Sunflower from the Sunflower State

Sunflower from the Sunflower State

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Happy Birthday, Kansas!

You probably wouldn't think about having a birthday party in a cemetery. But as Kansas celebrates 153 years of statehood today, I am thinking about those pioneers who settled this land I now call home. On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union and became the 34th star on the American flag.

Peace Creek Cemetery is just a mile from Randy's boyhood home. Some of his ancestors rest in this quiet plot at the edge of a wheat field. Maybe a visitor or two who take the wrong road to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge might happen across it. But, for the most part, it's off the beaten track. The chilly silence may be broken by the growl of a tractor or a pickup traversing the sandy road. But most often, the sound is just the breeze through the trees that stirs the music of a wind chime near one of the graves.

As we drove by one January evening, I asked Randy to stop. I watched the sun sink into the horizon of the western sky, and I thought about those pioneers who came before me. They may have marveled at a similar sunset sky, the velvet blue lightened with pinks and yellows and oranges - the vibrant colors that come only on a cold January night.
There were probably fewer trees then, but the same sun and the moon still hung from the sky. These celestial bodies defined their days - probably more so than they do mine since they would have lit their homes with candles or kerosene lanterns on dark January nights.
I wonder about the people buried there, some as long ago as 1879. There are mothers and fathers, babies and toddlers, neighbors and friends.
Were they adventurers? Were they dreamers? Were they looking to improve life for themselves and their families? Under the Homestead Act, any person older than 21 could choose 160 acres of land on which to farm or ranch. If the homesteader could live and farm on the land for a period of five years, they could own it.

Clearing the land of the tall, tough prairie grass was back breaking work. They had to figure out what crops would grow, often a process of trial and error. Droughts, thunderstorms, bitter winters, prairie fires and grasshopper invasions stood in the way of fulfilling their hopes for a different way of life.
The dreams they planted on the Kansas prairie took root like the trees they planted to block their homesteads from the unrelenting wind.

And they worked hard. They planted churches and schools along with the winter wheat.
They raised their families. They lived and they died on the Kansas prairie.
And as we celebrate 153 years of statehood, I am thankful for my ancestors and those of my husband who had a vision and worked hard to provide a future for their children and their children's children and beyond.
Kansas is celebrating its birthday. But we got the gift.
This is updated from a 2012 blog post on Kim's County Line.

8 comments:

  1. Great post, I liked to this over at my blog http://homeontherangeexchange.blogspot.com/2014/01/happy-birthday-kansas.html

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    1. Glad to have you visit today! I visited your site, too. Happy Kansas Day!

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  2. I was thinking about Kansas Day as we ran errands today. I guess all those years of celebrating while we lived there have stuck with me. The funny thing has been that I keep singing the song "Kansas Kitty" over & over in my head. I will have to teach it to our grandsons & read them the book that goes with it. Thanks for a great reminder of this special day in history.

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    1. Thanks, Debora! The song in my head is "I'm A Sunflower from the Sunflower State." They had special activities at school today, and I went with Randy, who gave a Kansas Wheat presentation. While it wasn't at our station, the kids also got to make homemade pretzels, play pioneer games and toured the grain elevator. We did take a big tub (a bushel) of wheat for the kids to feel and play in. Hopefully, they will remember the day just like you did!

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  3. Gorgeous pics, Kim! It really captures the beauty and the heritage that we are so proud of. Great work.

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    1. Thanks, Pam! I appreciate you taking time to comment and to share the post on Facebook!

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  4. Since I missed the 2012 post, I'm so glad you updated it. Enjoyed!

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  5. this is really good.

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