Plains Indian Artifacts–Beaded Moccasins


Last evening I attended a new exhibit at Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.  The exhibit featured moccasins, paintings, and various artifacts made by different Great Plains tribes, including a headdress worn by Quanah Parker.  The exhibit also contains many old photographs.  A number of Comanches were present including a lady over 100 years old.

After I left the exhibit, I kept thinking about it and wondered how current Comanches might feel when they come to something like this which in many ways honors them but also displays a past that will never return.  While contemplating, I wrote this poem about what I saw.

Beaded moccasins,

moons of work.

Ceremonial beauty,

now encased in glass, labelled, dated by someone’s guess,

for strangers who believe in a strange god,

desecrate the land,

waste invaluable water,

kill bears for sport.

Weep

Wait

 

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Palo Duro Canyon, Comanche Country, where they made their last stand and were forced to go to a reservation in Oklahoma after federal troops killed over a thousand of their horses.

 

 

 

A Week of Wonder and Flowers


 

This past week was my birthday.  The wonder started a week ago when my friends came for dinner and my friend’s father, visiting from Mexico. brought me red roses.  I had not seen my friends in a long time and it was fun.  Then on Sunday, Roberto, the father, and I went hiking in Palo Duro Canyon on a new trail.  I never saw a name for it.

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We found this trail by starting at Chinaberry (for those who go to the Canyon), taking Comanche Trail up to this new trail.  When they intersect, we went north rather than south on Comanche.

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If you read the previous blog in December about hiking Comanche, you saw this peak but from the center and to the south.  This is a view from the north looking south.

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Eventually, after hiking up and down across an arroyo, you end up above the river which looks tiny here, but when a big rain comes, it can rise many feet in a few hours.  It was very sunny, I had a hard time focusing so occasionally a finger got in the way.

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Roberto has a funny sense of humor.  He could not resist pretending to hold up one of the many giant boulders along the trail.

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This is not a difficult walk and not too long if you only have a few hours.  We came across a group of wild turkeys, but they moved so much, I was unable to get a good photo so gave up.

Wednesday was my birthday.  It began with my first period class–I teach senior high school English.  They showered the room with confetti, brought me a giant chocolate muffin with a candle in the middle, lit the candle and sang me Happy Birthday.  Then during second period, two of my students arrived with two bouquets of flowers.  The room smelled wonderful for three days.  I brought the flowers home yesterday in a big box.

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My grandson told the florist to make me a giant bouquet with exotic flowers.  This is one side of it.  Orchids, roses, hydrangeas, and some really unusual flowers which I cannot identify.

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This is the other side of the same bouquet.

This bouquet is from my son.  He knows my favorite color is orange and that I have a lot of that color in my house so….

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I am seriously nerdy and asked for an atlas for my birthday.  My daughter outdid herself and bought this one full of all sorts of information I never expected and maps.  I love maps.  When I read a book from Latin America, Africa, etc., I look up the places on maps.

Last night I sang songs, using the poems of Octavio Paz and Pablo Neruda among others, with the Amarillo Master Chorale in a church with perfect acoustics for choral music.  Tonight I will see friends at an opera party.  What a wonderful week!!

Is my book really that racy??


Today, my ten year old grandson and I worked at the gift shop at a nearby state park.  We worked the 1-5 afternoon shift.  At first it was quite busy and the main attraction was the Native American made jewelry.  We do show a fabulous collection with some unique pieces.  One woman bought more than 500 dollars worth.  It is difficult to work there in respect to the books and the jewelry–we have a LOT of both.  We are all volunteers, we get a discount but do not get paid.  So much to want!!

Two members of the organization which supports the gift shop have their books on display in the shop for sale.  Over a month ago, I left my most recent book of poetry (see the side bar for the cover and yes, you can buy it from this site or Amazon) for the manager to read.  I have known the manager for years.  In fact he painted (he is an artist as well and Native American himself) the corn plant on my wall next to where I am writing this.  I thought probably since the others sold their books there, I could do the same.  I realized that one of the books is a collection of poetry specifically about Palo Duro Canyon so it “belongs” there.  However, the other one has absolutely nothing to do with the Canyon.  When I saw the manger, I asked him what he thought about the book and the store selling it.  He seemed a bit astounded that I had written it and commented that I certainly had a lot of talent.  He had taken the book home and it was not at the store.  However, when I asked about selling it there, he said he was working on it.  Apparently, and in some ways not totally to my surprise, he is afraid some of the other members would find it too shocking, too racy.  Really?!  Maybe I should have encouraged one of the blurb writers to say something racy, maybe I should advertise differently.  Racy sells more books.

Volunteering at Palo Duro Canyon


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In front of the Visitor’s Center with Eduardo and Gaston, exchange students who lived with me several years ago.

