"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tallgrass means tall

A visit to the spectacular Tallgrass Prairie Preseve in the middle of Osage County just north of Pawhuska gives a glimpse of what this country was like before fences and cattle. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy,http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/oklahoma/preserves/tallgrass.html this is the largest remnant of such prairie on earth, of about 10,000 acres.

Few roads, and bison roam free--a herd of better than 2,500...none of which we saw. Yes, there are still some oil wells and private patches of ground, but it's wild and free and the only sound is the wind.

You cross cattle, er, bison, guards to drive down the gravel roads and 8-foot fences keep them in.

The prairie grasses star the Big BlueStem, plus the Small Blue Stem, Switch grass and some others. Big Blue Stem reaches from 6 to 10 feet high, but the root system is deeper. It was once a complete ecosystem, but that is now extinct, although here and in the Flint Hills of Kansas just north of here, it survives.

 We got out of the car to walk a nature trail, neatly mowed, and were soon surrounded with grass over our heads.
To make sure we don't get lost


 How tall is tall grass? Here's Susan.
It's beautiful when backlit by the sun.
And there are quiet cool spaces with water and shade too.
Headquarters is at the original ranchsite after a 20-minute drive down the gravel roads.
Check this site for a map http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/oklahoma/files/tallgrass_map.pdf

Bacon rinds and creeks...

Thanks to a blogger Richard, for commenting on my imaginative ideas about Bacon Rind Creek. Turns out I was just an ignorant white man.

Baconrind was a chief of the Osage during early 20th century when the tribe members got rich off oil, according to "Oklahoma, The Land and Its People," 1997 OU Press. His friend "Col." Ellsworth E. Walters was the auctioneer of the lands and did his best to get the Osage the best deals.

He built a life-size statue-monument to the Chief in Walters' home at Skedee, expecting it to be a big tourist draw. The town is no more, just across the Arkansas from the Osage, in Pawnee County, six miles north of Pawnee. Skedee is a misspelling of Skidi, or Pawnee for Wolf, a tribe of the Pawnee Confederacy.

Isn't the Internet wonderful?

By the way, there is another Bacon Rind Creek, which feeds into the Gallatin River in Montana, in Yellowstone National park. Maybe my imaginative source of name fits there.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bacon Rind Creek

Heading north  on the back roads with scarce traffic and no semi-trucks, through decaying towns with First Baptist churches, past dead trees and vacant farm houses, we headed for the wide open tall grass spaces of Osage County.

It's Oklahoma's largest county, home of the Osage Indian Nation and Reservation, expansive ranches and sections upon sections without fences, and innumerable oil wells and oil history.

Idling, with car windows down, through the cool sunshine of Ripley, Glencoe, Pawnee, Ralston, Fairfax. Homes of Marie Tallchief, Pawnee Bill, The First Osage Baptist Church with glistening white two-story Corinthian columns, the Rawhide Bar, the Settle Inn.

Having crossed the Cimarron River twice and the Arkansas River into the Osage County, somewhere in there we crossed Bacon Rind Creek.

In the Osage it is easy to imagine the land before the white farmer and ranches and fences changed the world of nomadic peoples and nomadic wildlife. Except for the wind brushing through the tall grasses, it's quiet and still sparsely populated.

How did that creek get its name? Did an early settler throw his morning bacon rind in it after breakfast over a crackling fire on a cold morning, sipping steaming coffee made with clear water from its limestone  bed? So many stories to wonder about, to tell, to write.

Woodyard Farms in The Osage

Susan on the front porch of the Inn at Woodyard Farms Bed and Breakfast, just north of Pawhuska.
a friendly yellow tabby prowled at will.
The Osage hills formed a backdrop, and every morning, we could hear roosters crow.
My favorite spot, the front porch, where the autumn breeze is always pleasant.
And the view is peaceful. I worked on a watercolor using the table as an easel.

Our neighbors just across the fence made me feel right at home, naturally. They didn't seem concerned about Iowa State.
This is where we ate in the mornings, and I had the best waffle--a pumpkin waffle-- I've ever had, complete with blueberries, bananas, pecans, syrup, sausage and more.

There just wasn't enough to read, however. Innkeeper and owner Carol  Maupin has been running the place for 21 years. We learned about it in Oklahoma Today magazine.
There were lot of Catalpa trees, with big heart shaped leaves that rattled in the autumn breeze and magnified the sounds of raindrops. It's a misspelling of the Catawba Indians tribe name, which had the tree as a totem.

All 'aboard for Bartlesville

Santa Fe steam locomotive 940
In Bartlesville, a 4-8-2 powerhouse of days gone by.
Where you can look out the engineer's window and down the tracks into memory
Driving power
It's the Santa Fe, Not the BNSF!

