sleep on. A glint
of green on rising
grass, reed-slender beyond
all imagining, you cling
to your swaying, sunlit world
with perfect confidence; you entrance
our raucous, chattering pond with silence.
With Konza Prairie Biological Station to its north and the rich variety of the Tallgrass Prairie to its south, the Kansas town of Council Grove is perfectly situated to accomodate vacationing families, prairie enthusiasts, nature photographers, and history buffs.
In the 1800s, the trappers, traders, and settlers who passed through town had different concerns. For them, Council Grove was a pivot point, a final opportunity to reconsider their chosen path before moving on. East of Council Grove, water and wood had been plentiful, and other small communities growing up along the Santa Fe Trail could offer assistance in case of difficulty. Beyond Council Grove, there were more, and arguably less-friendly, Indians. There was less water, less wood for fuel and repairs, and a changing topography that guaranteed new and more difficult struggles.
If a mind-change were to occur, if a new course were to be plotted or a decision made to return to more familiar worlds, it most likely would happen in Council Grove. (more…)
If it weren’t for the Alamo, bluebonnets, longhorn steers, and Willie Nelson, I’ve no doubt the lowly, nine-banded armadillo would trundle to the top of the Texas totems list.
It’s a strange one, this tank-like creature named for nine parallel scutes neatly tucked between two larger shoulder and hip scutes. It’s also the only armadillo species in North America, having migrated fairly recently from south of the Rio Grande.
Whatever outsiders think of the creature, it’s been granted status as the official state small mammal of Texas, and everyone from dry cleaning establishments to bars seem eager to cash in on its popularity. (more…)
Flung across the landscape by autumn’s rising winds, acorns bounce and tumble, the sound of their fall exploding into the air like the percussive chatter of firecrackers.
If you’re standing near a car when the first gust strikes and an acorn-laden oak lets fly her seed-crop, the racket is astounding. If you’re sheltering beneath a tin roof, the amplified sound is deafening. A storm of ripened acorns may be less destructive than hail, but it’s no less impressive.
I experienced my first “acorn storm” in the Texas hill country, an area of valleys and ridges threaded through with several varieties of oak. The sudden swell of redbud in spring, the extravagant yellow blooms of prickly pear, the color-turn of Virginia creeper climbing toward true red may delight the eye, but the oak has its own capacity to surprise the inexperienced or unprepared.
Out in western Kansas, tumbleweeds seem to outnumber gas stations by a million to one.
I was in tumbleweed country, with a quarter-tank of gas and who-knew-how-many-miles to go before I could sleep in something other than my car. When I saw the metal building with its gravel parking lot and a pair of pickups out front, it might as well have had a sign nailed up saying, “Tourist Information”.
I pulled in, walked over to the open doors and saw two fellows welding pipe. The one facing the door saw me, pushed up his helmet and walked over, smiling as though he’d been expecting me all day.
“What can I help you with?” he said. I explained my concern about seeing no gas stations, and asked where the closest one might be. “Well,” he said. “You’re about a tenth of a mile from it. You see those Co-op grain elevators across the way?” I did. “They’ve got gas pumps over there, too. Drive over and stick your head in the office and they’ll give you the go-ahead. Around here, we get our gas at the Co-ops. If you see an elevator, you probably can get gas.”
When I pulled up to the pumps, I still couldn’t find the credit card reader, so a trucker getting diesel across from me explained what no one else had thought to mention. Just one card reader served all six pumps, and it was hidden away at the end of the island. As I keyed in my pump number, I noticed him grinning. “Well,” he said, “I guess we’re gonna have to revise that old song.”
I must have seemed confused, so he added, “Looks to me like it ought to be ‘T for Texas, T for tumbleweeds‘“. Following his gaze, I turned to look at my car and started laughing myself. “You saw that, huh?” “Couldn’t help it,” he said. “Don’t often see someone driving around with a tumbleweed in their back seat. Where’d you pick it up?” (more…)