Monday, August 17, 2009

Prairie groves


In the early days of the Great Plains these groves of trees were very rare and were treasured camping spots of the Indians. Some of them were used as traditional meeting spots between bands and friendly tribes and usually carried a name that translated pretty close to "council grove" or something similar.

Sadly, this one is probably just the remnants of a long-abandoned homestead and not likely to be a real Indian meeting ground or even very old. But it reminded me of those days and in that lovely all-enveloping light I could almost imagine what it would be like to come upon it in the old days and see the reflections of the sun off the buffalo-hide tipis, see the smoke rising from the fires, and hear the chatter and laughter of children playing in the surrounding grassland.

10 comments:

Brigid said...

Beauty where you least expect it. somehow, I see myself heading further West when I retire in 10 or 20 and seeing if I can settled on such a piece.

Mark B. said...

Rio, there's a small town pretty close by me in Kansas called Council Grove; it gets its name for precisely the reason you cite above. The 300+ year old Council Oak blew down in a windstorm before I was born but the stump is still there and protected by a shelter erected by the local government to protect what's left of it.

The Osage, Wichita, and Kaw (or Kansa, or Kiowa as you prefer -- our state takes its name from them) used the Council Oak as a meeting place to treat and trade. The tribes coexisted in relative harmony for the most part; the Osage's traditional territory was to the southeast, the Wichita to the southwest, and the Kaw to the north and northeast.

Coronado came through there in 1541. French voyageurs appeared in the 1750s on their way to the Rockies. When European settlers and travelers started coming to Kansas in numbers in the 1840s, they used the Council Oak as a place to meet and trade with the indigenous peoples and each other. The Santa Fe Trail passed through there and yes, the ruts are still visible in places.

'Berg

BobG said...

What sort of trees are they? Around here you used to see cottonwoods in spots like that. These days, it is more likely to be piñon or Russian olive.

Mark B. said...

Cottonwoods.

'Berg

Rio Arriba said...

Yes, Bob, they're cottonwoods. Fast-growing, dirty (they shed a lot), and not very long-lived. Plenty of Russian Olive down along the river but none up where I am. Piñon further north.

calamityjane313 said...

that is a beautiful picture. i can hear the warrior's flute playing on the hills in late evening, wooing his maiden. i can see those tipis painted with yellows, reds and browns. and their pony herd grazing in the meadow.
janey

Crotalus said...

The Cottonwood is one of my favorite trees. It's hard to beat when the leaves are fluttering and rustling in the breeze, especially when camped beneath it. It's also the one large broadleaf tree that went West across the prairie with the pioneers. Everything else fades out by the 100th Meridian, but the Cottonwood survives on the rivers and creeks. But Rio Arriba is right. It is not a suitable garden tree, as it is large, messy, and greedy for water.

Rio Arriba said...

I like cottonwoods, too. I live in a grove of them. One good thing about their being a messy tree: always plenty of kindling lying around! But can be dangerous to be among them in a storm as they frequently lose large limbs and being under one could be fatal.

Crotalus said...

Sort of a two-edged sword, eh, Rio?

Mark B. said...

They are, ahem, self-pruning . . .

'Berg