P is for Prairies

Growing up in the heart of the Kansas Flint Hills, Mom loved wide-open spaces. I remember an excursion with her to find a tumble-down stone house that she caught a glimpse of one day. Most people, zipping along on the state highway, didn’t even register its presence.

Near El Dorado, Kansas, you'll find this old stone house.

Near El Dorado, Kansas, you’ll find this old stone house.

Almost hidden in a fold of the hills, it sat abandoned for 70, maybe even 100 years. Taking to the gravel back roads, she finally found her way to it. We had to trek through long prairie grass to get closer while keeping a sharp eye out for rattlesnakes.

Photo by Gail Martin

Photo by Gail Martin

We were also wary of range cattle. Most would not bother us, but a bull could be aggressive. The stone house, small and just a single room, looked lonely with its roof long gone and its walls only partially standing. The fallen limestone blocks littered the ground around it, blending in with the golden grasses of autumn.

Thank you, Mom, for instilling in your children an appreciation of those early Kansas pioneers and for the seemingly endless prairie views. My sisters and I talked about a suitable place for spreading our parents’ ashes. The Flint Hills area is high on our list of places they would like.

Abandoned stone house in the Kansas Flint Hills.

Abandoned stone house in the Kansas Flint Hills.

The roof is gone and the walls are starting to crumble.

The roof is gone, and the walls are starting to crumble.

Imagine the work of constructing this house in pioneer days.

Imagine the work of constructing this house in pioneer days.

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