Thursday, May 5, 2016

Something Old, Something New

No we’re not planning a wedding, or I’d also have to find something borrowed, something blue.  However, this part of the country is hardly more than about 150 years old, for the most part, so old and new can often be found side by side.  We were just out for a ride when these two presented themselves.

I have had several pictures of homesteads that were established by folks from the Land Runs.  Even when they disappear, there are traces left behind, like old fences, gates, foundations, and here, a concrete silo.  The farm itself has disappeared long ago, and the land that surrounded the home and barn are now part of a field of wheat.  The silo was well built, and may even have survived a tornado or other severe weather, and would prove too difficult to remove.  So, it has remained, and a tree had grown up through the cylinder to provide a huge shock of vegetation, and is all that remains here of perhaps an entire generation of folks that lived close to the earth.

One of the cleanest, best maintained well sites around.

Traveling in any direction will clearly highlight the Oklahoma state symbol, the oil well.  I know, the state bird is the scissor-tailed flycatcher, and the state flower is the Indian blanket, but the oil well is the true Oklahoma symbol through and through, and much more evident than either the flycatcher or Indian blanket blooms.  There is no aspect of Oklahoma that is not over-shadowed by the oil and gas industry, from the legislature and governor, to education, to the state budget and tax structure, to law and order, elderly care, medical or psychiatric care, to science, which one Oklahoma U.S. senator claims doesn’t exist, to anything else you care to mention.  The real state symbol, therefore, is not hard to find.  At least a bright yellow field of canola adds a bit of color to this one.

Monday, May 2, 2016

No Parking

I guess this is Native American humor.  When you have little, look on the light side, so here's a 'no parking' sign on the prairie, in the middle of nowhere.  In spite of what the sign says, there's no place to park, there's nothing to look out on, and there's no point.  Oh, maybe that is the point.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Comanche Village Destroyed

The original Comanche settlement was along the stream believed 
to flow through the line of wilderness between the field and the
mountains beyond.

We hoped to seek out the location of the Comanche settlement on the North Fork of the Red River.  The path we followed through the remains of the village finally ended at a white, chained and locked gate.  The sign on the gate proudly proclaimed “Winters Farm, Est. 1889,” the year Pres. Benjamin Harrison chose to open 1.9 million acres of Indian Territory for white settlement.  This first parcel was called “unassigned” land.  It was Indian Territory, but it had not yet been assigned to a specific tribe.  The process of whittling away at Indian land would continue until nearly all promised Indian land had been wrestled from Indian control.

It all comes back to America’s less than proud history of ‘dealing’ with the Native Americans who called this land their home.  Greed, corruption, land speculation, the undying thirst for getting something for nothing, and yes, the starry-eyed dreams of poor settlers looking for a better life, caused all eyes to turn toward the Indian lands.  Land encroachment always started with the cattlemen, as it continues to even today with cattlemen grazing on public lands.  In “A Field of Their Own, 1830-1941,” John M. Rhea explains how the west was really won.  By 1880, Texas cattlemen moved 4,233,487 Longhorn cattle onto Indian grasslands for a year at a time.  The following year those cattle would be moved to more Indian land further north and closer to markets in Kansas, and would be replaced by another herd.  This eventually led to the establishment of the Great Western Cattle Trail, which was used to move the cattle straight through to the rail heads and transportation to Northern and Eastern markets.  Some of the cattle were furtively or forcibly just driven onto the land, and some land was acquired by grazing permits obtained through agreements with the tribes.  However, the methods by which these permits were obtained were so irregular that word of these practices traveled all the way to Washington.  “The degree of graft, exploitation, coercion, and violence perpetuated by the range cattle operations, most of which were organized as companies by this time, shocked Congress.”  Think about that!  That Congress would be shocked by anything should in itself tell us how pervasive and criminal these practices were.  “With no effective voice to lobby in their defense, American Indians were at the mercy of Western representatives who favored opening their lands.”

The cattlemen had other enemies besides the tribes that rightfully owned the land, and those would be the Boomers.  The Boomers were an organized, loud, forceful, persistent, and often militant group that advocated the claiming of Indian lands by whatever means possible.  They felt all land should be open to white grazing and settlement, and they lobbied for Congress to make it so.  Feeling that Indian lands were public lands and available to anyone able to claim them, they overran the land a full decade before official opening in 1889, forcing the U.S. Army to expel them on more than one occasion.  John Rhea said all this wrangling and overrunning of their lands made the Indians ‘resentful.’  Imagine that!

The Indians and cattlemen shared one thing in common.  Neither wanted settlers on the land.  For the Indians, settlers and cattlemen alike disrupted the movement of what buffalo remained, and signaled the end of a life of plains hunting and dependence on buffalo.  The cattlemen didn’t want settlers coming in and running barbed-wire fencing that disrupted cattle drives or removed land from open use for grazing.  So the Indians had the land, and everyone else wanted it.

