28-Oct-2001 -- Myself, a weather software programmer;
Daphne Zaras, National Severe Storms Lab webmaster;
and her husband Jim LaDue, NEXRAD radar instructor,
had just visited a confluence point to the south. We decided to try
one more, moving about 70 miles north through desolate rangeland
populated by abandoned homes and the shells of what were once thriving towns.
Nowhere else was the emigration away from rural USA into the cities
more apparent than here. The final twenty miles we encountered only [one]
other vehicle on the road, making this area about as lonely as it gets.
We crossed the Canadian River on a secondary road. Thankfully the
bridge was in great shape as the only other crossings were over
twenty minutes away. Sand on the roads threatened to high-center
the car a couple of times, but we escaped being marooned.
Passing a pipeline pumping station, the roads got much better and we
stopped just 0.25 miles west
of the confluence alongside a recently harvested hay field. The
field, which is conservation-tilled, contained only the stubs of
old grass and had not yet been subjected to the inevitable pre-winter
plowing. This combined to give us an incredibly easy hike
without having to worry about stepping on crops. Bordering the
field to the north was virgin grassland, and at the summit was a
solar-powered watering trough. Loitering around it were over a
dozen black cows. The proximity of the confluence to the cows made
me nervous, and I was scanning the herd from a distance to see if
there were any bulls. Understandably so, since in this region I've
occasionally seen bulls guarding fencelines, snorting and kicking up
clouds of dust. My grandfather grew up in central Texas
and used to talk about the mean bulls that would chase him up trees
and keep him there all day!
We stepped over the short cattle fence and walked directly east.
The spent grass was barely an inch high and the ground was
well-packed, so we only had to watch out for the cow pies. As we
got within 50 meters of the confluence, the cows at the watering
trough began getting restless and abandoned their hangout to approach
us. I still didn't see anything threatening; however standing in
a wide-open field with a huge group of unfamiliar cows moving
towards you definitely gets the adrenalin going!
Once at the confluence we quickly got our readings and obligatory
photos as the cows closed in from the northeast. The confluence
itself was highly exposed, commanding an excellent view of the
surrounding field and the sky. Other than the dark farming dirt
underneath, there was nothing remarkable about the spot at all,
and the only structures to be seen were the water trough and the
distant pumpline station. We could see beautiful mesas on the
horizon to the south-southeast, which are the Antelope Hills
twelve miles away on on the other side of the Canadian River.
With all tasks done,
we started back toward the car, with me walking more slowly than
Jim and Daphne so we didn't trigger any canine [bovine?] chase instincts!
We made it back to the fence, and checking behind us I saw that
the cows didn't bother following us very far. Another successful
confluence! We topped out the evening with Italian food at
the Macaroni Grill in Oklahoma City.