Thursday, March 27, 2014

Needed: Rainmaker

Watching the Hagerman NWR end of the Big Mineral arm of Lake Texoma dry up, along with other North Texas area lakes, we thought about the idea of a rainmaker.   An interesting account of rainmaking history in the late 1800’s is found on the Kansas Historical Society website, including such rainmakers “Melbourne the Rain Wizard” and later the Inter-State Artificial Rain Company. 

On Wikipedia we found this information on one of the devices purported to bring rain:  
"A cloudbuster (or cloud buster) is a device designed by Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, which Reich said could produce rain by manipulating what he called "orgone energy" present in the atmosphere.
The cloudbuster was intended to be used in a way similar to a lightning rod: focusing it on a location in the sky and grounding it in some material that was presumed to absorb orgone—such as a body of water—would draw the orgone energy out of the atmosphere, causing the formation of clouds and rain. Reich conducted dozens of experiments with the cloudbuster, calling the research "Cosmic Orgone Engineering".  Reich feuded with the U. S. FDA over his device and ended his career in federal prison. 
Practitioners of rainmaking were often showmen and an entertaining story of one these is found in William Humphreys’ book, A Time and a Place.  The story, “The Rainmaker”,  set in the 1930’s, details the events leading up to “Prof. Simm’s” narrowly escaping tarring and feathering in Oklahoma by boarding the one car ferry across the Red River just ahead of a mob angry at his failure to bring promised rain; the story ends with Simms escaping a mob of angry Texans on the same ferry, after he has “caused” a flood with his rainmaking efforts.
The 1956 movie, The Rainmaker, starred Katherine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster, who portrayed a bogus rainmaker who brought hope to his clients.  
Ceremonial prayer for rain has been practiced in a variety of cultures:  The Rhythm of the Redman describes the rain dance of the Zuni, along with other Native American dances.  Feathers and turquoise, or other blue items, are worn during the ceremony to symbolize wind and rain respectively.  Other Native Americans in the dry Southwest also have a tradition of rain dances.   As recently as 2007 a public prayer ceremony for rain was led by the then Governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue. 

With the advancement of the science of meteorology, today the term “rainmaker” merely refers to a person who brings clients or  business in for a company.   Bring on some real rain, please!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Look Back, Then Ready to Move Forward - Friends of Hagerman NWR

On Saturday, March 22, Friends members will gather at the Refuge to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year and hear the 'State of the Refuge” from Refuge management.

The present-day Friends of Hagerman NWR was organized in 2005, with this mission:
 … to instill reverence, respect and conservation of our wild creatures and habitats through supporting environmental education, recreational activities, and programs of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Sherman, Texas, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

An earlier  Friends organization operated in support of  Hagerman NWR for a number of years but later went of existence.  In 2005, the newly constituted group grew from the steering committee responsible for organizing the first Red River Valley Birding and Nature Festival, held that spring, and  the Friends have continued to grow in number, in programs offered at the Refuge, and in support of Hagerman NWR ever since. 

Here is a recap of Friends history in general directly from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website:
The first Refuge Friends organizations started in the 1980s.  Today, about 220 private, independent, nonprofit organizations build links between communities and their national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries.
Friends organizations partner with national wildlife refuges to conduct public events, teach the community about conservation, restore habitat, maintain trails, coordinate volunteers, operate nature stores and raise funds.   ( )
From its start in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has owed its very existence to concerned citizens eager to protect America's natural resources. There are now more than 200 Friends groups, with about 10 new organizations created each year. Some support a single refuge while others are connected to a refuge complex or an entire state.
Friends organizations are crucial to the collective mission of the Refuge System to conserve and protect the wildlife of this great nation. Friends organizations are essential to helping millions of Americans understand that their actions today determine the legacy we leave for tomorrow.  ( )
In 1937, the Department of the Interior Appropriations Act recognized the legal status of cooperating associations but it wasn't until the 1980s that such associations began to support National Wildlife Refuges. Cooperating associations were authorized by Congress to support the education, interpretation and research activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society formed in 1982 in Florida followed by the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society in 1987. 
In 1994, the Service and "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society hosted the first training sessions for cooperating associations in Tampa, Florida. The following year, President Bill Clinton signed an Executive Order on the "Management and General Public Use of the National Wildlife Refuge System." During a workshop sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – "From Executive Order to Collective Action" – participants listed Friends organizations as the top priority for strengthening the Refuge System. 
The Service joined the National Wildlife Refuge AssociationNational Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Audubon Society in a partnership called the Friends Initiative to jump start the creation of more refuge support organizations. The National Audubon Society began its Audubon Refuge Keepers (ARK) program to stimulate citizen action on refuges through local Audubon chapters. 
Bn 2008, there were more than 200 nonprofit Refuge Friends organizations with more than 50,000 members nationwide working on behalf of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  ( )
Here are additional resources for learning more about specific Friends groups:

