Today I'm going to write about something a bit more serious, happening in my home state of Kansas. There is a large wildfire burning in southern Kansas and Oklahoma, southeast of Wichita. They've had to evacuate a few towns, like Medicine Lodge and Sun City, both of which I've been to. The ash and smoke are obscuring the sky and falling all the way up in my hometown of Lawrence, which is a few hundred miles away. It's truly an apocalyptic vision, and all the more disturbing when the livelihoods that have been wrecked are taken into account.
The fortunate thing is that the area is mostly pastureland, and not densely populated. But it's wreaking havoc nonetheless, having destroyed so far over 400,000 acres of land. The fire isn't anywhere near being contained, and continues to balloon outwards, devouring more communities in its wake. It's very early in the season for a wildfire, but there has been a drought that has been going on for years now. Unfortunately this is most likely a harbinger of more woe to come this summer in the region; don't forget that naturally Kansas is mostly beautiful rolling prairie (ie, grass), and a burn off is hard to slow down.
The people of Kansas are by nature stalwart and down to earth, accustomed to hardship and hard work. I love the people of my homestate. Overwhelmingly friendly, kindly interested in others, interesting and diverse. But my heart aches for the circumstances they are up against with this record-setting fire, and the likely scenario of more to come.
One of my strong memories when I was a child was of visiting my grandparents in Harper, Kansas. My parents and brother and sister and I all went on a short day excursion to visit Sun City. It was very small, with a one block long downtown; clearly a farming community. I remember two businesses downtown. The first was a closed down pool hall; it wasn't particularly unique at first glance, but we went and looked in the windows, and to our surprise we saw all the pool tables were still there, with pool cues and balls on them as though left in mid-game. But the entire scene was covered in a quarter of an inch of dust! It was such a surreal image, that never left. I wish I had my camera then! After we took in that sight, we went to a saloon across the street, where the proprietor was a kind old farmer. We lingered a bit and he talked to my parents; he gave us kids some water. That was my only trip to Sun City, but it's never left me.
The sun-baked southern portion of Kansas has always been beautiful to me. Cottonwood trees, rattlesnakes, wheat fields, the omnipresent winds, and huge blue skies. It's no wonder that Wichita was so instrumental in the beginning years of flight (so many companies were there: Cessna, Lockheed, Boeing, it really was the center of the industry); the best views of the sky are in Kansas, how could someone who lived there not want to explore them? 40,000 foot stormfronts can be seen for hours before they hit. I love that area, and always will.
I hope they get the rain they need, and are blessed for harvest season. And I'll be keeping an eye on this wildfire, praying for those caught in the face of its devouring maw, and offering assistance in anyway I can. Keep the firemen in your prayers too, fighting field fires is a terrifying job; extremely dangerous as well. The only solace I can take is maybe after this burnoff, the ash will help make the fields fertile for a great harvest next year.