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Poppy and the Zoo

in memory of Ernest Leroy Ferrin

Those forty acres are called The Zoo;
the name threw me as a child:
I expected caged animals when my grand-dad took me along,
but the Zoo was just Kansas bottomland
with Mule Creek running under cottonwoods
'round the edge of a field at the base of some bluffs,
the highest point of ground around.

Pop is buried now up on that hill,
Grandma Nellie beside him,
where the dead of Wilmore are gathered.
But, spring and summer, when I was young,
Poppy circled the Zoo on his Farmall tractor,
pulling earth-polished plowshares
as earth crested in three waves,
then fell in furrows behind us.

I'd ride along and hop off for arrowheads he'd spot,
bits of flint that once flew
and were then lost and forgotten.

"Indians camped here", he explained,
"They came for the bottomland,
the crick and the bluffs, same as us".

And we'd ride home on the curving dirt road,
rolling and rattling over the hills near Wilmore,
his battered Jeep pickup barely faster than a mule.

Some nights he'd spread his arrowheads
out all at once and show me
the big, long ones for animals,
the tiny ones for birds,
the iron trade arrowheads
from when the white men came,
the heavy lead slugs from buffalo guns...

Then he'd put the artifacts back in a cigar box
and lean back in his chair to twist the radio dial,
searching through whine and static for music and voices

while, outside, tree frogs croaked a ragged chorus,
and catalpa leaves rustled high overhead.

-- by Jerry D. Ferrin

Satellite view of the north end of Wilmore, Comanche County, Ks, USGS photograph.

An arrowhead found by Ernest L. Ferrin at 'The Zoo', actual size: 1 & 1/2 inches by 7/8 inches, collection of Jerry Ferrin. At left: An arrowhead found by Ernest L. Ferrin at 'The Zoo', actual size: 1 & 1/2 inches by 7/8 inches, collection of Jerry Ferrin.

In the course of researching my family history, I corresponded for years with Evelyn Reed, who was the Coldwater Librarian at the time and is an amateur archealogist as well as a historian.

Her request that I interview Dad about The Zoo led very directly to the writing of Poppy and the Zoo because the pieces of the poem just sort of fell into place once I'd typed the transcript of the interview. Poppy and the Zoo is also published on the Kansas State Library website.

In 1989, The Kansas Archeology Training Program (KATP), a cooperative effort of the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS) and the Kansas Anthropological Association (KAA) conducted a "dig" just north of "The Zoo" at what is now known as the Comanche County Booth Site (14CM406).

During the 1989 KATP event, 130 KAA members volunteered approximately 5,590 hours in the study of this Middle Ceramic period Wilmore complex site.

Reported in: William B. Lees and John D. Reynolds (1989) "Fifteenth Annual Training Program Dig Held in Comanche County," Kansas Preservation 11(6):6-7; William B. Lees (1990) Chronological Placement of the Booth Site: Implications for the Wilmore Complex and Southern Plains Culture History; Martin Stein (1991) "Booth Site Provides Preservation Example," Kansas Preservation 13(2):5-7. Report on file, Archeology Office, Kansas State Historical Society; C. Tod Bevitt (1999) "An Archeologist's Notebook: The Wilmore Complex of the Middle Ceramic Period on the Southern High Plains of South-Central and Southwest Kansas," Kansas Preservation 21(1):5-7, 12; and C. Tod Bevitt (1999) "Life on the High Plains Border: Archeological Investigation of Three Late Prehistoric Habitation Sites in Southwest Kansas," The Kansas Anthropologist 20:1-xxx.

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This web page was created by Jerry Ferrin on August 28th, 2001. Last update: 15 June 2008.