Tag Archives: Kiowa

Kiowa wind, grass, colors

Map of the Kiowa Territory in Western Oklahoma, 1833-1843, from Alice Marriott, The Ten Grandmothers, p. 15.

In 1944, Alice Marriott in her book, The Ten Grandmothers, recorded Kiowa Spear Woman’s narrative of the motion and color changes of prairie grasses.  The “Ten Grandmothers” are ten Kiowa medicine bundles.  The bundles still exist, but they have not been opened since the 1890s when the last person who had the right to see the contents died.

For Leah the south porch of the big house was the best part of home.  Here you could sit and watch sunrise or sunset; watch the shapes of the earth change and move as the sun moved.  Then you knew, when you sat out there, that the earth was alive itself.

Spear Woman sat beside her granddaughter and thought that the earth had gone dead.  Lights played and moved, and cloud shadows came and went, but the earth itself had somehow died.  It was all one color now; not like the old days when its shades really changed and flickered like flames under the wind.  She stirred and sighed and spoke.

When the buffalo moved across it, there were other colors and other lights.

The thought was near enough Leah’s own to startle her.  There are lots of colors there now.

Her father spoke behind them.  Not like there used to be.  In the days that even I remember, there was one color when the wind was from the north and another when it was from the south, one from the east and another from the west.  Now the grass is all one color on every side, and it doesn’t change with the wind.

Sometimes the colors change.  Down near Lawton there is a prairie where the grass takes different colors.

* * *

[Spear Woman insists they travel to Lawton (Fort Sill, Oklahoma), fifty miles away.]

She brought her best Pendleton blanket from the trunk and spread it over the seat.  She put on her very best clothes and painted her face….

Two lines of high, tight fence spread across the prairie from a gate, and Spear Woman sat stiff, suddenly.  What is that!  That is grass like the old days.  Real grass.  All different colors.

It was, too.  It was like changeable silk, the kind the Delawares used to trim their blankets.  Yellow as the wind struck it; rose-color as it died away; then a sort of in-between color, with patterns that moved like patterns in silk when you folded it….

Shade was not even in sight, and when they had driven through the gates, with the lines of the fence on either hand, it was still not easy to find.  Spear Woman didn’t care.  She sat and watched the grass turn over in the sun, flickering and bending and straightening like little campfire flames, and was happy.  It was the old kind of grass, the old, rippling, running prairies, even if there were fences.  She was glad her eyes were dim, because she didn’t always see the fences, and could forget about them.  It was all peaceful and alive again.

From Alice Marriott, The Ten Grandmothers, pp. 285-288.

* * *

When I was a boy, my grandmother drove between Brownwood and Bend, Texas, near San Saba to visit relatives.  I watched fields of grass sway in the wind on either side of the road, a narrow two-lane highway.  She would point out to me where she and her family had camped and where she had seen buckboard wagons ascend a hill along the creek, the hubs carving their initials along the cliffs.  I saw them and put my hands in wagon-hub grooves when we stopped to rest.  The prairie wind flowed over the grass, moving stems and leaves in a rhythm, a wave of motion like water I saw in Corpus Christi Bay.

* * *

Last year I planted six acres of native grasses in the Pecan Tree Pasture.  The grasses are native to the Cross Timbers of Oklahoma where Spear Woman found peace again, and the grasses are native to our ranch that is also designated as Cross Timbers.  The grasses in our pastures grow waist-high, chest-high in some areas, and when the prevailing wind, a southwest flow from Mexico, crosses the pastures, grasses move and bend and change color.  As I go up the road towards Huckabay, Texas, about six miles away, I always notice a very old stand of Bluestem that turns reddish-brown in the Fall and Winter, but becomes blue and green in the Spring.  The stand of Bluestem is only an acre in size and machines have not touched it in many years for it is on the side of a hill.  It is old, that family, and I care for it.  If I could move that acre of old Bluestem to my ranch, I would.  I can’t.  But I have planted its relatives in the Pecan Tree Pasture and there I shall attend to their health and growth.



The citation is: Alice Marriott, The Ten Grandmothers, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1945.  I have the fourth printing, October, 1951.  In the excerpt, I have omitted quotation marks and substituted italics for the spoken words.

Lawton, Oklahoma, is also the home of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, that is seen in the map above.  If you click on the map, then enlarge it with your computer, you can see more clearly the locations of encampments and the Sun Dance locations.  The Cross Timbers designation flows all the way down into Texas and includes our ranch, Flying Hat Ranch, Mingus, Texas.


Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Life in Balance, Life Out of Balance, Nature Quote of the Day

Field Log 5/10/2010 (Kiowa Good Luck, The Mariposa) [Corrected]

North Erath County, Texas, 32.43 lat., -98.36 long. Elev. 1,086 ft.  Turkey Creek Quad.

