Jen poses next to the Bonnie and Clyde stone near Gibbsland, LA.
Day two started bright and early in Shreveport. Coffee in hand, we continued through town towards Bossier City and Barksdale Air Force Base to see the home of one of our former Legacy Club members, Ruth Tupper. Miss Ruth lived in a meager home behind Barksdale Golf Course and was an ardent supporter of The Nature Conservancy in Louisiana. She grew almost everything she consumed, recycled before it was the normal thing to do, and collected and then sold the golf balls from the course in her backyard. I never had the pleasure of meeting Miss Ruth, but I know from the stories about her that she was unforgettable and definitely “walked the walk” when it comes to conservation.
Later that morning we met up with Dan Weber, the Program Director for our Northwest Louisiana Programs. Dan and I rode out to Bayou Dorcheat together, talking about his work, my work, our common interests and our hopes for TNC in the next few years. About 30 minutes later we arrived at Bayou Dorcheat, a 1,140-acre preserve about 20 miles north of Minden, LA. In order to view more of the preserve in the limited time we had, all three of us loaded up onto Dan’s ATV and we rode down a trail along the upper bank of Bayou Dorcheat. The forests there are a mix of pine and hardwoods and you can tell that portions of the forest have never been clear cut.
We stopped after 10 minutes or so and walked to a beaver pond, which I never would have guessed if I hadn’t been told. It looked so natural. Cypress knees poked up out of the water and even though I didn’t find any alligators, I did see two turtles cruising around. I think what amazed me the most though was the quiet – nothing but birds chirping, water trickling and insects buzzing. I don’t hear too much of that in Baton Rouge and it was a really nice change of pace.
That afternoon Don and I traveled east along I-20 and then went south down to Gibbsland, LA to see the Bonnie and Clyde monument. It must be quite famous, seeing as how pieces have been chipped away and it has suffered a few gunshot wounds over the years. Next, we tried to find a piece of property near Kepler Lake in Bienville Parish that has ideal conditions for the federally endangered Louisiana Pine Snake, but couldn’t find any roads that would lead us into the area. We gave up the hunt and enjoyed the hills of Louisiana (who knew there were hills in Louisiana?) on our way to Ruston.
In Ruston, we stayed at the home of Dr. Johnny and Karen Armstrong at Wafer Creek Ranch. They are Legacy Club members as well as donors of a conservation easement on a large portion of their property. Almost immediately upon arrival, Johnny herded Don and me into his truck to show us the property. I learned that day that there are certain grasses that people go crazy for, like Latimore and the American chaffseed. For Johnny it’s Little Blue Stem. He was as excited as a little kid on Christmas morning when he found it growing on his land. He was constantly in and out of his truck, showing us the different grasses and trees. I am impressed with how much restoration work Johnny has done on his property and it’s evident how much he loves it. Dinner with the Armstrong’s was a fun, family affair around the kitchen counter, with Johnny almost setting off the smoke detector in the kitchen while heating tortillas and amazing guacamole that Karen made. I truly felt at home with these wonderful people who have made a place in their lives and their hearts for the work that TNC does.