Cooper and I slip into the Llano Estacado in stealth mode. Our daybreak journey intends to surprise prairie denizens engaged in their daily survival rituals. A gentle southwesterly breeze barely affects the gray, foggy overcast stretching as far as the eye can see. Air temperatures hover in the mid-fifties. Weather forecaster predict what seems an unlikely record high of 82°F.
We slog across the damp prairie with nary a prairie dweller in sight. They evade every effort of my search patterns. At times Cooper alerts on airborne scents and investigates. His eager dashes roust swarms of birds. Western Meadow Larks, Mourning Doves and a variety of sparrows are particularly active. A noticeable increase in the number of Prairie Pocket Gopher mounds hinders steady footing. As urban sprawl displaces natural predators, they thrive. I proceed with caution.
On our journey we encounter one of Cooper’s canine pals, Pola, a Coonhound. They convince a large Jack Rabbit to play “catch me if you can.” The rabbit’s speed and evasive maneuvers prove too much to handle.
A note of cautious optimism hangs in the prairie winds. Signs of emerging flora are few and far between. We remain in drought conditions. Nevertheless, Cholla and Prickly Pear Cacti have lost their reddish, shriveled winter appearance and turn dark green. Plains Yucca leaves don distinctive lemon yellow late-winter robes. These golden daggers will soon bend to the ground and dry out, thus clearing the way for new foliage and flower stalks. The resurrection of the yucca progresses.
An elm thicket ahead peaks my curiosity. Immature Siberian Elm seeds still dominate the appearance of the robust saplings and trees. Their green coloration and density on the branches gives the appearance of leaves. Now first leaves make their appearance. The tree is of Asian origin, first introduced to North America in the aftermath of the Dustbowl. Its drought tolerance and fast growth rate make it an ideal windbreak cultivar. It flowers very early in spring and self-pollinates.
© Ilija Lukić 2011
|Resurrection (ulmus pumila, winged seeds)|
|Late-Winter Yucca Robes (Cooper)|
|Daybreak Trail (Cooper)|
|Cautious Optimism (Siberian Elm)|