It was a balmy afternoon on Thanksgiving weekend when my sister and I suddenly felt the urge to jump on the John Deere Gator and head west down the country road…mile after mile we drove…over the hills of Kansas. There was something so freeing, so pure, so simple, and so nostalgic about this trip as we rambled through the vast prairie. Contented cattle dotted the pastureland, resting in the shade of random trees, or drinking from the small pond of water. The sky was slightly overcast and the sun was high above the earth. The November breeze was gentle and just a bit nippy, but the air was fresh and clean.
As my eyes took in the scene before me, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the simplicity of life that I was so privileged to know as a young Kansas girl growing up on these parts. That drive took me back to school days when the ole’ bus traveled those country routes, making stops at random farmsteads to pick up kids. The dust clouds billowed behind the bus and filtered through open windows. Country music played over the radio as our bus driver maneuvered that big rig through those country hills. Oh, the memories. Life was simple, and it was good…but it wasn’t always easy. It was a life of simple faith in a God who knew every need, and supplied the necessities.
Most people think of Kansas as flat, barren and boring. It’s true, Western Kansas can feel pretty boring as mile after mile is nothing but flat wheat fields and open skies. However, the Eastern side of the state is one of the most beautiful places to behold. I grew up on the foothills of the Flint Hills, and to this day I treasure those experiences. One of my favorite memories is burning pasture in the spring. Miles and miles of blazing pasture lit the nighttime prairie, forming a line of fire as the dead grass burnt down and left the hills blackened and bare. Within a few weeks, those same rolling hills were glowing with bright green, fresh new growth…a thick carpet of new grass that seemed to go on endlessly, hill after hill.
As the fuel gauge dropped another bar, we figured we had better turn around and head back. I wanted to keep driving, feeling that exhilaration for a lifestyle of simplicity. It’s hard to explain, but there’s a contentedness that resonates from those people. Neighbors help neighbors, and everyone knows who’s lives around the bend. The homes are simple, cozy and adequate. Nothing extravagant, and nothing fancy, but they represent a lifestyle that I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience. Often, there are miles between homes that dot the skyline, and the only windmills to be seen are those tucked away on the old farmsteads.
Back home again, we parked the Gator, but my mind was stirred up by way of remembrance. Those were some of the best days of my life, and I am so grateful that I was blessed enough to grow up knowing the joy of simplicity, and also for the opportunity that we grabbed that day to travel deep into the annals of history and relive- just for a few minutes- one of the best childhood experiences ever.
…Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam, and the deer, and the antelope play! Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day! -Home On The Range (Kansas State song)