Do you remember when you were a child how one or two other kids could ruin a situation for everyone because they disobeyed the rules? Maybe your teacher punished the entire class by keeping everyone inside at recess because Johnny just didn’t think the rules applied to him?
Such was the case this past spring when some not-too-bright folks decided they had to get closer to the buffalo that have grazed in pastures around The Villages for years. And these people were old enough to know better.
The Villages officials have since moved the buffalo to areas not accessible by the public because of at least three incidents where people were hurt by or near the animals—and then filed lawsuits.
It was not unusual to see people feeding carrots to the animals or sticking their hands through the fences like the buffalo were in a petting zoo. Once I saw a grandparent holding up a toddler with an apple in his hand. Did these people leave their good sense behind when they moved here?
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the buffalo and how massive they looked. I’m not a rocket scientist, but I certainly was smart enough to keep my distance. I would have stayed on my side of the fence even without the signs telling me that “survivors would be prosecuted.” The smell alone was enough to deter me.
Nevertheless, I loved showing visitors the buffalo—from a distance. We could stop on the bike trails and be close enough to take photos. Friends’ children who visited years ago asked me recently if I still saw the buffalo. Those creatures were etched in their young minds as the most memorable part of this community.
It was always an amazing sight to see a buffalo “family” like I did on Mother’s Day weekend—the dad, the mom, and a sleeping calf. I even photographed them with a zoom lens. As soon as I saw Papa Buffalo eyeing me suspiciously, I decided it was time to put the camera in my bag and quietly ride away.
Some residents blame The Villages officials for taking away such a beautiful and unique sight. Well, those folks have it wrong, wrong, wrong. Blame the selfish people who thought they were above the rules and just plain ignored the signs. In this litigious society where people sue over the most frivolous things—like a recent case involving a defective Victoria’s Secret thong— why wouldn’t The Villages protect itself from lawsuits? Signs and even barbed wire in some places weren’t enough to prevent mishaps—or lawsuits.
Now as I look back, I’m mad at myself. I should have taken the time to stop and tell those idiots who were standing too close or offering treats to a wild animal that they were about to ruin it for all of us. I probably would have heard the argument that the rules didn’t apply to them.
Mary Ann DeSantis
is the associate editor
of Lake & Sumter Style
and lives in The Villages.