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LETTER: Tucker Prairie should be treasured, not forgotten

Monday, October 13, 2008 | 1:23 p.m. CDT

Congratulations to Sara Shahriari on her outstanding story about former MU professor Clair Kucera and the Tucker Prairie research center. The article was timely, interesting, and very well-written, with superb photographs and graphics; but it was also very, very melancholy. Looking at the image of the "shuttered shelter" with its broken windows, I couldn't decide if the "forgotten relic" the article refers to was the remnant wilderness, Tucker Prairie research center or Professor Kucera's lifework. Perhaps it was all three.

That image of the "shuttered shelter" will remain with me for a long time. I have added it in my memory to those portrayed in the "Missouri through Lens and Palette" exhibition here at the Museum of Art & Archaeology, another powerful artifact of troubling changes to Missouri life. Thank you for remembering and honoring the work of Professor Kucera; to my mind this is exactly the kind of story the Missourian needs to do and we need to read and discuss.

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As American metropolitan areas, in general, and Columbia, in particular, race to eradicate every vestige of undisturbed nature, I can hear the echo of American Poet Laureate Archibald MacLeish's verdict about America before the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression: "It was all prices to them. They never looked at it; they never looked at the land."

Maybe the life sciences should really begin in a humble (from the Latin humus, of the earth) place like Tucker Prairie, a place that, instead of a "forgotten relic," should be a treasured artifact of a great land-grant university and the starting point for looking deeply at the land and at ourselves.


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