Red Dirt Country
Field Notes and Essays on Nature
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
214 Pages | 6 x 9
From airport birdwatching and getting lost in an urban forest, to rethinking society’s ill-fated war on wildlife and our struggle to reshape the American landscape, Red Dirt Country invites readers to savor the joys of our natural surroundings. Written by Oklahoma native John Gifford, this timely book is a literary meditation on the Oklahoma landscape and the rich biodiversity of the southern Great Plains.
Inspired by such naturalists as Gilbert White, Susan Fenimore Cooper, and Henry David Thoreau, the essays in Red Dirt Country reveal the rewards of close observation and the author’s deep respect for the natural world. With his keen eye for detail, Gifford chronicles life along a suburban creek, noting from month to month the habits of the area’s birds, mammals, and trees. With particular attention, he captures the grace and majesty of that sleek raptor, the Mississippi Kite, during its yearly nesting cycle in the southern plains.
Even as Gifford extols the surprising beauty of Oklahoma, he ponders the larger environmental concerns and challenges that we face today, such as the cataclysmic wildfires and droughts threatening the American West, and modern society’s impact on vital lands and wildlife.
A compelling work of creative nonfiction, Red Dirt Country harkens back to America’s most beloved masterpieces of nature writing. At the same time, Gifford provides a distinctly contemporary reflection on today’s suburban wilderness, inspiring us all to develop a deeper connection to our natural surroundings.
“From the towering flight of the Mississippi kite to issues of fire and wind, the Oklahoma red earth country has found its singer.”—Shelley Armitage, author of Writing the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place
“Whether he’s writing about Mississippi kites or coyotes, blackjack oaks or eastern redcedars, tornadoes or wildfires, John Gifford approaches his subjects with great intellectual probity and infectious enthusiasm.”—Andrew Furman, author of Bitten: My Unexpected Love Affair with Florida
“Red Dirt Country is an imaginative contribution to literature. John Gifford successfully intertwines microcosm and macrocosm, leading readers deeply into the Oklahoma plains and asking them to explore their own relationships to the world as a whole.”—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, author of Oklahomeland: Essays
“Collectively, these field notes and essays overturn the stereotypical perceptions of the Great Plains as unpopulated, treeless, monotonous, and geographically and biologically austere. For Gifford, if one looks closely, one discovers that this region has remarkable environmental diversity that is irreplaceable.” —Western American Literature
“This book, while occasionally flowery, accomplishes its purpose. Through reading it, one becomes more aware of the nature of nature, including humanity’s place within. Its use of personal anecdotes allows a reader to form a deeper connection to the subject matter than scientific fact alone could manage, and Gifford encourages introspection on outcomes of various interactions with the natural world.” —Southwestern American Literature
“Gifford paints a picture of the Plains as a complex and interesting place to call home. Gifford builds on common themes of Plains literature and adds a modern twist – tackling issues like unsustainable development and climate change and issuing warnings of biodiversity loss and increasingly dangerous wildfires. These references make an already compelling narrative even more important…this is a well-written monograph and a worthwhile read for anyone invested in the Plains, the environment, or a sense of home.”—Great Plains Quarterly
“Gifford isn’t just writing about Red Dirt Country. He has first thought seriously about Red Dirt Country…Throughout the book, readers will find themselves grateful John Gifford chose his own home in Edmond, in Oklahoma, in the American West, and in literary space.”—Concho River Review