BOSQUE FARMS — Two dozen people sat on blanket-covered hay bales, step stools and a few random wooden stumps in the dappled shade at Monte and Lana Fastnacht’s Bosque Farms home late Saturday morning to say farewell to a neighbor and a friend, to remember how he touched their lives for nearly two decades. 

The words “honored” and “special” were said repeatedly as friends and neighbors of Beau, a rare white buffalo, said their goodbyes during a blessing and memorial ceremony on May 4. 

“He was Monte’s baby. They had a bond like no other,” said Lana, Monte’s wife, during the ceremony. “When he passed on Monday, we sat with him as he took his last breath. This is the only home he’s known.” 

In the days leading up to the buffalo’s death, Monte knew something was wrong — Beau refused to eat his favorite barley.  

Blood work done by local veterinarian Donny MacDougall — who referred to himself as Beau’s “doctor” — showed the 2,000 pound buffalo was in renal failure. 

Submitted photo
Monte Fastnacht and rare white buffalo Beau, also known as Rising Thunder, made regular appearances at events across the state, seen here at the Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial. Beau was the only trained white buffalo in the country. He died on Monday, April, 29, at the home of Monte and Lana Fastnacht in Bosque Farms. The couple were his caretakers since 2007.

Born in 2006 in Colorado, Beau was originally destined for Mexico. He and his sister, Buttons, were sold to the Mexican government with the plan to send them to Florida to be trained as circus animals.  

In 2007, due to mad-cow disease, Beau wasn’t allowed to enter Mexico and the pair were sold to a bison producer in the National Bison Association. Within a few weeks, his new owner offered Beau to the Bosque Farms couple. Along with neighbor and investor, Dennis Royer, Monte and Lana bought Beau, picking him up on a hot July day just outside of Oklahoma City. 

After getting him home, Monte worked persistently to bond with Beau, a slow but successful process. Just a month after bringing him to the village, Buffalo Thunder Resort reached out, asking to have Beau at its casino ground-breaking ceremony on the Pueblo of Pojoaque.  

Monte said they weren’t sure what exactly to expect from him, but Beau with his “show-off” personality performed as asked. Lana said when they got Beau, he was “handleable,” but it was Monte’s dedication that made him into the only trained white buffalo in the country.  

That training was put on display at the New Mexico State Fair, during photo shoots with the likes of rock singer Ted Nugent and almost in a spot on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. 

Leno’s staff caught wind of Beau after the Buffalo Thunder groundbreaking and asked if the Fastnachts would be willing to bring him out to Hollywood. They made the trip and Beau spent the day backstage learning to navigate the hallways filled with wires and cables, and marching on and off stage with Monte on a special ramp built just for the buffalo. 

Time constraints meant Beau was cut from the final show, but he did get to meet Reba McEntire and Vince Gill, who were also performing.  

He also had a role in the Sean Penn movie, “This Must Be The Place,” and was invited back to Buffalo Thunder Resort for its grand opening and paid many visits to local Valencia County schools, as well as visiting students in Corrales and Santa Fe. 

Beau made many appearances at the Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, often walking the two-plus mile parade route and doing nightly presentations in the Red Rocks State Park Arena for ceremonial dances among the bonfires. 

Before his “career” took off, it became apparent how special and sacred Beau was to the Native community, Monte said, so in October 2007, a naming ceremony was held for Beau so he could be given his official Native name. 

On a Saturday afternoon in Santa Fe, Sara Lucero — the keeper of the wampum belt bundle of Shawnee War Chief Tecumseh — led the naming ceremony. Monte said there were a number of “unusual happenings” that day. 

Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photo
During a blessing ceremony to mark the death of the rare white buffalo, Rising Thunder, Sara Lucero — the keeper of the wampum belt bundle of Shawnee War Chief Tecumseh — offers a song.

Two young Native girls participating in the ceremony fainted. Both said while they were unconscious, they had visions of a white buffalo rising up from under the ground. Later in the ceremony, after Lucero had prayed for the elders who had passed to hear her, a large flock of ravens landed on the pipe fencing around the field. After praying for the rains to come and provide grass for the bison, the sprinkler system came on. 

That day, Beau was given the name Rising Thunder. 

Lucero attended the ceremony in Bosque Farms last weekend to offer a blessing to Rising Thunder and explained why he was so special and significant to many in the Native community. 

“The two girls who fainted, I knew they were OK. They were only touched by his ethereal white lightening, his unseen power,” Lucero said. “When we have a vision of certain animals, especially white ones, it is very sacred. When a white animal shows itself to us it’s in a divine way.” 

Before she met Rising Thunder, Lucero said she had a dream, “a vision, of a man in a stable, kneeling by a wooden crib. Inside the crib was a white buffalo. I knew he was coming, that he would bring spiritual healing to the world and help us bring worldwide healing.” 

While Beau was with the Fastnachts, Lucero and her family and friends would pay him frequent visits to pray over him during sacred, seasonal times. 

As the ceremony came to an end, MacDougall said something had just come to him as he listened to Lucero. 

“Sometimes it takes me a minute to connect the dots,” he said with a chuckle. “A white buffalo was born in Texas on the day Beau died. Thank you, heavenly father, for opening a window when a door closed.” 

The white bison calf born in Texas was named Unatsi, the Cherokee word for snow. Another white calf was born in Kansas on May 24.  

White buffalo represent healing, peace and harmony among many Native Americans. 

Submitted photo
Since 2007, Beau, a rare white buffalo was regularly seen grazing at the Bosque Farms home of his caretakers, Monte and Lana Fastnacht. A harbinger of peace and harmony to many Native Americans, and named Rising Thunder at his naming ceremony, Beau died of renal failure on Monday, April 29.

One of the Fastnacht’s neighbors, Anne Marie Werner-Smith, would often stop and say hi to Beau as he grazed in a pasture along the road.  

“He was a part of our community, he was our neighbor,” Werner-Smith said during the blessing ceremony. “We always felt when he was here, he was a blessing on the neighborhood. 

The buffalo represents the heart, Lucero said, “the center of us and all the beautiful emotions we feel. He’s a star being now.  

“Look up and you’ll see him. Those who needed healing were touched with his unseen power. He was blessed by the creator to be here and help us all.” 

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.