A KanColl Christmas

Gifts come at all times of the year, and in all shapes and sizes. In "For Bonnie Annie Laurie," Lynn Nelson spins a story about a very special gift, and the love with which it was given, in "For Bonnie Annie Laurie." Here is how the story begins:

Sometimes, in the warm evenings of Summer after planting and before harvest and especially on Thursdays, neighbors would often walk or ride over to my grandparent's just to socialize. The women would gather inside to drink tea, knit and crochet, and talk about who was and who should be thinking about getting married, who was expecting, who was going to become a grandmother, and such women-folk things. As the evening drew on sometimes one of them would start talking about the home and family she had left and, soon enough, everyone was dabbing at her eyes and remembering the things she had left behind her. One of the things that my grandmother had left behind her was music. She played the piano very well and had a fine though soft voice. Grandfather knew how much she missed real music in her life since he could hear her singing to herself even while she bent herself to tasks that one would have though were beyond such a delicate woman. Early in the Winter and without telling her, Grandfather had ordered a piano and sheet music sent up from Chicago as well as a fine hand-cranked Victrola with a big tulip-shaped loudspeaker, along with a hundred phonograph records of music he thought that she would like. I remember these things so clearly....

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We wonder if a Christmas present at the turn of the century could have been the latest edition of Ironquill's poems. Ironquill (the pen name of Eugene Ware) was a remarkable writer, and this remains one of our favorites (particularly in this often hectic holiday season!):

The day has been vague, and the sky has been bleak,
     Affairs have gone backward the whole day long;
My friends as I meet them will scarcely speak,
And vainly the things I have lost I seek.
     I am weary and sad -- and the world is wrong.

The morrow has come, and the sky has grown clear,
     The world appears righted, and rings with song;
My friends as I meet them have words of cheer,
The things that I thought I had lost reappear,
     And the work pushes forward the whole day long.

As the strings of a harp, standing side by side,
     Are the days of sadness and days of song;
The sunshine and shadow are ever allied,
But the shadows will fade, and the sunshine bide,
     Though to-day may be dim, and the world go wrong.

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Jude Glad had to track down Roscoe Fleming's daughter to get permission to include his extraordinary poem, "Kansas: 'Ad Astra Per Aspera'," in KanColl, but Jude felt a copy of the poem belonged here. We are so glad she did! Here's an excerpt:
An old-timer told of sitting in his homestead shack
And hearing the dry lightning hit his just-strung fence
Traveling the barbed-wire, and exploding the posts

Sending the splinters zinging like deadly arrows.
He said he thought first: "It's my turn next"; and sec-
     ond, that this was why Eastern Kansans fenced
     with osage-orange hedges,
(Though it wasn't; they just didn't have anything else
     to fence with.)
Such storms grew often into tornadoes
So that every shack or sodhouse had its cyclone cellar
And afterward little rain-lakes might twinkle briefly
     on the bosom of the blossoming prairie, loud with
     the cheerful piping of the frogs that appeared
     miraculously from nowhere, as if set down there
     by God's own hand,
While the prairie-larks sang His praises.

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Mark Dunn took this beautiful photograph of the Flint Hills. There really is no place like home!
Yellow gravel road turning toward the horizon
Copyright, Mark Dunn, all rights reserved

We wish you all the happiest of holidays,
and a satisfying and joyous New Year!

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