Karen Madorin

Prairie Tayles writer

Community: Hays, KS

A sixth generation Kansan, Karen Madorin cherishes the prairie in a way only one who has left a beloved homeland and returned can.  A writer, amateur photographer, and former teacher, Karen loves finding fossils from the ancient inland seas as well as learning about modern pioneers who harvest Kansas wind.  Her Prairie Ramblings essays celebrate living the good life on the High Plains.

Ways to Connect

pinterest.com

After receiving scores of Presidents Day sale flyers in my mailbox and e-mail, I’m flashing back to childhood celebrations of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington’s birthdays. Keep in mind we didn’t combine birthdays fifty years ago. We turned February into one long party. We celebrated Lincoln on February 12 and then Washington on the 22nd. When you added in a Valentine party, February was a festive month for elementary students in the late fifties and early sixties.

cope-preparedness.org

Elvis wasn’t the only the person to note a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. Lately, it appears that even more of it is taking place. Kansas residents have experienced plenty of recent unexpected movement as the earth repeatedly shifts under feet and houses. This messes with people’s equilibria and generates questions.

Karen Madorin

By nature, Plains people share what they have with neighbors. It is how we survive and thrive. This opportunity for readers and lovers of ideas to explore and discuss our common landscape and the stories it generates is a gift. Each of us brings original perceptions to our common experience. Those differences can strengthen or weaken bonds necessary to make life good in a hard land. This group offers a venue for us to learn who we are because we value life on the Great Plains.

www.examiner.com

By a generation, I missed wearing flour sack clothing. After drying dishes with Grandma’s treasured dishtowels that originated as such containers, I was relieved the Depression was over so I didn’t have to dress in something that started as a bag. However, over decades as I’ve listened to stories of those who did, I realize I missed making memories that people still talk about 70 to 80 years after the fact.

kansascyclist.com

There was a time that I found rumble strips—you know, those zig-zaggy indentions down the middle and sides of highways—to be nothing but obnoxious. They make terrible sounding vibrations when crossed, regardless of whether drivers intend to pass over them or not. They remind me of a dentist using the big drill to grind out a chunk of old filling. My feelings about those asphalt irritations changed the day those rough-carved asphalt concaves saved not only my life but my mom’s. Since then, I’ve new respect for that once disturbing noise.

cubakansas.com

I’ve grown up hearing America called the melting pot of the world. If you spend time traveling Kansas, then you understand the Sunflower State is the biggest bubble in that boiling mess. In a few hours’ time, travelers can visit Lebanon, Denmark, Norway, and Cuba. During that journey, drivers can drop south to Glasco, named for Glasgow, Scotland. Kansas is a state of many cultures, evidenced not only by town names but also by buildings designed to honor old-country customs.

kansas.com

Some people like cities. They like the anonymity of blending into a crowd. They like choosing where to shop, dine, and have fun. Being unknown to a server is a relief rather than a blessing. For these folks, the intimacy of living in a small town where everyone knows your name and your business is too personal. On the other hand, there are people like me who love going into a local eatery where the wait staff knows my name and what I’m going to order. These establishments are the heartbeat of tiny towns.

Sore Hands No More

Dec 26, 2015
doveriver.co.nz

Frigid temperatures do more than raise the gas bill. Cold, frosty days redden and roughen flesh, leading to splitting skin on fingers and hands that hurts as bad as or worse than a paper cut. No matter how much girly girl lotion and cream I applied in January and early February, I couldn’t smooth out either the hangnails that snagged on bulky sweaters and hoodies or soothe away those painful, weather-induced wounds that formed at the edges of my finger and thumbnails and over the tops of knuckles.

library.ndsu.edu

 One of the bonuses of teaching for so many years is that I’ve learned much from local speakers who have shared their knowledge with my students and me. In  1986, Lawrence Weigel, a regional historian from Victoria, began a tradition of speaking to my classes about local Volga German Christmas customs. Even though my grandma’s family came to America from this region, I’d never heard about the character called Belznickel that Mr. Weigel brought to life in my English classroom.

