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Pictures From the Parallel Forest



Late Afternoon Is Creeping To Dusk Across The Plains And The Sky, The Ground, The Mountains Are Moving. Copper clouds swirl and eddy like a celestial lava lamp. Near the road, biscuit-colored rocks skitter this way and that, before freezing in place to show they are, in fact, prairie dogs. On the brittle grassland, the massive hunched shoulders of three grazing bison reflect the same jagged silhouettes as the boulders fading to purple in the distance.

Amid the hubbub, on the eastern side of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, a stand of evergreens appears an island of calm.

In the grove, the trees share three things in common: They are Eastern Red Cedar. They are exactly 102 years old. And each and every one was supposed to be a fencepost.

Yet for more than a century they have survived. They have escaped the ax. Been spared by tornadoes. Weathered drought. Infestations. Ice storms. Wildfires.

In the spring of 1912, under the direction of superintendent Frank Rush, 20,000 small trees were planted to provide wood for future park projects.

Oklahoma had been a state for not quite five years, and the Plains were at the verge of a changing era. Geronimo had been buried in the earth of Comanche County just three years earlier, at nearby Fort Sill; the body of the Comanches’ last war chief, Quanah Parker, followed in 1911. World War I was two years away. Headlines of the sinking of the Titanic dominated the news.

The tiny trees were planted exactly six feet apart on a rectangular plot 600 feet by 1,200 feet. The idea was to place them close enough together that the trees would have to grow up rather than out, making for tall timber with few lower branches. And they did.

But the trees ended up within the boundaries of the refuge’s public use area, and were never cut.

The undertaking was officially called the Cedar Planting.

Today it is known by a different name: The Parallel Forest.

The row-by-row trees remain more or less intact: 100 rows in one direction, 200 in the other. The grove occupies 16 acres of the refuge’s acreage of 59,020.

There is no sign indicating where it is. On busy days, there is an impromptu parking lot by the side of Highway 115, the road to Meers, as the curious venture through the prairie grass and into the darkened forest.

Maybe it is the unexpected symmetry of the forest that is appealing. Or maybe it is the stories of mysterious happenings: tales of ancient drums echoing through the trees, whispers of ghosts, Indian maidens, floating orbs, rituals performed around the ruins of a nearby mill.

The tree canopy blocks much of the light, which dapples the forest floor, made of packed dirt and tufts of grass. Trails wind through the woods. Though the spaces between the trees are wide and the trunks themselves are small, the other visitors in the forest cannot be seen. Disembodied voices ricochet around.  Loud growling noises made by grownups bounce off the trees, to the delight of kids, who shriek and giggle in a mixture of joy and fear. Hikers try out their Tarzan yells. Dogs on leashes bark.

Between the rows, rogue oak trees have taken hold here and there. Fallen branches mar the symmetry. But still, the place feels like a forest set expecting the arrival of a music video crew at any time.

The voices fade and eventually disappear. In the quiet, the trees sway almost imperceptibly, creaking gently. I move around, sizing up photo possibilities in the fading light.

Until a distinct feeling settles in: I’m being watched.

I stand still, then scan the columns of trees. Nothing.

A twig snaps to my left.

I freeze.

One of the low branches begins to move, followed by another. They float together, traveling in parallel four feet above the forest floor.

A long back and tail swish by. The branches are the horns of a stray longhorn, flickering white between the trees.

She looks ruefully at me and lumbers away, melting silently into the darkness.

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Editor’s Note: This is the 19th installment in a continuing series as author and photographer M.J. Alexander chronicles her travels across the state of Oklahoma.

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Calendar

September 2018

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

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This year will mark the eighth time the John F. Kennedy Awards have been celebrated, honoring individuals making a significant contribution to Oklahoma, its communities and its people, while paying...

Cost: $300

Where:
Skirvin Hilton Hotel
1 Park Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Santa Fe Family Life Center
Telephone: 405-840-1817
Contact Name: James Timberlake
Website »

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

More information

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

A fabulous art auction to raise money to help support Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO.

Cost: $100

Where:
CHK|Central Boathouse
732 Riversport Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO
Telephone: 405.974.3791
Contact Name: Heather Bryant
Website »

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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

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Join supporters in communities across the nation for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This family-friendly event raises funds to support the...

Cost: $10 for adults or children six and older

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive
Oklahoma City , OK  73116
View map »


Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

Let’s end childhood cancer. Together! This September, supporters across the country will unite to participate in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, an exciting, family-friendly...

Cost: $10 for Registration

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S Lake Hefner Dr
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
View map »


Sponsor: ALSAC St. Jude Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

Show More...
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