Trip to Kansas City for the Water Buffalo Club – Buffalo Rising

For Therese “Tee” Forton-Barnes, the stage was set for the third and what would easily have been Buffalo Water Buffalo Club’s biggest and loudest tailgate night at the Big Tree Inn in Orchard Park before the championship game of the AFC against Cincinnati in Highmark Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Irma Cortes of the Seneca Nation of Indians in Irving, her daughter and two friends officially joined the Water Buffalo Club ahead of the regular season finale against the New York Jets because they are longtime Bills fans. That’s why the four of them left Irving last weekend for the Bills’ rematch against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

Like Tee, the Water Buffalo Club’s Grand Poobah, the Irving ladies were also supremely confident they would be bundled up for the AFC Championship Game here.

13 seconds changed all that.

A Buffalo Rising The Jan. 6 story explained how Forton-Barnes co-founded this grassroots club as an extension of Bills Mafia “…except we don’t break tables,” Tee explained.

Club officers. From left to right, Thérèse Forton-Barnes, Grand Poobah; Cathleen Hart-Frantz, Treasurer and Lisa Brydges, Director of Entertainment

Through his many contacts, a strong social media network and word of mouth has turned this fun venture into a full-time job over the past two weeks for Tee and fellow Water Buffalo Club officers, Lisa Brydges, Director of the entertainment and Cathleen Hart-Frantz, treasurer.

Last Saturday afternoon, the day before the Chiefs game, the three officers set up their distribution center in the back room of the Big Tree Inn at a table in front of its Hall of Fame display, which now contains the distinctive blue hat of Water Buffalo with the red Buffalo on the front.

KC businessman Shane Cordes, left, and Tee in the suite

As Brydges and Hart-Frantz handed out hats to fans from all over western New York to collect their hats, membership cards and instructions on how to keep the hats straight, Tee was on the phone with the man KC businessman Shane Cordes, whom she met at the Jim Kelly golf tournament last summer.

“Shane is a great guy who I met when he was playing in a foursome with Chris Berman and Jim. He has a suite for the Chiefs game and when he heard about our club he ordered ten hats for everyone in the suite. I gave them to him overnight during the week but on Saturday he hadn’t received them yet. When he told me he had a ticket for me in his suite, I immediately called the airlines and found a flight leaving Buffalo at 6 a.m. on game day,” she explained.

“It was important to me that he had those 10 hats, so I decided to go with another 10 hats for him,” she added.

Mary Violanti, left, in the red and white shorts, and Michelle Knaszak, who let Tee borrow her coat for the KC road trip

When new members entered the Big Tree Inn, Tee almost jumped out of her chair when she saw Michelle Knaszak of North Boston arrive wearing a full-length red and blue Brotoga while girlfriend Mary Violanti of Hamburg wore Zubas shorts over his jeans.

“My whole wardrobe is made up of Bills clothes. I’ve been a fan all my life and I’m so convinced they’re going to the Super Bowl this year that I bought plane tickets and booked a room in Los Angeles. Angeles last March,” Violanti said as Tee explained to her friend why she needed to borrow her Brotaga for the trip the next day, Knaszak obliged.

Departure at 6:00 a.m. ready for takeoff to KC. The water buffalo hat can be found in the storage unit above.

“It made the outfit!” explained Tee, who posted photos of herself on the plane and at KC on Sunday in her new Bills outfit.

While Tee and his crew were at the Big Tree last Saturday, Cortes and his crew had piled into a rental car Friday night for what turned out to be quite the Midwestern adventure. Irma, her daughter, Kalicia, and best friends Robin and Nicky are all Bills season ticket holders. Caught up in the buzz of possibly beating the Chiefs at KC, they decided on Wednesday, Jan. 19 “We HAVE to be at this game to support our boys,” Irma said.

“We packed our car in -5 degrees and every crevice in the vehicle was filled with everything we needed – our Buffalo Bills outfit, food, drinks, pillows and signs,” she added. Their first stop was in Cleveland for a photo op at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, displaying their Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, “Bills Make Me Wanna Shout” signs and our Hiawatha flag (We are all Proud Seneca Women).

Signs and flag at Rock n Roll HOF

The trip took an interesting turn around 3 a.m. when they stopped at a rest stop off the Thruway in Indiana. Irma explained: “When I came out of the toilet, straight ahead was a bench with an open wallet on it. I’m waiting for the others to come out so we can decide what to do. I pick it up and notice on Daniel’s license in Arizona that he’s a veteran. It makes us want to help her even more. We look inside for more information, noting that all the cash is gone, but there’s a $2 bill along with some credit cards and business cards that we assume are the company for which he leads. There is no employee present or drop box at the rest area and we didn’t want to leave the wallet there in case he slept in his truck as there are credit cards and a ticket $2 which we think may be important to him.

