The Case Against the National Bison Legacy Act

We Mustn't Let America Be Buffaloed

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While the American public has been otherwise distracted by trivial matters such as the presidential election and the possibility of nuclear war with Iran, a great peril has descended upon us that threatens our very fabric as a nation. And like all great existential perils, it can be summed up in a single breath: The National Bison Legacy Act.

The NBLA, which has been introduced in the Senate and which already enjoys the support of lawmakers from eight states, would designate the Plains bison the Official Mammal of the United States. There is so much wrong with this proposal that it is hard to know where to begin. So let's begin with the bison itself. First off, the bison—or "buffalo," as it is sometimes called—is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, metaphorically speaking. Bison were hunted nearly to extinction in the 19th Century because frontiersmen could shoot them by the dozens while the rest of the herd stood around, oblivious:

First bison: "Did you hear that? Sounded like a shot."

Second bison: "Probably just a car backfiring. Say, Phil sure looks tired, doesn't he?"

Second, there is the bison's Latin name. Most North American animals have sensible Latin names. For instance, the bobcat's is Lynx rufus (literally, "cat named Rufus"). The grizzly bear's Latin designation is Ursus arctos horribilis—from the Latin horribilis (horrible) ursus (snarling thing) arctos (outside your tent). But the Plains bison? Its Latin name is—ready for this? It's not a typo—bison bison bison (literally, "we can't think of any other words").

Some people like the bison, to be sure, especially with a little garlic butter. There is even a National Bison Association, along with a bunch of state bison associations, and you will not be surprised to learn they are all in favor of the free marketing that official-mammal designation would bring to their industry.

In fact, it would not be surprising to learn that someone in the bison industry put the senators up to this. After all, that is how these things usually work: Once a political entity has an official flag and song and perhaps an official seal or coat of arms, the folks in charge are usually content to let the matter rest. But then someone in, say, the dairy industry hits upon the bright idea that having the legislature designate milk the official state beverage would be a swell way to boost the third quarter's bottom line.

So the milk-industry lobbyist invites the relevant lawmaker out for a few drinks and whatnot, and after the lawmaker has been sufficiently lubricated the lobbyist slips him a bill that the industry has so thoughtfully drafted for him, and then the lobbyist asks: Oh by the way, how is your campaign treasury looking these days?  Of course the lawmaker cannot do what he would like to do, which is tell the dairy industry to kiss off, because he is facing a primary challenge and needs the cash. So pretty soon the state has a new official beverage.

The next thing you know everyone is getting in on the act. Retirees who spend every weekend going to square-dance conventions start a campaign to have the square dance designated the state's official dance—just as it has been in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and 19 other U.S. states. Then the fishermen demand to have the bluegill (Illinois) or the crappie (Louisiana) named the official state fish. Pretty soon you have an official state butterfly such as the two-tailed Swallowtail (Arizona) or the Karner Blue (New Hampshire)—along with an official state dinosaur (Hadrosaurus foulkii, New Jersey), shell (Crassostrea virginica, Virginia), soil (Harney silt loam, Kansas), sport (jousting, Maryland) and potato festival (the Albemarle Potato Festival in Elizabeth City, North Carolina).

Then the schoolkids join in. According to the official state website of Colorado, "In 2007, Jay Baichi's 4th grade class began the process to get the Western Painted Turtle designated as the Colorado State Reptile. His 4th grade class the next year completed the legal steps and Governor Ritter signed HB 08-1017 on March 18, 2008." Oh joy. Before you know it, the drunks and practical jokers have had their way and you end up like Nevada—which has, kid you not, an official state artifact: a 2,000-year-old Tule Duck Decoy made out of bulrushes that was found during a cave exploration in 1924. Second prize is two Tule Duck Decoys.

This is what America has in store for it, if it goes down the buffalo road. And it cannot end well. Gibbon wrote all about it in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and we are repeating the mistake again 2,000 years later. It's all on the Internet, you can look it up yourself.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where this article originally appeared.

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  1. Bison is fucking delicious.

    1. Yep, everything beef wishes it was.

      1. I had bison for dinner last night so I’m getting a kick out of these replies (yuppie diners feature bison now; it’s actually lower-cal than hamburger, though not when you add bacon. Mmm, bison and bacon.)

        1. Hehe….I know a farmer who keeps bison, that is where I get mine on occasion.
          He has a stud bull he rents out for breeding beefalo. The bull is nearly 7 feet at the shoulder ( looks like 10 ft when you stand close to it ) and at weighs 2155 lbs. It is a monster.

          One sunday while he was in church with the family another local farmer towed a trailer with his cow in it over to the bison stud barn to sneak the bull out and breed his cow for free.

          Unfortunately for him, the bull smelled the cow and broke out of his stall before the farmer could get his cows out of the trailer, which he had pulled into the pen.

