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11 A Creek Called Walks in the Night Hominy Creek is about seventy-six miles long, with headwaters rising in the rolling prairie of Oklahoma’s Osage County. During the initial one-third of its journey to merge with Bird Creek, the Verdigris River, and eventually the Arkansas River, this small stream descends through bluestem cattle country and scattered patches of oak-hickory forest. After leaving the high prairie, Hominy Creek settles into flood-prone lowlands and tall timber, where it grows murkily more sullen and southern. At its tallgrass upper end, Hominy Creek is a classically pretty prairie stream, despite the corruption of its name by Anglos who couldn’t twist their tongues around the Osage language. In Osage, Hominy Creek is actually Walks in the Night Creek, named for Ho’n-Mo’n-I’n, a warrior held in high esteem for his exploits in battle. Walks in the Night Creek is, in the Osage tongue, Ho’n-Mo’n-I’n Ga-Xa. It’s one of several small streams draining mostly native grassland in this part of the southern tallgrass and receives, on average, anywhere from thirtysix inches of annual rainfall at the headwaters to forty inches or more before emptying into Bird Creek. Average temperatures around the headwaters of Hominy Creek range from a high of 93 degrees in July to a low of 23 degrees in January . Average wind speed is nine miles per hour, humidity ranges from 12 A Creek Called Walks in the Night around 40 to as much as 94 percent, and the average growing season runs from about April 5 to approximately October 30. Snowfall is generally rare, with anywhere from an inch to sometimes as many as ten inches falling from late November through early March. The severe weather season can start in late March and last through May; tornadoes are a fact of life, as are violent thunderstorms with hail that may be as small as peas or as big as softballs. Summers are hot, winters are short yet cold, and the transition periods are unpredictable. In fact, the headwaters of Hominy Creek can host some of the most erratic weather in the continental United States, according to meteorologists who come to Oklahoma to study such things.For some residents of short duration,the tempestuous weather is nerve fraying, and they go elsewhere. For the others, the rapidly changing skies are an antidote to boredom, and they’d live nowhere else. On this particular March 16, Hominy Creek is running clear and fast through a series of upstream stony riffles, as the landscape around it continues to awaken in the days prior to the spring equinox. A quickly passing shadow warns of a flyover by a mature bald eagle, the glistening dark brown and white bird soaring low over the spot where water from a bedrock pool spills over a ten-foot-high sandstone ledge. A rust-colored fox squirrel spots the keen-eyed predator and quickly circles around the trunk of a large post oak, placing some sixteen inches of tough hardwood between it and a raptor hungrily in search of breakfast . Below the tree and several tiers of outcropping limestone, a chorus of leopard frogs commences with a cacophony of grunts, snores, and rattling trills that sound almost swinelike and aren’t the least bit musical. One of the frogs leaps into a thick mulch of pale brown oak leaves lining the stream bank, and I’m able to see the dark brown blotches on a tan background that enable the amphibian to blend nicely with the bland setting. Yellowish dorsal lines have a slight break near the hind legs, indicating a plains leopard frog, Lithobates blairi, named for Frank Blair, a Texas zoologist. Albert Blair, Frank’s brother, was a member of the faculty at the University of Tulsa from 1947 until the late 1970s and a consummate naturalist. Even after a heart attack slowed him, Albert Blair spent as much time afield as possible, sometimes probing the springs and waterfalls along upper Hominy Creek. Although more than thirty years have passed, I can still see him snagging a diamond- 13 A Creek Called Walks in the Night back water snake by hand,all the while dodging the anal excretions the snake was emitting in copious amounts in an attempt to persuade its captor to free the vile-smelling reptile. On that day we collected tiger salamanders from a pool in a small spring-fed...


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