The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Sept. 7 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg Blame Dorian and Fernand for our little hot spell.  The hurricane to the east and tropical storm to the south have put a block on the movement of weather systems and allowed the high pressure to sit on top of us this week.  Dorian is […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Sept. 7 2019

A Partial Fairy Ring

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Blame Dorian and Fernand for our little hot spell.  The hurricane to the east and tropical stormto the south have put a block on the movement of weather systems and allowedthe high pressure to sit on top of us this week.  Dorian is derived from the Greek word Doron,which means gift.  Fernand is French foradventurer.  It's just a matter ofperspective, especially if you live in places affected by either one.

The 5th Great Raft Race took place Labor Day onthe Arkansas River, starting at Sand Springs and ending in Tulsa.  The distance was 10 miles and the depth ofthe Arkansas through Tulsa is 9 feet.

Over 100 hand-made rafts (both small and large), kayaks, canoes and inflatables were launched in seven groups.  It had been a Tulsa tradition originally held from 1973 to 1991.  After a 14-year hiatus, the raft race was revived in 2015.  In its earlier heyday, over 600 rafts competed with 150,000 people watching from the banks of the Arkansas River.

Great Raft Race Sand Sculpture

Helicopter fly-bys, volleyball games, kid's play areas, food trucks, musicians on stage and other activities accompanied the popular event.  At 8:30 am the first rafts hit the water in Sand Springs.  The Golden Driller replica with oil derrick, a spinning tornado, the Quick Trip float with mascot (hotdog?), a strange contraption with a small non-functional paddle wheel and canopy, a mini-pontoon boat and a raft lined by fake palm trees were among those that floated toward Tulsa.  Scores of assistants helped with each boat.  All stayed above water, but sinking was always a concern.  Many rafters wore life jackets just in case.  My favorite was a simple coffin-shaped raft.  It had 8 short black posts connected with white rope, a few ice chests and chairs on the floor, one side had a loud speaker blasting music and, leading the way, on the front post was a mannequin head wearing a blue sailor's cap. Unique.

The sand master had his hands full trying to keep his artintact.  He had rebuilt the 't' on raft,redefined the whale tail and was spraying the sculpture when we walked by.  It was a hot afternoon. As the last of therafts floated to dock, spectators were leaving in search of air conditioning.  Money this year was dedicated to Tulsa areaschool arts programs and repair flood damaged areas in Sand Springs and Tulsa RiverParks.

Signs.  The sandcastle sign announced the Great Raft Race. Signs tell us to stop, walk, go, the price, identification of plant orflower, the name of a building.  Signs ingardens explain it is a butterfly sanctuary, a wildlife/wildscape area, arestoration plot. Signs in the Tulsa Gathering Place inform the public thereare 'no mow areas' to allow the Buffalo grass to grow.  Native wildplants being cultivated.

Signs come in various manifestations.  We now look for signs of autumn despite the heat.  The tree leaves are taking on a bronze hue.  The plants are setting seeds and fruits.  The Osage Orange grapefruit-sized green balls are dropping off the trees.  More frequent fighting and activity at the hummingbird feeders are early signs these small migrants are gearing up to fly south before winter. A few more Monarchs and butterflies are showing up at flowers.  Spider webs are high in the trees and long strands fly through the skies. 

No Mow Sign at the Gathering Place in Tulsa taken by Ellie Norvell

Mushrooms popping up indicate it has been a rather wet warm August.  Coprinus mushrooms (ink cap mushrooms which quicklydissolve into black liquid) have colonized the base of a large cottonwood treealong the river.  White Field Agaricusmushrooms formed part of a fairy ring in a pasture near my house.  Not any more. After the last rains, the cadreof roaring neighborhood lawnmowers have been busy from stem to stern, morningto night. Pity they don't spend a fraction of that time landscaping with nativeplants which require much less maintenance and mowing.

That said, it is considered bad luck to step into a fairy ring!  I wonder if mowing them down counts? 

The Fairy with her Mushrooms

Fairy rings, pixie rings, or elf circles are magical, evenif you know the underground mycelium (fungal roots) can form circles whereother plants won't grow.  Mushroom chemicalsoften discourage other plants and their little roots possibly rob the soil,leaving little for anything else.  On theother hand, mushrooms may excrete excess nutrients which fortify the grasses inthe immediate vicinity, as seen bordering the field shrooms near my house.  Or rabbits. 

Yes, in Dorset England they figure the fairy rings havesurvived with the help of rabbits. Mushrooms require more nitrogen than grass.  Bunnies don't like mushrooms but love grassand leave behind lots of little pellets full of nitrogen.  In time, another ring may form within thefirst one as the rabbits continue to graze.

Over sixty species of mushrooms can create fairy rings.  Ground halos can spring up in forests sincethose mushrooms are linked with tree roots. Other species may go rogue and tackle meadows and pastures,incorporating whatever nutrients they find. In Europe all kinds of stories have cropped up concerning fairyrings.  In Germany, fairy rings markwhere the witches danced during their Halloween at the end of April.  In other parts of Europe, tradition has it elvesand fairies themselves danced in the rings.

Fairies use mushrooms for tables and umbrellas.  One Irish tradition notes fairies prefer to dance around hawthorn trees.  The Devon England legend claims occasionally a black chicken and chicks show up at dusk at the large fairy ring on the edge of the moors.  Spooky.  Many still consider fairy rings sacred and woe be to any mortal who enters or tampers with them.  Fairies are reputed to capture and hold captive any intruder.  Interventions are necessary.  Common belief is a year and a day must go by before the victim might be found and can be rescued. Even so, that soul may have been enthralled and not remember anything at all.

Inky Mushrooms

Fairies have shown up in art, music and literature since the12th century.  Shakespeare inthe 1596 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' mentions the fairy queen.  Thomas Hardy in the 1886 'The Mayor ofCasterbridge' compares the fairy ring to lost love.  The Victorians were particularly enthralledwith fairies. 

Who knows if fairies exist? Whether they do or not, their fairy ring in Belfort, France is thelargest ever found.  It measures 2,000feet in diameter (1/3rd of a mile) and is estimated to be about 700years old!

Next time you see a fairy ring, give a wave and sweetly say hello,but don't go inside.