Karen Madorin

Prairie Ramblings 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.

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Ribbons of Birds

Feb 21, 2013

One of my favorite parts of wrapping presents is creating pretty designs with all kinds of ribbon.  The  paper corners may not be so sharp as one might wish, but I love using  scissors to stretch skinny little green or red Christmas trim into dangling sausage curls.  Somehow sparkly spools of foil, scissors, and tape bring out the creative in me, and I find myself making loop de loops and fleur de lis on my loved one’s gifts.  I’m not sure skill matches imagination, but I love playing with strands of fabric and paper.

Over a decade ago, I lucked into a National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar titled  The Great Plains: Texas to Saskatchewan.  For five weeks,  Tom Isern  led 19 other teachers and I to read and analyze literary and historical texts, discuss conclusions, and visit iconic sites to better understand what it means to live on the plains.

All my married life, I’ve loved attending local auctions.  Part of the charm of these gatherings is seeing friends and neighbors and catching up with one another’s busy lives or listening to the auctioneer’s clever patter.  Another reason these events draw me  is the chance to see history and sometimes buy a little chunk of someone else’s story.  Unfortunately, there comes a time when those little pieces of other’s lives add up to enough stuff to clutter my closets to overflowing.  Before anything bursts, I need to take action.

Trophy Dust Bunnies

Jan 31, 2013

Athletes compete to make the play-offs.  If effort and luck shine on coaches, managers, players, owners, and fans, two franchises make it to games such as the Superbowl, World Series, Stanley Cup or other legendary competitions.  Olympians dedicate four years to earn those few seconds or minutes they have to claim gold. Hunters spend seasons seeking the biggest buck, bull elk, caribou or other record setting trophy to decorate the family room.  After a week of packing a house we lived in for 16 years, I have decided homemakers need their own prize.

I swore I would never be a woman who lived her life behind a camera lens.  I wanted to live in the moment, experiencing life as it occurred. 

I achieved this goal until I received a Nikon that captures moments up close and from considerable distance with clicks of a silver button.  Using that telescopic lens, I could see fine details my unaided eye used to see as blurs.

Sunset Memories

Jan 17, 2013

Skilled technicians with the right equipment create concert and video light shows that dazzle viewers.  An important component of such expertise is that anyone, anywhere can ooh and aah at  color and light shifting like a living kaleidoscope. Kansans don’t have to wait for light shows to come to town. They only have to look west each evening to enjoy award-winning productions the setting sun and our clear atmosphere create daily.

For the Love of Wildness

Jan 10, 2013

A while back, I read a book titled For Love of Wildness by retired Game Warden Terry Grosz.  I wish I’d found it earlier in my marriage to help me understand my husband’s love for his work.  This time of year, I always needed a good reminder of why he chose his profession and why he devoted so much time and energy that wasn’t always appreciated.

Dust Storms and Attacking Tumbleweeds

Dec 27, 2012

Growing up, I heard story after story about the Dust Bowl from my parents and grandparents.   Dad described his mother shoveling rather than sweeping post-storm drifts.  Grandma told how she placed wet sheets over her children’s beds to protect their lungs as they slept.  She’d launder the linens the next day because they got so dirty.

Clearing the Air

Dec 20, 2012

In China that was the year of the horse or sheep or some such beast.  Around my country home, it was the fall of the skunk. 

Driving up our 1/8 mile long entry road the other night, I counted four black and white creatures in my headlights. Since those were visible, who knows how many stinky little pests ran around outside my vision.

I grew up in a hunting household.   My dad made an annual pheasant pilgrimage to Kansas.  He also spent time stalking javelina and deer in Arizona, but he was always a rifle hunter.

Swagger and Blink

Dec 6, 2012

If junior high dances are anything like they used to be, on the way inside, you pass noisy boys jostling one another for dominance.  You hear snippets of saucy trash talk, see manly posturing with exaggerated shoulders and aggressive chins, as well as smell a mixture of colognes designed to tantalize the fairer sex awaiting that evening’s Prince Charming. 

Lucky Hunters

Nov 29, 2012

After every rifle season, lucky hunters celebrate their success stories, recounting details of the hunt to their friends and anyone else who will listen.  Over the years, I have heard many a tale about the one little turn of good fortune that transformed the ordinary hunt into the extraordinary hunt.  One story I never heard ought to be told because that hunter is the luckiest of them all.