Bartlesville Depot, done right, and the home of the chamber of commerce. A great place for a little boy to come play and remember when trains were trains, and a testament to an Oklahoma city's pride and commitment to quality living.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Osage hills, the photo

Here's where I was painting the previoous watercolor
East of Pawhuska on Okesa roaad, before the rain hits

Osage musings, and a star

I'm assuming every blogger in Oklahoma envies and admires Ree Drummond,  thepioneerwoman.com for her award-winning blog, started in only 2006, and now to be made a movie of.

Driving to the bed and breakfast this week across the wide-open spaces of The Osage on fall break, On scenic byway U.S. 60 east of Pawhuska, Susan and I passed this gate.
I told Susan, "I'll bet that's the gate to the home of Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman."

We stayed at the Inn at Woodyard Farms Bed and Breakfast, 918-287-2699--three miles north of Pawhuska--where I had the best waffle this morning I've ever had in my life, and which does not have  a website and has been in business for 21 years and which we saw in Oklahoma Today--, and also traveled to Bartlesville, Drummond's home town, and Susan bought her bookbook at the fantastic Woolaroc, Frank Phillips' gift to Oklahoma.
New York Times bestseller--what a success story
More photos and thoughts of bed and breakfast, The Osage, and Bartlesville, and Woolaroc coming soon.

Autumn in The Osage

Gate in the Osage Hills

9 by 12 Plein Aire watercolor on 300 # paper

I painted the start of this on Okesa road east of Pawhuska in the Osage nation yesterday, before rain moved in. It's wild and free.

Susan and I were in Pawhuska at a bed and Breakfast for fall break. What a scenic corner of Oklahoma. Even more special since we've seen the award winning play, August in he Osage.

Photos to come soon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Great Plains sunset

Great Plains sunset, watercolor, 90# paper, 9" by 12"
I love the land of the big sky and wide open spaces.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The pages of October

There's a story or two to tell about how we  were fortunate to have N.Y. Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, an Oklahoma City native,  on campus this week to talk to our students and all interested, including his family members who live here.

Shadid has twice won a Pulitzer prize for his coverage of the war in Iraq, working for The Washington Post. He's been with the Times for less than a year.

I have a notebook full of notes, but I'm writing from memory and emotion here, to recommend one of his books: Night Draws Near--Iraq's People in the shadow of America's war.

Anthony is a Lebanese-American, or as he put it: "I'm an American, of Lebanese descent." He is a Christian, as are many of the Lebanese who immigrated to Oklahoma about 100 years ago. There's another story, one that hasn't been told, although he's working on another book about his southern Lebanese family and their coming to Oklahoma.

I wish you could have heard him talk about covering the war. He's a story teller, and because he speaks at least two kinds of Arabic--that he learned in college and in Lebanon--he has a unique ability to get real stories from real people in a part of the world where Americans are essentially enemies.

So if you want to understand the quagmire America is in in Iraq--"The war isn't over," Shadid said--this book helps. He takes no political stands, just shows the facts and effect of war on Iraq's citizens, and how war ruins the humanity of mankind. He is not kind to Saddam, relating his brutality. Neither is he kind to Bush and America and its invasion...it's just straight reporting. He told my students he prefers "muscular writing"--nouns and verbs, with few adjectives and adverbs. He gives a brief historical perspective of Iraq and its greatness and turmoil and tragedies.

But as he told my students, and this is a paraphrase, he prefers to cover big events by finding small stories that show the bigger picture.

I've only read the first two chapters so far, and am hooked.  Excerpts:

Journalism-- "Journalism is imperfect. The more we know as reporters, the more complicated the story becomes, and by the nature of our profession, the less equipped we are to write about it with the justice and rigor it demands. Night Draws Near is no exception."

Before the invasion--"Against the cacophony of  the Arab world, Baghdad seemed quiet, so hushed that it felt a little unreal. As America framed the war one way, the Arab world another, Iraq simply seemed to be trying to come to grips with its arrival."

Words--"Time and again, I am struck by how seldom I hear the word hurriya, "freedom"  in conversations about politics in the Arab world... . Much more common  among Arabs is the world adil, "justice.... . And justice, it seemed to many in the Middle East, was no longer served by the Americans... ."

Chants--"'There is no god by God and America is the enemy of God!'"

With more than 100,000 dead Iraqis and more than 8,000 Americans dead so far, and with Baghdad--ironically called "the city of peace" still without electricity seven years after we invaded....this book helps me understand. It doesn't give me answers, but it is worth reading because we're going to be there a long time.

P.S. Anthony Shadid, his wife who also works for the NY Times, and his beautiful daughter, will be returning to Beirut, Lebanon, to work. from my part of  the  world, "Vaya con Dios." You make me proud to be a journalist, and reaffirm my faith in who important journalism is to our free society.

Buy the book. I did. But of course I got his autograph: "To Terry & Susan Clark--My new friends in Oklahoma!"

