Day 3

29 May

Having spent a good part of the day in Kansas, I begin to wonder why Dorothy was so eager to get back here.

Part of this day was spent in Oklahoma. Oklahoma begins as part of the South and ends as the West. As we left Tulsa behind, we thought we might take a quick tour of Pawnee Bill’s retirement ranch and mansion. In case no bell rings when you hear the name Pawnee Bil, he was the poor man’s Buffalo Bill, though the two of them were partners in a Wild West Show for a time. (Pawnee, who was younger than Buffalo, called the older man “an irresponsible boy.” Their partnership did not last.) Pawnee Bill retired to Pawnee, Oklahoma (natch) and started a ranch which has now become a nice museum, arena, and mansion (large house.) Tours are available. However, if you are not a died-in-the-wool Pawnee Bill fan, you may be able to skip this side trip and save some time.

Next, we traveled farther and farther west through lots and lots of Oklahoma. In its eastern part, Oklahoma has the Ouachita Mountains. Farther along, there are hills and forests, then, almost as you round a curve, Oklahoma becomes the Great Plains. They really are not all that great, but they are plain.

This rather featureless geography continued west until somewhere past Enid, with no signs or warnings, a group of mesas or buttes appeared, “towering” 200 or so feet above the plains. We were in the Glass (Gloss) Mountains, a geographic area more like, I suspect, Utah than Oklahoma.

We stopped at what Oklahoma calls a State Park — no Visitors Center, no trinkets, no post cards, no snacks — just a gate and a semi-paved parking lot with an explanatory sign and a trail leading to the top of one of the buttes. (Is this where Georgia is headed?)

The sign did explain the geology and name of these mountains. They have a hard gypsum layer on top that has prevented erosion and which causes the hills to shine at certain slants of sunlight. An early United States surveying and cartographic group in the area had a member who was English. He supposedly said one morning, as the sun reflected off a nearby butte, “These are “glaws,” meaning “glass,” mountains. One of the secretaries dutifully wrote down “Gloss Mountains” as the name for the group. Ever after, some maps list Gloss Mountains and some list Glass Mountains. The official Oklahoma Road Map lists both. Whichever you prefer, the Gloss (Glass) Mountains make for an interesting few miles.

Later, as we turned north toward Kansas, a new feature broke the monotony of the plains. At a distance, giant aliens, resembling those creatures in War of the Worlds, appeared. As we got closer, these aliens became clearer. They were windmills, three-bladed, modern, T.-Boone-Pickens, giant windmills; dozens and dozens of them, vaguely sentient and foreboding, all turning at the same stately pace, and we in their midst. I felt as if they were trying to communicate. Well, maybe I am anticipating our visit to Roswell on the trip home.

We finally made it to Dodge City. Marshall Dillon, Chester, Doc Stone, Miss Kitty, Quint, Festus. Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday. It was not exactly what I expected, but in some ways, it was more. I was a big Gunsmoke fan.

Can you identify this flower?


Or this one? (I can’t.)

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