless again, the boy’s rested up their horses a while.
Suddenly, they heard what Cony thought was cattle
“Is that coo’s?”
“Naw, Cony that’s the buffalo.”
They remounted and rode on when the sound of voices made them stop.
“Shhh listen.” whispered Rusty.
“Who dae yi think it is, the Nazi and his soldiers?”
“Adono, wait here A’ll goin look.”
Rusty crept ahead and looked over to where there were men working on the new development. He returned to Cony, hurrying to tell him what he had seen.
“It’s only workies, bit A seen a huge big deid buffalo, its hingin up a tree on a rope, c’mon huv a look.”
“C’mon, if ye don’t believe me.”
The youngsters hurried on as far as was safe without being spotted by the workmen. Rusty wasn’t kidding. There it was, a dead buffalo, strung up, with chains coming from its forelegs, then over a large branch of one of the oak trees, down to the bucket of an earth moving machine, which was talking the strain from the weight of the suspended bovine.
“See A told ye, Cony, noo dae ya believe me?”
Cony was just staring at the huge carcass of the animal, then saying, quite loudly
“Hells bells and buckets o shite!”
One of the navvies heard him.
“Who’s in there?” a voice shouted.
“Jist us.” came the reply.
“Whit are ye’s up tae?”
“Playin cowshie’s.” came the answer.
“Well, come oot wi yer hands up.” a younger voice then beckoned.
The boys looked at each other and without further discussing tactics, emerged from the foliage.
“How yoos no at school?” the older one of the two workers asked.
“It’s a holiday fur the election.” answered Rusty.
“Oh aye, A see, anyway, ye’s are up tae see the buffalo A take it?”
“Aye!” the two answered at the same time.
The workers had just settled down to their break and the older man invited the boys to join them.
“Aye, come an sit oot on the prairie and grab yirself some chuck, pardner.”, the younger man said in cowboy.
The two boys sat down on the grass and were given a peece in corn beef, each, and some tea from the men and as the four of them sat in the midday sunshine, they looked out at the remainder of the herd, when the sound of bellowing came from a lone buffalo standing on an elevated spot on the pasture.
Rusty looked back to the dead one.
“How’s the buffalo hangin up like that?” he asked.
“There’s a butcher comin the morra tae make steaks oot it.” replied the younger man.
“Howdit die anyway?” asked Cony.
“Homesick, son, pure homesick,” said the old one, “these animals don’t belong here.”
“Howsat?” came in Rusty.
“Well young yins, day ye’s know anything aboot these animals?”
“Aaaii, jist that their from America.” answered Rusty, frowning at Cony so as not to mention the book.
“That’s right son, but A’ll tell ye a wee bit mair.”
The older man proceeded to tell them that the buffalo once roamed the Great Plains of America and Canada and that the ‘Red Indians’ lived off them for food and clothing.
“The buffalo were driven intae pens, with no way oot except oor a cliff, the tribesmen wid force them tae jump off by howling and screaming at them. And if they didni faw oer the cliff, arrows were fired intae them as they ran aboot panic-stricken, but the natives respected these beasts, and then the time came when the Europeans arrived and brought three things that changed the way of life and caused a major drap in the number of buffalo and in the number of Injuns.”
“Whit wis that?” asked Rusty
“Firstly the horse, son, and secondly the gun, and wance the Indians learned how tae ride horses and tae use the gun, aw they hud tae dae wis ride up alongside and shoot the buffalo, but noo no fur food but for the third thing.”
“Redeye!” stated the younger man.
“Exactly, whisky, firewater, as the Injuns cried it.”
Throughout the story the boys came to grow a little more respectful of the hanging buffalo and the warriors who once hunted this beast.
“Dae ye know whit’s gonni happen tae the rest of them?” asked Rusty.
The old man paused before he answered, whilst the younger one just said,
“Naw son A don’t, bit A imagine somebody will look aifter them.”
“Tell the boy’s the truth Tam.”
“Leave it out Craigie.”
Tea-break was up and it was suggested that the lads better go as the Big German Guy might show up any minute and he would not be pleased to see the boys on his property. That news was enough to make them go.
“So long strangers.” said Craigie, still keeping up the western jargon.
Not much further down the road the boys took up their reigns and trotted contentedly down the loch side. Suddenly, they heard the noise of vehicles, not cars, something bigger.