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pages from the past

"Comanche vs. Grandfield--a Minute to Play"--8 by 10 by Terrence Miller Clark
Dad was the starting guard on the Comanche Indian football team, "Iron Guard Clark" they called him. You didn't get by him, and since you played both offense and defense in those days, and with little leather helmets and no face masks, you saw lots of hard action. Comanche had a solid football team, and so did its arch rivals Marlow and Grandfield. Today, Grandfield is a ghost of itself, the cotton gin gone, wide streets and stores vacant. Comanche is withering too, has been surpassed by Duncan, 10 miles north. The Sun Refinery is closed at Meridian, and it can no longer compete with more prosperous Marlow, 10 miles north of Duncan, on US 81, paralleling the Rock Island tracks and the old Chisholm Trail.

But not in the '20s and '30s. Dad caught the action. I wonder if he is Number 13? I wonder what  year? I hope my dad's last uncle, Mike, can tell me his number.

Dad played his last football game in the fall of 1931, and graduated in spring of 1932. I have his senior ring. That summer in the Depression, he and a friend Carl Price, rode box cars on the Rock Island line and other trains to Juarez, Mexico to celebrate.

Coming home, they "changed trains" in Tucumcari, N.M., waiting on a Rock Island freight back to Oklahoma. Early one morning, as they were getting ready to jump into an open box car, a railroad employee started talking to Dad. They talked too long, and the train sped up. Dad tried to jump on, slipped, fell under the steel wheels, and lost his right leg below the knee and his left pinkie finger as he pushed himself away.

Iron Guard Clark was no more. But he could still draw, and always did. But not inside the lines or by anyone's rules.

More violent art

Gangsters and trains, and even the Civil War caught my Dad's imagination. I was more enamored with the Civil war than he....this is the only one I know that he did. But imagine, going back to my first post, not being allowed to draw this! It is a record of a time, and an artist and of a family.

They look like Yankees. Mine would have been Confederates.

Oh how I wish I could sit down and talk with Dad about these. Is your father still alive?
Ask them about their lives. don't rely on old photos or drawings.

Forbidden, yellowing war art--part 2

"Seven bullets"--8" by 10" by Terrence Miller Clark, Comanche, Oklahoma, sometime in the 1920s or very early 1930s.

Art reflects the times. Growing up in red-dirt poor Comanche, Oklahoma, Terrence Miller Clark, born in 1914--when Oklahoma was only seven years old as a state. He was the first of five brothers, and could draw before he could walk. He usually got in trouble for his art, but his talent was obvious to everyone in town. Yes, I have some talent, but not the talent of my father. I labor over my work, and for Dad, it was just who he was.

All of these are on thin, yellowing paper, 8" by 10".

Forbidden art from long ago

Death--8" by 10" pencil sketch by Terrence Miller Clark, probably in early high school years at Comanche, Oklahoma
I recently found this collection of my Dad's artwork. But there's more here than a high school student's artist work, probably done in class when he should have been studying. His main topic was WWI., which was fresh in everyone's memory when he was growing up in the 1920s  and early 30s in red dirt Oklahoma.

I learned recently that my dad would not have been able to draw like this in current public schools.   Why?

We were recently having a kitchen sink installed, and I was talking to the 30-something fellow doing the work. I expect that he was conservative, perhaps an evangelical, but we were having a great conversation and he had definite, well-defined opinions on lots of stuff. He told me that he and his wife were home-schooling their children. They live in the Putnam City district. He said they sent their son to first grade, and then pulled him out, for a number of reasons. One reason was that the boy was not allowed to draw pictures, in art class, of any weapons. "Boys draw pictures of swords, knights, fighting," he said. "Nothing wrong with that."

I thought of these pictures of my Dad's. I related this story to a professor colleague of mine who also home-schools her children. She wasn't surprised. She said in Edmond, art classes forced the children to "color inside the lines."

My Dad never colored inside the lines. when I was in first grade, I never did either, and got graded down in later grades for wasting my time drawing pictures of U-boats, and dogfights between Mustangs and Me-109s from WWII. Too often, mine showed the Germans winning, and that didn't sit well in the 1950s.

My Dad and I would never have graduated. All my children got good educations in public schools, in Waurika and Stillwater. But creativity was allowed.
And it still should be. Not politically correct test-oriented rote learning. Oklahoma and America need creativity more than ever, and that means letting students explore, and try, and fail, and if they want to draw pictures of people fighting, let them.We don't need cookie cutter; we need individuals.

So these photos, and the ones following, all 8 x 10 on fragile, yellowing paper and Big-Chief tablet paper, are forbidden today.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pete Seeger

Turned 91 this week, and he's still busy writing music, answering letters, and chopping wood on Sundays. Great article in the NY Times.


And here's my favorite, the Malvena Reynolds song, sung by Pete.