CANTON — Terrie Todd has ridden countless miles on the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Canton.
Todd, a longtime volunteer, has lead more than 50 rides as a trail boss.
“I’ve been doing this for at least 15 years and there’s too many to count,” she said.
Todd also has a part-time job at Menards on the east side of Wichita. Even though it’s an hour drive to the refuge, that doesn’t stop her from going after her day job.
“I love it that much, you just get hooked on it,” she said.
Todd will be 73 next month and that hasn’t slowed her down on horseback.
Besides leading the way, she also prepares meals for guests of Maxwell Wildlife Refuge’s events.
“Betty (Schmidt) was needing some help a few years ago with some of their events and they always serve a meal. I’m used to cooking for a crowd and I’ve helped cook around 10 to 15 gallons of buffalo chili and 30 pounds of Elk meat,” she said.
If you attend a trail or tram ride, Todd can tell you almost everything there is to know about the prairie.
“I’ve been doing a little bit of the narrating and I’m learning more and more of the history. I love to relay that history and I think the people that come out there to see the buffalo and elk and the unbroken prairie, it peaks their interest,” she said.
Even being bucked off her own horse, which caused three cracked ribs during a trail ride, won’t stop her from coming back for more.
“I don’t know why that little horse bucked me off. I had ridden him all morning and afternoon and I guess he got a feather in his cap or something tickled his fancy,” she said. “I took the horses home and unloaded them then I drove myself to the emergency room where the doctors told me, ‘You have three cracked ribs and won’t be able to go to work or do anything for a while.’ But I was back at it.”
Seeing the prairie and buffalo in the distance is what keeps her returning each time.
“Just being out on the open prairie with the horses is simply amazing. It’s so peaceful and so quiet,” she said.
Todd noted she even got a foreign exchange student who had a “bad habit of sleeping in" out to the prairie.
“I hosted two foreign exchange students last year one from Taiwan and one from Brazil. The Brazilian grew up with horses and my student from Taiwan had never touched a horse. That was his biggest goal during his stay was to touch a horse. I got him out to El Dorado Lake first because it’s flat and the trails are easy and then I took him out to Maxwell for a ride,” she said.
Before Todd was ready for the trail ride that day, her student was already waiting for her at the door.
“That was the only thing that would get him out of bed. I said, ‘Ethan, we’re leaving the house at 8 a.m. if you want to ride and you have to be dressed and ready.’ He was standing there at 7:45 a.m. waiting for me. He said that was the highlight of his trip here,” she said.
Along with the peacefulness the prairie offers, Todd said watching the seasons change is simply jaw dropping.
“When the seasons change it’s fun to watch the animals react to them. Each year it’s so neat to see how baby bison are born and watching the herd communicate,” she said.
A couple of her most memorable moments were caught on her film camera.
“Since doing trail rides for a while, I knew I had to bring my camera. I had it on my saddle bag and we hadn’t been seeing anything all day. But then one of our riders was going to look for a creek crossing and as he rode into the trees, 12 cow elk came right out of them and I snapped it on my camera,” she said. “One other time was when we were riding and we saw a cow buffalo standing alone. She was by herself so we went to make sure she was OK. We were maybe about 50 yards away... she took a few steps and out came a little baby calf — and he took a few steps after her. He was maybe less than 24 hours old and he just kept following her, I’ll never forget that.”
Todd urges parents to take their children out to Maxwell for the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I really enjoy seeing children on the tram rides. When they see buffalo for the first time, they’re so excited and impressed. It’s being able to share the experience with kids and adults who wouldn’t normally have that opportunity,” she said.
Contact Brooke Haas by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel.