Sunsets Over Kansas

A minor miracle happened a few days ago on a secluded Kansas farm. It occurred while a nation was transfixed by what was happening in the U.S. Capitol building.

The small farmhouse sits upon a tranquil prairie, roughly 1,190 miles away from Washington D.C. I am told the sunset was one for the books that night. The sky was an arresting seascape of reds, violets, and golds.

Some are surprised to learn that Kansan sunsets are among the most unique in the world. This is because of dust. Dust particles from the entire earth travel to the central plains, riding on global wind currents.

Sometimes dust comes from as far away as the Sahara, drifting 5,000 miles to hover above the Flint Hills. At dusk, the sun shines through these particles and it sets off an explosion of color throughout a pink and yellow sky.

It was during one such vivid sunset that an SUV came barreling up the elderly cowboy’s driveway.

The wiry cattleman stood outside his barn, waiting, watching the car’s dust cloud get bigger. He pulled his jacket snug over his slender frame. It was 29 degrees outside.

From the SUV ermerged his adult daughter and his two grandkids (ages 8 and 9).

“Grandpa!” they cried. “Are we too late?”

He shook his head. “Nope, just in time.”

Most kids would have hugged their granddaddy at this point, but this particular cowboy is a distant man. He’s not a hugger. Call it evidence of his abusive childhood. Call it a byproduct of serving in a Vietnam War. Call it being a windburned cowpoke.

His adult daughter explains: “My father’s a great guy, but he’s never hugged me. Not in my whole life. We’ve never said ‘I love you’ either. Not even at Mom’s funeral.”

The funeral was back in March. It’s been hard on everyone.

The quiet man led the family into the barn to see something wonderful that night. The grandkids were excited when they found what they were looking for.

There in the corner of the ramshackled shed was a whelping hound who would give birth at any moment. The dog was curled tightly, panting and whimpering.

The dog is named Mary. She is an animal who also happens to be the old man’s best friend.

Since the old man’s wife died, Mary has become the unofficial lady of the house. Mary looks after the old man. She reminds him to eat, to bathe, to keep on living. And even though I realize what I’m about to say will seem unbelievable to non-animal people, it’s true. This dog has changed him.

Mary, however, started acting weird a few months ago. She became lethargic and she was getting thicker in the torso. The old cattleman has been around livestock long enough to know motherhood when he sees it.

And this was motherhood’s big night.

The newborn pups emerged from the birth canal with light applause from the grandkids. Which was accompanied with open-mouthed wonder. The old man squatted before Mary to make sure things were okay. He spoke to her softly. He pet her often.

And this is when his daughter noticed something unusual about her father’s behavior. She overheard the old wrangler say to his dog, “I love you, honey.”

It was a low level phenomenon. Nobody had ever heard him say these words. Not to a dog. Not to anybody. There was indeed something different about her dad. He seemed more fragile somehow.

One by one the tiny canine lumps entered this bright world. Mary licked away their membrane sacs and bathed them. Soon there were three, four, five, six, seven puppies.

When the ordeal was over, the dog fell asleep beside the rancher and the old man refused to leave her side.

“Dad,” his daughter kept urging, “you should go to bed, it’s late.”

But he shook his head and announced that he was staying with Mary in the barn. And he did. All night.

The next morning his daughter found the hardened cowpoke fast asleep, seated on a cold floor, head resting against the barn wall. The dog’s head was in his lap. Tiny puppies squirmed and wriggled around their mother’s belly.

When he awoke, he was smiling at his daughter. There was definitely a change in this man, his daughter could see it.

“Dad,” she said. “Did you spend the WHOLE night in the barn?”

The old man simply nodded. Then without saying anything, he stood onto lean legs, stretched his joints, and approached his daughter with something important on his mind. Something very important.

And this is when the miracle happened.

It was a quiet miracle, as supernatural things go. It occurred without fanfare. There were no announcements. It happened when the old man outstretched his arms and hugged his daughter.

This surprised her. She almost didn’t know how to react. She almost recoiled. Instead she squeezed back. They did not release. Not for five or six minutes.

His daughter began to cry. She felt her father quivering, too. And she heard him sniffle.

When they let go, the daughter said nothing. After all, what could she say? Forty-three years of an affectionless drought had been undone with a single embrace. What was next? Racquetball games on the moon?

