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A True Kansas Sunflower Story

by Lynn Nelson

    I suppose that it was among the seed that we put out in our back-yard bird-feeder, but we had one of those big sunflowers sprout up in our back yard this past summer. You know, the real native Kansas variety. It had gotten about fifteen to twenty feet tall before the buds began to swell, and we had to use binoculars to see the blossoms when they finally opened. The thing was very topheavy, though. It had grown so fast that its stalk was barely a foot in diameter, and one of those late summer winds sent it crashing down, narrowly missing our garage, our neighbor's back porch, and the lamp post down at the corner. I had a couple of fellows with a truck come in, and they used chainsaws to cut the stalk up into twenty-foot lengths. I thought that I would have to pay a high price for all that work, but they didn't charge me at all. It seems that a couple more sunflowers like ours had come down in the wind, and they had already made a deal to sell the entire carload to a rancher down near Dalhart in the Texas Panhandle. He had gotten tired of his flimsy aluminum irrigation pipe getting bent and twisted, and had been looking for some good solid Kansas sunflower stalk sections for a long time. Of course, the Arabs buy most of the mature specimens for oil well casing, but I seem to have gotten off the point.

    Amongst all of the debris, I found something really amazing, an exquisitely tiny but perfectly formed Kansas sunflower blossom. I have to emphasize that this was a true native Kansas sunflower, and not one of the miniature varieties that seem to have almost taken over the state. This lilliputian flower was barely a foot across and so I knew would just fit on my scanner. I carried it into the house immediately, laid it down on the scanner, and took an image. The light from the scanner was the last bit that it needed, and it began to release its pollen just as it was being scanned. I was afraid for a while that one of the bees would manage to break through the window and I sat there for a long time, pistol in hand, until it occurred to me to drench the room with industrial strength ammonia. It did the trick. The brutes buzzed away intent on some other prey, but the odor (which even three weeks later makes my eyes water) was so strong that my precious specimen withered away to a sodden mass within a couple of hours.

    I know that a lot of people won't believe a word of this, but the scanner did its job. You can view the picture and decide for yourselves. You can even download a copy to confound other skeptics. I'm sure that it must be the smallest specimen of a true Kansas sunflower ever seen, and I intend to make a color print of the image and submit it to the Guiness Book of World Records.

A true Kansas sunflower, in brilliant colors, with spots of pollen against the black background

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