Your Body Aint You


Buffalo Tip: Your Body Aint You

We live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom: our body. Marcel Proust

Plato called the body the prison of the soul.

By the sound of it, these guys might not have had a good self image, but their point is important.


Your body is a big dumb animal that you are saddled to forever. The chore of taking care of it falls on your shoulders. Others may promise to take care of the animal but it will always end up in your lap so you might as well accept it and do something with it.

You will wake up to it every morning for the rest of your life.

It is just like when your five year old wants a puppy and promises to take good care of it, by the end of day one, you’re up at 2AM in your underwear on the front lawn watching a little wagging tail sniff out a good spot to make a deposit.

Your body is like that puppy only bigger, dumber, more stubborn, lazier and harder to train. It’s a challenge just to get it out of bed some days. You are the caretaker of this animal. It’s your job to feed it, take it for walks, brush it, trim its nails, show it where it can do its business, try to make it get along with other animals, especially those living in the same house and at a minimum try to keep it alive and functioning.

The problem with some caretakers is they try to be too nice. You might remember in junior high when a sweet young woman, just out of college, shows up to be the teacher substitute.

Chances are good that substitute teacher was called in to be a caretaker and you know the rest. You and your buddies proceed to make her life so miserable that by the end of third period she wants to change careers and be a roofer.

Buffalo Tip: Don’t be a caretaker, be the trainer.

When I was seven or eight we took a road trip from Iowa to California by way of hell, somewhere in west Texas. We found a small motel and stopped for the night. I believe my father was thinking that there is nothing like leaving the wonderful sights and smells of a small Iowa farm town to take the family on a big adventure only to end up in another small cowtown that was 10 times hotter and dustier.

However, we arrived when the town was celebrating some town specific occasion, such as See If You Can Eat This Pepper and Live To See Tomorrow or something. Anyway, there were signs up all over spreading the word about a RODEO.

As dad walked through his checklist on the Packard and mom unloaded the overnight bags, I ventured a stroll around the motel and as I walked around the back, I saw something that forever changed me. In the fading sunlight (for dramatic effect) there was a big horse trailer and on the side of it was a carnival type painting of a cowboy riding a buffalo. The buffalo was snorting thunder, and lightning was crackling from it’s horns as the daring rider dressed in buckskin hung on for dear life.


I gazed as if in a trance at the spectacle and only came back to my senses when a kid with skin like tanned leather kicked a rock my way and asked if I was staying at the motel. It turned out, the man riding the buffalo was his father and that his father was a professional rodeo clown. The buffalo and his dad would be one of the main acts in the Rodeo the next day. That kid and I talked for awhile and chased a snake back into the brush and threw rocks at imaginary bad guys.

When I returned to our room I poured on the charm as only a young boy can do when he is excited. I knew Dad had a strict schedule when on road trips but with Mom’s backing, Dad had little choice but to add an extra day in this god forsaken dust bowl. By high noon the next day my butt was parked on some wooden scaffolding disguised as seats and ready for the action.

I was not disappointed. When people toss out the old cliche when doing something repetitive, “Hey, this isn’t my first rodeo” I feel sorry for them. There is nothing like your first rodeo, it’s incredibly exciting.

We were two hot dogs and three lemonades down before the announcer called out what I’d been waiting to hear. “Next up ladies and gentleman is something few people have ever witnessed.”

When out of nowhere came that rodeo cowboy riding a buffalo. The wild animal he had trained or at least outlasted in a battle of stubbornness stampeded around the arena to the cheers of the crowd and I whooped until my lungs burned.

Framing Community, Exposing Identity: Jerry Olson and his Trained Buffalo from PPLD TV on Vimeo.

I write this now at an age older than what my father was back then. I have a better perspective on what it takes to arrange a cross country trip for a family. I hope my whoops of sheer joy back then made it worthwhile for him to change his carefully plotted out itinerary. He passed away at 65, a month before I graduated college. I am now 60 and my son will graduate from college in three more years and he’s never seen a rodeo. Better add that to a bucket list.

Buffalo Tip: Try to make each day your first rodeo.

A few years ago I tried to find out who the buffalo rider might have been. I’m guessing there weren’t that many. In my searches I came across a fellow named Buddy Heaton, rodeo clown and performer who trained a buffalo named “Old Grunter“. There are some fascinating stories about this truly unique individual, such as he would walk into a bar put $100 bill down and say anyone who could beat him in a fight could have the money.

It took him a long time to train Old Grunter to where as Buddy would say “it took awhile before I learned to ride him on the topside”. The two of them would perform in rodeos all over the country.


My personal favorite story about Buddy Heaton is when he and “Old Grunter” snuck into JFK’s inauguration parade. So here is a guy riding a buffalo in a presidential inauguration parade without so much as an invitation. This was well before homeland security. To top off the performance, he left the parade and rode “Old Grunter” right up the steps of the White House.

 Buddy Heaton Inauguration

I’ll never know if it was Buddy and Old Grunter I saw that day in Texas,  but I do know that with enough stubbornness and time you can train that big dumb animal of yours to do some amazing tricks.

When you reach that level of training, who knows what kind of adventures will come your way and you will be prepared to put on your own show.

I’ve known whale trainers, lion trainers and elephant trainers from my time spent working as a performer in attractions. The keys to training an animal, are time, consistency, discipline and reward.

Buffalo Tip: Plan long term, stay with it and reward the small victories.  Your dumb animal will thank you for it.

To read more on Buddy Heaton:

photo sources:


One thought on “Your Body Aint You

  1. Colter

    Do you remember the kid of the bull rider’s name? My grandfather was Buddy Heaton and my father was born in West Texas so it could have very been him.

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