I picked a couple of charitable operations that I thought would make an actual difference –– right away.
The Nature Conservancy got the nod –– partly because of the romance of it: a bunch of business people taking a scientific approach to saving wild land and wild life –– and partly because I saw its work close to home.
The Chaumont Barrens, an eerie bit of landscape from my childhood, is currently stewarded and championed by The Nature Conservancy.
We used to picnic there, little knowing that the weird rocks and odd plants were remnants from the time of the last ice age.
It was a huge project, involving local ranchers and a whole consortium of foundations and philanthropists.
The idea caught my imagination. I sent my modest donation and felt a sense of ownership when they bought the 29,000-acre Barnard Ranch, which has since become the 40,000-acre Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
I imagined the scientists gathering handfuls of seed heads and nursing them to germination with that single-minded fervor known to any gardener.
It was almost as if we didn't have to pave ALL of paradise and put up a parking lot.
The herd has grown to around 2400 head of bison. Careful use of prescribed burns and herd management has meant that the prairie has continued to rebound, sheltering prairie chickens and bunches of the usual mammals in solid numbers.
So when Captain Winnebago and I realized that we were able to make The Big Park Trip, I put Pawhuska, Oklahoma (home to The Pioneer Woman's Mercantile. Go figure.) on the list.
And if anyone doubts that truth, go on and continue driving north to the Badlands.