By: Maggie Fipps
“I just became the bison guy.”
How did Luke Freshwater, Cedarville graduate, military veteran, businessman, and father, become known as the bison guy?
Freshwater became fascinated with the fluffy beasts after he heard about their fearless tendencies. When a storm rolls in, instead of fleeing, a bison gallops into it, facing all its fervor. Prominent people such as Crossfit star Rich Froning co-opted this analogy as a galvanizing statement of courage. As the bison embrace the storm head-on, they spend less time in the midst of it and get to green pastures quicker.
“I would talk to my kids a lot about when things are hard, to be like the bison,” Freshwater said. “Be brave. Face the storm. I lead a sales team and it’s called the Fighting Bison. I just started loving bison and everything about them.”
Fully ingrained in the bison mentality, Freshwater reconnected with an old baseball teammate, Nate Davenport. They met as Yellow Jackets in 2007 and today, both fathers and husbands, they encourage each other from afar. Davenport introduced the idea of writing a children’s book to Freshwater to leave a legacy for their kids.
“We could say ‘Daddy and Nate wrote this book!’ and be able to share it with them and be proud of it,” Freshwater said.
“’I’ve got the theme, the story, and the passion behind it,” Freshwater said. “And Nate’s a great, whimsical mind and we’re like: ‘Hey, let’s team up.’”
That’s how “Bryson the Bison” was born, the animal that would turn their dreams into a reality.
Pieces slowly fell into place. Through a bit of persuasion and persistence, Freshwater secured NYT best-selling illustrator Richard Cowdrey to draw the illustrations for the book. His doe-eyed, personified bison leaped off the page. Cowdrey then shared the idea with his publisher, Zondervan Kids, and they offered to publish the book. This exceeded all their expectations.
“We expected to lose money on it,” Freshwater said. “We just thought if we could just break even then we would be more than happy. But we didn’t want to limit what was possible with it. You just never know what could happen when you put yourself out there and let God work.”
For Freshwater, the book’s message of courage speaks especially to a growing population of fatherless kids. Though Freshwater grew up with an attentive dad, four years ago, the statistics became personal.
The apartment above them burst with energy that reverberated into the floor, waking Freshwater, his wife, and their newborn baby. For what felt like the millionth time, he climbed the stairs, knocking loudly for some peace and quiet.
But that night, Freshwater lay awake, thinking about the noisy neighbors.
“The Holy Spirit was speaking to me like, ‘What would you do if you were a teenage boy and you didn’t have a parent at home?’” Freshwater said. “I’d have been going nuts.”
He attempted to mend the relationship, leaving notes on their door and waving when he saw them. However, the breaking point, literally and figuratively, happened when a water main burst in the boys’ apartment, submerging Freshwater’s home.
Afterward, a close mentorship between Freshwater and the boys emerged from the watery disaster. Their father lived in Nigeria, so Freshwater drove them to church, worked out with them in the mornings, and took them out for meals.
“It just became a passion of mine through this experience,” Freshwater said. “I’m in dad mode and you don’t really think about it that I can help other kids, you know, through my family.”
Freshwater is not just ‘the bison guy,’ although his family moves out to their new home, Silver Lake Bison Farm, in a few short months, where “Bryson the Bison” will come to life.
He is a guy who cares deeply about giving families a healthy way to handle difficult circumstances.
“I hope it encourages those kids at a young age to know things are going to be hard in life,” Freshwater said. “But I can get through that storm. I can get to those green pastures on the other side.”
Maggie Fipps is a sophomore Journalism student and the Sports Editor of Cedars. She enjoys playing the piano and thrifting, and you may spot her around campus sporting Packers gear head to toe.