Autumn sounds different on our rocky hilltop.  As the temperature drop and days grow shorter, life looks and sounds considerably altered than it did just six weeks ago.  We have new guests at the bird feeder while other frequent diners headed South weeks ago.

Like death and taxes, I count on box elder beetles invading every year.  These nuisances creep into every crack and crevice of our house, silently multiplying until nowhere is sacred.  I have even had them fall off a showerhead while I shampooed my hair.
Unfortunately, I don’t know much about these creatures other than that they show up like a bad penny every fall. They squeeze through airtight windows, out of electrical sockets, and under door jambs like Mongol hordes.  What lures them, I don’t know.

Weather in Kansas often leaves a person feeling a little schizophrenic.  If it confuses me, what does it do to vegetation and animals that live outside?  At this moment, our climate is causing some abnormal buffalo grass behavior.

Sandhill Song

Oct 25, 2012

Leaves changing colors and a sudden nip in the air proclaim autumn’s arrival more forcefully than any date on a calendar can..  With that change comes an ancient song.  Like steps on the porch announcing a visitor, this tune is the sound of summer’s exit and fall’s approach. Vernal musicians herald ice storms and frosts that destroy lingering tomatoes and late summer blooms.

I remember college days . . . waiting for the first warm day of spring when my friends and I headed to a nearby lake . . . unveiling our winter-white bodies to piercing rays of pre-summer sun.  It felt so good to lay my bathing suit clad body on the softness of a worn patchwork quilt.   While vitamin D mixed with UV rays coursed through our sun-starved carcasses, my friends and I agreed  that this was bliss.  If I close my eyes, I can still feel the sharp edges of small stones pressing into my spine and the sensation of solar beams soaking into my belly and face.

Nicodemus

Oct 16, 2012

Pioneers come to the west, leaving all that was familiar, to create a new community- Nicodemus, Kansas.  To this day, descendants of that hardy bunch return to celebrate.

Gold, scarlet, and orange leaves and grasses, blue skies muted by just a hint of vernal gold, air crisped by a gentle breeze, and burnished milo fields.  What more could anyone ask for on an October weekend?  Not much, unless you want to toss in a cornfield maze, a pumpkin patch full of traditional pumpkins, Cinderella pumpkins, and some odd gray - blue pumpkins, a toasty wood fire designed for roasting marshmallows and peanuts, and hayrack rides.  

When I first met my husband, a field-trained black lab owned him.  Rebel was an intelligent canine with a once in a lifetime personality. The retriever and the man had enjoyed a rustic bachelorhood  at Meade  State Fish Hatchery.  Dog and man led an idyllic life hunting, fishing, and working fishponds located far from town and people.

Early Morning Rambles

Sep 27, 2012

An early morning walk makes you healthy, wealthy in the abundance of nature, and wise in discovery.   It also makes the four-legged family friends very happy.  Karen Madorin is greeted by cardinals, rabbits, and the wide open vistas that bring to mind the smallness that early pioneers may have felt.

The search for gold compelled Spanish conquistador Coronado into Kansas.  Ironically, he found gold more valuable that the metal he hoped to find, but unfortunately did not recognize the value of the gold dust coating his boots and leggings.  Pollen is the essence of life, but without pollinators moving from plant to plant, creatures of every kind would lack fruits, vegetables, grains, and grasses. 

How to Catch a Hummer

Sep 14, 2012

One of Fall's gifts is a migratory visitor to the High Plains.  A hummingbird feeder, some sugar solution, and a little patience brings a  hummingbird outside Karen Madorin's kitchen window.

One-finger city waves typically reflect someone's frustration, but in the country it simply means, "Good to see you."  Waves also reflect acknowledgement, warmth, and  personality.   For example, confident drivers use the pointer finger version, pickup and truck drivers seem to prefer the pointer and middle finger union wave, while some drivers are so relaxed they keep their plam on the wheel, and raise all four or eight digits in unison.   Urban drivers have said one of their favorite things about driving in the wide open spaces is greeting other drivers with a good, old fashioned, country

The dance of the fireflies has a hidden meaning.  The little beacons are signaling they are looking for love, and they are under a time crunch.  With only two weeks to find a mate and propagate, it gives adults new insight into the childhood tradition of catching and putting them in a jar. 

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