Black Vulture – a rancher’s perspective


So last weekend at the joint Arbuckle-Simpson Nature Festival and spring meeting of the Oklahoma Ornithological Society, I found myself at the Saturday banquet sitting next to a charming and rather comical Oklahoma rancher. He wasn’t wearing his hat or boots, so he mostly looked like a guy in his 60s who spends his days on the golf course. He was in attendance because his wife is apparently into this “nature stuff”, and they had even hosted a field trip to their ranch the day before.

I forget exactly how we got on the topic, but I guess Andy and I let slip our exuberance at earlier in the day having held a baby black vulture. Mr. Rancher dude had a story he needed to share with us about those “black buzzards” which I’ll paraphrase for you here. It’s priceless.

him: Them turkey buzzards are OK; I don’t bother them. But those black buzzards, they’re mean. They come up from Mexico or someplace and they’re no good. Sometimes when a cow is, you know, taking too long with a calf, they’ll come up and peck the eyes out on the calf.

me: Mm-hmm. Even Audubon knew about that.

him: Yeah they’re no good.

What follows is about a 10 minute build up to the heart of the story, with Andy and I hanging on every word. Here’s the climax.

him: One of my hands called me and said his truck was broke so I went down there on the 4-wheeler. I was coming down there and I seen this group of about 20 hogs, you know. So I floored it on the 4 wheeler to run right through them hogs.

me: You ran over hogs on your 4-wheeler?

him: Yep. I remember thinking right before I hit ’em “I wonder if this is such a good idea?”

me: [peals of laughter]

him: So I did it, and I took four of ’em out that way. One was stuck under my tire and I dragged him on his back a ways. Then I backed up and hit a couple more. So in the end, I think we put a pile of about 10 dead hogs down there.

Then a couple of days later, it was really windy, and I had been in a shooting competition so I had my guns in my truck. Me and my hand went down there and we seen about 40-50 of them black buzzards around the hog carcasses. They was so full they couldn’t even fly. So I got my gun and I shot every one of them bastards, cause they couldn’t get away. I shot every one of ’em.

me: I bet the local Audubon folks were wondering why their numbers for black vulture went down that year – it was all you!

him: Yeah, I shoot any one of them damn black buzzards I see, cause they peck the eyes outta the calves if they’s taken too long, you know? But I leave the turkey buzzards alone cause they don’t harm nothin’.

me: Wow. So how many calves do you think you’ve lost to the black vultures down through the years?

him: [hesitates, because obviously no one had ever asked him that question]

[wait for it . . . ]

“Well, just the one.”

me: [peals of laughter, again]

There is no further commentary needed on the story, nor any unifying pearl of wisdom that I can impart about hearing it firsthand. Just let it sink in and reflect on it as I’ve been doing for over a week now. I can’t tell if it fills me with hopelessness or if it’s really OK to have guys like this out there. I really can’t. So let it sink in and ultimately affect you however it will.

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