By Doris Schroeder
As I approach the last decade of my life, I get excited about the joy of living in the state of Kansas. If you were to ask me why, I would probably find it hard to give you an answer, at least one that made sense…even to me.
I do understand when my ancestors came from Europe; they could see many more opportunities here in the middle of the U.S. They also knew they had the freedom to “try their wings” in different endeavors. My Dad’s father enjoyed the “wheeling and dealing” afforded to him during the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds. He could buy land in which to plant his Red Turkey Wheat his father had brought along from Europe. He could raise livestock and had the freedom to barter and trade, purchasing a hardware store, a telephone office and a mill with a mere shaking of hands and an agreed upon purchase price.
When my parents were married, they were both country school teachers so when my older sister and I came along, we enjoyed the way our parents taught us things. They let us be as creative as we wanted to be. I was completely happy as my older sister looked out for me in the neighborhood.
One day, however, that all changed when she and I were playing at the neighbor’s house across the street. The father came home from hunting and let his son carry in his hunting gun. He pointed it in fun at my sister playing with the kittens and pulled the trigger. Through all the turmoil that followed, I was later told that night that Lulu had gone to heaven. This set me off in a new direction…to find out how I, too, could be sure of going to heaven.
After I had attended Kindergarten in Hutchinson, my Dad announced we would be moving to the family farm. I was overjoyed as I attended first grade in the country school. The name of the school, Sunrise, seemed to brighten my life again The older girls in the school took the place of the sister I had lost.
My Dad’s cousin Ike and his wife Stella visited us from California and talked Dad into moving his family to McFarland, California…and regaled us with tales of “milk and honey!” My Dad picked up on it and off we went. We rented a nice house with a huge yard in town and we enjoyed it for awhile.
The war with Japan broke out and Dad worked in a defense plant on the coast, moving our family of four to Pittsburg, California. Then Ike and Stella visited us again and we moved back to McFarland…Dad became the bookkeeper for Ike’s Oil Business and Mom ran the filling station and grocery store located next to Ike’s residence on Highway 99. Our little family lived in one big room in back of the store and we enjoyed it. Mom, of course, running a grocery store, always had a delicious supper and my second cousin Norbert, who lived near by, would always find an excuse to be around our place at supper time. Although I enjoyed the different life we were living, I still longed for Kansas and would tell all my friends about the joy of living on the farm until they all longed for it with me.
One day at the supper table my Dad announced we would be moving back to the farm in Kansas and I was ecstatic…Norbert not so much. It was nice to have had a brother at least for a short time.
We drove back to Kansas during the pre-Christmas snows, spending Christmas Eve in a little motel in Oklahoma where Dad patched the tires once again. We arrived back at my grandparents house in Buhler late Christmas Day. It took a few days for my parents to find the necessary furniture and stoves for the farmhouse and we were again situated at the place I loved the best…the Kansas farmhouse on the hill.
I loved helping my Dad on the farm…sitting on the grain sower when we planted wheat and the combine when we harvested it. To pass the time, I would sing at the top of my lungs while I watched the grain coming through the mouth of the combine. Eventually I drove the tractor pulling the combine and did my best to follow his instructions.
The day came, however, when our grandparents told us they had to sell the farm and that was to their son-in-law Eldo Schmidt. We would be moving back to Hutch again and leaving behind the golden kernels of memory. I know I was heart- broken but as we moved to town, set out to find my golden times in the city.
Attending a large Junior High after the family-centered country school was an adjustment. However, when I was ready for the 9th grade, I talked my parents into letting me attend the Buhler High School I would have attended on the farm. I was totally happy and enjoyed the golden years of learning.
I also met my future husband who had all the traits I loved. Two weeks after my graduation, we were married and in the years to come had a son and a daughter.
We have had sixty six years of living in the golden state of Kansas…where life is simple and profound, where God is always around.
The mystery isn’t just the golden fields of Kansas, much as we have loved that, but that of the complete but simpler life that can be enjoyed in this state. We can talk to people in all walks of life…the Farmer’s Market, the family restaurants, the shopping stores, our churches, and of course, the Young at Heart Ministries and Christian Women’s Club. Most all of them know who we mean when we share what God has done for us. Because we have accepted him into our lives, we know we will have the joy of going to heaven someday where we will walk the streets of gold.
That is, indeed, the sweet mystery of life!
Doris welcomes your comments and can be reached at dorisschroeder @att.net