Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where The Buffalo Roam

I hope you won't mind if I present another post filled with photos of bison.  I apologize, but I can't help it.  On my last free day before going back to Afton Station full time, naturally I used it to drive up to my favorite place on earth, the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Reserve, to visit my favorite animals, bisons.  I've written about this place before, and I've posted lots of bison photos, but you can never see enough of them, in my humble opinion.

Today, I hit the jackpot.  I seldom make the 2-hour drive up there in the middle of winter, but I was curious to see the differences in the flora and fauna after a big snow.  As it turned out, the snow was virtually all melted, but the dirt road (the only road for miles) was a sea of mud, made worse by the fact that the work crew was scraping the last of the mud and gunk off of it and piling it, for the most part, in the middle of the road.  It was a messy drive, but worth every mud chunk and ice boulder that hit the underside of my car.  

Here's the dirt road as one enters the reserve.  At this point, it was clear and easily driveable.  I love how it stretches out as far as the eye can see.  It continues that way across the many miles of the reserve, with only an occasional electric pole to break my fantasy of being the first explorer to discover the land.  (a fantasy I repeat every time I visit the prairie).

Of all my trips to the Tallgrass Prairie (and there have been many), there were more bison grazing within my sight this time than I've ever seen before.  There are over 2,500 bison there, but the prairie reserve is so large that one usually only sees a few hundred per trip, depending on where the herds feel like grazing that day.  Today, I believe that most of them chose to graze within my sight, and some of them chose to graze within a few feet of my car.  Some even dared to cross the road in front of my car, which isn't really much of a risk, since I drive about 5 mph when I'm in the reserve.  

 The brown grass was an interesting change from the lush green fields that I usually see there in the spring and summer.  The bison look a bit different as well, since they are wearing their winter coats now.  Otherwise, nothing ever changes at the Tallgrass Prairie, and that is as it should be.  The many books that I own which describe the biota of the prairie say that there are literally hundreds of living things there, but most are too small to see.  In the summer,  there are dozens of varieties of flowers and other plants.  I've seen several interesting insects there, and today I saw my first bobcat quickly dash across the road in front of my car.  That was another thrill for the day.

On the way home, I drove through the small towns of Pawhuska, Wynona, Hominy, and Cleveland.  One of these days, I need to go back and spend more time in each of these charming villages.  But that will have to wait, either until next fall or on the day that I decide to play hooky and let someone else take over the Station  while I roam with the buffalo once again.


Susan Yates said...

Laurel, I am soooo jealous! When the Churchill and I drove through the preserve in October, 2011, the closest bison were half a mile away from the road in corrals where they'd been herded for their annual medical checkups. Your photos are excellent.

May I suggest you time your next trip to Hominy so that you can take the short, but interesting tour through the Drummond home. It's the home of the original Scottish immigrant progenitor of the Drummond clan that for the past five or six generations has produced more than their share of successful bankers, lawyers, and ranchers, including the one that Pioneer Woman blogger Ree Drummond married. The house is Indian Territory vintage and is maintained by the Oklahoma Historical Society. You'll love it. Also on the main street (though I'm not sure it's called Main Street) there is one of the very few remaining triangular shaped (I mean a building with three sides, not four!) Marland gas stations. Marland was bought by Conoco and they incorporated the triangle in their logo. You may have spotted the Friends (Quaker) Meeting House on your way out of town. It's right there on the road to Wynona. I found these places on my rambles this past summer.

Susan Yates said...

. . . and when I wrote "the Churchill and I" of course I meant that to be plural, as in both Debbie and Matt! I hate posting a mistake. I'm always mindful that you are a former English teacher--and once an English teacher, always an English teacher. Is there an edit function on your blog? Could you add one?! Please.

Laurel said...

First of all, Susan... I'm shocked by the typo in which you omitted the "s" at the end of Churchill. Shame, shame, shame. Please... despite my being an English teacher for a very short time, I often find multiple typos and grammar whoopsies in each and every post I make. So, relax. I can edit my own words, but Blogger doesn't allow me to edit the comments of others. Sorry. We'll all survive. Ha ha!

Once, on my cruise through Hominy, I found the Drummond home, but didn't have the time for a tour. Some day, I will. At that time, I'll also seek out the Marland gas station about which you speak. Thank you for the tip!

As for the bison problem. . . the situation when you were with the Churchill(s), as you've found out, was the time of year. In late October and early November, the bison are rounded up for their annual inoculations and the culling of the herd. I took my dearest friend from CT, Pat, up there one November, completely unaware of that, and I was so disappointed to see no free-ranging bison. Now, I stay away from there during that part of the year.

Trevor Hilton said...

Laurel, a friend of Lim's, who Lim says knows Chinese better than she herself does, wrote "Welcome to Afton Museum" in Chinese. The word "Afton" is English since the friend said it couldn't be translated. Do you know someone who could copy it into a pretty sign? If so, then tell me where to mail it and I'll send it to you. If not, I'll see if I can find someone.

Laurel said...

Trevor, that's great! I can make the sign, or I can have one of my volunteers make it. I've made many signs and murals in my life, and I'm blessed to have a bunch of very talented volunteers, too. Would you be sending it to me through the mail, or via email? Let me know. And thank you so much to you, Lim, and her friend!

Trevor Hilton said...

I will try to scan and e-mail it to you. If it isn't clear enough, then I'll snail-mail it to you. What e-mail address to you want me to send it?

Laurel said...

Thanks again, Trevor. My email address is I'm sure it will come through just fine.

Beth said...

Buffalo are magnificent animals. I think of how it must have been a couple of hundred years ago, when the herds covered the prairie for as far as the eye could see. What a sight that must have been!