Day Trip to Lake Marvin and Canadian, Texas–Part Two


After eating lunch at the elementary school, two of us decided to go to the museum for which Canadian is famous, The Citadel.  Originally a Baptist Church, it lay in total disrepair until Dr. Abraham and his wife bought it, totally restored and converted it into their residence.  They gave it to the town as a museum and moved into another Victorian house which they totally restored.  The location of The Citadel currently contains the house, a gift shop, and another building which houses an art gallery.  First, you go to the gift shop to purchase tickets.  On this particular Fall Festival weekend, the Abrahams also open their actual residence to the public and take you on a personal tour themselves if you so desire.  Given my limited time, I purchased a ticket only for The Citadel.

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This door is one of the first things you will see if you walk to the entry gates from the south of the house.  Everything remains elegant, ornate and in a style one does not often see in this part of the United States.  Canadian is an exception; fancy, old houses are everywhere.

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The entry gate, looking across the lawn, provides a view of the property from front to back. Below is the face above the gate.

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These columns stand one block back from the entry gate.  The property equals one square block.  This quotation is inside the entry gate to the left.

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After buying my ticket at the gift shop, I headed to the museum and found the current show astonishing, impressive, and frequently hauntingly sad.  The entire gallery houses the photography of one person, James Mollison.  This young man decided to go to various countries taking photos of children and their bedrooms.  The complete collection was available for purchase in a book with details about the author’s interviews with all the children he photographed.  I bought one for my grandson.

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Although some of the photos showed children with beautiful bedrooms, living in relative ease and occasional opulence, most of the children lived in squalor or had no place to live at all except the street.  The boy below lives in Nepal. His entire family live in this room.

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The boy above lives in Cambodia.  They live in a shack above a river. When it rains a lot or flooding occurs, they have no place to go and everything floods.  The river provides water, food, washing, everything.

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This boy in Brazil lives and sleeps on the street.  If he is lucky, he finds a sofa outside on which to sleep.  To eat, he has to steal.

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Living in Italy remains anything but easy if you are Roma.  Although he has a family, they have no place to live so sleep on this mattress outside, the entire family.  Harassment necessitates frequent moving.  They live in a constant state of fear and desperation.

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From a tribe in the Amazon, this youngster actually lives with family and they do have a place to live.  However, modernization and the drive to harvest the various natural resources there threaten their traditional life and homeland.

After leaving the art gallery I headed across the lawn to the house, taking photos along the way.  This fountain is in a small side yard, just inside the gate.

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Once in the house, you can take photos but unfortunately with no flash.  Without a fancy camera, I gave up the idea of photography while in the house and just enjoyed the beauty of the art, the furniture, the exquisite rugs, one of which especially caught my eye.  I love rugs and own a few from Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, and a couple of Zapotec runners.  I am especially fond of rugs from the Middle East and know a little about them,  sometimes roaming  around rug shops for the joy of rug viewing somewhat like going to a museum to look at the art.  However, never have I seen a rug anything like the one that lay before me.  Entranced, I stared in awe.  First, the rug was huge; it filled the entire master suite.  In the center a shepherd and sheep stood with lions, deer, and various other animals around the border.  I found one of the ladies helping with tours; she knew nothing about the rug and sent me to the lady in the gift shop.  She didn’t either and told me to go down the street five blocks to where Dr. Abraham currently lives and ask him.  I informed her that I did not have a ticket to tour there and tour time was running out.  She told me to go anyway.

Mrs. Abraham provided a warm greeting. I explained I was ticketless and had only come to find out about the rug.  She told me an identical rug had been in the house where her husband grew up. However, the rug at The Citadel was not that rug.  Dr. Abraham’s brother  inherited the original rug when their father died.  She indicated they had bought the rug at an auction.  For more specifics, she instructed me to find Dr. Abraham in the kitchen.  When I found him, he was explaining to others about the tiles. I waited. He seemed delighted with my interest in the rug and told me about it.  His family was originally from Lebanon.  An identical rug was, indeed, in the house where he grew up.  In fact, he and his siblings used the rug for games they invented, hopping around from animal to animal. By the time his father died, the rug had become quite worn from all this use and his brother did inherit it.  Dr. Abraham loved the rug and was delighted when someone told him that they thought a similar, if not identical, rug was to be auctioned off in New Orleans. He went to the auction and purchased the rug which is in much better condition than the one from his childhood. He told me he knew little about rugs, but was quite sure he had been told it was from Damascus.  Since the trip to Canadian, I researched rugs a bit,but cannot find the origin of this rug.  I intend to keep trying.

All this exploration with the rug caused me to leave Canadian considerably later than planned. The drive from Canadian to Miami, Texas, provides somewhat dramatic scenery typical of much of the west with an occasional richness of trees and green quite unexpected and delightful.  The following photographs were taken during this drive.

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The Canadian River with the bluffs on the other side.

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It appeared as if someone had built a cairn at the summit of this odd little hill.  In the middle of nowhere, who could I ask.

