Q: What do you get when four writers are turned loose in a state park with book ideas and a plan?
A. We’ll find out in the future, but I’d wager at least two more books and a sheaf of story fodder (and some speculation about what ever became of that group of “hikers” with compasses, bad maps, and an absence of clue?)
Peter Grant, the Lawdog, and OldNFO drove up to do some research scouting, to see the museum, and to sample BBQ. And up is the operative word, because they live at a lower elevation, and I promptly dragged them up multiple flights of stairs in the museum, including down a half level to the cars and then up to the firearms. Where I ended up taking down corrections to give to the curator, and wondering if the custodial staff would be curious about the nose-prints on the glass. (Probably not.)
Lawdog had been to the museum before, but prior to some major renovations and updates (of which I heartily approve.) OldNFO had heard of the place, which is the largest history museum in the state, and Peter was new to the place. We didn’t get to the attic (archives – closed on weekends) or basement (hunger and tired), but it still took three hours of constant motion, minus the half hour in the firearms room, to cover the place, and two of the fine art galleries are being changed out and the textile exhibit is being renovated. Did I mention that the Panhandle Plains Museum is big? Oh, and we skipped the People of the Plains section, I suspect the guys had gotten a sense of what might happen if I got wound up and began lecturing. “Teacher with an audience! Run away, run away!!!”
They’d been on the road since 0630, so we broke for a few hours of rest, sort of. Someone went to the science museum, dodged the attack geese, and then closed down the American Quarter Horse Museum. Then we met for supper at a local BBQ place with a bakery attached (his-n-her ownership,) enjoyed really good beef and pulled pork, and peace offerings were acquired. I stayed away from the bakery cases, lest my slobbers short out the equipment (creme brule bar. Evil evil tasty evil. Takes me two days to eat one, and then I’m good for a month or so. Yes, they are a wee bit rich.) We adjourned to Redquarters so Peter could look at some of the books I’d pulled to see if he wanted to use them for research.
Then I drug the gents to the end of Palo Duro Canyon and back. If they’d wanted to go hiking they’d probably have left me in the brush, still talking, but common sense and a time-line prevailed.
[Editorial comment: if you go hiking in an area with brush, snakes, rough terrain, and brush, do NOT wear knit shorts, bare legs, a tank-top or light tee-shirt, and little hiking-sneakers. Yes, brush-sturdy jeans and good boots are hot and heavy. Yes, long sleeves are a pain when its 80 degrees, as is a hat. Sunburn, mesquite scratches, bug bites, and getting gravel in your knees if you trip or fall are even worse pains. And carry more water. And that’s not how you use a map, especially that kind of map. End of rant]
We spent most of the time looking at the site of the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon, when Ranald McKenzie and the US Cavalry raided the Comanche winter camp, burned their supplies and killed 1000 of 1400 horses. I pointed out some of the differences, including how much more water there was then as compared to now (much higher water table) and the different plant community composition in 1875. We had a little lunch at the snack-bar (really good french fries, cooked fresh), and the gents went back home while I headed north. On the way out I saw a forest service truck heading east at high speed, and smelled the sweet scent of a grass fire. A wildland fire truck came past not long after, heading south, but without lights and sirens, and I suspect he was a back-up unit for a fire already contained.
I enjoyed spending time with the three gentlemen and showing them the sights. I learned a lot, and I hope they weren’t too glazed over. I have a bad habit of lecturing when someone accidentally hits my “play” button.
“What kind of grass is that? I’m glad you asked! That’s side-oats grama, a common short-grass that is native to the area. beside it you see the paler, thready looking grass with the tufted seeds? That’s hairy grama, and the low grass is buffalo grass. What you’re looking at is an excellent example of the . . .”