As I lie in my sleeping bag, a cacophony of snorts, grunts and growls filters into my consciousness. I sit up quickly, straining to listen through the thin, opaque nylon of my tent.
Scratch, scratch, scratch. Gurr, pff.
I hear him rubbing his itchy skin against the wooden post near my tent. Knowing I'm on a tent platform and that the bison cannot see me gives me some small sense of safety.
Rip, rrip, rip.
Okay, he’s just eating grass.
One by one, my fellow crew members wake and open their tents to the sight. We sit in the chill of the morning air, captured by the sight of bulls, cows, yearlings and ruddy calves flicking their tails, and rolling in the dirt.
Over the course of a half hour, the herd ambles down the road, past our RV and over the ridge. I can’t say that I minded being late to work at all.
Originally from Yankton, South Dakota, Leah Mabee spent June and July of 2014 as an ASC Landmark crew member on the American Prairie Reserve. Leah's love for the outdoors was fostered through family vacations to the Black Hills of South Dakota, and canoeing and portaging in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. She has a degree in Biology Health Professions from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa.