Christmas Eve. Southeastern Kansas, 2009. The middle of nowhere.
Kansas is one of those places that gets a bad rap. People speak of Kansas like it’s Death Valley, or the hindparts of Mars.
People say stuff like, “Yeah, I drove through Kansas once, I was bored spitless for six hours.”
But that’s only because they aren’t seeing the Sunflower State the right way. The Thirty-Fourth State can bewitch you if you open yourself to its quiet beauty.
First you have the sunsets. Kansan sunsets are neon red and gold, vivid enough to put Claude Monet to shame. The sundowns are an ecological phenomenon, caused by red dust in the atmosphere which has traveled all the way from the Sahara to suspend itself above Bourbon and Neosho County.
Also, you have sublime flatness. Millions of Americans visit the Gulf of Mexico each year to stare at prairie-flat blueness. Kansans have a gulf of their own.
Currently, the state has 15.8 million acres of virgin prairie. You can stand at certain places in this
state and, literally, be hundreds of miles from the nearest Super Target.
In the wintertime, however, Kansas has earth-stopping blizzards. This is the geographical center of the nation. They get all the weather you didn’t want.
Tornadoes. Fatal summers. Snowstorms harsh enough to make Scandinavia look like a weekend in Honolulu.
It was during one such snowstorm, on Christmas Eve, that Marie was at home. She was a young mother, with two children. They lived in a 40-foot single wide, perched on 200 acres of family land.
The blizzard of aught-nine was apocryphal. Many evangelicals believed this was the literal end of the world and were sincerely repenting of their evil ways, committing themselves to prayer, fasting, and self flagellation. Meanwhile, the German Catholics decided to take up vodka as hobby.
To say the storm was “bad” is like saying invasive dental surgery is “kinda fun.” In some…