White Treasure

Dec 11, 2015
williamsburgartnexus.org

Holidays remind many of us of either family or cultural customs that connect us to generations long past. By following old family recipes, we can savor treats our ancestors have served for decades or maybe even hundreds of years. For instance, my husband’s Swiss ancestors have been making and giving linzer tarts at Christmas time long before they migrated from Switzerland to the United States. After analyzing my own great-grandma’s stash of old recipes, the English side of my family has baked date cookies and breads as well as Christmas puddings for eons.

aberdeencommunitytheatre.com

While folks in northern and western Kansas might be a long way from the bright lights of Broadway New York City style, we enjoy our fair share of drama on the boards.  Our actors and actresses are youngsters in our communities, and our directors are often teachers by day and drama coaches by night and weekend. Local wizards of the sewing machine and serger, forensic coaches, carpenters, welders, and likewise talented people are costumers, set builders, and backstage help.

Frozen Memories

Nov 27, 2015
cookbookcherie.wordpress.com

A friend’s Facebook post of her daughters holding a big bowl of fresh snow and smiling expectantly reminded me wintry weather isn’t only about driving carefully, shoveling drives, and making snowmen.  It’s also about adding milk, sugar, and vanilla to jillions of miniscule crystals to create something that glides across taste buds and slides into memory.

Who forgets the first time their mom or dad  watched huge flakes fall, saying, “Hope there will be enough to make snow ice cream.”   If deep drifts formed, that parent headed to the cupboard containing  mixing bowls and extracted the big one.  After that, a voice commanded, “Put on your hats, coats, gloves, and boots.  It’s time.”

kutukupret.work

Imagine a time traveling pilgrim joined your family’s Thanksgiving celebration this year. After you got over the surprise of finding in individual wearing a tall hat, short pants, stockings, funny looking shoes, and possibly carrying an antique weapon in your dining room, you’d have to wonder about the differences between 1622 and 2014. Questions might include what this visitor thought about modern homes, holiday foods, and current pastimes to celebrate a national holiday that ties contemporary Americans to one of the first English settlements in the new world.

getawaymavens.com

Living rural means viewing stars without light clutter, neighbors helping neighbors in good times and bad, and signaling every driver you meet with a two-fingered wave. It also means shopping takes effort, and running a successful business takes even more. Despite difficulties, creative folks find ways to provide services others need. I could rave for pages telling why I like shopping local where I feel welcome and my commerce keeps money in the region. I love my small town bank, mechanic, stylist, grocery, drug, and hardware stores.

http://www.photos-public-domain.com/

One of my favorite features of winter is being able to see bird nests in leafless trees. I like to figure out what species lives in a particular area so I can look for it when days lengthen, temps warm, and foliage hides those cobbled together nurseries.

Larry Weishun

As a kid, I lived 11 miles from Disneyland. I took for granted that I’d visit the happiest place on earth several times a year. And I did. Due to immaturity, I didn’t understand why my out of state cousins were so excited to visit Southern California and the Magic Kingdom. They were giddy about meeting Mickey and exploring Adventureland, and their enthusiasm for something so commonplace as Disneyland escaped me. After all, it was just a big amusement park with a bunch of costumed characters walking around waving at folks.

    How is it that gun-metal skies, golden leaves, and russet milo fields can stun the eye yet cause eyes to swell, noses to run, and throats to itch badly enough that sufferers want to take a wire brush after them? Every fall, these irritating symptoms remind me that spectacular seasonal beauty comes with a price. I don’t even have to stand in a field of this attractive grain. Living in the vicinity is enough to drive me and others nuts.

wikipedia.org

Due to its central location between Forts Leavenworth and Wallace, Hays, Kansas, hosted numerous famous military men who earned their gold stripes and leaves fighting the Mexican- American War, Civil War, and Indian Wars.