“We decide to hit the road, taking the wallet with us. We will contact him through the company’s business card information and mail it to him. Robin does research; Daniel Rodriguez and a phone number appears on Google. She calls and leaves a message. She then pulls out the two trucking company business cards and contacts them to explain the situation. We are now about an hour’s drive from the rest area. About half an hour later, she receives a message from someone at the trucking company that they reached Daniel and he didn’t even know he had lost his wallet.

“He was indeed sleeping in his truck at the rest area. Daniel calls Robin and we explain to him why we decided to take it with us and we offered to send it by post, but he needs it to complete his journey. We are now about two hours away and Daniel is heading the other way. We remember seeing a Love’s Truck stop card in his wallet and would recommend going to one as a meeting place or maybe we could leave it with the manager for Daniel to pick up.

Message from Truck Driver Daniel to the Good Samaritans of the Seneca Nation in Irving
Message from Truck Driver Daniel to the Good Samaritans of the Seneca Nation in Irving

“She’s still talking to him on the phone, and he thanks us, saying he didn’t think there were people in this world anymore who would do that. She then tells him about the $2 bill and Daniel was thrilled, stating that he was happiest about it. He received it in a care kit mid-deployment when he served our country with these letters written by children. He has been transporting them for about ten years. We google Love’s and there’s one a few exits away. We stop and explain the situation to the manager, and they are happy to help by keeping Daniel’s wallet in the safe until he arrives. Later, we make a stop at the Arc in Saint-Louis before heading to our Airbnb. There, Robin receives a photo of Daniel holding his $2 bill with a message: “Package received. What could have been a bad day turned out great.

Happy with the good deed done, the Seneca clan checked into their Airbnb in Overland Park and took a quick nap before heading to pre-tailgate parties at Bill’s Backer’s Bars (Al’s and Tap’s). Their water buffalo hats and Brotogas caught everyone’s attention.

At Al’s Sports Bar with Booker. From left to right, Kali, Nicky, Benny, Robin, Irma
Benny the Butcher at Taps Sports Bar. From left to right, Irma, Nicky, Benny, Robin and Kali behind

“Arriving at Al’s, which was packed, we ran into ‘Booker’, a popular Bills fan who is always at the 97 Rock tailgate party,” Irma continued. “What a great time to meet Bills fans from around the world, including our very own WNY Elvis and American rapper ‘Benny the Butcher’ from Buffalo.

“On game day, I wake up like it’s Christmas morning shouting Hey, ey, ey, ey, and shaking my cowbell to try to wake the house. We headed to the stadium with our Bills flag and signs on our rental car. We parked near the other Bills fans, so we put on our Water Buffalo hats and our Brotogas. We must have taken hundreds of pictures with the Bills fans and the Chiefs and 98% of Chiefs fans were friendly and welcoming We meet a Chiefs fan who asked who was a fan when the Bills were in the Super Bowl. All four were, so he gave us the Buffalo Bill Trading Cards, which included Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas. What a nice gesture.

Tee’s certificate for attending his first game at KC’s Arrowhead Stadium

Tee received a certificate for her first game at Arrowhead Stadium, where she watched the game from Cordes’ suite.

“I will never forget the experience of going to Kansas City,” she said.

“We all know the result and I had so many people worried about my mental state after that game. Honestly, in the end, I was OK. There’s something about this team that makes you think it’s not not a fluke and we are going to the Super Bowl very soon and we will win it.

“As founders of the Water Buffalo Club and its Grand Poohbah, we have much to look forward to and I look forward to wearing our hats with pride and honor in the 2022 home opener, which I believe will be another very good year for the Red, White and Blue!” Tee added.

Tee and his board will also spend the off season working out the details of a charitable arm with the Water Buffalo Club and Buffalo Zoo. Of course, it will have something to do with his herd of buffaloes.

For Irma and the ladies, the long drive home began after visiting Gates BBQ for lunch. “We were honored to meet the owner, Mrs. Gates,” she said. “She welcomed us with open arms and hugged us after our hard loss and also sent us off with parting gifts of all her bottled seasonings and thanked us for showing up in our Bills outfit.

“We were always so proud of the game the Bills played,” Irma said. “They left their hearts on this pitch like we did in this stadium! We laughed until we cried and then we cried until we laughed!

YaaBa DaaBa Doo!

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