Random Acts of "Kindness"

Posts tagged ‘Prairie’

BISON

I have visited the prairie at Natchusa for more years than I care to count. When I first wandered there in the 80’s, the only directions were paper plates with arrows. I think the prairie was huge — 400 acres. Gazing out from the top of the hill, I could see miles of tall grass waving in the wind. The only hint of modern times were the tall electric towers. I was young — able to walk the uneven terrain.

Fast forward 40 years. To say that I’m no longer young is an understatement. Natchusa has increased in size — more than 4000 acres. Three years ago, Bison were reintroduced to the prairie. The herd has grown, more land was set aside for their range. It is no longer possible to walk the acres of prairie.

The third Saturday of September is set aside as Autumn On The Prairie. Knowledgeable people donate their time for tours, demonstrations are scheduled, food is available. I have attended many third Saturdays over the years and I wanted to go. I knew that if my knees prevented my participation, I would be very upset.

Paying attention to my restrictions, I actually took a walking stick to help with the uneven terrain. We arrived early. I was surprised when I learned that a shuttle was available to take us from the parking lot to the entrance. I was impressed — changes had been made. There was a pump for water, a new sturdy bathroom — still chemical but spacious. The entrance now had an open roof with photos of the prairie and a history of its development. The pump, bathroom and entrance were brand new — just finished for the day.

Tickets were being given out for tours of the Bison. My husband got 140 and 141 for us. A shuttle was available to take us down to the Bison fence. Various carts were in service to take us out to the Bison. A person knowledgeable of the herd rode with each cart. The cart we were on had a ramp with a handhold. I COULD DO IT.

I will admit that I didn’t push myself to walk down or back up the hill. It was early in the day, the bison were curious — “Who were we?” — and came close enough to see them easily. We knew the temperature was climbing. The past few days had been in the 90’s with no wind. I was happy that we had not only arrived early but also got an early tour. So many people had arrived, more vehicles were pressed into service.

We stayed for a presentation by the group that saves hawks, falcons and owls. I gathered up my courage and walked up the hill along a path to the top of the hill. Signs were in place naming the various grasses and flowers. I didn’t press my ability and returned down the same path instead of walking through the tall grass.

Seeing the bison was interesting. An area in their habitat was fenced off so that the prairie without the Bison could be compared to their grazing land. Their area had tall flowers and short grass. The fenced in area had VERY TALL grass.

I was grateful that we went, grateful for the shuttles and VERY HAPPY that I was able to walk a tiny bit of the prairie. It was a beautiful day!

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NATCHUSA

I remember the first time I visited the prairie at Natchusa, paper pie plates guided the way. I don’t remember if I parked on the road or in the grass. It was a beautiful September day, warm and sunny. Standing on a hill I saw grasses waving in the breeze, taller than me. The view extended for miles. I don’t remember very much about the day except I went on a guided walk and had a GREAT time. I also don’t remember what year it was, only that I was much younger.

Natchusa has grown — regular printed signs guide the wanderer to the prairie. The festival is still held the 3rd Saturday of September. The day before, rain washed the landscape — thankfully Saturday was dry and sunny. Walking through the prairie after a rain when everything is wet was not something that I wanted to do. Now there are buffalo and tours were provided. One year vehicles took visitors out to various parts of the prairie — this year the emphasis was on the buffalo. They arrived in November of last year, and roam a 500 acre area north of the festival. The buffalo came from South Dakota, they are pure, their stock hasn’t been mixed with cattle.

My husband and I took turns standing in line to wait for the tour. It was time well spent. During the waiting time, I bought a pork sandwich for lunch. I don’t know if I was planning to sit down to eat it but when I stopped at a table to add BBQ sauce. I lost my footing and almost fell. I decided the best option was to sit and join the group at the table. Three photographers with huge professional cameras were enjoying their lunch. I had my camera, which takes GREAT pictures but is much lighter and easier for me to carry. When they left, three artists who were painting at the festival took their place. They each painted in a different medium: oil, acrylic and watercolor.

I stopped to not only admire their work but to investigate the easels they were using. I have painted in the open, on site at the Botanical Gardens. I remember well the task of getting my easel, paints, chair and painting to and from the site. I was painting in oil which doesn’t dry quickly. I only put in the background of the waterfall, planning to finish it at home. Carrying the WET painting to my car, I left my fingerprints on the canvas. They are still on the canvas — I decided to leave the painting as is and remember the day. Having an easier way to carry supplies might make it possible for me to paint on location again. I don’t know if I NEED another easel, or would use it. I haven’t actually painted in a few years but nudges have started again.

Before we left, I walked up a narrow trail into the prairie. Camera in hand I searched my memory trying to remember names of plants that I used to know. Thankfully, many had signs naming the plant. I would have loved to walk further and explore but even though I was wearing jeans, my shoes weren’t the best.

We will just have to return!

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