Jun 15, 2013

Prairie Pow Wow

Every other Sunday afternoon, we hang out with Quincy for a couple hours.  We wanted to try something new, I'd heard good things about Prairie City's 5,600 acre Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge.  Starving, what a coinky-dink the prairie happens to be in the same town as Goldie's.  Fill 'er up on tenderloins and shakes, Q wanted milk.

my cholesterol shrank from 255 to 205 this year, thank you very much

 They chalked their mark on the way out, notice how she signed.

Time to play Oregon Trail, the blacktop slithered for 4 miles through prairie grass towards the learning center.  The raw grasses were only a few feet high this early in the season, but will soon touch 10 ft.

It was a Midwest monsoon that day, gray with 30 mph wind grinding the rain.

Wide eyed walking up to the center, we expected a modest shack, not a multi-million glass box that looked like it could hock iPads.

The center is free and offers all sorts of hands on for the kids.  Plus history flicks and a walk-through tunnel where you can touch the buried layers that make up the prairie.

While they were sketching up keepsakes and playing guess that dead critter's pelt, I stared at old black and whites of what the land used to look like before man settled in.

Just as certain animals can disappear over time, so can plants go extinct if we're not careful.  The center's researchers study the vegetation that grew on these plains back when Native Americans hunted bison.  They then seed and plant old-school saplings to recreate what was mostly wiped out with the plow.

We capped our day visit with a drive down buffalo lane.  The correct nomenclature is bison, people sometimes call them American buffalo.  You can call them unicorns for all I care.

There's something about the wide open that tugs and makes me want to move out of the city towards quiet.

As we drew close to a couple dozen bison, I imagined chattering through on wooden wagon wheels 200 years ago, Pigtails asking to stop for a tinkle and bugging, "are we there yet?"  The herd on those hills would be three thousand strong back then, elk too and maybe some Dickcissels flapping around.

Pigtails saw Jurassic Park for the first time recently, we were expecting the bull to lower his head and charge the Jeep station wagon like a T-Rex.  Curls wanted to skedaddle, I shrugged, got out and shuttered some pics.

The rainy sky held us back from exploring on foot.  We already want to go back this summer, set up picnic blankets and get lost in blowing grass.  Look for more, we'll bring the camera again.  Plus a donut cushion in case I get gored.

If you're passing through Iowa this summer and looking for something to do, send me a note and I'll offer up some ideas.



  1. Wow, imagine a herd of 3000! Must have been something to see.
    I tasted bison once, one a visit to Saskatchewan, hamburger bbq :-0

    1. Bison is delicious, leaner than beef and better for the body.

      Are you able to source some high quality S. African red rooibos tea from your area? Let me know, may be interested in a trade.

  2. Anonymous6/16/2013

    Love the pictures, Beard ...makes me feel l am on vacation! The wide , sweeping prairie...so different from the streets of Anaheim, California!
    Re: the washer... I vote for the front loader. I have had both types and am a fan of conserving water. Like your description: " sips water" . ...only you could make washing sound poetic!
    Happy Father's Day! Hope you have a lovely day with Pigtails!
    Kelli from Anaheim

    1. I did have a nice Father's Day, thanks! Was glad to have my daughter back after she was away for a week with her mom for her birthday.

  3. Looks like you guys had fun, and that building is gorgeous! We just went to a prairie and fossil preserve in rockford, ia, http://www.fossilcenter.com/ HJ had a lot of fun!!

    1. I didn't know about the fossil preserve, we don't make it up to NE Iowa often, so this looks like a good excuse to head up there this summer.

      How was DSM when you passed through?

  4. Laurie W.6/17/2013

    Definitely looking for some ideas of free/inexpensive things to do while in the Des Moines area this July. My daughter and myself will be in town for her softball World Series tournament and will have some downtime in between games.Any info would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Definitely hit up the Saturday morning Downtown Farmer's Market if you can. If you like baseball, the Iowa Cubs have a nice stadium right along the DSM River. East Village downtown has local owned shops and eats (Zombie Burger), out in West Des Moines is Jordan Creek Mall if you like that sort of thing.

      Here's the calendar of July events.

      Good luck to your daughter at the softball champs!

    2. Laurie W.6/19/2013

      Thanks Beard!

  5. Just binge read your whole blog from the beginning in the last few days. Really enjoyed it and I am so glad I stumbled across it. I really commend you for the great job you are doing as a single dad raising a great well rounded daughter. You are definitely an inspiration to all us dads out there single and otherwise. Thank you for pouring your heart and soul into the pages of this wonderful blog.

    I love reading the running posts, having just caught the running bug myself. Started running and eating better mid February and have lost almost 70 lbs in that time. When people ask how I did it I tell them just eat less/better and start running. I went from running one minute at a time to now being able to run four plus miles. Just completed my first 5K and can't wait to try and beat my time. I would love a series like you did for the 5K but instead substitute a half marathon as that may be my next goal.

    Keep up the great work, thank you again for the blog.


    1. How many times did you fall asleep on the binge read?

      Keep at the running thing, sports scientists are finding it's the fountain of youth.

    2. Just once or twice. Haha!

      I'm planning on keeping up with the running, just signed up for the St. Louis half marathon in October.

    3. Let us know how StL goes, hopefully cool weather for you and I'd like to try that half or full sometime.

  6. Happy belated Father's Day, first and foremost.
    This place looks like a wonderful spot! I will add it to my "Iowa" list!


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!