 

Occasionally, I volunteer in the gift shop at Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States.  If  individuals drove through Amarillo on I-40 through the endless flat prairie land and never ventured far, they would not even be able to dream up this canyon only twenty miles away.  To get there, you have to drive through more flat land, covered in wheat pasture, corn, milo, and the few remaining pastures of native grass.  You can see for miles; you can even see the taller buildings in Amarillo which are not all that tall.  Then, unexpectedly the land opens up, cliffs appear.  The first time you see it, you feel astonishment.  Nothing you see on the way there prepares you.  Years ago Battelle Memorial Institute sent me on a business trip to Amarillo.  People told me I should go see the big canyon.  I laughed to myself, thinking they must be just talking about a large arroyo.  When I finally did drive down, my mouth gaped in shock.  How could this be?

Palo Duro Canyon is still being created by water erosion.  The Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River (no I did not make this name up) runs through it.  Barely a running stream now with the drought, when a big summer thunderstorm blasts it fury, this river can rise ten feet almost immediately.  When it does this, campers remain stranded inside the park until the river calms down because to get into the park, depending how far in you go,  you have to literally cross the river repeatedly.  Because of this, they have decided to build bridges across the five water crossings.  Some of us who love driving through the water find this innovation unacceptable.

Today, I volunteered from 1-5.  People came in from Indiana, Minnesota, Ecuador, south Florida–on a trip to Californian and back, Ohio, Germany–a young woman working as a nanny here.  Usually, I meet even more people from other countries, especially European countries.  When I ask the Germans in particular how they know about this place, they tell me Palo Duro Canyon and its history is featured on the Internet there.  Here come all these people from far away and I have students who live a mere 25 miles away and have never seen it.  The family from Indiana came because their daughter wants to attend West Texas A & M University in Canyon, Texas–named after the canyon of course.  She told me she wants to bring her horse and WT is one of the few universities in the country where you can major in agriculture and participate in an extensive horse program.  She exuded excitement and enthusiasm.

In the midst of chatting with all these visitors, I noticed the unusual behavior of one woman in particular.  She had medium grey hair pulled back in a ponytail with hair a lighter shade of grey framing her face. All her clothes were dark grey.  She walked to the book area–we sell a lot of books, and started flipping slowly through several of them.  She picked them up as if they were delicate flowers or fragile glass.  She held them as if she thought they might break if she held them tight.  When she put one up to look at another, it appeared as if she barely touched them.   She never smiled, just looked and looked and looked.  She did not buy a book.

Water, Water, Where?


Today, I drove about fifty miles to watch a play especially produced by my friend, King Hill, for the Gem Theatre in Claude.  I almost did not go because of high winds and blowing dust.  Between 8 and 10 this morning visibility was so low  it was impossible to see the horizon.  High wind and blowing dust warnings started yesterday.   Now, as I write this, these warnings have continued for more than 24 hours.  Red flag warnings flash across the TV screen. Thankfully, not quite the dust bowl extremes, not yet anyway.

Originally, a green sea of grass covered all the land where I live in the Panhandle of Texas, the Llano Estacado. Immense herds of buffalo roamed free.  This prairie grass protected the land from erosion.  Rivers and an occasional canyon interrupted this endless sea, including the Canadian River, Palo Duro Canyon and the network of canyons running into it.  Once the Spanish brought horses, Kiowa and Comanche ruled this sea for more than a hundred years.  Under a full moon, the Comanche reigned by night raids from Nebraska to Mexico.

What happened?  Plows brought by people from the East dug up the grass.  These people planted the crops they knew, wheat, corn.  They settled in towns and homesteaded the country. They brought cattle and in some areas developed gigantic ranches.  Hunters killed all the buffalo except a few the famous rancher Charlie Goodnight and his wife managed to save.  Remnants of this southern herd now live at Caprock Canyons State Park near the tiny town of Quitaque, Texas.  Those who farmed dry land farmed.  In a normal year crops grew, the people prospered.  In dry years dust blew because there was no grass to hold the dirt.

Today, giant pumps pull water from the aquifers, the Ogallala, the Santa Rosa. My well is 400 feet deep, some are nearly 900.  More and more people move here from other parts of the United States.  They want lawns like the ones they had where it rains forty inches a year.  It does not rain much here, twenty in a good year, ten in a bad year.  These aquifers lose much more water to irrigation in a year than are replenished by rain.  Farmers grow corn,wheat, cotton, and milo, all irrigated.  In some places where  the water became to saline for crops, the pumps sit abandoned.

Today, I drove by miles and miles of dry, thirsty grass, perfect fuel for the wind driven wildfires which sometimes start this time of year.  In other places irrigation pivots rained water on immense emerald fields of wheat.  I could not help but wonder how much of this water evaporated in the sixty mile an hour wind.  As I finish writing this with the TV on  weather watching, I see Fire Weather Watch, High Wind Warning, Red Flag Warning flash across the screen. I hear the wind roar and heavy outdoor furniture slide across the patio.  I’ve seen wildfires, had a half mile of cedar post fence burned down.  All it takes is a tiny piece of cigarette thrown from a truck or car, a flash of dry lightning.  They predict three more days of this.

I love the space, the vermillion sunsets, the intense blue of the sky.  I watch my neighbors water, water, water their new houses in the country.  I think about those pivots irrigating in the wind, and I wonder what will happen when all the water’s gone.

 

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