Subject: The Buffalo
Date: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 4:04 PM
I had another friend at Cornell, named George who was from Albany. HE had a friend named Dick Bender who was a truly mad individual, but those are other stories. This is the story of George and the Buffalo.
The same summer that the Yippies threw money onto the floor of the stock exchange, George was at home in Albany, and he made friends with this old man down the street. Sometime during the summer the old guy died and his widow gave George his car. It was a 'lay back Rambler'. On those cars (famous in blues songs and various other legends) the front seats would lay back flat forming a fairly comfortable bed with the bottom of the back seat. So George brought the Rambler back to school with him and, seeing as how he was the only one of us in the house with a car, we all used to cruise a lot in it. This was sophomore year and four of us had rented a house off campus: George, Morty (the necktie guy from the Times Square incident), me, and Alan, whose major characteristic was that for a while there every time he would bring a girl home she would get interested in one of the others of us and dump him. I don't recall that there was any conscious action on our parts in this, it just sort of worked out that way. That is how I met my first wife. Anyway, somewhere along the line someone 'obtained' a stuffed buffalo head (pilfered from a fraternity house, I think). We wired it onto the front of the Rambler, painted the whole car shaggy brown with a brush, and painted those feet on the wheels like some kid's toys have, so it looked like it was running down the road when it was driven slowly. The car was really rusty -- so rusty, in fact that we would sometimes stick our feet out at the bottom of the doors and make running motions while we drove down the street, adding significantly to the overall effect. Or so we thought. (Drugs were involved in all this ...) At one point, as I recall, the Buffalo was banned from the campus.
Well, the Buffalo was SO rusted out that it would not pass a required motor vehicle inspection that they had at that time in NY. Either the inspection was necessary before George could transfer the title, or it was an annual safety inspection, I don't remember which. But in any event the result was the same: when the old man's registration ran out around the middle of the winter, we were done. I think each of us got a ticket or two for driving on an expired registration, but that couldn't last long. The Buffalo was not exactly inconspicuous, and every cop in town knew it on first glance. So one night we determined to give the Buffalo a Viking funeral out on the lake, which was frozen thick enough to safely drive even big trucks around on. So we filled the buffalo up with gas and headed out to the lake. Somewhere along the way, inspiration struck ! (As I said, drugs were involved ...) Instead of a Viking funeral, we would set the Buffalo free to make his way back to the happy hunting ground !
Ithaca is located at the southern tip of Lake Cayuga, one of New York's 'finger lakes'. Lake Cayuga is maybe 20 miles wide at the widest point and somewhere around 100 miles long. Frozen at the time, about 2 feet thick. So we got the Buffalo out on the lake headed north with the steering wheel tied and the throttle wired wide open. George got in and eased out the clutch in third gear overdrive and then bailed out before the Buffalo picked up a deadly amount of speed, and so we bid the Buffalo good bye on it's final journey. When last seen it was cruising north at something approaching 80 miles per hour dead center down the lake and rapidly dwindling into a small dot. We sang songs in his honor.
The lake was lined with summer cottages belonging to rich people (well, rich enough to have summer cottages anyway) and even today I grin a bit to myself when I think of someone far up the lake coming to open their cottage for the summer and finding the Buffalo in their living room. Investigation would of course reveal that it belonged to a man who was dead and buried for nearly a year... Further really tedious investigation might, I suppose, somehow implicate 'The Dekes', who would have to plead ignorance. And everyone would understand.