Rowdy the Buffalo
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By Gina Stack – After driving down the long driveway past two large pastures and a small herd of bison, we arrived. We walked through a large expanse of fresh-cut green grass in front of the house and onto a large and sturdy, welcoming porch. We were greeted at the door by Don Solwold of Quarter Master Buffalo.
Don, who is 87, explained that he was working on fence plans as his herd of 17 bison had found a breach earlier that morning and had been grazing in the lawn we had just walked through. They like fresh-cut grass because it is sweeter, and apparently, they don’t care much for fences!
Rowdy, the herd bull, now eight years old, used to hang out on the porch while being raised. At two months old, he was mistaken for a statue by a neighbor, but as he stood up, she ran back to her car.
This last winter as the snow deepened and became packed down, Don found Rowdy standing in front of the glass door on the porch looking in. Since his head is almost the size of the door, I’m sure this was a sight to see! Don led the almost 2,000 pound bull to jump off the side of the porch, fearing, since he is front heavy, he would fall trying to navigate going back down the steps. He really trusts Don, a lot.
Rowdy is a very special bison bull since Don is so special to him. The day Rowdy was born, in 2012, Don discovered his mother had born twins. Knowing bison are only designed to raise one, he suspected there may be an abandoned calf. When investigating, he found a newborn male calf wandering alone. Knowing he needed to bond quickly, he carried him to the pasture fence hoping the calf would make noise causing the herd to come running. But he made no noise. Not wanting the calf to be left alone again, he carried him home to raise. The calf’s mother had chosen his sister.
Rowdy bonded with him just in time, as the window for bonding is very short. Don became the adopted parent and did all to take care of little Rowdy; brushing him, feeding him, keeping him clean and free of flies. And of course, lots of companionship which a herd animal needs. When Rowdy was weaned, he continued to accept being brushed, sprayed against flies, and eating special food, as he does to this day.
After chatting with Don and learning this story about Rowdy, the time came for us to go see Rowdy and the herd of 10 cows with their calves. As we went toward the pasture, the herd was very far out. Don went to the shed to get gloves, a brush, and anti-fly spray. He also had a bucket with a mix of special food for Rowdy. He explained that his twin sister had started to be bolder and come up with Rowdy to partake of the food and some spray too. She wasn’t as friendly but was learning that her brother was benefiting from all this attention. He also shared that when there are twin bison, the female will be barren, which she is. Her name is Hannah.
Don has been caring for bison since 1974, so going into the pasture was like second nature to him. We were not to go behind the fence and we didn’t want to! He and his dog walked toward the herd with his bucket and other things, and after a bit, he came walking back with this huge bison bull, beard swaying as he walked, trailing along behind him. The rest of the herd trailed at a distance.
As Rowdy came right up to the fence, which was a wow moment, I was nervously watching their tails. Don had said if their tail is up, get outta there! But I only saw occasional swishing at flies.
Since Rowdy doesn’t have another bull to spar with, he spars with Don’s equipment. He makes sure his truck is tucked away in the shed, but there are a few dents in it from previous encounters. Since he gets “rowdy” with the equipment, his horns are stubby. But his sister Hannah, who was hanging out near Rowdy, looking for a snack, had very sharp horns. This was very intimidating up close.
The other cows with their calves were peeking from behind and we could see the different hairstyles and tell them apart. Since Hannah is barren, her coat and hairdo were just beautiful, since she hasn’t been stressed by having her own young calves to tend over the years.
Meanwhile, there was Don right next to Rowdy, brushing, spraying, and talking softly as this animal was completely relaxed and enjoying this interaction. He seemed oblivious to us. He was occasionally grazing on the bucket of snack food and itching his face on the fence while taking in the attention. At one point they even put their heads together. I snapped a picture of that, but it doesn’t capture watching that in person.
He was leaning into Don like a dog longing to be petted and Don was so easy-going and peaceful. Totally the opposite of “rowdy!” This went on for a long while, as my husband and I quietly took pictures and videos while in awe of this interaction between this elderly gentleman, and this absolutely huge and majestic animal. It truly was a blessing to witness something most people won’t ever get to see.
Verse 3:7 in the Book of James says, “For every kind of beast … has been tamed by mankind …” And we were watching this miracle in person.
Afterward, we sat on the comfortable porch and completed our pleasurable visit, having made a new friend with Don. The bison were in the background grazing nearby, some occasionally rolling in the pasture with frolicking calves. We hope to come to visit Don again someday and watch the bison roam and see Rowdy of course!
Originally published in Countryside March/April 2021.