My turn: Students learn importance of ‘prairie coal’

I spent an afternoon recently with fifth- and sixth-graders from various local schools who were exploring a dry playa lake bed near Dora.

The pasture we were in held cattle all summer. While they had been moved out long before our visit, there was still plenty of evidence they’d been there. Cattle are generous that way.

The first bus arrived, and a bevy of fifth-graders came giggling across the prairie. One girl looked down, stopped, pointed, and said, “What is that?”

Our trusty leader picked up a nice cow chip, broke it in half and began an enlightening discourse on the importance of “prairie coal” to the homesteaders. The students gathered in a close and fascinated circle around him until he said, “It’s cow poop.”

Ewwww!!! Giant leaps backward. Squeals.

Some of these students could doubtless trace their lineage back to pioneers who would never have survived without this vital renewable fuel. This lesson wasn’t on the agenda, but it may be one of the things the kids will most remember from that day, an unexpected tie to the early settlers.

When you’re searching for good news, don’t forget to look down. You might be stepping on some.