The Cimarron River cuts through the Selman Ranch out west of Oklahoma City, and my blog buddy TR From The Faraway, Nearby and I got out there for a two day trip to scout prairie chicken habitat for the painting I’ll be doing for the Lek Treks and More Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival in nearby Woodward. Selman Ranch is a 14,000 acre working ranch with a guest house, lesser prairie chicken leks and an ardently conservationist owner, Sue Selman. The ranch has been in her family for 100 years and she’s working hard to keep it going, to preserve it from development and from the wind power industry that’s encroaching on the hills and ridgetops all around her, fencing in the wide open spaces with giant pickets of spinning turbines.
It’s a beautiful, peaceful place. Good for listening to the Western meadowlarks singing far below the bluffs where you stand watching the sun rise and shivering in the February wind. Where deer bounce away with their white tails flipped up as Sue’s pickup truck bounces along the rutted dirt road between the rolling swells of shortgrass prairie hills. Where the threatened lesser prairie chickens still dance on their leks in the spring as they have for eons.
Sue is amazingly well-versed in the ecology of her land; she can tell you why a heavy grasshopper year and sand-plum thickets will benefit the quail population, she knows where the snowy plovers and least terns nest, she can show you the exact places where a thousand generations of lesser prairie chickens have stomped down the grass and made themselves a dance-floor. She can take you out to see the spectacular scenery she has kept whole under her good stewardship and tell you the history, natural and human, of this magnificent land. Then end the evening by serving up a rare beef tenderloin with Bernaise sauce that’ll melt in your mouth. This is real Oklahoma.