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Diamonds in the Grass

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Is it diamonds in the grass? Yes, only it's dew drops at sunrise. Sparkling prairie and occasional wildflowers seem undisturbed the morning after. I peek out of our modern covered wagon, see empty tents, gently waving flags and remember.Symphony in the Flint Hills greeted 6,000 visitors with a miracle of sunshine and a gentle breeze on Saturday, June 14, 2008, at the Lakeview Ranch south of Council Grove. Horseback riders ever willing to visit and tell about their horse and life on the prairie greeted us on the walk to the concert site. As we arrive, we are surprised to see Bruce and Susie Taylor, lifetime Chapman area residents. They are enjoying a day away from the traumatic past few days at home. Although they personally did not have damage, members of their family did. It was good for them to talk and us to listen.We still have time for three seminars before our volunteer duties. Luther Pepper, a member of the Kaw Nation, tells stories of the early Kaw/Kanza Indian presence in the Flint Hills. Kansa means "south wind people." The men hunted and the females cultivated, harvested and stored. They called the prairie their home from the 1600s until 1854 when they were moved south to Indian Territory now Oklahoma.Leo Oliva is a long time expert on the Santa Fe Trail. On September of 1821, William Bicknell and four other people set out from Franklin Missouri with goods to sell at Santa Fe. They make a 2,000% profit and thus the beginning of the well-known commerce trail established centuries earlier by prehistoric Indians.Seminars in the Butterfly Milkweed Tent feature families who have deep roots in the Flint Hills. Their love of the land, cattle and open spaces is obvious. Modern ranching is computerized and complicated. I did not hear one panel member say they wished to do anything else.We eat a traditional picnic dinner of barbecued beef and pork and all the fixings. Many others tote in picnics and eat on blankets spread on the hillside. The concert is beautiful. The vastness of the open prairie provides the perfect backdrop for a symphony, which at its loudest speaks to thunder and softest the song of Bob White Quail and Meadowlark. After intermission, we notice wranglers slowly herding cattle over a knoll. Horses and riders hold them in place as the music continues. Then, as Overture to The Cowboy (1980) by John Williams begins, they herd the cattle over the slope and through a break in the hill behind the orchestra. The cowboy music with the visual makes me tearful.As if on cue by the conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, Damon Gupton, the sun slowly slips down over the hills at the last note of the concert. Most packed blankets and chairs and headed home. We opted to watch the stillness set in over the prairie then headed for the star gazing area to look at an almost full moon and stars. I was able to see Saturn's rings, a thrill. Earlier in the day, Peg Jenkins, a Flint Hills rancher, eloquently told her thoughts about living her entire life in the prairie. "There is sacredness in the grasslands. You can see God. When I was a girl, I dreamed I would ride to the top of every hill to see what was on the other side. I have never had any desire to do anything else" Thank you, Peg, for sharing your prairie:and its diamonds.

Symphony in the Flint Hills 2008
Click on photo for slide show.

Comments

Alia Ahmed 9 years, 4 months ago

Linda,Your story is beautifully written. I have attended the Symphony of the Prairie twice. One time was 15-16 years ago and the other time was last year. Both experiences were spiritual adventures for me. I felt such a kinship with the Kansa people and to my ancestors who crossed this rugged land in 1871 to settle in a Dutch community in Osborne County. It is a great tribute to Kansans that the land has probably changed very little in the past 150 years.

Denise Gossage 9 years, 4 months ago

Thanks, Linda, for a great article and pictures. I was there and know how wonderful an experience it is. We stayed after th concert and listened to the Blackberry Band and watched the dancers. Fun!Denise

Ronda Miller 9 years, 4 months ago

nice, riverdrifter! Thanks for sharing that - so pretty and easy to picture.

Ronda Miller 9 years, 4 months ago

This was very interesting, Linda. It makes me wish I had spent the money, energy and time to have made the trip. It gives me great incentive for next year though.Something about spending time out of doors makes me tired and renewed at the same time - an interesting and delightful combination.I am also glad you had a chance to touch lives with your acquaintances from Chapman and the other people who shared their storys with all.

riverdrifter 9 years, 4 months ago

I was there with friends and it was really great.Diamonds in the grass? Well God's green hair is where I slept last He balanced a diamond on a blade of grass Now he woke me up with a cardinal bird And when I wanna talk He hangs on every word...-Tom Waits, 'Bottom of the World'

Linda Hanney 9 years, 4 months ago

Thank you all for your comments. Riverdrifter, the poem is the beginning of the slideshow. Perfect. Where were you when I was trying to put words to the pictures!

riverdrifter 9 years, 4 months ago

I liked the fact that there was a fair amount of, like, 20-something kids there. I was surprised. The food was good and fairly priced. They were going through the kegs of Boulevard Wheat non-stop! The whole event is excellently done. Next year is near Florence, another hour or so away. Wichitans, with this in their backyard, will be after tickets hot'n heavy, so don't delay. They'll be gone in a very short time.

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