Directory of Friends Facebook Pages:

Find a Friends organization:

Hagerman NWR can always use another Friend, so here's how to join up now!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Break at HNWR

Stitch a Chick.
Spring Break Family Fun is underway at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge this week and we thought you might like to see a few pix of the activities so far this week:

Monday, March 10  - began a series of guided hikes  led by Texas Master Naturalists Gerry Shehan, Sue Abernathy and Ginger Mynatt, and long-time volunteer Kay Bynum.

Nature videos are being shown daily.

Two-a-day Tram tours offer young visitors and their families a close-up of deer, birds and more along Wildlife Drive.  Thanks to volunteer drivers, Cathy Van Bebber, Carl Hill, Kathy Whaley and Dick Malnory.

Afternoon nature craft sessions have included  Fossil Fun, with Cindy Steele; Stitch a Chick, with Fran King, Bird Topography with David Palmer, and still to come - Butterfly Flutterby on Thursday, with Maegan and Catie Flood, and Bob & Weave Yarn Art, with Sue Malnory and Barbara Pent.

In addition families have been bicycling, fishing, picnicking and hiking and exploring  on their own. AND - it's not too late to enjoy Spring Break at the Refuge!

Checking out binoculars for the hike.

On Harris Creek Trail. (Photo by Cathy Van Bebber)

Pond-view. (Photo by Cathy Van Bebber)

All aboard the C&E Cardinal Express!

Bird topography.

Fossil "excavation".

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Hotfoot It to Hagerman!

After still another blast of winter, it’s time to at least THINK spring at Second Saturday at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on March 8, when Mark Klym will speak on Hummingbirds - Myth, Magic and Mystery.   Klym will focus on urban myths about hummingbirds, where they might have come from and what mysteries remain surrounding those myths.  The program will begin at 10 am in the Visitor Center at the Refuge.

Klym is both coordinator of the Texas Wildscapes and Texas hummingbird Roundup programs at Texas Parks and Wildlife and Information Specialist for Wildlife Diversity.  He is coauthor of “Hummingbirds of Texas”, editor and publisher of the “Texas Hummer” and the “Eye on Nature” newsletters and editor/author of many other brochures and booklets published by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department He  will sign books for sale following his program.

THEN - the Nature Photo Club will meet at the Refuge at 12:30 pm, in the Audio Visual Classroom of the FOH Center.  John S. Mead, Blue Lion Photography, will give a presentation on using the popular photo-editing software, Adobe Lightroom.  Visitors are welcome; the club is open to any photographer interested in nature photography, regardless of experience or type of photo equipment, and dues are nominal.  Those who wish to may bring a brown-bag lunch to enjoy during the meeting; drinks and cookies are provided.  Those attending will be asked to complete a short survey related to a Nature Photography Workshops to be given by Trey Neal and scheduled for May 17( there is a $10. fee for this event). For meeting details, contact

  • AND – next week – SPRING BREAK  Family Fun!  
  • Guided walks, nature videos, twice-daily tram tours, drop-in for nature crafts!  
  • A guided walk led by Texas Master Naturalist Jack Chiles is set for 9 am Saturday, March 15, and there will be the regular Saturday and Sunday tram tours, at 2 pm.

These programs are sponsored by Hagerman NWR and the Friends of Hagerman.  They are free of charge, and open to the public.  The Refuge is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas, 75092.   For more information call the Refuge or see