Prairie Mounds July 17, 2014, #1341

Just about all my life I have observed little mounds in pastures with sandy loam type soils. Most are about the size of a Native American’s teepee so it seemed natural that these early Americans would want to build a mound to keep water from getting under them while sleeping. Friday, I stopped by the County Agent’s Office to see if they had any information on these mysterious mounds. Manning (or womaning) the office was Mrs. Willie Faye Bowen who explained we were presently without the services of a county agent. She directed my question about mounds to the Natural Resources Conservation Service on Cooper’s north loop. I was to seek out boss lady Kristi Townes and/or Corylee Thomas for help. I found Corylee and he just happened to be part of a team years ago in the Nacogdoches area that dug into one of these mounds and examined the types of soil involved. No evidence of Indians living on the mound was found. Hillary Murray was listening in the back and came out to assist. Corylee said to pursue my search on the internet under the name “pimple mounds.”

Besides the name pimple mounds, the strange elevations are also called prairie mounds and Mima mounds. In tracing down the word Mima all I could find was that it was the name of one of Job’s three daughters. I have seen many more of them in prairie type pastures and understand that name. As soon as I was old enough to ramble in South Sulphur Bottom I found an area of the woods where there are many similar mounds. I do believe they are different from the open pasture pimple mounds and were used to keep water from running into the Indians’ bedrooms. Those near the river have much flint nearby. Over forty years ago, John Morgan and I carried a shovel and walked to the mound area where we dug down through the center of one. One arrowhead was found before the mosquitoes chased us away.

But back to the prairie. These mounds are usually two feet high or less. In the old days when no cemetery was nearby these sandy mounds were used to bury the dead. Over the U.S. there are an estimated 40,000,000 of these mounds. Our generation is not the first to wonder about these little hills. In 1817, William Darby describes Mamou Prairie in Louisiana as having “great mounds of earth ten or twelve feet wide, twelve or eighteen inches high scattered immensely over the whole plain.” This description seems to fit exactly the large number of pimple mounds on the Broseco Ranch between Mt. Pleasant and New Boston beside Interstate 30. On the left as you go toward Texarkana.

Some say the mounds are caused by gophers. As they bring soil to the top and pile it up, the mound gets higher. Looks like the excavating would eventually cause the top of the mound to cave in on itself. Another strike against that idea is gophers occur over a wide area of the U. S. while the prairie mounds are only found west of the Mississippi. By the way, the mounds stop as the annual rainfall average dips below forty inches per year. Curiously, the mounds are also never found on slopes greater than ten percent.
Earthquakes are blamed by a few for causing these mounds. A scientist was building a dog house and as he nailed down the shingles he noticed the vibrations caused the tiny particles from the shingles to bounce around and cluster together in the middle. He suggested vibrations from earthquakes caused mounds. Others object that the mounds are just as common in many areas of no, or few, earthquakes. And, in California where there are many tremors there are no mounds. Opinions I’ve heard over the years suggest mounds were caused by buffalo as they rubbed their heads on the ground similar to what some bulls do today. A few suggest ants piling soil on top similar to the gopher theory. Some stick by the Indian idea. Send your ideas to the email address at the bottom.

From my ledger. Saturday, June 28, 1986. Finished rack to carry canoe on top of pickup at midnight last night. Up at 4:30 this morning then Jean and I drove to Caddo Mills to meet with Sherry and Sammy Thomason. The four of us drove to Lake Whitney not far from Hillsboro to canoe on the Brazos River. Unloaded canoes below the dam at 10:00 and slowly paddled downriver. Hundreds of young people from church camps launched about the same time as we did. No water was coming out and everyone except us was paddling hard. The water was clear and cool. Catfish could be seen be seen on the bottom. When the river would curve, rocks had been eaten away and we would get in the shade a while beneath the overhang. Hundreds of cliff swallows had mud nests pasted to the rock. A large rat snake was somehow climbing among the nests and getting its fill of baby birds and eggs. Game wardens moved up and down the river in an air boat checking on everyone. At 2:00 the water became swift as water was let out at the dam. Our eight mile trip was over as we arrived at the “take out” place at 5:30. Ate at the Lazy Fisherman all you can eat restaurant in Waxahachie on the way home. Close to Morris Partain’s office there was a head on collision and two or three people were killed. Bud Skinner was on the square with his wrecker and had one of the cars as we came through. Later we will explore more of 1986.

Flower garden news. There is a big stalk of poke salad in our yard and mockingbirds come often to eat some of the purple berries. Remember to put out a pan of water in the shade for dogs, birds, and cats. Birds also like a shallow pan with about two inches of water to get in and bathe. Put one in the shade by your window and watch the birds put on a show.
Words of wisdom by Phyllis Diller. Housework won’t kill you, but why take a chance. Cleaning house while kids are growing up is like shoveling the walk while it is still snowing. Women don’t play football cause eleven of them would not be seen in public dressed alike. The best way to get rid of kitchen odors, eat out.

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