Friday, March 2, 2007


Between Pampa and Perryton in the Texas Panhandle is a long stretch of native grassland. It is part of the area that burned in the big fire last year. The summer rains though, helped the grass to recover nicely.

I enjoy the drive across that stretch because I like to watch for the antelope. I count them. I guess it's impulsive behavior, but I always count to see how many there are that I can spot from the highway as I pass by at 70 mph. Today I counted 24 of them.

Almost any time of year I will see them. They are usually scattered in groups of 4 or 5 up to 15 or 20. I think the most I ever remember counting for the whole stretch was a little over 50 of them.

That stretch of grassland makes it easier to imagine what it must have been like before this country was settled. The buffalo trails of history have been replaced by the cattle trails of today, but otherwise, I suspect it looks the way the earliest settlers saw the Plains.

The Panhandle was one of the last bastions of the Plains Indians. The last Indian battle in the Panhandle was fought in 1876. That was only 131 years ago. This is a young country.

I think that recent taming of the land is evident in the people of the Panhandle. It is why they are friendlier and more ready to lend a helping hand than people in many parts of the country. It is because of the generational memory of the survival behavior of the pioneers that settled here. It is the memory of 10 miles to the nearest neighbor; helping each other with the round-up, or the harvest; the loneliness of the women, mid-wiving because the doctor was two days away, and the rare trips to town for supplies.

The wide-open country produces good people. It seems that it is where folks are pressed together in cities that most of our country's problems occur. I think God made us to need a little space. Sure, we need each other and we seek each other's company, but we also need to be able to get away by ourselves where we can commune with our Maker. I suspect the Pioneers found it a lot easier to depend on Him when there wasn't anyone else around to depend on.

I imagine that most people are a little like me and need some "alone" time every once in a while. Maybe that's why I enjoy that lonely stretch of highway. It helps me to keep things in perspective.

No comments: