Kansas Roads

The roads in Kansas, black-top, gravel, dirt, smooth, winding and rutted, can stretch to the horizon and wind and curve around hedgerows out of sight. The roads of northwest Kansas are illusions which make a man believe he can see to the ends of the earth as they unfold in a seeming infinity of straightness. The roads of the flinthills wind and wend along as though on massive sea billows while the rust and blood of the setting sun sets the prairie grass on fire. The road from the farmhouse, through the narrow gulley and to the open pasture will pull and strain at the axles of the tractor. And it will invite the reckless youth to propel his bike down and through it with the fastest speed he can muster, his heart in his mouth, a prayer on his lips to the God of gravity to give him the wings of angels.

The roads of Kansas will take a man where he wants to go, and bring him someplace he never imagined. Built on a county square mile, they will bound and fence in the fertile earth, the lonely prairie farm house and a man’s destiny. A man will wake of a morning, the cold frost on the window, the slumbering harvest buried beneath the crystalline white, and look out to the east, with the dark black of night giving way to the lightening purple of dawn, and know his place in the world. He will not trouble himself with romance and adventure, knowing that his soul will be tested that day in ways he has not foreseen. He will sip his coffee, while the sounds of his breakfast sizzle in his ear, and the song of his wife as she intones a hymn of faith will fill his heart whether he knows it or not. When he looks out on what those Kansas roads enclose, he sees his life and it is a salvation for him.

But the roads of Kansas can stretch away into the wide open sky in a way that invites a man’s soul beyond the limits of his vocation. He knows intuitively that these roads will take him away from what he has known, if he lets them. And if he is not careful, the tempting seduction will enter his heart and his mind, and it will give him illusions of a grander destiny than this humble foursquare of earth that has been given to him for the saving of his soul. That horizon beckons like a siren song, and that song can, if he succumbs to it, become the sounds of a curse. The dust that the wind tosses up into his nostrils and mouth, loses its sweet and damp and becomes bitter and hateful. The rain which he sweats and which courses through his blood, loses its vitality and strength and becomes a barrier to his work and life.

Still, even if a man succumb to the temptation of the open stretches of Kansas roads that kiss the horizon, that dusty trail will stretch out behind him like an anchor. That brown cloud that he kicks up will cling to him. And, if he takes time and thought when he gets to where he’s going, he will know that he has brought with him that destiny he foreswore. And, by God’s grace, that destiny which the foursquare county road enclosed will find him again. Instead of the verdent pastures of the prairie, it will be the black asphalt of the city which bounds his world. But God is a gracious God, and a conservationist, and he will not let go to waste the life a man makes, but will, when that man finds again his journeying clothes, when he inhales again and tastes again that dust of the earth which is in him and from which he was made, remake that destiny. A man will find again that self he thought he left behind as those dust trails billowed out behind him on the Kansas roads.  And he will learn to give again all his soul and all he has for that treasure found in a field.

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One thought on “Kansas Roads

  1. This is very nice, Clifton. I liked especially the image of “the rust and blood of the setting setting sun” which “sets the prairie grass on fire.” It’s quite vivid; I have the visual stuck in my head. Good job.

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