It was the calm before the proverbial storm of a new school year and successful football season on a mid-August Saturday at Herd and Horns. As most of you know, Herd and Horns is the Bison-themed family-friendly sports bar that’s a Cam Miller to Christian Watson touchdown throw away from the Bison statue proudly standing guard over North Dakota State’s campus near the South Engineering building. We were meeting my parents and siblings for lunch. Oh, what a memorable lunch it would become.
Libby and I had taken some of our wedding photos a few years ago with the rest of our wedding party in front of that famous Bison statue on campus. In fact, one of those photos graces my Twitter profile, which you can see @swany8. Fast forward a few years, and on this day, we were with our son, Maverick, having that lunch at Herd and Horns. Towards the end of lunch, Maverick was running all over the place with his cousin, Kye, taking in all the Bison glory. It was like watching an old family movie ala Clark Griswold in the attic during the iconic Christmas Vacation scene. Except instead of my brother, Justin, and myself sprinting around the Turf as rambunctious tots, it was the next generation.
In the game room with the pool tables and dart boards is a large stuffed Bison head dutifully watching patrons. Few people know that this Bison at Herd and Horns actually has a name–it’s “Pete Bison.” But it wasn’t the proprietors of this fine establishment, Brent Tehven or Mike Dragosavich, who christened the pub’s unofficial mascot. That honor goes to Justin. Maverick stopped to admire the big Bison, looking up and pointing, telling us in awe, “big Bison.” Justin told him, “His name is ‘Pete’ Bison.” As many of you know, there’s absolutely no such thing as a casual off-the-cuff remark to a toddler in “I-will-repeat-everything-that-I-hear” mode. Ever since that lunch nearly four months ago, every single Bison that Maverick sees, even on TV, is Pete Bison.” When we see Thundar, in that adorable heart-melting sweet little voice, I’m gently rebuked with, “No daddy, that’s not Thundar, that’s Pete Bison.” It sure is, pal!
There’s a great children’s book if you’re a Bison family and looking for a Christmas gift called “Hello, Thundar!” You can buy it online or at the NDSU Bookstore. It’s an illustrated book that gives you a tour of NDSU’s campus from the aforementioned Bison statue to Minard Hall, Festival Concert Hall, the Fargodome and tailgating, and even the Greenhouse Complex. The book makes special mention of the Harvest Bowl and the importance of agriculture to NDSU’s mission. It even gives a special shoutout to the Gold Star Marching Band. And speaking of special shoutouts, hats off to Dr. Sigurd Johnson for his tremendous tenure as director of that NDSU institution.
But back to business we go. I love the fact that, along with “Hey Duck!”, it’s one of Maverick’s favorite books. How could I not, like father like son, right? The tour of campus in “Hello, Thundar!” is led, of course, by Thundar. The book is especially meaningful because every time we read it, I’m reminded of the fact that I gave more than 100 campus tours during my time as a Bison Ambassador at NDSU. I still have my famous blue Bison Ambassador coat hanging up in an upstairs closet. The past is never too far away as each time we read the book, it whisks me back to growing up going to games at Dacotah Field with my dad and grandpa, or my time attending NDSU.
But because of my brother, we have a discussion every time we read “Hello, Thundar!” because Thundar’s real name, according to Maverick, is not Thundar, it’s Pete Bison! It’s all things Bison in our house, 24/7. Much to the chagrin of my wife Libby, I often let Maverick pick out his own clothes to wear if I’m responsible for getting him dressed in the morning. While this explains why he’s often as well-dressed as his dad. Hey, who doesn’t love grey khakis, paw patrol socks, and a mismatched shirt? Can you guess what his favorite shirts are when dad asks him what he wants to wear? You got it. Along with anything Paw Patrol, Maverick tells me that he’s wearing one of his Bison shirts. At least with his shirts it’s just “Daddy, I wear my Bison shirt,” and he’s not asking to wear a “Pete Bison” shirt.
One simple remark during lunch at Herd and Horns has turned into something memorable for our family, and also convinced my son, thanks to his uncle, that Pete Bison is a better nickname than Thundar. The next generation of Bison is well on its way. Everybody up for the kickoff, the march is on!