Put away your red slippers and Toto jokes; there really is no place like the Flint Hills of Kansas. My heart feels at rest when I’m there; this is my heart’s home.
Here’s an excerpt from my soon-to-be-published novel, Voices on the Prairie:
The wind lays soft against the prairie
And gives its breath to the new day
This winding road I’m traveling on’s a memory
Of a place I’ve been and a place I’d like to stay
I recently conned a fellow photographer, Darryl Hill, into getting out of bed at 4:30 on a Saturday morning to accompany to a little known jewel of America, the Tallgrass National Preserve that wears the Kansas Scenic By-Way of K-177 like a beauty queen wears a sash. His wife thinks he’s as crazy as my wife thinks I am.
In 1878, Stephen Jones bought the land and started building the mansion. It had just been 76 years since Lewis and Clark discovered the land east of the Mississippi and 14 years after Lincoln was assassinated.
After photographing around the mansion, Darryl and I followed one of the trails to the pasture where the bison roam.
The Kansas State song is Home on the Range. It’s literally impossible to look out over a herd of bison and not hum, oh give me a home where the buffalo roam. I bet you’re doing it right now.
Apparently, the writer of that song didn’t know the difference between bison and buffalo either so I don’t feel so bad. Bison live in North America and buffalo live in Africa and Asia. This information will come in handy with Trivial Pursuit, but I doubt you’ll care which is which if they’re chasing you. They have a six foot vertical jump and run up to 40 mph. In 1840, 50 years before this ranch was built, there were an estimated 40 million bison. By 1900, the numbers were down to 300!
I wanted to photograph The Lower Fox School which is on the Tallgrass Preserve, but there was a wedding going on at 6 o’clock in the morning! I learned, once again, that I might not capture the image I want, but if I keep working a scene, I’ll surprise myself with an image I like. This is the back side of the school and an image that I like much better than the one I hoped to get.
Along the hike, we found this pleasant surprise snuggled down in the grass: a butterfly opening her wings to let the rays of the sun charge her batteries.
I know how she feels; a trip through the Flint Hills always recharges mine.
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