Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: home on the range

Since my series of Tuesday Tour highlighting covered bridges ended last week, I’ve been contemplating where to venture next. Unfortunately, since travel was restricted for so long during the you know what, Papa and I haven’t hit the road as much as we usually do in search of new adventures.  

Hopefully, that changes soon but, in the meantime, I reminisced about past excursions we’ve taken in our 40+ years of marriage. Because, you know, that’s what you do when you can’t move forward, you look back to the past.

With hopes that I don’t bore my readers (please excuse me and let me know if I do), just yesterday on one of those rainy, dreary, is it Monday already moments, I decided to continue Tuesday Tour highlighting places we’ve visited in the past.

Maybe it’s desperation for something to blog about, but it’s also a bit of fun to see how far Papa and I have come in our travels as well as how my photography skills have fared.

So with photos I shot in the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s with a 35 mm film camera, here goes…

Way back when we were newlyweds, Papa and I said goodbye to our native land and headed for the OK state – Oklahoma. Some folks claim this panhandled place sandwiched in between Kansas and Texas is a southwestern state, others categorize its location as Midwest.

Whatever it is, Oklahoma seemed like a foreign country to two young’uns born and raised in a hilly, mountainous (Allegheny Mountains), and forested northeastern or middle Atlantic state as it is sometimes called. 

The area of Oklahoma that we landed in for a four-year sojourn was a flat prairie, mostly treeless, with a heap of huge boulders they call mountains.

The scenario was like the old cowboy folk song, “Home on the Range,” originally written as a poem by Dr. Brewster M. Higley in 1872 or 73, came to life.

“Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the sky is not cloudy all day.”

I vividly recall one of the first times Papa and I explored our surroundings when we were in search of Geronimo’s grave (a famous Native American leader from the Apache tribe).

Geronimo’s gravesite

Driving out onto the flat plains where there were no signs of civilization and the horizon seemed to spread out for eternity, I felt not just awestruck but a bit frightened as well.

Right then, I decided I never would have been a pioneer heading west in a covered wagon into uncharted territory. Nope, this gal would have stayed back east in civilization with hills, wooded areas, and people. That expanse of uninhabited prairie kind of scared me.

One of our favorite pastimes in the five years we lived in that area of Oklahoma was visiting the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge which was practically at our back door.

The most prominent aspect of the national refuge, established in 1901 to provide a habitat for an assortment of native animals, is Mount Scott. Visitors can drive a winding, curving road (which can provide a nail-biting experience for some) to the mountain’s top 2,464 feet above sea level, where a parking lot is located.

View from Mount Scott

From that spot, one can gaze out forever it seems, viewing the grassland prairie and plenty of rocks. It’s a windy place reminding visitors what those song lyrics from the musical Oklahoma, “where the wind comes sweeping down the plain” are all about.

Even more astonishing for us while motoring through the 59,000+ acre refuge was meeting free range American bison roaming about, crossing the road in front of our car, and staring at us while we stared at them, worrying they might charge at us. And believe me, when bison want to cross the road, you stop and let them!

Rocky Mountain elk and white-tailed deer also abound there as well as Texas longhorn cattle (in photo at beginning of this post). We managed to see them all on our visits, as well as get our first look at tarantulas in their natural habitats.

We distinctly remember stopping for a “tarantula train” crossing the road. They were huge and caused me to shudder quite a bit as I’m definitely not fond of spiders of even the tiny kind.

Rocky Mountain Elk

The refuge offered lots of opportunities for watching wildlife, fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, rappelling, and rock climbing and still does. But watch out for rattlesnakes and scorpions!

We enjoyed many picnics there as well as visiting the nearby Holy City of the Wichitas, site of a long-time running Easter pageant, and some interesting restaurants that I’m surprised to say still exist now.

The Old Plantation restaurant was a great place to dine on steaks and view the eclectic and unusual décor, while we could feast on delicious, gigantic hamburgers the size of a dinner plate at Meers Store and Restaurant.

One of my favorite aspects of the wildlife refuge was the prairie dog town. Prairie dogs are rodents related to squirrels, can be up to 15 inches long, but they live in underground colonies of tunnels that can spread for many miles.  They also emit a noise that sounds like the bark of a dog.

Watching them pop in and out of their underground homes was a source of amusement and I loved watching these cute critters.

For over five years, we called the Lawton-Fort Sill area of Oklahoma home. After over 40 years, memories of those home on the range places still bring a smile to my face. Maybe you’ll smile too and visit there someday.

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” ~ Pascal Mercier

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