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Day Trip to Marvin Lake and Canadian, Texas–Part One


Two weeks ago, I joined the local Native Plant Society group for a trip to Lake Marvin east of Canadian, Texas, near the Oklahoma border.  Lake Marvin is located in the Black  Kettle National Grassland  which includes land in both Texas and Oklahoma. This national grassland’s name comes from the Southern Cheyenne Chief by the same name.  An aging chief, he had attempted to make peace with whites and had been guaranteed protection by the head officer at a nearby US Army Fort.  He, along with old men, children, and women was massacred by Lt. Colonel Armstrong Custer and his troops in Custer’s first great “success” as an Indian fighter.  It was an easy battle; the Indians had been assured their safety at this encampment.  They were totally unprepared.  Black Kettle attempted to meet the soldiers and flew a white peace flag as well as a US flag over his teepee. He and his wife were mowed down in a barrage of bullets.  The massacre is called the Battle of the Washita because the Indian encampment was on the Washita River which flows through the grassland.

Those of us who live in the Panhandle of Texas become accustomed to the lack of trees and semi arid climate.  It is always a huge surprise to find those rare spots with numerous trees, water, and thick vegetation. Lake Marvin and much of the area near Canadian provide a total contrast to what we usually see.  JR  Bell, an expert on native grasses and plants, lead the hike around Lake Marvin, a manmade lake constructed for conservation purposes in the 1930’s on Boggy Creek.   Regretfully, I failed to carry a pen and pad to write down the name of all the grasses, some of which exist in the area where I live and others I had never seen before.  Perhaps some of you who read this will be able to identify the various grasses which include blue grama, side oats grama–the state grass of Texas, little blue stem, and two other species of blue stem, switch grass, buffalo grass, and wheat grass.  Unfortunately, Johnson grass, a non-native,  invasive species, also grows near the edges of the lake.

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The hike began near what was once the water’s edge before silt and drought made the lake half its original size.  Johnson grass, the outsider, is not too difficult to identify because of the bright maroony red on the leaves.  This enables an non-expert like me to differentiate among Johnson grass and a few other similar looking species.  While I tried to listen and watch grass identification, rather quickly I realized that without pen and paper remembering all of them would be impossible so I focused on photographing the natural beauty surrounding me.

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No one told me the origin or purpose of the abandoned buildings up the hill from the lake.  The change in flora one sees by facing the hill rather than toward the lake is amazing.  One could almost draw an imaginary line with certain grasses and shrubs on one side and totally different ones on the other.  The magic key, as always, is water.  Where I live, two hours away, no sage brush grows.  Here on the hillside, it grows everywhere with various grasses, some rather small and semi hidden, interspersed.

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I learned several keys to identifying grasses:  seed heads, texture of leaves and stems–some rough and others smooth, size of leaves and stems, some variations in color.  Height helps but does not necessarily determine differences because the same grass species can vary depending on amount of water and type of soil.  The amount and size of the trees continually astonished me, like this tunnel through the trees, something I never expected to see in the Panhandle.

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Where I grew up in northwestern Missouri, huge black walnut trees grow everywhere.  I recall exploring the walnut grove on the farm repeatedly as a child.  I certainly never expected to see them on this little trip.  Suddenly, astonished me stood there surrounded.

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While these trees never reach the size of the ones where I grew up and the nuts remain considerably smaller, here they stood, their distinctive leaves giving them away.  Before I went away to college, every autumn, we picked up the nuts, cleaned them–while the outside is a lovely lime green, the area between the seed and outside, is a sticky, dark brown mess which makes excellent natural dark brown dye, and cracked them to retrieve the meat inside.  Black walnut nuts are much harder than English walnuts and cracking them requires a hammer and something really hard on which to place the nut. After I left home, every year Mom spent hours working on these nuts and brought me at least a pound at Christmas, a true labor of love.  They are especially tasty with in recipes with chocolate or bananas.

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The hike provided continual surprises, a boggy pool, persimmon trees, a plant whose leaves resembled miniature spectacles, a grass so fine and thick in a glade between the trees that it looked like a tiny patch of fog on the ground, and poison ivy.

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Persimmons.

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This particular tree was loaded with persimmons.

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Cattails in the background.

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When I first walked up to this spot, the fine grass toward the back of the photo looked exactly like a tiny patch of fog nestled in a miniature glade among the trees.

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We took off from the main trail especially to come to this cottonwood tree, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the Panhandle. Over a hundred years ago this tree stood as the sentinel for the overland trail that went through this area.  The military, ranchers, and Native Americans all used the trail across this area of the plains.  The tree’s height enabled it to be seen for miles and helped travelers keep on their way with accuracy.  Once we reached the end of the main trail, some of the group took off in their vehicles while a few went on around the lake.  It saddened me to see so much of it dried up and old tires sticking out of the dried mud.  However, along the way, we saw numerous trees I could not identify.  The bark of this tree is particularly distinctive.

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This field trip coincided with the fall festival held annually in the small town of Canadian which gets its name from the Canadian River which flows beside the town.  The town is unique in the number of large, elaborate Victorian houses there.  Several of us ended the trip at the local elementary school with a big craft fair and a barbecue lunch.