WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Buffalokémon

By on August 2, 2016

A Pokémon hunt at the Teton County Fair reveals more than just Paras.

After braving the fairgrounds in 90-degree heat, the author failed to capture a rare Brazilian Zebu. Instead he stumbled upon a caged young bison in the flesh. (Photo: Andrew Munz)

After braving the fairgrounds in 90-degree heat, the author failed to capture a rare Brazilian Zebu. Instead he stumbled upon a caged young bison in the flesh. (Photo: Andrew Munz)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The Greater Yellowstone ecosystem is known for championing a tremendous amount of variety when it comes to wildlife. But along with the wide range of large mammals, plenty of bird species and countless insects, there has been a recent epidemic of Pokémon that has invaded Jackson Hole’s quiet township, just begging to be caught, captured, raised and battled. These Japanese-bred monsters, both cute and creepy, have been loitering around various parts of the valley.

I feel no shame in admitting that my obsession with Pokémon began in fifth grade when I first received “Pokémon Red” for my Game Boy (first generation, bitches). My younger stepbrother Caelan got “Pokémon Blue,” an alternate version of the game that boasted 11 kinds of Pokémon that my Red version didn’t have. The only way to “Catch ‘Em All” was to pair up Game Boys with a link cable and trade species back and forth. My love for the game transitioned into my love for the trading card game, which then carried on to my love for the “Pokémon Trading Card Game” for Game Boy Color. It was a vicious cycle.

After plenty of pre-teen rehab, which involved incessant teasing, name-calling and unrelated sexual confusion, I managed to wean myself off Pokémon and enter my teens more or less unscathed. Even after all these years, my knowledge of Pokémon evolution type effectiveness still burrowed out unnecessary space in my memory. I still know which starting Pokémon can learn HM05 (Bulbasaur) and where to find the infamous Missingno (outside Viridian City).

Who knew that my ability to name all 151 original Pokémon (I’m single, FYI) would suddenly come in handy when the new “Pokémon Go” app took over the world?

I was hesitant to download it at first, especially after hearing that the application mined your phone for personal information. Not only that, the app led a young girl to accidentally stumble upon a dead body in Riverton, Wyo., and in Bosnia, the government issued a warning that hunting Pokémon might lead people into areas with active land mines. Fun stuff! But after downloading “Pokémon Go,” I was hooked. My childhood surged back to me in full force. I even got a new pimple on my forehead.

Hunting Pokémon throughout Jackson was a trip, for sure. The app uses a GPS system for wherever you’re operating it and randomly assigns various businesses and locations as “Gyms” or “Pokestops,” where players can train their captured Pokémon or collect items such as lures and extra Pokéballs. Places like parks, museums and churches have a higher chance of providing more items and can also attract more rare and powerful Pokémon.

Since the Teton County Fair was going on last weekend, I figured I might find some interesting Pokémon in the area. Unfortunately, I found nothing but a bunch of Paras and yet another Drowzee (they’re all over Jackson). Nothing like the Pikachu I spotted near Bud’s Liquor Store and the Eevee I caught at the Wilson Pearl St. Bagels two weeks ago.

I checked out the petting zoo first and was surprised that one of the most aggressive non-Pokémon in the area was already captured.

A juvenile male North American bison was roped up and caged within the petting zoo. The man supervising the tent told me it was born in captivity and wasn’t aggressive. However, as children approached the animal to pet its head, the bison rammed the gate with its horns, causing one girl donned in a painted face to erupt into tears.

I could fill an entire column commenting on the irony and questionable thinking involved with showcasing a bison in a petting zoo 20 minutes from where a wild, grass-fed, free-range bison could pummel you into oblivion. I will forever remain mystified by the choice to cage in a petting zoo such a powerful creature that symbolizes the American West and wildness.

As for my Pokémon search, the fairgrounds were a bust. The only unique, docile animal I spotted was a horned Brazilian Zebu, which unfortunately was already captured by the zoo supervisor.

I guess I’ll have to keep searching. PJH

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