Tag Archives: Abilene

Salt Creek Butterfield

Lately, rains fell and Salt Creek flows, shallow water pools form and grass sprouts from the bank.

Near Abilene, the Butterfield mail and stage line crossed the semi-arid desert, terminating in San Francisco.  Behind this historical marker, my friend Blu Cooksey leases the pasture for cattle.  Near where the Butterfield stables stood, nails, mule shoes and horse shoes may still be found after a hard rain.

I must mow the lawn about the ranch house since rains have come this spring.  Last year, I mowed only twice because of the drought.

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Filed under Dusty Blu, Salt Creek

Wind, Yucca and Wine Cups: A Texas Spring

Two days ago I and the ranchito received 0.25 inch of rain, causing bees to work hard yesterday in the front yard, gathering pollen from an unidentified burst of small white flowers and residual Gyp Indian Blankets.  I have photographed the white flowers and will integrate them into the catalog of Flowers of Flying Hat.  Cool winds blew the yucca blossoms about and I took this video of wind blowing the yucca blossoms.

Rain fell this morning at the house and my commute to Abilene (87.2 miles) was tricky and slick in my large F-250 pickup.  A Federal Express truck with two tandem trailers went off the road west of Cisco on Interstate 20 and turned over.  From what I gathered, passing by in the rain, no fires erupted.  I hope the driver escaped with little or no injury.

Elaine Lee wrote about the Wine Cups in our vicinity.  She lives in Clyde, Texas, and drives to Cisco, Texas, every work day.  Elaine is a careful observer of flora and fauna along Interstate 20, including the ducks on Baird Hill Pond.  She has noticed, as I have, the large flock of wild turkeys that infrequently browse in the field south of Baird Hill.  Elaine writes of the Wine Cups,

I’m certain you are correct about wine cup not being present last year in your location.  This year, and never before, I saw wine cup growing along the highway edge in the Interstate 20 median.  They were growing just west of Putnam, TX and stretched for probably 200 or 300 hundred yards.  Of all Texas wildflowers, I have heard they are the most difficult to become established.  I don’t know if grassfire in the median caused the heat to break their seed covering or ground heat from the drought, but whatever it was, it created a very nice showing this Spring.  In years past I have seen them along the Interstate 20 frontage road not far from my sister’s house in Dallas, but never in this area.  However, I hope they are here to stay since they add another color dimension to the Spring landscape.

In researching the Wine Cup, I have found something quite interesting.  The Wine Cup has native distribution only to southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas, south to to Louisiana and central Texas.  It has spread to other states.  Flying Hat Ranchito is located on the western periphery of central Texas.  My mailing address comes out of Mingus, Texas, but the ranchito is ten-or-so miles southeast of Mingus, back in the hills, in Sims Valley, near Hannibal, Texas.  Hannibal now has one building that used to double as a general store with a Masonic Lodge on the second floor (don’t hold me too tight on these two historical functions of the building for I need to do more research).  The Wine Cups I photographed are six miles away from Hannibal, to the north.

My plans for the weekend include further observations of Wine Cups in the grove area.  At last count, eight Wine Cup blossoms erupted.  Of yucca, some one-hundred stalks abound on the terraces.  One hundred stalks times one-hundred blossoms per stalk equals 10,000 blossoms.  Of rain, 0.25 inch two-days ago, about 0.10 inch this morning.  Of bees and critters?  I will count them another day.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

From the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, I quote,

Callirhoe digitata Nutt.

Finger poppy-mallow, Poppy mallow, Standing winecup, Wine cup, Winecup

Malvaceae (Mallow Family)

USDA Symbol: CADI2

USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.

The wine cup is a perennial growing 8–20 inches tall, depending on moisture and soil, with gray-green stems. Leaves are alternate, basal leaves having stems about as long as the leaf; leaves are coarsely lobed or scalloped to deeply 5-lobed. There are few leaves on the upper part of the stem. Flowers have 5 petals, cup-shaped at first and opening out nearly flat as the flower matures. They are violet to red-violet, sometimes white, 1–2 inches across. The stamens and pistil form a conelike structure in the center of the flower.