All photographs below may be enlarged with a click of the mouse for maximum detail.

Yesterday, I hiked into the grove.  Cool temperatures in the 60s F.  Light rain.  Saw several blooms of plants I have yet to identify.

This morning, drove to Pecan Tree Pasture to photograph blossoming plants for identification and cut mesquite.  Wind is high at 25 m.p.h. plus, sustained.  Red Flag warnings are posted on the MSN Weather link for counties west of us (Upper Concho River area) until 8:00 p.m.

Green-flowered Milkweed (Asclepias asperula), May 2010

Plant Identification

This is the Green-flowered Milkweed (Asclepias asperula).  I saw only two clumps in the pasture.  Several butterflies and bees are on the flower.  The Monarch caterpillar feasts on blossoms.  It is toxic to animals and probably humans.  The pollen may also cause a rash or itch.  The Butterfly-weed (not this type pictured) is also known as the Pleurisy-root, known for medicinal value.

I was not aware of its toxicity.

Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), May 2010

This is a stand of Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) next to the fence in the far pasture, the biggest stand of this species on the ranch.  Alongside State Highway 108, however, extensive Indian Blankets occur.  C. and L. Loughmiller, Texas Wildflowers, report that they have seen a forty-acre pasture completed covered in this one species.  Many years ago, I saw pastures in San Saba and Lampasas Counties covered in Indian Blanket.

Another name for Indian Blanket is Fire-Wheel.

It has medicinal qualities and the Kiowa considered its emergence good luck.  [See Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center notation, Indian Blanket.]

Prairie Larkspur (Delphinium virescens) Nutt., May 2010

This is the Prairie Larkspur (Delphinium virescens).  I found this along the banks of Salt Creek.  Again, this is a poisonous plant to animals and humans, although its seeds have medicinal properties.

In typing these plants and blossoms, I am finding more poisonous species than I imagined.  The horses leave the Larkspur and Milkweed alone, but I will be cautious during the fall when green grass is gone, as they might sample the plants.

Wine Cup (Callirhoe digitata), May 2010, Photo 1

I am excited about this plant and blossom.  It is a delicate flower and there are only two stands of it on Flying Hat.  It is called Mariposa Lily or Sego Lily (Calochortus nuttallii).  One stand is along side the Pecan Tree Pasture road and the other is on the north side of The Grove.  I’m anxious to put out this photograph to show you, and I think I have it typed correctly, but later this evening when the wind calms down, I will go and verify.

The Mariposa Lily is considered among the most beautiful wildflowers in southwestern United States (Loughmiller, Texas Wildflowers). This Mariposa Lily on Flying Hat is probably the more common Mariposa, but a Desert Mariposa is quite rare in Texas.  Nonetheless, this flower is most delicate and I am excited we have two bunches of Mariposas.

Although I would be disappointed, if anyone can type this otherwise, please enter your rationale in the comment section.

Texas Groundsel (Ragwort), May 2010

We have beaucoup amount of Texas Groundsel (Ragwort, Senecio ampullaceus) along our pasture roads.  The yellow blossoms are striking and until I changed the range strategy, I would shred these plants rather early in the spring.  This year, however, I have let them thrive.


Sweet Hija is still at Equine Sports Medicine & Surgery, waiting for the right time to be inseminated.

Shiney is still in Aubrey, learning manners from Jimmie Hardin.

Cut fifteen (15) mesquite bushes from pasture and fence row.

Note: Please check back later today for a verification of the Mariposa.

Correction to Identification

Correction to post, 5/10/2010, 5:38 p.m.  The winds died down some and I went back to The Grove to verify the plant and blossom.  It is not a Mariposa Lily.  It is a Wine Cup (Callirhoe digitata). When I investigated the Wine Cup in the field, I did not separate its petals to count them, but rather relied on the photograph exclusively when I got back to the house.  Brenda looked at it and had a question about the stamens and pistil form, but did concur with my first conclusion.

When I went back down to the grove a few minutes ago, I separated the petals to determine if there were three or five or however many.  Three petals would be the Mariposa.

Wine Cup (Poppy Mallow), May 2010, Photo 2

As you can clearly see in the Photo 2 of Wine Cup (Poppy Mallow), there are five petals.  I also carefully delineated the stem structure and it seems to be C. involucrata (Nutt.) [Wills and Irwin, Roadside Flowers of Texas, p. 153-154].

This plant also goes by Finger poppy-mallow, Poppy mallow, Standing winecup, Wine cup or Winecup.


Filed under Field Log, Plants and Shrubs