          The freakin’ bull knocked the goddamn trailer over which in turn turned the truck up on it’s side. When the bison farmer and his family got home they were treated to the sight of the other farmer sitting on top of his overturned truck and trailer with a terrified cow in it, while the bull was still furious and stomping around in the pen.

    2. Yes it is,but,elk is my favorite wild red meat.Nothing beats grouse or quail though with a good stout and Partagas number10

      1. Some libertarians you guys are. I was expecting your favorite meal to be roasted leg of pre-teen Malaysian slave with a sauce made from their tears.

        Turn your monocles in, all of you!

        1. Hey,Ive always killed cleaned the game cocked it ,and drank a imported stout or lager and smoked a cigar made by third world folks.What the heel do you want?Besides,I’ve heard humans taste like pork and I don’t care for it

          1. I usually don’t cock my game until after I’ve had the beer, and a lot more than one.

    3. Long pig is the best.

    4. Agriculture city-state tyrants gambol Indians buffalo tyranny.

  2. NBLA? Oh, wait.

  3. I just wrote about the Albemarle Potato Festival in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. True story. I especially enjoyed the Fraternal Order of Police Beer Garden — also a true story — and the woman sporting a hand-lettered blouse pin stating “I love Jesus and potatoes — ask me!”
    And for official mammal of the U.S., I vote “homo sapiens.”

    1. And for official mammal of the U.S., I vote “homo sapiens.”

      So they can feel even more entitled. No thanks.

  4. We’ve already got a national mammal: The AMERICAN Bald Eagle.

    1. Birds are mammals?

      1. What do you have against the AMERICAN Bald Eagle you commie.

    2. Perhaps, but at the rate that bald eagles are immolating themselves, we will need a new one soon.

      1. They truly are a noble beast.

    3. Sissies!

      Us uncaring bastards in Sunny Minnesota quashed the dreams of a bunch of grade schoolers who had the temerity to try to make the black bear the state mammal.

      Coleman thought getting the bill passed would not be that difficult. After all, it was for the kids.

      Maybe that shit flies back east, but here in flyover country we don’t care about our kids and bills have to have merit to be passed.

      Huh? Wait. OK it has to have merit or the backing of Big Soil to get passed.

  5. Bison Bison Bison! Too much is never enough.

    1. so nice, they had to name it thrice!

  6. I thought barbecue pork was our national mammal?

  7. Also, what about Homo sapiens sapiens?

    1. Sounds gay.

      1. That would be Homo sapiens homo.

  8. The Great Spirit told the people, “These animals are your brothers. Share the land with them. They will give you food and clothing. Live with them and protect them.

    “Protect especially the buffalo, for the buffalo will give you food and shelter. The hide of the buffalo will keep you from the cold, from the heat, and from the rain. As long as you have the buffalo, you will never need to suffer.”

    For many winters the people lived at peace with the animals and with the land. When they killed a buffalo, they thanked the Great Spirit, and they used every part of the buffalo. It took care of every need.

    Then other people came. They did not think of the animals as brothers. They killed, even when they did not need food. They burned and cut the forests, and the animals died. They shot the buffalo and called it sport. They killed the fish in the streams.

    When the Great Spirit looked down, he was sad. He let the smoke of the fires lie in the valleys. The people coughed and choked. But still they burned and they killed.

    But then the Great Spirit was presented with The National Bison Legacy Act. And the Great Spirit was totally fucking confused.

    “What shit is this?” he asked. “You fucking exterminate a species, then *give it a plaque*?? Why the fuck don’t you just name your fucking national football team after some derogatory indian name, or something, to rub it in??… wait… HOLY SHIT??”

    1. Great Spirit not paying attention. Plenty buffalo all over the place. Great Spirit check out buffalo burgers at local supermarket. Maybe Great Spirit need Adderall? (from another thread)

      1. Great Spirit check out buffalo burgers at local supermarket.

        ///…..

        And so the Great Spirit looked down on the fat white people shopping at the Kroger, feasting on the ground-up flesh of animals descended from the last of the Bison, bred in captivity, and slaughtered in industrial plants where one lay the rolling fields and plains of the Chacachaculawika tribes… and the Great Spirit said, “For this, you will be punished”. And so were the Washington Redskins cursed for all time.

  9. The state sport of Maryland is jousting?! Seriously?

    1. Funny, I’m pretty sure I’d get arrested if I left my house with a lance.

      1. I have a friend who is a professional jouster (works at Medieval Times). Dude is crazy, I think he’s got a broken bone count on a par with a rodeo rider. He leaves his lances at work…Chicago cops being so understanding and all.

        1. He leaves his lances at work

          Most Awesome Phrase of the Day?

          1. The day is young still. 🙂

    2. Maybe it is legislative jousting.

    3. Hey, it’s making a comeback if the proliferation of Jousting based reality shows are to be believed.

      Personally I don’t see the attraction, I mean I get the idea of jousting as cool but the actuality of it is that each “match” lasts about 5 minutes and of that time only about 60 seconds of it is actually action most of which happens to fast to actually see without a slow motion replay.

