Thursday, May 1, 2008

Above and Beyond, visiting at home

by Remelle

A major component of my spring routine the last few years has been hosting visitors, mostly of the urban type, to our prairie plains. Seeing the rebirth of this country every year through their eyes reignites my own appreciation for the splendor that surrounds us.

I will always remember my first experiences with these city guests and how we fretted and fussed and pondered and planned. What would they want to see? What did we have to offer that was “important” enough? What kind of accommodations would they expect? Where do you feed vegetarians in a town where hamburgers and chicken fry reign supreme? Would they expect fine wine with dinner? And, what is “fine wine” anyway?

Little did we realize, the good Lord had already prepared a feast for their eyes and souls and after a long day in the outdoors, they pronounced almost any meal a gastronomical feast. Even more surprising, to those of us who take our setting and lifestyle for granted, was their appreciation of the simplest of experiences, content just to soak in the sense of place, history and culture surrounding us, prepared to be amazed by the wonders of nature.

Our very first guests called to inquire about reservations, after reading in the Dallas Morning News about a group of ranchers who were opening their homes and hearts in an effort to preserve their family places for another generation. These two little old ladies (their self-description, not mine) from Dallas who’d spent summers and holidays on their grandparents farm “years and years ago” knew exactly what their dream vacation activity was. They wanted “to ride around the ranch in the pickup with the farmer while he feeds his cows.” Their satisfaction was guaranteed, and their excitement tangible, when one of the heifers actually presented them with a new baby on the cold spring morning of their pickup tour. Sleeping under soft old quilts and frying “real” chicken transported them back to Grandma’s and rounded out a weekend they pronounced “above and beyond.”

I’ve spent several days over the last few weeks scouting out those “above and beyond” experiences and locations in Knox County. Just like the little old ladies from Dallas, the places and their stories that I’ve found awe inspiring may be seen as mundane to the locals. Mundane because we see them everyday and have therefore overlooked or forgotten their magic.

Let me share just one with you today. As mysterious and beautiful as any movie location you may remember from Dances with Wolves or other Western epic, and as environmentally significant as any African documentary setting, “The Narrows” is a natural phenomenon separating and distinguishing the flow of the Brazos to the Gulf of Mexico from the Wichita which winds up in the Mississippi River. Long before cattlemen discovered this lush oasis surrounded by canyons and ravines, Comanche, Wichita, Kiowa, Apache, Seminole, and Tonkawa tribes wintered here. From the beginning of mankind, every one at some time based their camps here between the rivers, while hunting the bison that grazed the clumps of “buffalo” grass, drinking and bathing from the natural springs and capturing and taming the herds of wild mustangs. Check it out 6 miles east of Benjamin on Hwy 82 and let your imagination run wild for your own experience “above and beyond.”

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