Wobble the bison, iconic as the image on a Buffalo nickel, was a welcome sight for drivers on Sunnyside Boulevard.
Lori Wicker would see the lone bison, off in a pasture, while on her way to see her daughter in Marysville. “Every time we’d go that way and see Wobble in the field or at the gate, it was going to be a good day,” she said.
Wicker, who lives in the Lynnwood area, recently contacted The Herald. She’d read about Wobble in this column two years ago. She hadn’t seen him in awhile, and wrote: “Wondering if something happened to him?!”
There’s sad news for those who liked seeing the mighty beast. Wobble, who began life as a wobbly 26-pound calf, died May 29 on Ruth and Paul Brandal’s 70-acre property.
He lived 27 years, about the life span of a horse, on the farm where the Brandals once had a bison herd. Wobble was the last one on the farm they’ve called Bisondalen, between Ebey Slough and Sunnyside Boulevard.
Ruth Brandal, a 64-year-old nurse, said Wobble had been “doing just fine” until his last day or so, when he refused his daily treat of grain. With the springtime grass, “we thought maybe he was getting enough in the field,” she said. “He laid down and died. The gentle soul was found laying in the lush grass on the farm where he was born prematurely 27 years earlier.”
She and her 4-year-old granddaughter sprinkled flowers on Wobble’s body. He’d died of natural causes. The next day, May 30, a neighbor with a backhoe helped the Brandals bury Wobble on their property. His grave site, marked with a flat rock, is “a real peaceful place,” Brandal said.
The Washington Administrative Code includes a chapter on “Disposal of Dead Livestock,” which outlines burial rules and other options. With burial, a carcass must be covered by at least three feet of soil, and be 300 feet or farther from a well, spring, river or lake.
A 1990 flood brought bison to the Brandals. When someone else’s herd on Ebey Island was flooded out, bison swam the Snohomish River and ended up on the Brandal farm. They leased their land to the herd’s owner, and eventually bought about 50 bison. Wobble, born May 30, 1992, was the first bison to begin life on the Brandals’ land.
They once sold bison meat, but Wobble was never just one of the herd. If not exactly a pet, he was at first cared for in their kitchen. Helped by Dr. Earl Aalseth, then at Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital in Snohomish, baby Wobble had a feeding tube. Brandal recalled one of their foster children praying for his survival.
Until he grew too big, he made appearances at Biringer Farm during the Marysville Strawberry Festival and at the Puyallup Fair. When he acted up, Brandal said she jokingly called him “steaks and burgers.”
She shared a memory from the Puyallup Fair. Wobble was about 2, she said, when they’d sneak him into the rodeo arena late at night “so he could run around.” When Wobble saw a bungee-type ride at the fairgrounds, “he watched it go up and down, almost like he wanted to get on it,” Brandal said.
She and her husband, who’s 66, have three calves, chickens, and for their granddaughter some bunnies.
“My heaven is going to have animals — dogs, cats and my buffalo,” said Ruth Brandal. Her father, Ward Zimmerman, and his brother, Robert Zimmerman, died in 2014 a plane crash in Wyoming. “Wobble’s up there with my dad,” she said.
Like passersby, she and her husband miss their 1,800-pound friend. For a few days after Wobble died, “people slowed down, kind of looking,” she said. “We look out our window — where is he? He’s not there.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.