      Frankly I think you’d have more luck turning recreated Medieval foot combat into a spectator sport.

    1. Maybe they could make buffalo Spam.

  10. I have to disagree. The more time legislators spend coming up with ridiculous “official” designations, the less time and money they have to pick my pocket and infringe on my liberty.

    1. Sorry Bill, but it costs money to officially designate stuff. It’s a nice thought though.

      1. But officially designating stuff costs so much less than, say, a stimulus package. I’d happily let them do this shit all day if they would just leave the important stuff alone.

  11. “Whatnot” = strippers

  12. No Great White Buffalo?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMZwS0ZonEU

    RACIST!

  13. No Great White Buffalo?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMZwS0ZonEU

    RACIST!

    1. Blanca TATANKA!!!

  14. The more time legislators spend creating national mammals and the like, the less time they spend doing things that are worse.

  15. Second, there is the bison’s Latin name. Most North American animals have sensible Latin names. For instance, the bobcat’s is Lynx rufus (literally, “cat named Rufus”). The grizzly bear’s Latin designation is Ursus arctos horribilis?from the Latin horribilis (horrible) ursus (snarling thing) arctos (outside your tent). But the Plains bison? Its Latin name is?ready for this? It’s not a typo?bison bison bison (literally, “we can’t think of any other words”).

    Is this what passes for “learned wit” nowadays? If Hinkle wasn’t such an unlettered yokel (or just appealing to said group) then he would have realized his attempt at humor falls flat to anyone with even a modicum of learning, be it classical or biological.

    Ursus” is Latin for “bear” and “arctos” is Greek for “bear”. Thus, the Grizzly is the “horrible bear bear”; which is as redundant as bison bison bison or rattus rattus, the black rat.

    For the record, rufus means “red-haired” and bison is neo-Latin for “wild ox”.

    Hinkle has a long way to go before he’s the next Laurence Sterne.

    1. And you got a long way to go before you’re the next Harold Ross (who he?).

      1. I would have done Dorothy Parker.

        Jus’ sayin’

    2. When I was reading this, I thought that Hinkle was channeling his inner Dave Barry. Sort of sounded just like him.

      One of Dave Barry’s bits is to write a column called Mr. Language Person where he completely makes shit up. The best is that he then gets tons of outraged mail from people who don’t quite get it.

      HM, your diatribe about the inaccurate latin translations seems to fit right into that. My only question is: Were you venting as part of the faux-Barry thing? Or did you really think that he was serious about arctos being latin for outside your tent?

      1. Were you venting as part of the faux-Barry thing? Or did you really think that he was serious about arctos being latin for outside your tent?

        I was just busting balls. Nothing serious, I really didn’t have my dander up.

        1. Cool. I was hoping that you were in on the Dave Barry deal too. I loved reading his columns where he’d print the clueless replies from readers who didn’t understand that he was just trying to be funny.

    3. Just wait till he has to face the Gorilla gorilla gorilla.

      1. Or the Major Major Major.

        1. Just wait till I whoop this out on him. Say, I think I have the national body part right here…

    4. Check out the big brain on Brad! You’re a smart motherf***er.

  16. Elizabeth Warren doesn’t let any part of The National Bison Legacy Act go to waste.

  17. Yep, just like Ben Franklin’s carrion-eating bald eagle.

  18. I have a great deal of respect for the bison. While with my family visiting Yellowstone, we were driving through a very narrow canyon at night. There was no moonlight. We came around a corner to see a minivan with the front driver side smashed in. Our headlights illuminated a bison staggering in the middle of the road. Turns out this little old lady driving the minivan hit the bison going over 30 mph. It totaled the minivan, and bison was able to walk away. Those are tough critters.

  19. Might I suggest making Nacy Pelosi the National Bison?

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  21. a great peril has descended upon us that threatens our very fabric as a nation. And like all great existential perils, http://www.riemeninnl.com/riem-ferragamo-c-15.html it can be summed up in a single breath: The National Bison Legacy Act.

  22. Second, there is the bison’s Latin name. Most North American animals have sensible Latin names. For instance, the bobcat’s is Lynx rufus (literally, “cat named Rufus”). The grizzly bear’s Latin designation is Ursus arctos horribilis?from the Latin horribilis (horrible) ursus (snarling thing) arctos (outside your tent). But the Plains bison? Its Latin name is?ready for this? It’s not a typo?bison bison bison (literally, “we can’t think of any other words”). http://www.maillotfr.com/maill…..22_35.html

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  26. Bison is delicious. There’s a restaurant in Idaho Springs CO that serves a Reuben sandwich, the corned beef of which is made from bison brisket.

    I also sampled yak laste weekend, and for what it’s worth, yak tastes just like bison.

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