21-Oct-2007 -- This one is for Dad. Fifteen days before, my father left this Earth. He always appreciated ordinary landscapes and loved to travel. For me, the confluence project provides an excellent glimpse into these ordinary landscapes. He would regularly check with me on how many confluences I had visited, as I would check with him on how many golf courses he had played. I always wanted to bring him to a confluence point, and so I dedicate this one to you, Dad.
We were in Oklahoma for the annual National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) conference. As 550 geography educators were gathered to discuss and learn about the latest geography education techniques, including field work and geotechnologies, it seemed only fitting that a confluence trek should cap off the events. For the past five years, I had attempted a confluence visit during each of the NCGE conferences, beginning with the ill-fated slog through the marsh at the Great Salt Lake that Shannon White and I lived to tell about, and ending with last year's choppy but successful boat ride that Barbaree Duke and I took to the middle of Lake Tahoe. This year would be entirely different: A Trek over the Great Plains.
We left the NCGE conference at around 10:00am, dropping Shannon off at the OKC airport, and then driving south on Interstate Highway 35 to Purcell. We drove east on Oklahoma State Highway 39, stopping at one of Lilia and my favorite places, a Sonic Drive-In. Here, we raised the eyebrows of the manager when we took some photographs documenting our adventure. After a wonderful brunch, we passed a wildlife refuge, a large prison, farms, and ranches, all the while listening to the perfect music that I had selected just for this occasion: Western Swing, from Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Bob and his band played all over this area of the world and regularly broadcast their music from a radio station in Tulsa. We crossed Highway 102 and slowed down for the final two miles on the state highway. The land cover became a bit more wooded but the terrain still largely flat with a few rolling hills near the drainages. We turned north on a gravel section line road, N3370, drove one mile, and then parked a bit to the east of the intersection of this road and E1390 Road. We climbed over a gate and had an easy stroll of about 30 meters to the confluence point, arriving about 11:35am local time.
The confluence lies on ground sloping 5 degrees to the south, in the northwestern corner of a field. The field was likely grazed in the past, but now the grasses were left to grow. A small reservoir, likely for livestock, lay about 80 meters to the south, framed by some cottonwood and other trees. The landscape was dotted with oil storage and pumping equipment, some of it working, and some of it ancient. As a previous visitor noted, the area is home to several Native American tribes. This confluence point reflects what I call Essential Oklahoma: Oil, Agriculture, Native Americans, Windy, Wonderful, with Wide views in all directions. We saw a few birds and distant cattle, but no people, and no vehicles, although a few distant farmhouses were in view. The skies were bright and clear, temperature about 70 F (21 C). I kept thinking about the people who still lived here, 70 years after the Dust Bowl hit this area hard, and wondered how they were doing. One has to admire them!
I had not been to an Oklahoma confluence in a few years and so it was terrific to return. I had visited 35 North a few times, in New Mexico and in North Carolina, and I had stood on 97 West in the past, in Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. We lingered for about 15 minutes, taking images and videos, and walked back to the vehicle. It was such an easy point to reach that we turned to the north, hoping to reach 36 North 97 West before we had to leave for the airport.
It's good to get out into the country, particularly the Great Plains. As we left, Bob Wills sang, "That's What I Like About the South." Dad, you would have liked this one.