22-Nov-2013 -- I had been in the region for the entire week, conducting workshops, keynote addresses, and in meetings for GIS Day at 2 campuses of Texas A&M University. GIS is Geographic Information Systems. Its computer mapping and analysis capabilities are showcased every year by organizations such as government agencies, nonprofit organizations, private companies, and universities and schools as to what they have accomplished with GIS, and to help others understand what it is and why it is relevant to 21st Century decision making. This is all viewable on http://www.gisday.com. Now I had a bit of time to practice what I preach; namely, getting out in the field. Unfortunately, the day had dawned with wind, rain, sleet, and snow with a major winter event looming. Because of the weather, I delayed my departure for awhile for this confluence. I worked in the hotel in Greenville, Texas, until Noon, when I decided to venture out despite the conditions. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
On this day, and indeed, at this very minute, exactly 50 years before, USA President John F. Kennedy was setting out from Love Field in Dallas to his motorcade that would take him downtown, and would sadly not make it out of the city alive. All of this was not far from where I was located today, and today the radio was filled with broadcasts from the crowd that had gathered at the site in downtown Dallas to commemorate the event. This, combined with today's gray murky conditions, made for a rather melancholy trek to the northwest on US Highway 69. I turned northeast on State Highway 121 to Bonham, and then north on State Highway 78, stopping briefly in the rain at a historical marker before crossing into Oklahoma. Almost nobody, understandably, was walking around today, although apparently a crowd gathered in downtown Dallas at that very time to commemorate JFK. At this point the landscape became even more interesting as I took a series of section line roads, stair-stepping to the northeast to the community of Bennington. Once there, I found a picture-perfect abandoned gas station and took a series of photographs and a video, despite the rain. Much of the town had been abandoned as well. I marveled at the crazy angles porches and roofs had become along the street.
Next, I drove north on the town's main street to Winter's Creek Road. It was muddy with the conditions and I gingerly made my way under quite an amazing railroad trestle. I am rather fond of bridges of all types. In about 5 more minutes, I drove south along the driveway that according to the satellite image, might provide the shortest access to the point. One never knows quite what to expect in these situations, driving up to someone's house unannounced. But, time after time, I have met extremely nice people, and I was not to be disappointed here. At the south end of the long driveway, I stopped. The rain had picked up a bit. I knocked and stood there for awhile. Then, I walked a bit to the east and tapped on the sliding glass door. I was sorry to notice that I startled the landowner inside. There probably were not too many unannounced visitors out here, and when he came to the door, I apologized and explained the reason for my visit. When I found out that he had been a science educator, and I work frequently with science educators, we developed a rapport and were on friendly terms. After he granted me access, I invited him to accompany me; he declined but offered me his All Terrain Vehicle. Having never been on one, I politely declined but thanked him. I set off to the south, over the gate and past the barn, through the field and down the lane.
The landowner's herd of Brahman cattle watched me as I walked. These were quite unique looking, and they have been imported from India and are not uncommon now in the USA. I passed by them in the field to the south and continued down the slope. After crossing the gully, I ascended a field of grass and followed a barbed wire fence to the next gully, which was at least 30 meters wide and 10 meters deep. I was hoping the confluence was not on the other side. I gingerly followed the rim of the gully, fell once on the rope-like vines, and then passed by a trail that led into the gully. I did not need it as the GPS kept me on the near side. I found the confluence after a short walk to the northwest, having made a rather oblong circle. Strange that I was not able to navigate directly to the point despite holding a smartphone and a GPS simultaneously.
I therefore found the confluence point on nearly flat ground in the grassy field, just downslope from a large hill, about 10 meters south of one of the arms of the gully. The temperature was about 40 F and cooling off, but fortunately I reached the confluence before the rains began again in earnest. I had been to 96 West several times before, from Minnesota on the north to Texas on the south, and to 34 North from California on the west to North Carolina on the east. This was my first visit to 34 North 96 West and about my 8th confluence point in Oklahoma; a nice respectable sum! Due to the conditions, I only spent about 10 minutes on site, and began to walk back a different, and what I hoped, more direct way.
At this point I became a bit disoriented. I know that may sound a bit odd - holding a GPS enabled smartphone in one hand AND a GPS receiver in another, and both hands connected to arms that were connected to a geographer's body, to boot. I found myself at an unfamiliar place and gully, and heading back to the wrong house. After I skirted the gully, I found the correct path back to the correct house. The magnificent Brahman cattle were smart - they were all under the awning of the barn, looking at me while I passed by. The landowner drove up and said he had been looking for me, and cautioned me driving that afternoon because of impending icy conditions. He was indeed very kind and I wished him all the best and thanked him again. This was a wonderful confluence point although I am sure I would have enjoyed it a bit more under a sunny sky. While driving back to Bennington, I filmed a movie driving under the railroad trestle. Once in town, I drove north to US Highway 70, and then east, hoping to achieve a successful visit to 34 North 95 West before the ice and before dark. Would I make it?