I’ve spent most of my career trying to convince people that prairies are interesting and important. Just for fun, here is an imagined conversation – inspired by many years of prairie evangelism efforts, some more successful than others:
Me: Hi friend, have you heard the good news about prairies?
Person: What’s a prairie?
Me: Oh, um, it’s like a forest without the trees!
Person: Nice sales pitch.
Me: Ok. It doesn’t have trees – well, actually, some DO have trees and we’re trying to fix that – but it has lots of other things. Lots of grass, of course, but tons of wildflowers, birds, insects, and other cool creatures!
Person: I think maybe I drove past some prairie on the way to the mountains.
Me: Yes! There’s some amazing prairie in eastern Wyoming and eastern Colorado!
Person: All I saw was brown grass. It was hard to stay awake.
Me: Well. I mean, yes, from the highway, but if you’d gotten out to walk around, you would have seen lots of color and diversity of life.
Person: Why would I want to walk around in brown grass?
Me: Hm. Ok, think of it like a coral reef; if you just look out from the shore, or from a boat, you just see water. But if you dive into the water and start exploring, you find an astonishing array of life.
Person: Prairies are boring unless I crawl around in them?
Me: Yes! Wait, no! They’re not boring, they just have a subtle beauty.
Person: Subtle, huh? Sounds like another word for boring.
Me: Ok, but when you’re driving through those prairies on the way to the mountains, isn’t it amazing how far you can see?
Person: Yeah. And eventually, I can see the mountains and then it takes me, like, three more hours before I finally get to them.
Me: This isn’t going as I hoped. Hm. Oh – what about the sky! You can see SO MUCH sky when you’re in the prairie!
Person: (looking up) I can see the sky right now.
Me: Yeah, but in the prairie, you can see so much MORE of it!
Person: So, your selling point for prairies is that they don’t get in the way of my view of the sky?
Me: Well, I mean, that’s just one selling point!
Person: Right, the other one is that if I crawl around in them, I might see something interesting.
Me: Ok, look, I feel like you’re being deliberately obtuse about this.
Person: Fine. Let me ask you this – what can you do for fun in prairies?
Me: Oh boy, there’s so much. I mean, you can look at birds, wildflowers, butterflies, bees, snakes…
Person: I don’t like snakes.
Me: Oh. Well, there aren’t THAT man snakes. Really, just a normal amount of snakes…
Person: Ok, sorry to interrupt you. Keep telling me all the fun things I can do in prairies.
Me: Let’s see… you can look at lots of plants and animals. Did I say butterflies? Um…
Person: Yes. Look, can I go backpacking or camping in prairies?
Me: Oh, absolutely! They’re wonderful for camping.
Person: But there’s no trees?
Me: Well, sometimes along the edges you can find trees.
Person: So, if I want shade or firewood, I should just stay on the edge of prairies. Or, say, go camping in a forest?
Me: I mean, I guess that’s true. Prairies aren’t really known for their shade.
Person: Right. What are they known for again?
Me: Well, like I said, there’s a tremendous diversity… Oh, do you like bison?
Person: Wait, prairies have bison? I love bison! Why didn’t you say that? So, if I go to a prairie, I can see bison?
Me: Sure! Well, I mean, not in MOST prairies, but there are a few places that have them. Sometimes it’s hard to see them, though, because they’re out roaming. You know, like bison do.
Person: So if I go to a prairie, I probably won’t see bison?
Me: No, I guess not. Not in most prairies, anyway.
Person: Question for you… Earlier you said something about trees. Why don’t you want trees in prairies?
Me: Because then they wouldn’t be prairies anymore.
Person: Right, they’d be a place I could go camping and find shade and firewood.
Me: I guess, yes, but they wouldn’t have most of the same birds, wildflowers, bees, butterflies or sn – – I mean, um, toads…
Person: That I have to crawl around to see…
Person: But at least prairies don’t block your view of the sky. Maybe you should just focus on that.
Me: Right. Thanks for the advice. Good talk…
Person: Thanks for telling me about prairies!
Me: Uh huh.
Maybe we need a new marketing strategy. How’s this?