Paul Mathews Prairie is a rare remnant of unplowed Texas Blackland Prairie and one of my favorite places to study grassland birds. The reason, I suppose, is because it has remained unchanged for thousands of years and still erupts each year in a riot of colorful wildflowers as it has for centuries. Tall grasses once covered much of the Great Plains and hosted dozens of bird species that have declined dramatically following the destruction of the prairie after the Civil War. Today the tallgrass prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Only a few postage-stamp-size refuges remain.
I keep coming back to the Paul Mathews Prairie because it is a link to the birds that once inhabited that lost world. As I walk through the tall grass, I can’t help but think about how things used to be when prairie stretched in all directions, prairie-chickens danced on their leks, and buffaloes were followed by what could be called Brown-headed “Buffalobirds.” It may be missing a few elements, but it is all we have. It’ll have to do. For now. — Matt White
Matt White is the author of Birds of Northeast Texas and Prairie Time: A Blackland Portrait, both from Texas A&M University Press. He teaches U.S. and Texas history at Paris Junior College in Paris, Texas.