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Filed under Succulents, Wild Flowers of Texas

October in Texas: dusting and sunflowers

Sunflowers with dust storm near Abilene, Texas (October 17, 2011).

A light “dusting” of dust, not snow, descended with high winds upon Texas yesterday. A cold front came in the afternoon that sent temperatures this morning down into the lower 50s F. I love changes in weather. Of course, not with abrupt turns that bring destruction and fire, but changes like yesterday: brisk winds, racing clouds, lightening, rain in the distance that you can smell (my dog, Yeller, lifts his head high to catch the scents far away), dark clouds with long trailing edges that signal rain prospects and all of it bringing anticipation to the heart that tomorrow will be different, a new day with fresh starts all over the world.

How can one capture that cachet of weather change and anticipation for riding your favorite horse into the future? ( I am down to one horse, my Star paint gelding, so he is the favorite, the last of the remuda — but I will build a remuda back with brown mares that foal in the Spring.)  Well, you can’t capture it, but you can take a photograph that elicits Texas weather change, and the above photograph of Texas plains, dust and sunflowers, brings yesterday’s moment to pause.

You must ENLARGE the photo above to get the full effect of yesterday’s “dusting” around Abilene, Texas.  The evocations the photograph brings reminds me of migrating pioneers in the nineteenth century that saw the Trans-Mississippi West plains and stopped, not wanting to venture farther onto land that had little water, few trees and a population that spoke strange languages.

O, Pioneers!  Be not afraid!  There are springs and rivers, trees are in the ravines and highlands!  The Indians will trade and parley and teach their tongues, if you will tread lightly upon the terrain!

Yes, I know that pioneers did not tread lightly.  There were, however, places of concord — Bent’s Fort, the Pawnee, the Tewa, among other spaces and culture.

Despite this riff-tangent about the American pioneer, I come back to the weather change of yesterday that brought cold winds, turning the sunflowers to face the southern climes.  Bees and butterflies still feasted on its pollen, riding the petals like cowboys on broncs; the contrast of red earth, dusty skies and yellow flowers showed a tough plant on inhospitable soil, holding on tight and bearing its colors to the world.  I love these types of weather changes.

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Filed under Weather, Wild Flowers of Texas

Spring to Summer in central Texas

Mustang grape vines on southern fence of Pecan Tree Pasture (May 2011).

Emergent flora signifies the arrival and maturation of Spring into Summer in central Texas.  Mustang grape vines climb trees and follow fence lines without fail.  I collect buckets of ripened grapes in late June or early July.  Daily observations of ripening grapes must take place or birds pluck the deep ruby-red berries and in over-consuming they fly dizzily, drunkenly away, first to the harvest, leaving my mouth and bucket empty.

Mesquite and mustang grapevines often intertwine and when harvesting, the mesquite thorns force the cost of harvesting painfully upward.

Mustang grapes with mesquite (June 2011).

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Two stands of Big Bluestem grass (May 2011)

When rain falls, grass flourishes.  The top of the stems reach six-feet or more high.  Big.  Native.  Bluestem.

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The final exhibit of Spring in this post is prickly-pear cactus with its brilliant yellow cactus flower.  I note that many varieties of insects clamor and dive into the flower, bees especially.  Cactus is destroyed as nuisance flora as a regular chore on small ranches and farms.  Yet, its fruit is edible, the flower yields pollen for honey and in drought, propane torches burn thorns and cattle consume the paddles.  The roar of burning pear signals drought upon the land.

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For the moment, propane torches rest against barn walls.  Yesterday, west of my ranchito about a hundred miles, and northwest of Abilene, Erin Rea reports prairie fires near her farm.  The drought has descended brutally on her area and in a line stretching to the southeastern corner of Colorado,  the land reminds old-timers of the dust bowl days.  @Tuckertown tweets, “Wildfire in Southern Colorado fouls the air along Colorado’s Front Range. Very tender dry in the SE corner of Colorado. Very bad.”

The Spring to Summer in central and west Texas is endurable as we live with the land whether mustang grapes emerge or prairie fires burn.

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Filed under Field Log, Weather