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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Series Editor’s Foreword

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pp. vii-viii

... the pastures and meadows of Hunt County, called exotics or hybrid, many imported from Africa, Europe, and Asia, are very different from the native, indigenous grasses found on the original treeless lands of Northeast Texas. These native grasses, some with root structures going sixteen feet deep, are hardy, ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

First I wish to thank God for the beauty of his Creation and for eyes to see and ears to hear. For introducing me to prairies, I want to thank my colleague David Montgomery of Paris Junior College. I am afraid that on numerous evenings I may have kept him from attacking the stack of papers that needed to be graded because I was sitting in ...

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Introduction

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pp. 3-12

... complained our three-year-old daughter Natalie one evening as we drove away from the Paul Mathews Prairie in the half-light of dusk. We had brought her to the prairie for the first time that June afternoon as part of an experiment. Was she old enough to accompany us through the tall grass? ...

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Ingredients

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pp. 13-16

Yet in one crucial way the prairie was different. It was erasable. It was voidable. It was in the end no greater than the sum of its parts. And once those ingredients were taken away, one at a time, it collapsed inward into the bowels of the earth from which it had come and then vanished like a sinking ship, perhaps forever. ...

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1. Grass

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pp. 17-32

My dad would put me on his shoulders and away we would go. Walking across our farm was a form of relaxation, and perhaps even entertainment, for my parents, who insisted that television not be part of our home. Until I was about three years old I was hoisted to that much better vantage point whenever ...

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2. Soil

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pp. 33-40

The first to go was my mother’s father, who passed away a few years before I was born. I never met Pappy, as he was nicknamed, but was taken instead to see his marker on the few special occasions when we took flowers. The only relief was the hodgepodge of stones of varying shapes and sizes placed pellmell ...

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3. Fire and Rain

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pp. 41-56

Sometimes as I tossed in my bed at night, I would listen for a train to blow its whistle at each of the dirt road crossings it rumbled past in the darkness. Where was it going? Where had it been? A loose rail depressed repeatedly by each passing wheel drummed out a rhythmical ...

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4. Buffalo

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pp. 57-72

... about the process of changing seasons— winter springing into summer before falling back into winter—has always excited me. The slow circular transformation works its way within me as it turns, as comforting as it is confounding. Each season as the weather colors the sky and the ...

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Discovering Dream Land

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pp. 73-75

Today a few tiny remnants persist—each one a dream land—where the past comes alive in sudden bursts that quicken the pulse and invigorate the intellect. They are our only visual and existential links to our past—a past we have been robbed of knowing. Thus their value is immeasurable and in their hands is ...

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5. A Tale of Two Prairies

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pp. 77-92

... her grandfather passed away a few years ago the native prairie he had stewarded for years on the black land north of the Hunt County city of Commerce had been leased to a local farmer. I met Shelly on a cold January morning while leading a birdwatching field trip to Lake Tawakoni for Dallas County ...

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6. The Garden of Eden

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pp. 93-106

We had just left what remained of her grandfather’s beautiful gardenlike prairie four miles away when we came to this small congregation of houses arranged at the junction of two country roads. There is not much here today that would remind anyone of a garden, although certainly this would have been a fitting ...

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7. The Lost Prairies

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pp. 107-118

Mrs. Callan had been educated in the old school and had been teaching since the Great Depression. She told us that one of her best spellers had once lost a spelling bee because of that silent letter in the word prairie. She also explained that the word was French, which accounted for the funny spelling, and meant ...

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8. Dancing Chickens

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pp. 119-130

... only memories I have of my dad’s father are of a short, stoop-shouldered man in overalls who was weathered from a lifetime of farming the Blackland Prairie. Although I was only six years old when he passed away, I recall how the years had taken their toll. In the sepia portraits I have seen of him in the ...

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9. Wide-Leaf False Aloe

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pp. 131-142

There we planned to look for plants growing on an outcropping of Eagle Ford shale—a yellow sedimentary rock that is fractured and brittle from years of weathering. Because the rock lies so close to the surface the thin layer of soil that lies on top was never valuable farmland—a situation that allowed the ...

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10. Living History

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pp. 143-152

... wilderness was invigorating, observed Earnest Wallace, biographer of early Texas newspaper editor Charles DeMorse. In 1842 DeMorse settled in the small prairie town of Clarksville on the raw frontier. In Charles DeMorse: Pioneer Statesman and Father of Texas Journalism,Wallace quotes an editorial DeMorse ...

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11. Julian Reverchon’s Prairie

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pp. 153-164

I first learned that Dallas sheltered a tallgrass dream land as David Hurt and I sped past it. We had just turned the corner from Buckner Boulevard and were heading west on Mockingbird Lane when I spotted the tall blossoms of black sampson growing on the hillside overlooking White Rock Lake. A good ...

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12. Where the Pavement Ends

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pp. 165-172

... have a prairie cemetery you might be interested in seeing,” Dallas neurologist Bill Woodfin told me one May day as we talked in the parking lot of Parkhill Prairie in Collin County. I had just met him and his wife, Fran, who raises Morgan horses. We had all accompanied Jim Eidson on a field trip to admire the ...

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13. A Girl Named Daphne

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pp. 173-182

... on a road with no shoulders, staring at a green sign that bore her name in white letters. Who was she? Every trace of the community once called Daphne Prairie seemed to have been packed up and moved away, like a movie set—a ghost town forged in the pastoral countryside by a producer who wanted to ...

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14. Manifest Destiny

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pp. 183-194

... spending time with her, I knew I wanted to see Daphne again, this time as the sun rose behind me. I wanted to see the sunlight cascade obliquely through her long hair, illuminating her form, highlighting her curves. I wanted to see her sleeping and I wanted to see her still partially clothed in ...

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15. The Bee-Loud Glade

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pp. 195-203

... sun was already well into the sky one balmy June morning when Bill Woodfin edged his blue pickup truck onto the side of the narrow dirt road beside the pristine prairie that John Clayton once stewarded. Driving through the vast desert of cotton and soybean fields that extended for miles around, it was easy to ...

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16. Prairie Harvest

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pp. 203-210

Prairie hay cutters are my heroes. They took up the slack when fire was eliminated from the prairies and kept the invading trees at bay. I doubt any have ever been thanked for the gift they have left us. Their deliberate and laborious routines, fleshed out of sweat and blood each year for generations, have ...

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17. The Tallgrass Capital of Texas

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pp. 211-226

... she had been raised in a world very different from mine. Wild Indians still excited her fears (a condition that grew worse as she aged), and in her stories the “Injuns,” as she called them, still seemed as real as they had indeed been to her and the people who had instilled this fear in her. ...

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18. Survival of the Fittest

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pp. 227-236

He felt I needed to be disabused of any romantic notions I might harbor about the prairie. The prairie had to be plowed because civilization demanded it. The wilderness had been eliminated so that everyone from yeoman farmers to captains of industry could partake of its riches. In this view, the rich prairie ...

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19. Stalking the Wild Prairie Grass

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pp. 237-251

... was the vast remote prairies of northern Texas. It was here that they intended to stalk the wild prairie grasses in search of a large unclaimed tract that they hoped to acquire for a song. From the accounts they wrote, their journey has the feel of a safari, yet the men were not sightseers. Nor were they unwashed immigrants ...