ABOUT THIS BOOK
Writer and photographer Gary Lantz has always felt most at home in what the Osage used to call the “heart stays” country—the southern edge of the Flint Hills tallgrass prairie in Oklahoma’s Osage County. It’s a place of grassy mounds with lots of rocks underfoot and clusters of crooked little oaks providing shade. It started young, his long-lasting love affair with a landscape that unnerves the uninitiated a little, mostly because it just seems so empty, and it has persisted through his entire life.
As proud grasslanders know, the prairie is biologically fulfilling, unique, and increasingly rare: biologists from the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy agree that a healthy prairie remains one of the most ecologically diverse and dynamic ecosystems on this planet—as well as one of the rarest left on earth. This landscape that once inspired rapturous exclamations from travelers headed west on horseback now mostly exists in fragments exiled from each other by cropland, cities, and interstate highways.
Historically, tallgrass prairie stretched from Canada to Texas, from central Kansas to Indiana. Now the last major expanse of tallgrass occurs in the Flint Hills, a verdant landscape extending in a north-south strip across eastern Kansas and into northern Oklahoma’s Osage County. In these essays, Gary Lantz brings the beautiful diversity of the prairie home to all of us.