There is a picture in the Dorsey photo albums of three young ladies in front of their home on Main st here in Gardner. Two of them are in bonnets and prairie dresses the third one in a formal. They are ready for the Centennial Celebrations of our state in 1961. One of the few pictures of the three of us as kids. Also one of me as a kid standing still. I think I was holding a kitten maybe.
Our state celebrated her 159th birthday this past January 29th. I love this state. Yes as much as I complain about winter cold and summer heat, I love Kansas.
I realize that being born here, has a few disadvantages. Some of the Midwestern beliefs and thoughts need a little modernization, but she is my state.
Growing up, my friend from Edgerton and I would walk to the viaduct, the old wooden one. We would sit and watch the wheat on the east side of town blow in the wind. We would wait for trains to pass under us. The entire structure would shake, but it was sturdy. We would talk about moving away someday.
But we both went back to our hometowns after venturing elsewhere.
I also remember our school teachers handing us pages to color about Kansas. Sunflowers and Jayhawks. State maps that were almost rectangular. I never learned enough about Kansas when I was in school. I do know we were the 34th state to enter the union. We were a freestate. We still are. There were rumors of underground railroad tunnels in nearby Spring Hill. Quantrell raided homes to the north and west of Gardner. Lots of history. Some good some not so good.
I never learned all the names of our counties. I have never toured the Capitol building in Topeka. For the longest time I thought Hays was on our western edge. A couple trips across Kansas set that straight.
I remember a lady where I worked years ago. She was from the New York area. She really believed we had Indians in teepee’s living here and that you could see mountains if you really tried. She was also amazed at the number of trees we had for being a barren plain.
Yes there are places I long to go. Places where I would love to stay for a while. But honestly I would miss my Kansas seasons. I would miss being able to smell the rain before a thunderstorm. I would miss the big flat bottom clouds that drift over in the summer. I would miss the beautiful rainbows and the orange purple sunsets of fall and winter. I know if I go west just an hour or so I can find dark skies and the Milky Way hanging overhead.
I love that I grew up chasing butterflies and lightning bugs. That I could catch crawdads in a creek and find four leaf clovers.
I love that I could read the books I wanted and they weren’t banned. That the local churches didn’t burn rock and roll records.
I love seeing wild sunflowers bloom along dusty gravel backroads and corn can be purchased from the farmers who grow it. If I ever have to leave Kansas to live elsewhere, I will miss it. I know in this day and age that sounds silly and quaint. But it is my home.