Friday, April 28, 2017

Oklahoma is Closed

Illustration credit to Bill Edgar

If you want something mismanaged, it isn’t like you don’t have options.  You could give the responsibility for management to #45.  Or you could give the project to one of his administration---almost any of them.  Being from Oklahoma, it is with great chagrin that we confess Scott Pruitt’s ability to endanger public health by increasing air pollution, increasing amounts of mercury, arsenic, and acidic gases in the environment, denying climate change, and more.  Or, you can select the State of Oklahoma, and its governor and legislature for their mismanagement prowess.  They have managed to make Oklahoma among the worst states in the country, like 48th of 50 in educational standards, 6th worst obesity rate, 8th worst support for underprivileged children, as well as poor teacher salaries, poor care for the elderly and ranking 49th for the health of seniors, 49th for addressing teen smoking or 42nd for teen suicide, 45th for general population health, 45th worst incarceration rates, 44th worst for addressing mental illness, has one of the most severe shortages of primary care physicians in the country, poor fiscal responsibility, fifth highest rate of occupational fatalities in the country, and we could go on and on.  However, one of the most ridiculous mismanagements is killing the state’s golden-egg-laying goose---you know, the tourism operation that brings 6.2 BILLION (with a B) dollars into the state each year.  Tourism is the third largest industry in Oklahoma.  The natural beauty encountered in the parks is the one thing that puts a good face on Oklahoma, so it’s obvious that the state’s managers should kill parks and tourism!  To the tourist wanting to visit Oklahoma, the state is posting a large “OKLAHOMA IS CLOSED” sign at the state line by considering closing most or all of 16 state parks they have chosen for the chopping block.  Oh, and best of all, since the state is run by the political party that claims to create jobs, this idea would terminate 80 full-time jobs.  Maybe I didn’t understand. Perhaps the claim was for creating the most job vacancies.     

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Lake Quanah Parker & the Wichita Mountains - Pt. 2

Geese love the east end of the lake and dense vegetation.

The lake is very small, with only a 3-mile shoreline.  The eastern half of the lake is shallow, with geese often seen wading knee-deep amidst a lot of vegetation.  The most scenic area is the western half of the lake that lies west of the launch at L34.71265N Lo98.63972W.  Bison can often be seen dusting themselves in the bare area west of Rt. 49, where you first turn west for the lake.  Bison, longhorn cattle, and elk roam free in the foothills of the Wichita.  The lake was created by the damming of Quanah Creek.  Rt. 49 continues east through the refuge, where you can’t miss seeing bison.  Elk are usually only seen around twilight.

There is no formal ramp, but the road from Rt. 49 to the dam on
the south side of the lake has three pull-offs with walk-in access.

For accuracy, it should be pointed out that there is no such thing in the U.S. as buffalo.  A buffalo is a water animal found only in two areas of the world: Africa and Asia.  Early settlers mistakenly called them ‘bufello’, because of their similar appearance, and the name became stuck in the immigrant and settler vernacular.  Some argue that the name goes back as far as the French fur trappers, but there’s one thing for sure.  It is a name given by white men and never used by the original Native Americans. (Note: If you visit the area, do not do something silly like get out of the car to get closer for a better picture.  While they look lumbering, bison can run 40 mph and weigh up to 2,000 pounds.  In Yellowstone, more people have been injured by bison than by bears.)

View across the lake from the launch.

Scenery on the drive to the dam and third pull-off.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Lake Quanah Parker and the Wichita Mountains

Chief Quanah Parker, Last Chief of the Comanche
Leaving Lake Frederick, we were back on the road by 0900.  Because Baseline Road was closed to the east for road construction, we had to backtrack through Manitou.  Going back north on Rt. 183, we turned east on Rt. 62 just south of Snyder.  At Cache, we went north on Rt. 115 through the Wichita Federal Wildlife area.  After the bison were hunted to near extinction, this is where they were reintroduced to the plains. (See post for Jan 12, 2016, Wichita Wildlife Refuge)  This is an interesting area to visit, and Doris Campground is right in the refuge on the north side of Lake Quanah Parker.
Quanah Parker was the last chief of the Comanche, and this area was home to him for most of his life.  He was born between 1842 and 1852 (he estimated in 1850) to Comanche Chief Peta Nokona and Cynthia Ann Parker.  His mother had been taken at the age of nine in a raid on Fort Parker in 1836 near present Groesbeck, Texas, and was assimilated into the Comanche life.  It was from Fort Parker that he adopted the last name of Parker later in life.  His mother was recovered by Texas Rangers after 24 years with the Comanche and returned to her family, but she refused to return to white culture.  She died in 1870 from influenza.

