Woolaroc delights visitors

By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
Register Reporter

Register/Anne Kazmierczak
Hailey Hammer, Theresia Middleton and a group of Iola first graders view a diorama of a Native American dance during a SAFE BASE field trip to Woolaroc Thursday. The diorama would turn on suddenly, with light, sound and movement, captivating the young audience.

Mountain men, shrunken heads and sika deer were the big attractions for 130 Iola elementary through middle school children Thursday as the summer SAFE BASE program took a field trip to Woolaroc in Bartlesville, Okla.
Woolaroc — a lodge, museum and extensive grounds — stands on the former ranch of Phillips 66 magnate Frank Phillips. The grounds now house ostrich, Japanese sika deer, bison and other creatures, including one “zorse,” half-zebra, half-horse.
For many in the group, the nearness of the wildlife was a pure delight.
Cries of “Look, a horsey!,” “Look at the deer!,” “Wow, did you see the crane?” and even squeals over striped lizards punctuated the morning.
Ooohs and aaaahs came from all age groups astonished that the little red sika deer stood by, unconcerned, as mountain men shot black powder guns or threw hatchets into piles of logs during demonstrations of old-time skills.
The kids themselves tried their hands at the pioneer games — each aimed at a target shaped like a turkey or coyote or bear — or “for the women,” a hanging cast iron pan.
The Butcher family portrays the mountain men that camp at Woolaroc for the summer, entertaining tourists with leather breeches, calico shirts and tales of life on the plains, circa 1822-1843.
Riah Butcher, 12, suggested to female teachers they think about someone they are angry with to enhance their aim while throwing a hatchet — maybe a deadbeat husband, the leather-clad youth said. To much laughter, the advice seemed to work for some, whose axes suddenly flew straight, landing in the logs with a “thunk.”
This is the sixth summer that the program, currently in its 10th year, has taken such field trips, said Wanda Kneen, SAFE BASE student and family services coordinator. This year, 162 children are enrolled in SAFE BASE’s summer program. About 440 children attend the after-school program during the academic year.
Angela Henry, the program’s director, said the summer program — including trips — is funded by the regular grant that has kept the after-school program going for years.
SAFE BASE will receive funding for the 2009-2010 school year from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, and will learn in July if it has secured a four-year federal grant.
“It’s highly competitive,” Henry said of the grant. There are 500 school districts competing nationwide, but only 28 grants will be awarded.
On Thursday, though, all thoughts were on the environment.
Sparkling red rock, petrified wood, glossy green oaks and verdant hills gave wings to childrens’ imaginations as they chased lizards, played in toy tepees and ran in and out of the shops of an old west town.
In the museum, chairs made of cattle horns and displays of Indian beadwork kept the children looking, eager to go from room to room and discover the original bronze model for the Lincoln Memorial, mounts of bison, cougar and birds of prey, Native American headdresses and garments and a dancing Indian diorama.
Although created years ago, the mechanical figures depicting an Apache camp kept little noses glued to the glass.
Frank Phillips developed Woolaroc because “Too much time and money are spent on things which leave no record and which add nothing basically to the present nor to the future,” said the museum’s promotional material.
“The conservation of wildlife now will mean much to future generations,” Phillips is quoted as saying. Judging only by smiles and laughter, the children seemed to agree.