Timothy Barksdale, Birdman

by Rachel Creager Ireland

One of the pleasures of operating a lodging is that occasionally we get to meet inspiring people, people who are living into their lives without hesitation or doubt, who aren’t just on this planet to enjoy the ride, but who choose to make their time here something worthwhile.

Timothy Barksdale stayed here several times while shooting for a film about greater prairie chickens. He is a wildlife filmmaker who has had a number of films shown on PBS. He always has time to talk about birds, and I didn’t hesitate to pick his brain about any bird question that popped into my head when he was here. I think I actually saved some questions for him, when I knew he would be coming soon. We loved having him here, and told him everything we could think of that might possibly be helpful, like what ranchers had prairie chickens on their land, or where to get a hot-air balloon ride in the Flint Hills, but he’s the kind of guy who finds what he’s looking for with or without anybody else, so I doubt I ever did anything useful for him, except perhaps making a bed or taking his reservation. We did let him leave a piece of equipment once, I don’t remember why or exactly what it was, but it was a long metal thing that set beside the building for months, or was it over a year? I would occasionally walk by it and wonder how Tim was doing.

This week he finally stopped in to pick it up. I was pleased to see him, but saddened when he told me how difficult it’s been for him to raise the funds to complete his film. The greater prairie chicken is a unique and amazing bird, which numbered in the millions when Europeans arrived upon this continent. Now a few hundred survive in isolated, undisturbed patches of the most remote prairies of the midwest. The beauty of the prairie is not like that of mountains or oceans, the kind that whacks you over the head and leaves you for dead. The prairie’s beauty waits for you to come to it. You have to want to see it, and look for it. Timothy Barksdale is on a mission to expose people to this beauty, and to the urgency of the need to save the prairie and prairie chickens. Not surprisingly, these days are not easy times for wildlife filmmakers. Tim has been partially saved by having sold some stock footage to appear in The Big Year, an upcoming film about birdwatching, with a fabulous cast. But he still doesn’t have the funds to complete his film about prairie chickens. He’s got some trailers on vimeo.com, so watch them, go see The Big Year, and if you can possibly make a donation, please do.