Milo Yield: Laugh Tracks in the Dust 10-24-11
Last week, on a super fine fall day, some friends and I took a half-day excursion to visit one of the historic all-weather springs that pop out of the ground here and there throughout the Flint Hills.
I’ve visited this particular springs twice before, but never with this crew of mostly “old boars” about the same vintage as me. We did allow three young whippersnappers to go with us in hopes that they would absorb some of the history of the Flint Hills and perhaps learn a thing or two about responsible adult living from their learned elders.
To make the trip, I towed my utility vehicle to a “landing site” about a mile from the springs. Then we hooked up my trailer to the UTV, secured seats for all on board with a rope and headed for the springs.
We weren’t even sure in the midst of our drought that the spring would be flowing, but a diminished flow was still pouring from the spring’s three 18-inch openings at a rate we guesstimated would be around 10 gallons per hour. The little creek it feeds wuz full of water, minnows and an abundance of wild watercress.
The area around the springs was on the site of an original Kansas homestead. We found evidence of long-abandoned stone structures, including a rectangular piece of limestone that measured around 4-feet long, 2-feet wide, and 6-inches thick. Everyone agreed it just “had” to be an entrance stone to the house.
Although trees are sparse in the area, a few ancient walnut, ash and hackberry trees still live near the spring. Some of them have remnants of long-ago woven and barbed wire fences sticking through the bark.
It was easy for us old-timers to envision that original pioneer family on their homestead before they starved out. Undoubtedly, there was a milk cow or two, pigs happily wallowing in the cool spring water, chickens pecking around the pens.
Near the creek, there is probably close to 40 acres that had to be the main area for growing crops, so we could see in our minds the pioneer struggling with his team of horses or oxen to break out that heavily-sodded land.
The three young bucks searched the creek sides for evidence of Native American habitation because no doubt the Indians knew of the springs and camped there. While they found no arrowheads, they did find lots of flint rocks and flint shards suitable for making arrowheads. What they did find wuz two pieces of broken white pottery dishes. We could still see the blue color in the pottery.
Shortly before we left the springs, we got acquainted with Jack, who originally hailed from Tennessee and who has a long-history in his own right and a mellow disposition to boot. Together we gave Jack and the springs a hearty toast to a living history.
After we left the springs, we stopped at a local watering hole for cheeseburgers, french fries and a cool beverage.
When I got home, my sides hurt from all the laughing I’d done that day. It was a memorable way to spend a great day with great friends in the Flint Hills.
One of the stories told on our excursion that made my side split wuz told by B. Esser. This story dates back to the horse-drawn farming era. B said he and his brother were instructed by their father to spend the day cultivating corn with a team of skittish young mules. They lived in Missouri at the time.
Well, boys being boys, they got distracted from the job at hand by some fun they’d rather do. They noticed that a pond near the cornfield was heavily populated with muskrats. So, B’s older brother said he’d keep cultivating while B returned to the house to get a gun so they could shoot some muskrats.
B was happy to oblige and soon returned with the firearm and plenty of ammunition. The next time around the field they said “whoa” to the mule team and ground-tied them in place. Then the boys sneaked up to the pond and unloaded on the nearest muskrat.
Well, that wuz the end of their hunting diversion. At the blast of the gun the mule team headed back home like they were in the home stretch of the Kentucky Derby with the cultivator flapping every which-a-direction on their heels.
In a very short time, the mules came to the gate into the field and hooked the cultivator on a corner post on their way by. B said both the cultivator and the harness came apart, but not nearly as much so as their dad did when he assessed the damage.
By the way, the mules were unhurt.
Time to close for the week. I’ll close with an appropriate quote about boys from American novelist James Thurber. He said, “Boys are beyond the range of anybody’s sure understanding, at least when they are between the ages of 18 months and 90 years.”
Have a good ‘un.
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This the first in a six-part series of articles covering basic water law in the United States, predominately in the western part of the country, and how it affects this finite resource.