Sounds of this place
As consciousness seeps into my mind, I listen to the world and remember where I am. The sounds in this place are different than home. They are different from any place that I have lived. I’ve known the sound of the wind in the pine trees for decades now. Wind blowing through these tress, however, sounds much different. The sound reminds me of the season. It is autumn. There is a rich carpet of fallen leaves coating everything several inches deep. The dry leaves swirl and blow around in the wind. There are, however, still plenty of leaves on the trees. I grew up with cottonwood trees and their sound, but the cottonwood trees carry their leaves higher off of the ground and those leaves are relatively small when they fall. Here, in a grove of oak and maples and several other varieties of trees whose names I do not know, there is a sense of being surrounded by leaves. There is a constant pitter patter of leaves falling, softer leaves landing on the crisp, dry leaves that occupy the ground. Other sounds creep into my consciousness: the thump of acorns when they land on the roof of the camper; the crunch of a small animal crawling across the ground. We’ve seen both raccoons and opossum exploring the area in the dusky shadows.
I have to concentrate to tell whether or not it is raining. It is not. The sounds mostly have to do with leaves.
There is an abundance of leaves in this forest that reminds me of the abundances of other signs of life in other places. Nature is generous with its quantities.
Knob Noster State Park is a tranquil retreat of open oak woodland with a few patches of prairie along both sides of the meandering Clearfork Creek. The park has many different trails for day hikes and plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the tranquility. We’ve stayed here before. The park also features an oxbow slough, which has been officially designated as Pin Oak Slough Natural Area.
The sounds of nature aren’t the only sounds of this place. Although we are set back off of the highway far enough to be removed from its constant whine of tires on pavement, we can occasionally hear a particularly loud car or truck passing. In the night I woke to the sound of the giant jet bombers taking off from Whiteman Air Force Base which is just a short distance east of our campsite. In a couple of hours, reveille and first call will sound from the loudspeakers at the base and we will hear the bugle sounds from our campsite. Most evenings we are out with our daughter and son in law and arrive after taps have sounded, but we’ve heard that evening song as well when we’ve camped here before.
Knob Noster is a bit of a funny name. I guess it means “our hill,” but it is a jumble of a colloquial, folk name for a hill, “knob,” and the formal Latin for “our.” There are a couple of somewhat prominent small hills northeast of town, and I suppose that it is from one of those that the town took its name. Settled in the mid nineteenth century, the town was mostly a small farming community until the construction of Whiteman Air Force Base. Begun during the buildup to World War II, the field was originally named Sedalia Army Air Base and was a training ground for glider pilots in an area known as blue flats because of the color of the soil. Sedalia is the name of the large town to the east.
Knob Noster State Park sits down a bit from the town in an area that probably wasn’t very productive for farming and was left forested as settlement surrounded it. We have tended to stay here in the fall, so we don’t know all of its seasons, but one can imagine that there is rich soil under the carpet of leaves. It probably doesn’t have the blue color that lent its name to the natural prairie fields where the base was located. I imagine rich dark loam, the product of years of decaying leaves. It provides for healthy trees and supports a community of wildlife that includes deer as well as several different small mammals. When we walk about in the day, we can hear frogs singing in the wetlands as well.
The land we set aside as parks is one of the treasures of this nation. We’ve found state parks to be good managers of land in general. As we’ve traveled around, we’ve learned to look for state parks as places to camp. We’re not as attracted to the modern camping resorts with all of their amenities. We don’t seem to need swimming pools, playgrounds, activity buildings, mini golf and wagon rides, though we understand their attraction for families. We’re happy with a little more space between campers and the sounds of nature to surround us.
Camping barely describes our experience in our current camper. We have a comfortable bed that says made up as we travel down the road. We have ducted air conditioning and a furnace that takes the chill off as well as a complete kitchen and bathroom. It is a far cry from our days of sleeping in a tent and cooking outdoors with a pit toilet a short walk away. This campground has modern toilets and warm showers available in several locations. Even tent camping is pretty comfortable in this setting.
It is a fine place for a bit of vacation. The gentle sounds of the trees and leaves are soothing and the quiet affords us time for contemplation and reflection. The closeness of our family nurtures our spirits as well.
I sleep well in this place even though the sounds are not completely familiar. And if it takes me a minute to become orientated when I wake, that is a good thing, too. It reminds me that I am not at home and each day is a new adventure. Soon enough we’ll head back and put the camper in storage for the winter. For now, I am grateful for the luxury of this place.