…Texas was clothed with grasses and decorated with beautiful wildflowers. Bouquets of them. Canvases of them. Hillsides of them. Landscape after landscape of them. We call them prairies—and they exist today in snippets of our imagination or in isolated pockets that bear little resemblance to their ancestors. Each year a few more slip away—silently as if in the dead of night—and almost no one notices or even cares. And when they go it’s like we’ve torn another chapter from the history book. Most are victims of a quixotic caprice coupled with a profound cultural lack of understanding about their significance. But mostly it’s money that destroys them.
Ironically it was money that saved most of them in the first place. To the early pioneers the luxuriant tall grasses were money in the—if not the bank—then the barn. Following Old World traditions the grasses were cut, which usually in Texas was around the Forth of July. Then it was baled and stacked in the barn to feed to the livestock in winter. In this way small wafer-like patches of the original grassland palette were preserved. Other areas that were too steep, or too rocky have also missed the plow.
But today the value of the grasses and flowers can never match what will replace it. Retail development, warehouses, even agriculture—but the result is the same.
We need to market the prairie. We need to reimagine and reinterpret what it was and why it mattered and how the prairie contributed to our economic success. And we need to explain that we leave future generations impoverished when they disappear on our watch. This is because most of us have never seen and can’t imagine what we’ve lost. Now is the time.