Lions and cheetahs and elephants, yippee

 

                  Home, home on the veldt,
             Where deer and antelope once dwelt.
        Lion and leopard
        are what we now shepherd,
             We’re playing the hand we’ve been dealt.

In a recent Nature magazine article, scientists suggest that threatened African wildlife can be saved by moving the animals to the American Great Plains.

What a great way to restore our faith in cowboys! Many have forgotten that cowboys with broken bones regularly compete in bronc and bull riding, and all have survived lousy prices and federal officials who think "cattle guard" is a job description. Some are so rugged they carry a cell phone in their pants, right next to their reproductive equipment. These boys ain’t scared of nothing but they need respect, and the African scheme might be the right gimmick to revitalize cowboy traditions, especially rodeo.

Team ropers, for example, would need longer ropes and taller horses for heading and heeling giraffes. Changes in the bucking lineup might send longhorn bulls to the Old Leopards’ Home. Instead of riding bareback broncs, cowboys would take the Zebra Challenge: First, they catch one. Oryx-Dogging, anyone? Lasso a Leopard?

Some bull riders wear helmets, but rhinoceros riders might need full body armor for a rank mount. Competition would be lively for the Wildebeest and Warthog Wrastles. Teens hooked on hiphop would love Hippo Milking. Instead of Bull Fighting, fearless clowns could leap in and out of barrels in an arena full of big cats — right after the felines put the zing back in Barrel Racing. And for beginning cowchildren wearing helmets, Dikdik Dogging!

Fresh wildlife will liven up Great Plains ecotourism: At Mount Rushmore, photograph the lions on Teddy Roosevelt’s head. Bully!

This African change on the range could demonstrate how relevant a cowboy’s skills are to this modern world. Who do you call if the lions eat too many tourists? A cowboy, of course, whose predecessors roped timber wolves and grizzly bears. Limber up those lariats and let’s get Western!

Proponents of a Western veldt mention lions stalking deer in Nebraska cornfields, but predators follow game, and the kitties might prefer something slower. Shoppers, say, in a Denver mall. Picture it: Screaming crowds flee a grumbling lion until ... Look – just past that Victoria’s Secret: a lone cowboy appears between the fake trees, lariat spinning. Pity about the animal-rights activist who leapt protectively in front of the lion.

Since a horse’s hooves might slip on the tile, the mall-patrol cowboy will take advice from our Middle Eastern friends, choosing a bullet-proof Mercedes. This might also be the perfect time for Cowboy Joe to master a new mount.

                   How he sings
                   raggy music to his camel
        as he bumps
        back and forward in his saddle.....
        on his hump. . .
Of course, new predators would change how we deal with endangered species. Forget ferrets; the wild dogs would eat them while the jackals finished off the wolves. Baboons, chimps, and gorillas might revitalize small towns by providing the cheap labor we’ve lost to cities. Sustainable economic development: no wages.

Today, our home on the range is overrun with pseudo-cowboys starving their horses on five-acre lots. Toothy predators in Jackson, Dallas and Aspen could fix that. Wanna be a cowboy? Polish your spurs and patrol your own ranchette. Can your snowmobile outrun a cheetah?

Leopards and lions would improve the gene pool of the pampered elk in national parks and prune the skiers’ family trees. Since elephants like woody plants, they could thin the woods and reduce fire danger where tree-huggers have stopped logging. Hyenas would tidy up, gobbling down the McDonald’s cartons, beer cans and mattresses tourists discard.

The fall roundup will separate the real cowboys from the faux and give New Westerners a chance to Cowboy Up. We might need longer branding irons; sacrifice redwoods for taller corrals. Better yet, forget bison; let’s create the African Wildlife Commons. Herds of elephants and wildebeest thundering across interstates, trampling 18-wheelers, would bring new meaning to the words "rush hour" and humility to Hummer drivers. Talk about a win-win situation.

One more plus: Subdivisions, scourge of the West, would become endangered as folks decided they’d rather live closer to jobs and food. If the prairie is "rewilded" by African wildlife, as the scientists say, only cowboys, those tough, taciturn folks who settled it, will live here. "Come back, Shane!"

Linda M. Hasselstrom is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). She ranches in western South Dakota, which can be pretty darn Western without elephants, and lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, home of Frontier Days rodeo, "the Daddy of Them All."

High Country News Classifieds
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.