“It’s the Big German Guy!” cried Cony.
“Run back tae the workies,” shouted Rusty.
The boys ran back to Tam and Craigie.
They were told to hide in the workman’s tool shed until it was safe.
The two boys could see through the spaces in the sarking of the wooden hut. A landrover, followed by a cattle truck drove up to the site. Two men, one with the word RANGER written on his back, emerged from the landrover, carrying rifles.
As the men exchanged greetings, Rusty and Cony noticed the different accent of one.
“The Big German Guy?” responded Cony.
“Sounds like it.” said Rusty
As the group moved away, it was harder to hear what was being said, but, Old Tam could be seen pointing to the lone buffalo and Craigie referring to the dead one. The German was shaking his head and crisscrossing his hands in front of one another as if he was refusing to listen to whatever the two workers were saying. As the riflemen walked towards the field inhabited by the herd, Old Tam turned towards the shed covering his eyes with one hand.
“What’s he daein?” asked Cony.
“We’ve to cover our eyes, A think.” answered Rusty.
The others in the herd were now becoming restless as the lone one continued to bellow.
The German and the ranger stopped at the fence. The ranger inserted an ammunition magazine into the rifle and handed it to the German, who positioned the rifle butt under his shoulder and then adjusted the rear sight on the barrel. The rifle was aimed at the large brown taurine. The trigger was pulled and released. The gunshot was deafening. A thud was heard as the bullet entered its targets head. The buffalo began to charge. It would not go down. The German took aim again, as did the ranger. Another gunshot.
Missed this time.
The charging buffalo continued towards the German and his companion. Again the rifle fired, and the animal collapsed on to its front legs, but then stood and drew ever closer. The German did not flinch as he fired once more and, finally the buffalo fell only yards from him.
Rusty and Cony stood, like statues, looking out through the cracks of daylight.
The cattle truck then reversed up to the gate. As the rest of the herd began to surround the dead leader, the clumping of the cloven hoofs was replaced with an eerie silence.
The ranger then walked towards them and began shooting them through their skulls, until all had fallen.
The two gunmen then returned to the landrover as the German waved to the workers.
Craigie opened the door of the toolshed.
“C’mon boys, it’s over.”
Only Cony came out, crying.
“Where’s yer mate? asked Craigie.
“Jist leave him the noo,” said Old Tam, “he’s probably upset tae.”
Cony was given another cup of tea as he watched the bodies of the herd being winched on to the truck.
“How did ‘e huv tae kill them?” sobbed Cony.
“The Big German said he couldni afford tae feed them son and naebody else wanted them. Maybe it’s better this way, rather than have them starve to death.” said Old Tam.
“A think yer pal’s feart tae come out.” Said Craigie.
It wasn’t that at all, Rusty had found something. A display lectern, describing the beast that now lay slaughtered. It read:
Origin: Western Siberia.
Now extinct as a wild beast.
This species are a result of captive breeding in the Forests of Poland.
Rusty hurriedly took the book from his haversack. He never noticed the difference before. It was now so obvious.
The huge head of American buffalo is covered with dark hair.
But surely Old Tam had come across this information.
Old Tam speaks with forked tongue.
Just then Cony appeared at the doorway of the shed, wiping the remaining moisture from his cheeks.
“Ur ye OK?”
“Aye, Am awright, ur you OK?” said Rusty, moving towards Cony quickly before the lectern was seen.
“Old Tam, says we’re dead lucky.”
“Well A wis telling him aboot how the teacher asked us tae dae a nature ramble and he says that what we seen today would make a rare story, he says we could call it the massacre of the Great American Buffalo in Scotland, or something like that.”
Old Tam winked at Rusty as Cony was speaking.
“Aye we could A suppose” replied Rusty.
The boys bid farewell for the second time to the workmen.
Going back there were no horses, no Winchester rifles.
After a period of thoughtfulness, Cony spoke.
“A’ll tell ye wan thing, Rusty.”
“A hope that wummin dis win that election thing.”
“So ma Maw can afford the messages, A don’t wanti end up like thae buffalo.”
Cony waited for Rusty to smile.
And then with arms outstretched, they took to their spitfires and ran, swerving to avoid the oncoming enemy tree trunks.