Tell me true, have you ever seen anything more beautiful than golden, red, Big Bluestem against a clear blue sky?
This morning, after I dropped the red dirt kids off at their respective schools, I swung by Starbucks and armed myself with an extra-hot, soy, chai tea and a coffee, black. At home, HH leaned against the truck, cell phone to his ear, waiting for me. I handed him his coffee, grabbed my trusty camera, and we were off on our adventure to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
We crossed the Arkansas River on U.S. Highway 64 on this bridge. I have a thing for iron trestle bridges. These magnificent structures are slowly being replaced throughout the state with their newer, but boring concrete counterparts.
On the two and half hour trip, we talked about work, the kids, scenery and friends, all the things we can’t discuss without constant interruption at home. I would suggest that day trips are one of the keys to a happy marriage. As Carol might say, “Embrace day trips for a happier life.”
In Pawhuska, we ate at Bad Brad’s BBQ. If you’re ever in the foreign land of Pawhuska (capital of the Osage Nation) you should make a stop. The brisket is tender, and the sauce has just the right bite.
When I saw this sign at the southern end of the preserve, I thought, must they really tell people these things? Bison, or buffalo, are large, grazing, WILD animals, and if angered, the bulls will trample or gore you. They are also unpredictable, so if you get the chance to visit the preserve, don’t mistake it for a petting zoo.
Over 2,500 bison roam this land. To get this photo, I stood on the truck seat and climbed through the sun roof. That way, if this little guy’s mom or dad got testy, HH could take off in a hurry. I’m told that the buffalo know when the heaviest tourist days are and stay away from the roadways. The best times to see them are during the week. Like many humans, they like a 40 hour work week and take off on Saturdays and Sundays.
Every November, the Nature Conservancy has a bison drive where they gather the buffalo, vaccinate and count them and take blood tests to discover the purity of the herd. Interesting huh?
The preserve consists of 39,000 acres of uncut prairie formerly owned by the Chapman-Barnard Ranch. The Nature Conservancy purchased the land in 1989, and it is the largest protected area of tallgrass prairie remaining on the planet. While we were at the headquarters, the docent told us scientists from Columbia visited that morning trying to learn how to protect their own prairie. All of us helping each other. Very cool.
However, the prairie isn’t only about grasses, it is a blend of grass, annual and perennial plants along with the forest which grows along the banks of Sand Creek, the major watershed of the preserve. My property is also part of the contiguous forest. Seeing those few trees reminded me of home.
What do you think the settlers pondered when they topped hill after hill and all they saw was undulating grass broken only by only a line of trees near water? Go see the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, and I think you’ll have an idea.