For an understanding of their claim to their hunting lands, the Comanche were originally Shoshone, but broke away from the main tribe in what became Southeast Wyoming and moved south some time before 1700.  When the U.S. Government began taking an interest in the West, it promised 3,000,000 acres to the Comanche, Apache, and Kiowa.  By the time all this fighting over the land was taking place, only 235,000 acres still remained in native hands, meaning the Native Americans had already lost roughly 92% of their promised lands.  And they were resentful?  Anyhow, I’m starting to go far afield here, and was initially wanting to speak just of the history we encounter while paddling.  The crux of this is there were a number of failed opportunities to put an end to the Indians’ fears of losing their lands, losing the opportunity to make a life for themselves, and to prevent the subsequent hostilities.  Sam Houston had the chance to put the conflicts to bed as early as 1833 when all the Comanche were asking for was a clear line delineating what was their land and what wasn’t.  He failed to follow through, and was replaced by Mirabeau B. Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas, who only wanted to use war as a means of dealing with the “Indian problem.”  The Comanche responded in the only way open to them, and of course the government responded with war and the desire to annihilate the Comanche and their way of life.  The history that followed is embarrassing, but very interesting to read and study.  I’ll leave that to you.

This was the site of the opening of the Christmas Day attack.

For the Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and other tribes on the plains, it ended usually the same way.  The winter campaign of 1868-69 planned to attack the tribes in mid-winter when they would be at their weakest.  The campaign led by Lt. Col. George A. Custer first massacred Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on 27 November 68.  (Read about the Battle of Washita in achieves for 29&30 June 2012.)  A month later, on Christmas Day, they opened fire on the Comanche village here with howitzer field artillery before rushing in to destroy the village and kill its inhabitants.  Kiowa, encamped downstream, heard the cannon fire and rushed in to provide support.  They held the army at bay long enough for women and children to escape.  Initial claims by the army were that 20-25 warriors were killed while fleeing, but more detailed reports later proved that three soldiers were wounded, one fatally, and one Comanche was killed, a sub-chief named Arrow Point.  With the village now empty, the soldiers destroyed it and then marched on. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Comanche Village

Doe, a deer, a female deer, ray, a drop of golden sun.....

Like our stay at Lake Latonka, the forecast was for winds of less than 10 mph.  In the middle of the night, however, we again were struck with strong wind gusts that peppered the side of the RV with dirt, leaves, and debris.  By morning, the winds had died to 25 mph with 29 mph gusts according to updated reports.  Large whitecaps were rolling the full length of the lake.  It was obvious that paddling was off for the day, but we had a nice surprise during breakfast. 

Right on time, morning and evening, like they could tell time.

We were parked next to a ravine.  Five deer came up the ravine to graze in the grass around our camper.  With the heavily tinted windows, they couldn’t see us, so they walked right up to within 25 feet of the RV and munched grass while we munched breakfast and watched them.  We were just about done eating when another 15 deer came through the campground.  We knew the wildlife were protected here, but the mystery of why so many deer congregated around us wasn’t solved until we saw the camp host come out with a bucket of corn, which he poured on the ground.  Since there was no hunting permitted, this was not baiting, but it certainly drew a crowd.  The camp host did this twice a day, morning and evening, and the deer knew exactly when to show up.

Mount Teepee, near Comanche Village
While on paddling trips, we enjoy learning about the history of the area our paddling takes us through.  With paddling being impossible for today, we climbed into the pickup and went exploring.  We drove east from the state park to Mount Teepee, an area referenced in historical writings, and the nearby Comanche Village on the north branch of the Red River.  The Mount Teepee Baptist Church was in use until 1963, but is now gone.  Several one-room schools served the area and village, built as part of the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867, but all of them are gone except the remains of Mount Teepee School, which was last used in 1953.  The owner of the land had been asked by the state’s historical society to allow them to use the ½-acre that the school sits on, so they could save the structure and preserve it.  The owner couldn’t spare the ½-acre of weeds and debris, and a bad wind storm recently removed the roof and allowed the walls to collapse, making it a total loss.  

Mount Teepee School, the name still legible above the door, blackboards
still on the walls, the chimney for the coal stove on the back wall.

I don’t know who the owner of the school property is now.  It’s easy to think they are being small and cheap in allowing important history to disappear.  In fact, that was my immediate reaction.  However, if the owner is Native American, there’s another way to look at this.  They may not feel all that grateful for the schools from the Medicine Lodge Treaty, since they resented being forced to have their children schooled in the ‘white man’s ways’.  They may also quite reasonably feel the schools were a poor trade, since the treaty also required the Kiowa and Comanche to surrender 2,001,933 acres of tribal land to the U.S. government, in addition to another 23,000 acres to accommodate the Fort Sill Military Reservation.  It’s hard to tell.  At any rate, there are 58 archaeological sites in the area that confirm that Native Americans resided in the area since pre-historic times.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Submerged Town of Lugert

In the distance to the left of center stood the Town of Lugert.  If we
were speaking of bad luck, it was first destroyed by a tornado, and
then drowned by a lake.

