Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Parks in the Park

Outlaw Ghost of Robbers Cave

by Daniel Parks

With wisp of wind on gloaming breeze,
odd swirls of dust move through the trees.
And while it's true the days had passed
when robbers to this Cave were cast.
Yet in its shadows, dread prevails,
nocturnal fears the night regales.
And on some hot and sultry nights
it seems suffused with muted fright.

'Twas on such night, as from a grave,
strange devil winds stirred from the Cave.
And in its midst a woman stalked
adorned in silken gown and frock.
Her flexuous hair cut to her sash,
influenced not by dervish cast.
And in the gloom, I tried to see
if specter's real, or fool I be?

The ghostly wench entreated me
to sue the winds to set her free
While in her hand, extended thus,
a pistol waved amongst the dust.
Her face was aged and anger fraught,
while curses coursed for vengeance sought.
And then I caught the woman's name
as from her maw were vows proclaimed.

"Belle Starr's earthly form I bear,
my death avenged, of that I swear.
When dastard deed, requited be,
these chains of death will set me free.
And then my killer's soul I'll take
to Hell's eternal burning lake!
And then my killer's soul I'll take
to Hell's eternal burning lake..."

And as she spoke, the devil wind
began to ebb its strident spin.
And the specter from the past
was no more carried by its blast
but faded back from wince it came
while crying out her dreadful name.
And lastly vanished to her grave,
this Outlaw Ghost from Robber's Cave.

As I gasped from lack of breath
I knew I'd seen the face of death...

Blooming dogwoods
Dogwoods turned their flowers upward to the spring sunshine.  Birds flirted in their branches and redbuds lent their color to the woods.  I arrived at Robbers Cave in Wilburton on a Friday afternoon in mid-April, ready for a weekend of camping and wedding festivities.  My good friends had been planning their green, sustainable wedding (well, of all things, a wedding/ marriage should be sustainable!) for almost two years, complete with compostable plates, cups, and silverware.  It's no secret that I'm not a fan of weddings, but it is bound to be enjoyable when the bride refers to it as the "camping event", and dogs are encouraged.
Beautiful bride and groom and their furkids
As I set up my tent that I had purchased for $10 at the outdoor gear swap meet at OKC Kayak, a ranger's assistant came by to collect the camping fees.  He asked if I had ever been to the park before, and I was happy to say that not only had I been, but I had even mentioned the park in one of my blogs.  I asked him where the largest pine tree is in Oklahoma, since the park boasts that it has the "second-largest".  Stumped, he radioed the park office to ask.  Apparently, it is a well-guarded secret, and I am still searching for the answer.
Perfect campsite

Parks (coincidence that Mr. Parks is a park ranger's assistant?) mentioned that he is a writer, as well.  In fact, he has a book being published and will be released very soon.  He asked if I would include one of his poems in my blog, which I was delighted to do!  By the time I finished setting up my tent, Mr. Parks had delivered a copy of one of his poems and a photocopy of the cover of his new book.

I was thrilled to kick off my weekend with this chance encounter.  I really should no longer be surprised at the amazing Oklahomans that I meet on my adventures around the state.  As I joined the rest of the wedding guests at the lodge, I gushed about my good fortune.  Friends who had joined me on other Okie adventures weren't too surprised.  We have met some of the most interesting, talented, and generous people on our travels.  Daniel Parks can be added to that growing list.

Gifts of ghost stories!
A little while later, I returned to my quiet camping spot (thanks to a tip from the groom!) and found some pieces of paper weighted down next to the fire ring.  It was one of the ghost stories from Parks' book.  I sat by the creek and read about strange calls for help in the darkness and the mysterious disappearance of one of the rangers.  I concluded that it was fiction, but it played with my mind and had me second-guessing. 

Wide-open eyes saw nothing but blackness as rain pelted the tent.  I couldn't sleep, but I wasn't sure if it was because I'd never used my bargain tent and I wasn't confident that it was water-tight (it was, thankfully!), or if it was because of the ghost story that kept replaying in my mind.  The author's references to landmarks in the park create a story that is hard to distinguish from fact.  Half-asleep dreams mingled with the ghost story and had me actually wishing that there were other campers close by.

Cattail Pond at Robbers Cave
There are valuables to be discovered in the Oklahoma state parks, and Daniel Parks is one of them.  Pick up a copy of Poetic Scenes and Mystic Dreams, and spend some time visiting with the state park employees.  Find out how they got there and what keeps them there.  Our shrinking park budgets will never be able to properly compensate them for the lives that they give to the areas that they love.  Experience a little bit of it for yourself.  See it, walk it, submerge yourself in it, and let it keep you awake on a rainy night.  (You can purchase Mr. Parks' book at the Robbers Cave Cabin Office, the Gift Shop, or online from Amazon, or directly from the publisher - Lulu).