It’s been 44 years since Larry Farmer collected small change in return for a view of prairie dogs and a bobcat on the family farm. Today, he’s an iconic figure in Americana tourism, collecting somewhere around $9 a person to visit one of the most eclectic collections of animals and, of course, the world’s largest prairie dog.

Countless times we’ve passed by the Oakley, Kansas zoo on I-70 without stopping at Prairie Dog Town. A friend reportedly visited the big prairie dog in a garage one winter day. ┬áBut today we shelled out $25 (with a friendly discount from Larry) and actually felt pretty good about it.

Talking with Larry is worth the price of admission. He’s proud of what he’s done with Prairie Dog Town. Proud of the t-shirt he gave Al Roaker, the stories in Wall Street Journal and the parade of visitors from around the globe.

The pit of rattlesnakes starts the tour, Outside, the yard is pocked with prairie dog holes. Russian boars roll around in the muck while goats flock to the fence for handouts. Geese roam freely while the five-legged and six-legged steers rest next to each other.

At the far end of the park you can see the bright white belly of the world’s largest prairie dog, freshly painted and standing 17-feet high - all 8,000 reported pounds. It’s like a lifetime achievement to come to Prairie Dog Town, posing for pictures with the giant dog.

Yah, it’s corny. But it’s America. Promoters like Larry Farmer are, sadly, becoming a thing of the past. But 44 years later, his energy, passion and twist-your-arm tourism are still bringing people to Oakley for a little break while driving the flatlands of Kansas.

Great day with our metal artist Sara Balbin at Dragonfly Studio. Sara and Carole have some fun in a pair of old car doors. (at Dragonfly Studio)

Feeding frenzy for hummingbirds today at Farmstead Creamery near Hayward. (at Farmstead Creamery & Cafe)

Fun day swimming the waterfalls at Amnicon Falls with grandkids.

The beautiful, stately McCormick House Inn has become a landmark in Hayward, WIsconsin in recent years. The lumberman’s mansion, now a B&B, dates back to the 1880s when logging enjoyed a heyday in the Northwoods. Robert McCormick built the home on the highest point in the area which later became the community of Hayward. The head of the Northern Wisconsin Logging Company was influential in the region before moving west to Washington state. #tourdeheartland #history #logging

Lunch in Cable with Naomi. (at The Brickhouse Cafe)

As my followers know, I love photographing barns. In the rolling countryside around Madison, it’s almost not sport. Every turn presents you with another opportunity. It’s a slice of Americana, with iconic red structures that bring back floods of memories of childhood drives in the country. (c) 2013 Tom Kelly #tourdeheartland #photography #barns

Life in the Tube on Flickr.

It’s fun at the end of the year to look back at photographs that had a special meaning for me personally. No ranking this year, just sharing an image a day.

Carole and I had a wonderful experience at the London Olympics. We spent much time in the London Underground or Tube, which had a life and culture all its own.

On this particular day, I experimented by setting the camera on the handrail and blurring the walls. This English gentleman was an unwitting model for what was one of my most memorable images of the our time in London.

Enjoy this and other favorites of mine from 2012.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tkellyphoto/sets/72157632287598051/

Burning Treetops on Flickr.

I always look forward to the St. Mary’s Christmas in the Meadow Holiday Boutique as an opportunity to catch up with friends and share my landscape photography! It’s coming up this weekend, Nov. 17-18, at the St. Mary’s White Pine Canyon Church SR224 coming into Park City.

This year I’ll have over 75 unique images for sale in sizes ranging from notecards to large wall prints.

Burning Treetops is one of my favorites of the year, captured as the sun set on a blazing row of aspen along the Mirror Lake Highway. It’s one of many new prints that will be available for sale.

It’s the perfect spot for your holiday shopping where just $30 will buy you a framed, signed original print!

Here’s the details:

St. Mary’s Christmas in the Meadow Holiday Boutique
Sat. Nov. 17 - 9 am - 5 pm
Sun. Nov. 18 - 10 am - 3 pm

I look forward to visting with you!

Soldier Hollow Sheep Dog on Flickr.

The first time we went to the Soldier Hollow Classic years ago we had no idea what to expect. Sure, we had seen Babe. But this was the real deal. The intelligence of the border collies is mind boggling.

If you haven’t seen a sheep dog event, it goes like this. A border collie starts at the bottom of the hill, running up to greet five sheep. The sheep dog then leads the five sheep through a series of gates - in sequential order - before ultimately splitting the group into two (three and two), bringing them back together and into a pen. Whew, can’t imagine doing that myself.

In this photograph, the border collie has his sheep on the run, heading for the next gate near the bottom of the course, all in near perfect unison.

It’s a fun event to photograph. This image was made with a Nikon D300 using a 70-300mm lens. It’s part of an exciting sequence with the sheep dog hot in pursuit of a record time.