Chief Parker became a very successful farmer and
business man.  In these meetings he would most
likely be seen in his white man's dress.
Quanah was recognized as the natural leader of the Comanche, but had never been elected chief by the tribe.  He was a tribal representative at Medicine Lodge, but refused to sign the treaty and led the Comanche on an 8-year battle against the whites and the Army.  He is recognized as the only warrior leader to have never lost a battle to the whites.  The Army tried to starve out the Native Americans by killing off all the bison, and then in 1874, they killed 1,500 Comanche horses, the tribe’s most valuable resource.  Quanah finally gathered the Comanche and led them to the reservation in 1875.  Because of his leadership with the tribe, the rank of Chief was granted to him by the U.S. Government for their own convenience.  The Comanche had never had a central chief, as each tribal band had its own chief.  Designating a sole chief gave the government one person to negotiate with.  Chief Parker, through wise investment and shrewd operation as a rancher near Cache, became recognized as the wealthiest Native American in the U.S.  He built Star House at Fort Sill to finally move his five wives and children out of tipis.  Star House still stands, but was moved to a property at Cache where efforts are still being negotiated to save it.  He was visited a number of times by Theodore Roosevelt, and he led the President on hunting trips in the area.  He died in 1911, at the age of about 66, and is buried on Chief’s Knoll at Fort Sill. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Energy Industry

Photo credit: Damien Ch'ng

There is indisputable proof that energy drinks don’t work.  The evidence is along both shoulders of any road you walk down.  How else can you explain people gulping 16 or 20 ounces of liquefied energy and still having too little energy to drop the empty can in the trash?  They can just barely drag the .57 ounce of heavy aluminum to the open vehicle window and shove it out.  Twenty-percent of all energy consumed is used to power the brain, more than any other organ of the body.  If there was really any energy in that drink, the consumer would suddenly have the brain power needed to remember that there are garbage containers by the pumps of every gas station, by the doors of nearly every convenience store, a half-dozen around every fast food restaurant, lining the sidewalks of every town, and inside every store and office. Before reaching home, they will undoubtedly pass a hundred or more half-empty garbage cans.  When they arrive home, they will probably even find one or more trash cans there.  So why does the road shoulder or ditch seem to be the smartest place to leave that empty can or bottle?
One day's collection from a short walk around town.  Amidst the
pile of soda and beer cans are a large percentage of "energy" cans
with all their energy gone to waste.
We need to think more about trash, and more about how we properly dispose of it.  Maybe part of the problem with roadside littering, besides laziness and stupidity, is the assumption that “out of sight, out of mind.”  While the litter does seem to blur a bit the faster we drive, it’s still there.  It’s there at least until the wind and rain force it into the ditch, flush it into the nearby stream, creek, river, bay and ocean, where it kills birds, pollutes fish, poisons bottom vegetation, and otherwise destroys the beauty of nature and all it touches.  It doesn’t decay and disappear.  Most of it continues to destroy everything it surrounds for decades, and some of it, forever.  If nothing else, it enters the food chain and returns to us as poison to give cancer to us and our children.  How is this a good idea?


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Paddler's Birthday

Many of us tend to scale back celebrations when our birthday
candles risk violating fire codes.  This was my last birthday
"cake", and no I didn't eat both of the ├ęclairs.

The older we get, the more painful birthdays become, and the less likely we are to celebrate birthdays or make any fuss about them, like having a party or receiving gifts.  Where did this idea of celebrating a birthday come from?  That question prompted some searching.  Celebrating birthdays was a pagan ritual that dates back to at least ancient Greece.  Because of the birthday being linked to paganism, Christians were slow to warm to the idea of celebrating the day of their births.   Evil spirits were believed to linger about days of important change, like the day you turn a year older, and from this eventually sprang the idea of incorporating candles in the celebration to bring light into the darkness. The Germans were credited with starting the tradition of celebrating children’s birthdays in the 1700’s and having a party, called a kinderfeste, and incorporating a cake or torte with a candle for each year of life.

Somewhere around the time the candles are blown out, everyone usually starts singing “Happy Birthday to you,” the most commonly sung song in the English language according to Guinness World Records.  This music was written as a song for school children.  The original lyrics were “Good morning to all.”  In 1893, two Kentucky school teachers, Patty and Mildred Hill, wrote the song and incorporated it in a book of songs for school teachers.  No one knows when or how the lyrics were changed for birthdays, but it first appeared publicly in a 1933 musical by Irving Berlin.  One of the Hill sisters sued Berlin for copywrite infringement and won.  The copyright is believed to remain in force until 2030, and the Hill estate still receives roughly two million dollars a year for its use, so make sure there are no copyright attorneys at your next birthday party before bursting into song.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Leave Nothing But Footprints

These pictures were not staged, but were taken as they occurred
on no particular day in a municipal park in Oklahoma.

A Missouri paddling club had a large annual party on a river’s sandbar.  It was a huge affair with tables, chairs, and large coolers all floated in.  The sandbar was packed with people.  Everyone enjoyed having a good time throughout the afternoon, but kudos go to these folks who respected nature and the environment enough to insure that Mother Nature wasn’t the victim of their good time.  The code of conduct for all of us venturing into the wild is to “take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints,” as well as “carry in; carry out,” and these were followed beautifully by these paddlers.  Every scrap of waste was picked up to be carried out, the campfire was dismantled and the ashes buried, and the bar was swept with branches so even the footprints disappeared.  After dozens of people had left, it was impossible to tell a human had ever been there.  Not only should such conduct be a source of pride for all the members of the paddling club, but their behavior will be enjoyed even more by those who follow.  This does not just apply to paddlers though; this should be proper conduct for anyone ever raised by responsible parents and teachers, and the most positive use of peer pressure.

So, the question is:  Why is such conduct so foreign to most of the general public?  Why are humans seen to be such selfish, oafish clods more often than not?   How can they conceivably think it is okay to throw bottles, cans, aluminum foil, plastic, and all kinds of waste into every stream and bush, or throw trash out the vehicle window when driving to and from their destinations?  Here are a couple pictures to illustrate.

Drinking straws and their paper wrappers on either end of a park
bench a mere ten feet from a trash can.

It would have been at least a 15-foot walk
with that soda can to the trash can.

Maybe there’s something wrong with my thinking.  I just don’t get it.  Here in Oklahoma, sports are the largest and most reverently followed religion of all.  So, where is the logic that people will support, follow, cheer, buy booster shirts, flags, fingers, drink cozies, seat cushions and all manner of stuff emblazoned with the name of the town or state the team comes from only to then go out and trash the community the team represents?  Why cheer “Rah, rah, rah Oklahoma State,” and then bury the State of Oklahoma in garbage?  There’s a definite disconnect there.  It would seem that the best way to show team pride would be to take pride in the communities the teams represent.  Another disconnect is having every road shoulder littered with drink cans emblazoned with the Oklahoma City Thunder team emblem.  Why would a sports franchise spend millions of dollars of publicity money to have their team’s name and reputation transformed into highway litter?  You would think they would at least put a banner on the can saying, “Respect your community. Dispose of empty containers responsibly.”  Of course you can transpose these team, community, and state names with any other without changing the message.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Report is in on Oklahoma

Pumping Oklahoma oil 24-hrs. a day.

Well, the reports are in for Oklahoma.  The report released by U.S. News and World Report recently should have had Governor Mary Fallin doing cartwheels around her office.  It was, in my opinion, exceedingly rosy.  Oklahoma normally ranks at or near the bottom in every category, but this year it ranked 44th out of 50 overall, but still received a 48 for healthcare.  Nursing home care for the elderly ranked 48th two years ago, but dropped another point last year to 49th. (CBS)

The report by Oklahoma’s own “Oklahoma Watch” gave the state a D+ in education, ranking it 48th out of 51 (including District of Columbia) in 2015.  This new report by U.S. News and World Report ranks the state at 30th.  The odds of it beating out 17 other states in one year when it continues to underfund everything is in a word---inconceivable.  The bulk of the problem comes from the state prioritizing the oil and gas industry for lucrative incentives and tax breaks at the expense of pretty much everything else.  While the state couldn’t fund better teacher pay or educational programs, it handed out $645-million in incentives for FY2010-FY-2012.  (  The standard tax rate of 7% on oil production was instituted in the 1970’s.  While taxes on everything else continue to go up, taxes on oil production have gone down.  Legislation passed in 2014 dropped the tax rate to 2% on new wells for the first three years, and to 1% for 2 years for wells drilled before 2015.