Pioneer Prairie in Mesquite is no more. The big machines are busy erasing every trace of the steep hillsides and the topography of that ancient prairie.
A month ago they shaved the grasses and the trees and the topsoil. Soon a giant warehouse will sit astride the site.
For at least half a century, prairie enthusiasts have visited this 100 acre tract at the corner of Interstates 30 and 635 in Mesquite hoping it be set aside as a legacy to our past.
When I was about ten years old I read an article published about her in the old Dallas Times Herald. This was probably my first introduction to the idea that land that had never been plowed provided a tangible link to another time.
It sparked my imagination. But since I never knew her exact location, I was never able to get to know her.
Years later I passed by and recognized the grasses and wildflowers as indications of an earlier time, so I introduced myself and spent twenty years roaming her steep slopes. I am thankful for those years. I have a wealth of memories (and photos) I hope to share eventually as memorials to a place that existed once where it was not wanted or appreciated; it’s deep black soil–its very soul–a loathsome wildness that needed taming.
The poet Hart Crane wrote about “a sail flung into April’s inmost day.” I think about those words when I recall the humid afternoon these photographs were taken on that grassy knoll–no not that one–a few years ago. It’s a lost landscape now. Gone forever.
Often growing on gullied and eroded prairies and outcrops of limestone, Pioneer Prairie hosted the beautiful Woolly Loco, Oxytropis lambertii, here at the very eastern edge of its range from the Rocky Mountains out into the Great Plains.
Closely related to the milkvetch family in the genus Astragalus, it is distinguished by minor floral details. I love the color and the way the clusters of bonnets swing in the breeze atop those little stalks.
This April they will not return like they have for centuries. It’s a shame.
Good bye to a prairie!