The Prairie Chicken Bed and Breakfast
to new territory. The chosen spot at the Kaelke farm is on a barely perceptible rise at the edge of a field that Karlos plants in soybeans.
Controlling the Weather
Painted on the front of the Kaelke's barn is the name of their place: "Golden Rule Farm." The subtitle ought to read, "Do unto your prairie chickens as you would have them do unto you." Karlos delays plowing this field until the booming season is over. B & B guests keep a respectful distance. He built a hitching post so visitors have a place to prop their elbows while peering through binoculars. Neither the Kaelkes nor their guests do anything to disturb the secret, beautiful world of the booming ground.
In return, the chickens rarely fail to make an appearance. "I used to feel responsible for the weather, like I was supposed to make sure it was a nice day for people when they were here," laughs Elaine. "But then I realized people who are bird watchers and nature lovers are understanding. They know I can't control the weather."
In the past, humans have not followed the golden rule when it comes to prairie chickens. When the prairies were plentiful, so were the chickens. Thousands thrived in almost every county and they were hunted commercially through the 1800s. Even though the birds have been protected since 1907, biologist and artist Charles Schwartz cited poaching in the '40s as contributing to the birds' continuous decline.
Survival of prairie chickens in Missouri hinges, in part, on our ability to sustain the golden rule, because 97 percent of Missouri's remaining breeding flocks live on private land. When Elaine talks about the flock on her farm, she often calls them "our birds," then backtracks. She knows she can't rightfully lay claim to the flock. But that instinct and sense of responsibility the Kaelkes have for "their" booming ground must be shared by all Missourians if the marvelous prairie chicken is going to survive here.
Fifty-six years ago, naturalist Aldo Leopold warned a gathering in Boone County, "Until a majority of our farmers are as proud of having a flock of prairie chickens as of owning a new car, we shall not have the chickens." The Kaelke's have coupled their pride with the golden rule, and extend to all people, an invitation to do the same.
The Prairie Chicken Bed and Breakfast is open only during the birds' spring mating season. For more information, write to Elaine and Karlos Kaelke, Route 3, Box 49, Lockwood MO 65682.