ANTELOPE ISLAND -A-- As the early morning sun rose Saturday over Antelope Island, the whinnying sound of more than 100 horses echoed back from a nearby canyon. The 23rd Great Bison Roundup started off with a gallop and later became a thundering herd.
Among the 200-plus riders who volunteered to help with the roundup was a Martinsville, Ind., woman who came to Utah as a present to herself for her 60th birthday.
"It is like Christmas and I am opening up my first present," said Trish Uebelhor, before the Hoosier cowpoke wandered off to ride the island range for the first time.
The roundup is like a cattle drive from one end of the island to the other, pushing animals into corrals.
There, a veterinarian will give the 500-plus bison herd its yearly checkup.
But the "push," as the 11-mile roundup is called by riders, can take unexpected turns every year as the woolly mammals become defiant and just won't budge.
"They're very stubborn today," said Ron Taylor, the Antelope Island State Park manager, as he stood high on the Frary Peak trailhead overlooking the route.
Defiant, the bison were this day, stopping three times for more than an hour to drink and rest at will.
Last year, Taylor said, the bison happily waltzed into the pens by midday.
The state park staff reminded volunteers that an unhappy bison is nothing to trifle with, and at least three horses were gored by the aggressive bulls or cows by the end of the day as the 1,000-pound creatures were prodded to move on to the vet's pasture.
"It was scary," said Barb Mortensen, a Hooper woman who has ridden the roundup for the last eight years.
By late afternoon, less than half the herd had crossed the final ridge but were stalled just outside the corrals when the staff decided to revert to an alternate method: Broncos.
Not horses, but Ford 4x4 vehicles driven on hills to persuade the bison into the pens.
"I'll be back next year," said Mortensen, who decided the frightening incidents didn't scare her off from the overall fun of the day.
Volunteer riders and the park staff will try once again today to gather the stragglers and then finish the medical procedures next weekend.
The public is invited, starting at 8 a.m. and going until the chore is done, bison willing.