Round-Ups and Rescues

Sunday, January 15, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

To Big Bend and Back, Day 11 

WICHITA FALLS, Texas— Driving west on US-70 from Ardmore this morning, the presence of dozens of "nodding donkeys" made it obvious we were in the heart of Oklahoma oil country.  Carter County plays a significant role in the state's oil industry, accounting for nearly 15% of Oklahoma production.

Cottonwood Creek oil field
Pumpjacks of all sizes were scattered across the region, from papa bear size to baby bear size, and all were laboring this Sunday morning to bring oil and gas up out of the Oklahoma soil.

Along the highway, cattle dotted the large pastures, sometime peacefully coexisting with pumpjacks in the same field.  Many of the cows were young and were separated by gender.

Boys club near Ringling, OK
Near Wilson, we found a young heifer who had skipped across the cattle gap and was hanging out within harm's reach of the highway.  When we were unable to locate any sign of a ranch house nearby, we had to take matters into our own inexperienced hands.

Fugitive out to explore the world
Noticing that this bold bovine was hanging out near the fence so she could lord it over her herdmates that she was outside and they were in, we moved toward the fence and gave the word for the herd to move back deeper into the pasture.  When they did, Miss Adventure, who really wanted to remain close to her friends, decided to end her misadventure and return to the pasture.  Good girl!  (Surprisingly, this was not to be the only cow we saved today.)

Back on the highway, we turned north in Waurika for a little trek on US-81, the Chisholm Trail Highway.  During the days of cattle drives, a hill outside Addington, Oklahoma, was a frequent stop for cowboys as they traveled over the Chisholm Trail in the period from 1867 to 1880.  The highest point in Jefferson County with a view extending 20 miles, the spot became known to drovers as Lookout Point.

Chisholm Trail Lookout Point
A monument was erected to commemorate the importance of this hill in the years of the great cattle drives when millions of longhorns were driven northward across the plains to railheads in Kansas.  And soon after the monument came a letterbox.  Planted in 2004, the box had last been reported found in 2007.  We didn't hold out too much hope for finding it after that length of time but wanted to see the location anyway.

The "mound of dirt covered by a rock" where the clue indicated the box was hidden had been buried by prairie grass, but that did not stop Ken and the Wonder Stick from unearthing the rock and beneath it, the letterbox, completely dry inside and still in pristine condition after almost eight years in the wild.

Just past Randlett, OK, we hopped onto I-44 and soon found ourselves back in Texas, searching for a letterbox near the town of Burkburnett.  On the way to the letterbox, we passed a charming group of young beefy boys in a pasture near the two-lane road.  Stopping to say hello, we persuaded the young fellows to approach the fence for a photo op.

Boys on the Hoof
In a very strange twist of fate, while we were taking photos, I noticed that one of the boys appeared to be wearing an orthodontic device.  I may no longer be a farm girl, but I was pretty sure cattle farmers hadn't started taking their steers in for teeth straightening.  A closer examination revealed that the guy in question was trying his best to eat a Budweiser can (or maybe just squeeze out every last drop).

The victim and the culprit
After convincing him that aluminum was not something his diet required, we were able to extract the can and move it away from the fence.  Another beast bailed out of danger.  Lest you think this was our last save of the day, read on.

Moving south to Wichita Falls, we visited Lucy Park along the Wichita River to search for a couple of letterboxes.  After finding the second box, we walked on down the trail to visit the falls.  When we read a plaque presented by the city of Niagara Falls, NY, congratulating the city on the "rebirth" of the falls, we were compelled to learn more.

The reborn Wichita "Falls"
In an event which could not have been predicted, an 1886 flood destroyed the original falls on the Wichita River for which the city was named.  After nearly 100 years of trying to explain to visitors that the falls no longer existed, the city built an artificial waterfall beside the river in Lucy Park in 1987.  Gee, and it looked so natural.

As we were returning to our car from the falls, we encountered a couple taking photos beside the river.  Twenty yards upstream, we saw a four-year-old boy carrying a stick and edging his way down a slope to the river bank.  Before he had the chance to get close, we called to the couple, and the man ran over and scooped up the boy, denying him the opportunity to explore whether he could reach the water with his nice new stick.  Our final save of the day.

Wichita River
ROAD NOISE:
  • Rest Area:  As we were driving on Eva Road in Addington, OK, a pasture we were approaching appeared to be littered with clumps of white and dark gray.  When we reached the scene, we realized that we were looking at thousands of Canada geese, greylag geese and snow geese.  We assume they were migrating to another location and had selected this pasture as a staging area or a spot to take a break from all that flapping.
  •  All that Glitters:  From I-44 north of Wichita Falls, we observed sparkling hillocks near a large manufacturing plant.  A closer examination revealed that we were seeing was crushed glass at PPG's Wichita Falls plant, which manufactures flat glass for use in residential and commercial markets. The plant began operations in 1974 with more than 1,400 employees manufacturing, stacking, and carefully inspecting the sheets of glass produced.  Now the same work is done by 300 workers assisted by laser and other technologies.

DAILY STATS:
  • Started in Ardmore, OK; ended in Wichita Falls, TX
  • Weather:  Sunny, 36° to 63°
  • Miles driven: 144          (Trip total:  1,802)
  • States: 2 (TX, OK)          (Trip total:  6)
  • Letterboxes found:  4         (Trip total:  49)
  • Oil pumpjacks:  780 
  • Cattle:  5,287
  • Geese in pasture:  56,209
More Photos from Today
Ken and the Wonder Stick