The name of the lake comes from two towns in the area.  In the 1901 land rush, Austria-born Frank Lugert filed an 80-acre tract of land on Kiowa and Comanche lands as the site for the town of Lugert.  He built a post office, train depot, and a general store which handled about anything a settler would need.  At its zenith, the town also had a bank, 2 hotels, 2 restaurants, a saloon, lumberyard, and 2 pool halls.  On April 27, 1912, a tornado struck the town of 400 at noon.  Forty-one of the 42 businesses were destroyed with one death, as well as a large portion of the homes.  They struggled to survive until 1927. In 1927, the town of Altus built a 458-ft dam across the North Fork of the Red River to provide for a reliable water source for the town.  The remainder of the buildings were leveled, and when the lake is low, the foundations of the homes and businesses can still be found in the southeast corner of the lake.   

Several stone foundations are visible when the lake is low.

The 4,984 acres that comprise the park were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps starting in 1937, and many of the structures they built are still in use today.  Lake Altus-Lugert provides another 6,700 acres of water with a 47 mile shoreline. 

As evidence of the inland sea that at one time covered the whole Plains
area, we see where mountains have slumped and collapsed due to 
saturation and uneven drying.  In the center, we see a whole section
of the mountain collapsed, leaving a bit of a crater.  To its right are a
couple other areas that slid down partially creating a stair-step effect.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lake Altus-Lugert

Our next paddle trip was to Lake Altus-Lugert.  I had visited there to paddle the lake two years ago.  The sight of the lake when it was down 35-feet was sickening.  With the first wet spring in ten years, the lake filled, so I was anxious to get back before the lake disappeared again.  Agriculture is the largest user of water, and in the southwest part of the state it is used to irrigate cotton, with a little going to cattle.  There is little restraint in water usage.  As long as there is water, most everyone feels they have the right to take as much as they want, without thought for conservation, so in just five months the lake is again down 12-feet, but still a happier scene than in the past.  If you would like to see the earlier pictures for comparison, the original post on Lake Altus-Lugert can be found in archives on 12 December 2012.

Trying to find our way around Hobart found us out in the boonies.
We are pulled half-way off the road here, and as the road tracks show
there's still barely room for another vehicle to pass.

The sudden 30-degree drop in air temperatures had deflated the RV tires substantially.  The first thing I needed to do was to find an air pump where I could end my own ‘deflategate’ and get the tires back to proper inflation.  It took 18-miles of running slow before we found the first gas station with an air pump.

Our trip would take us through the town of Hobart where Rt. 9 had been closed for construction.  Going southwest, the detour was not clearly marked.  Signs simply suggested that we find an alternate route, so we ended up on a narrow, dirt, washboard road that didn’t allow two vehicles to pass without one getting part way off of the road, especially if both vehicles had West Coast mirrors.  With slow speed and patience, we finally returned to a blacktop road at the town of Lone Wolf, named in honor of Chief Lone Wolf the Elder, Chief of the Kiowa.  (After his death, Lone Wolf was buried in an unmarked, undisclosed location near Mount Scott.)  Going south from there, we rounded the south end of the lake and arrived at Quartz Mountain State Park.  While the local mountains are called the Quartz Mountains, they are still part of the Wichita Mountains.

Tonight, Ibi sleeps atop the Dodge Ram, but we're both wanting to
be paddling tomorrow.

As soon as we pulled into the Live Oak campground, we encountered about a dozen white-tailed deer roaming through the camp sites.  Shortly another herd came through with several fawns.  Here’s a video of the area that will give you a nice overview.

The area is covered with mountains of granite divided by deep wooded ravines.  Early residents included Wichita and Kiowa Indians.  Until the 1500’s, the area where the lake and state park are were under Spanish control, but then it was included in the Louisiana Province of France.  After being sold to the United States, the area was laid claim to by Mexico and the Republic of Texas, until a Supreme Court decision gave control back to the U. S.  It was then assigned to the Indian Territory that would become Oklahoma with the land run of 1901.

These deer are in a game preserve, and pay humans little attention.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Happy (?) Tax Day

Taxes are never a happy time.  While you are dealing with one
of life's drudgeries, here's a picture from Claude Delorme to help keep
happy thoughts and dreams in your mind.  Just hang in there, get the 
crap out of the way, and then head for the water for some recovery time.