baseball fields and a swimming pool, as well as
lots of sidewalks and parking lots. I was interested in its "historical attraction", and its tiny nature trail.
Allen was founded by the railroad in the 1870s as a way to try to bring business from the neighboring farms to the rail line. Although I cannot vouch for
this happening here, in other towns the rail line stops, the new towns, and the surrounding property holdings of the railroads' directors had a pleasing confluence. Nothing like serving transit and commerce while serving oneself as well, or such was the robber baron creed of that day, now blissfully entire gone :).
The Wonder of the World built in Allen which Allen Station Park still commemorates is a small dam of a small creek, built to allow capture of a water supply. The dam still stands, down a ten minute walking trail.
I parked my car in the parking lot, which was essentially empty at seven a.m. I read the sign about how desperado Sam Bass undertook the first train robbery in Texas near this very spot, in 1878. I then began hiking into the wood.
The first thing I saw was a huge field of yellow susan flowers. They created a canopy upon a little upward incline, like a quilt of greens and yellows. They were all wide open for the morning sun. As I passed, I saw a group of mourning doves searching out seed, each flitting away from me as I drew near, making a sound that was more a whirrrr than a coo-ing. I then plunged into the wood.
North Texas is largely open field with stands of mixed trees I call "scraggle forest". It is neither heavily wooded like the areas of my Arkansas youth nor denuded prairie as are the west Texas places. It is a transition zone between woods and prairie. The "scraggle forest", small, broad cedars, hackberry trees, an oak or two, a gum or two, and few understory plants, is nice but not lush or gorgeous. The forest around a creek, though, is a different story.
Texas is a land of creeks. Only one natural lake
of any size exists in Texas, the Caddo Lake on the Louisiana border, an intricate mesh of cypress knees and near-swamp. All the other lakes in Texas are man made. We make a lot of lakes here in Texas--indeed, north Texas is now promoted by the tourism officials as the "prairies and lakes" region. The anglos who settled north Texas moved here from Virginia and the Carolinas, as well as from Germany, and all seemed to imagine the perfect life to be a life of plush fishing lakes. But the creeks are the really "Texas" way of living.
The creek which runs by Allen Station Park is surrounded, as creeks tend to be, by cool, wonderful woodland. Ferns grown in the understories. Tall, cooling oaks and willows surround the creek. Walking on the Allen Station Park trail is like stepping from
a New Mexico grassland with a mall parking lot attached into a Canadian woodland. A Canada without marmots, which lasts only ten minutes. But you get the idea.
I saw red flowers with yellow tipped petals. In addition to the spring susans, the summer black eyed susans were in bloom, and in some places already past bloom. Our lush Spring has sent everything into and through bloom far earlier than usual. I don't know what will happen in August. I saw purple thistles, my favorite wildflower, standing three to five feet tall each. I heard the throaty "caw" of a huge crow off in the woods. I was entirely shaded by huge trees on either side of the trail.
It was not long before I reached the place on the trail from which one can view the dam. The dam is a small brick structure, perhaps not 20 feet in height.
The creek is in a ravine, so one "looks down" on the dam, like watching a playground, rather than looking up at a "Hoover dam" type installation. I saw a pool of water collected by the dam, and wondered if it might be fished. I did not stray off the "sidewalk/trail" to find out, though.
I soon came to the end of the small trail, which I had enjoyed thoroughly because a morning in a cool, shady place is not always a summer thing here in Texas.
Today will be in the 90s, and we have no shade trees in our corruplast card sized yard. As I turned and began to walk back, a hymn I thought about yesterday began to come out of my voice--"sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble....".
I saw a medium sized wood rat cross the trail a few yards ahead of me, intent on some goal I could not divine. I heard a loud industrial TAP TAP TAP, at rapid fire, just above me, and strained to see if
it was merely a little woodpecker or one of those awesome giant pileated woodpeckers that are so regal and noble. I could not see the woodpecker. Because I rarely miss any chance for constructive self-deprecation, I thought to myself that there was some metaphor there in how I always *know* something important is happening, but I can't quite *see* it.
As I came out of the trail, I saw a cottontail rabbit perched on the field of flowers I had seen when I came into the park. He seemed almost oblivious to me--a yearling rabbit, I'd guess, though carbon dating rabbits is not among my wisdoms. He took my breath away, but I was not breathing deeply anyway.
I remember touring the Swiss parliament in Berne some years ago. The guide said "we have no gold or diamonds in Switzerland, so we built our strong structure with granite and wood". At the time, although, as ever, impressed with her exotic sensible
European-ness, I thought her just a bit smug in her
boasts about the good old "plain Swiss people" [as an aside, my feelings of mild discomfort with her increased when at one point I listened in my atrocious but not entirely useless schoolbook German while she explained the history of the designs on each of the chairs, which cantons they represented, and what they meant, and then turned to the English speakers and said "these are nice chairs"]. But perhaps she had a point. I am prepared this morning to praise small brick dams on forgotten creeks, built to help farmers get goods to market. I'm also down for "woods rats".