Wichita A new documentary about the Flint Hills is scheduled to be shown next weekend in the central Kansas county that was made famous nearly two decades ago by a best-selling book.
The documentary, “Return to PrairyErth” by director and cinematographer John O’Hara, examines the Flint Hills through all four seasons along with the people and places of William Heat-Moon’s book, “PrairyErth (A Deep Map): An Epic History of the Tallgrass Prairie Country.”
The Wichita Eagle reports that the documentary is scheduled to be shown Saturday at Pioneer Bluffs, near Matfield Green. The celebration includes an appearance by Heat-Moon.
The film includes scenes of the grasses and hills of Chase County, as well as the voice and footsteps of Heat-Moon as he walks the backroads of Chase County.
“PrairyErth” weaves together geography, archaeology, history, folklore and interviews with Chase County residents, and quickly became a bestseller in 1991.
O’Hara said he is hopeful the documentary will eventually be shown in other venues such as on public television and at area film festivals.
“A lot of people think Chase County still lives in a time warp. It is, from an environmental standpoint, one of the most advanced places there is in the whole country,” he said.
“One of the ideas I want people to get is that the environmental battles may rage on all over the country, but not in Chase County. Both sides, the environmentalists and the ranchers, have come together and figured it out.”
The documentary also looks at Jane Koger, a fourth-generation rancher who runs the 4,000-acre Homestead Ranch in Chase County. In the documentary, Heat-Moon tells Koger: “I thought you would be the leader in trying to show these people how ranching and sustainability had gone and embraced certain environmental practices.”
And, she became just that.
Koger started a guest program on her ranch, which also led to her initiating the annual Symphony in the Flint Hills concert. She has also been involved in the preservation and conservation of the prairie. In the documentary, Koger talks about that transformation.
“During that time, I changed from seeing cattle as the main focus to the natural resources,” Koger said. “We talk about are you going to sacrifice an ecosystem for the sake of this product — of beef. Is a quarter-pounder really worth losing all your prairie chickens over? I don’t think so.”
Koger still maintains her ranch while serving as the board president of Pioneer Bluffs, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate the history and experiences of the tallgrass prairie.