Close to Nature

Close to Nature

Gardiner is place where you are close to nature; rockslides, boulder fields, raging rivers. Friendly, beautiful nature. Elk, buffalo, deer and Bighorn Sheep roam in town.

Someone had propped the front door of the church open to create a draft through the building. This morning, halfway through Sunday services, while singing Sweet Hour of Prayer, a medium-sized buffalo ambled to the door. He was attracted by the tuna casserole warming in the Food Serving Area. A luncheon was to be held. His eye was glassy, big as a light bulb. His step was slow. The singing stopped. All two dozen members fled their chairs and coalesced in the far corner of the octagonal chapel. The buffalo, property of nearby Yellowstone National Park, clomped down the short hallway, into the room, unphased by the screaming. In the far corner was a window. Its lower panel had been lifted up to allow air.

The Branch President heaved the pane to its utmost. He clawed at the screen. Then he kicked it with his wingtips. Little kids spurted out. The buffalo was now in the middle of the room, headed for the food, sniffing like a dog, his enormous, black, glistening snout twitching. Some of the clot of adults broke off from the main waiting group to speed their exit through a matching window in another corner.

The fragrance of salad greens and boiled beans tempted the brute. The kitchen door was closed, but it was not going to be closed for long. The brown head lowered. The buffalo lunged forward, ripping the door off its steel hinges. It clattered to the floor of the room holding casseroles, sweet breads and ambrosia. Now the flood of smells caused a stampede among formerly contented buffalo that had been grazing on the lawn just outside the entry; another dozen heavy monsters jostled in, knocking over the podium and scrambling the chairs. The Branch president was the last one out. His ankle was crushed by one of the border buffalo that was pushing on the scrum trying to get into the kitchen.

Three buffalo crammed into the kitchen. They downed the green salad first. They butted over the pan of noodle stroganoff. The floor became slippery and they slipped onto their sides, getting noodles tangled in their manes. It was mud wrestling, buffalo-style. Lasagna and French Bread mashed into a stew. An uproar was in progress among the ten that hadn’t gotten any greens.

The members sneaked around the building to the parking lot in front, got in their cars and went home, without even waiting for closing hymn and prayer. The Branch President lurked behind the building. He gathered dried buffalo chips, arranged them in a tower just inside the open window the members had crawled through. He ripped sprigs off a sagebrush and placed them on top of the pile. He lit the pile. The smoke, especially the acrid sage, forced the mob of beasts out. They went searching for dry grass.

The Branch President went inside, put out the fire, straightened the chairs and podium, and slopped the foods from the floor of the Serving Area. He limped to his car where his wife was waiting, drove home and poured a bowl of Cheerios. It was just another day “close to nature” in the Gardiner Branch of the Church.

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