These soldiers left their mark on our landscape in the names of forts, towns, parks, streets, and university buildings.  We would have forgotten one such site except for its mention in the letters and diaries of Albert and Jennie Barnitz, later collected and edited into Life in Custer’s 7th Cavalry by historian Robert Utley.

quicksall.net

Once upon a long time ago, children played on asphalt or gravel playgrounds filled with tall metal swing sets filled with finger pinching chains and towering slides with two thin rails to guide a youngster up a dozen rickety steps. Those chains and rails froze little hands in December through February and roasted those same palms July through September.

mommypotamus.com

Despite the fact I had a flu shot the minute the doctor made them available, one of those germs invaded, took up residence in my ears, lungs, and sinuses, and has hung around with his buddies far too long. I’ve taken antibiotics and added a few homeopathic treatments to see if I can send this invader packing. Some of my self-care, which includes slathering Vicks on my feet and wearing cotton socks to bed, has offered comfort but not a cure. Several sympathetic friends recommended taking elderberry elixir, and one provided a bottle of his homebrew. When I looked up elderberries, it appears science agrees that syrups made from this native fruit have successfully evicted this nasty attacker and its accompanying symptoms.

republiccountykansas.com

It’s clear Americans have a love affair with stuff. Even the tiniest towns have entrepreneurs who build and rent storage units to families and individuals who own more than they can keep at home. Reality TV caters to this crowd with shows such as American Pickers, Hoarders, and Junk Gypsies. Northern Kansas communities that border historic 36 capitalize on this popular trend each September. The annual Highway 36 Treasure Hunt focuses on both buying and selling goods that might include ornate doors and their hardware, pre-war metal wheels that didn’t get collected in the iron drives during WW II, antique furniture, dishes, and glassware, hunting and fishing gear, and oddities too good to throw away.

mrestespark.wordpress.com

Friends of ours who ranched along the Saline River found elk sheds buried in a bank when they were working cattle years ago. My first response was, “Impossible! We don’t have free-roaming elk in western Kansas.” After examining their treasures, it was clear the creature that lost these antlers inhabited this country over a century earlier. The ungulate that’d sported this rack had grazed native grasses and forbs before white men began tilling rich bottomland and running herds of cattle where buffalo once roamed.

wikipedia.org

From the time we’re little, our parents teach us to watch out for muggers, pickpockets, and other lurkers. What is more difficult is protecting ourselves from invisible germs we pick up either in public or at home where we think we can let down our guard. Somehow, somewhere, an unseen virus targeted my immune system the first week of school. I apparently didn’t wash my hands nearly enough.

boyslife.org

Nothing is more enjoyable than sitting outside on a cool Kansas evening listening to live music and watching the sun set. That is until a couple days later when you realize chiggers showed up at the same party you attended. Over 48 hours, music and breeze-induced peace and relaxation turns into itchy torture. The hungry, invisible insect larvae ruin family picnics, exciting baseball games, plum picking, and a thousand other pleasurable summer activities.

oakhill.co.za

“Gotta crawl, gotta crawl
To the ugly bug ball
To the ball, to the ball
And a happy time we'll have there
One and all
At the ugly bug ball.”

Disney knows how to capture an audience with a combination of heartwarming characters, snappy tunes, and memorable lyrics. 

Die Fly!

Aug 16, 2015
paqwak.com

If curses and death wishes worked, a fly couldn’t survive, let alone buzz in anyone’s ear or crawl on their flesh, near my house. In the last two weeks, I’ve thought or said, “Die fly,” at least a 10,000 times. Unfortunately, wishing these creepy crawlers into the afterworld has had absolutely no effect. It’s time for an attack plan.

A few years ago, we replaced the windows in our house. I expected dust, noise, flies, and suffering through hundred degree plus July days, but I didn’t expect an Oscar quality actor to make an appearance. One thing about living in the country, something unexpected always happens. Because of our remodeling project, I faced one of my most dreaded fears—a snake in the kitchen.  

We’ve raised chickens most of our marriage, so that’s thirty years of learning to understand feathered, cackling females. I can confirm this species is messy, noisy, piggish, and sometimes mean –which explains the term henpecked. They’re also dense and run like gawky, miniature Tyrannosaurs. Despite their character flaws, I love my girls. However, one of them has confused me.

http://healthimpactnews.com

The London Blitz involved nine months of German bomber-induced devastation that drove people who lived there into a state of constant awareness regarding the location of the nearest bomb shelter. While the banks of Big Creek won’t echo with the drone of mechanical motors and sound of carpet bombs exploding one right after another, one locale faces a dive bombing hawk intent on scoring a fresh chicken dinner.

Dingle Images

Somewhere I saw this quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I agree and add you’ll meet interesting creatures along the way. Sometimes those new acquaintances look like something from an intergalactic space bar.

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