Next, the cattleman held his daughter by the shoulders and said three words. Words every daughter deserves to hear from her father. Three small words which nobody upon this earth can hear too often.

And thus, while our civilized world looks as though it will crumble; while the tradition of human decency fractures like a jigsaw puzzle; while mankind’s own darkness threatens to blind him…

The sun still shines in Kansas.

68 comments

  1. Linda Chapman - January 10, 2021 6:30 am

    I love you, Sean! Thank you for this….

    Reply
  2. Marylin Anderson - January 10, 2021 6:50 am

    Thank you, Sean. ❤😢

    Reply
  3. Marylin Anderson - January 10, 2021 6:51 am

    Thank you, Sean. ❤😢.

    Reply
  4. Christina - January 10, 2021 6:54 am

    Major miracle, Sean! (And ever more special on that day)

    Reply
  5. Sandi. - January 10, 2021 7:22 am

    People not only need to feel loved; they need to be told that they are loved.

    Reply
  6. Jayne - January 10, 2021 10:50 am

    Sean,
    Your story today brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of my own dad. He grew up as number seven of ten kids in the northern part of WV. I don’t believe there was much time or inclination for love and affirmation in his parent’s household. So my dad was not the type to give out hugs, kisses and those three special words. I did know he loved me and my siblings (I am number three of five) by the diligent way he worked to support us and provide for us. But he never said, I love you. When I left home for college, I kept up with my parents via a weekly call on the pay phone in the hallway. This was, of course, before the days of cell phones or telephones in dorm rooms. Every week I would call home and end the call with “I love you, Mom” or “I love you, Dad.” Mom would respond in kind. Dad was silent. Eventually I could tell something was changing when instead of silence I heard “um, ok, goodbye.” With time and persistence the day finally came when I said, “I love you, Daddy,” and I heard from my dad, “I love you too.” We hung up. I sat there by the phone and cried. There is something in a daughter that needs to hear those words from her daddy. I never forgot that day. Such powerful words.

    Reply
  7. Lucretia Jones - January 10, 2021 11:14 am

    Thank you, Sean! I Corinthians 13:13, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.” By God’s grace, the sun still shines on the Earth.

    Reply
  8. Beth - January 10, 2021 11:21 am

    I needed to read your words……..thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  9. Bill - January 10, 2021 11:27 am

    Yes, the sun shines over Kansas or wherever your Kansas is. It could be in your backyard. Yes, the sun shines along with Gods’ love.

    Reply
  10. Andrea - January 10, 2021 11:31 am

    😭❤️

    Reply
  11. Jean - January 10, 2021 12:04 pm

    How sweet!

    Reply
  12. Jimmy Stewart - January 10, 2021 12:17 pm

    Thank you for helping people keep their minds amd hearts focused on the most important things; sunsets, puppies, grandkids, hugs and most of all, love!!! Perfect love cast out fear and love never fails!!!

    Reply
  13. Cyn - January 10, 2021 12:19 pm

    Thank you for this powerful, uplifting story. Just what we need in these troubling times. ❤️

    Reply
  14. Judy - January 10, 2021 12:24 pm

    Love this!

    Reply
  15. Rosemary - January 10, 2021 12:28 pm

    This is one of the most beautifully written pieces you have done. Your descriptions were magnificent! Thank you. You really are a writer!

    Reply
  16. William Strawn - January 10, 2021 12:30 pm

    Thank you for the perfect story for this tome.

    Reply
  17. Annie Franklin - January 10, 2021 12:48 pm

    Wow ❤😥

    Reply
  18. Phil (Brown Marlin) - January 10, 2021 12:55 pm

    WOW! Beautiful Sean, just…just…beautiful.

    Reply
  19. Ronbo - January 10, 2021 1:12 pm

    Thanks

    Reply
  20. Cindy Neill - January 10, 2021 1:15 pm

    Just when I think I have read your best written post, you go and write on that floors me. God bless you Sean, you have a power gift there and I appreciate and love it so much.

    Reply
  21. Susan - January 10, 2021 1:26 pm

    Oh my! Crying, crying, crying .

    Love one another.

    Reply
  22. Robin - January 10, 2021 1:30 pm

    You have such a gift! Beautiful! Thanks for this.

    Reply
  23. Steve Watkins - January 10, 2021 1:33 pm

    I dreamed about my father last night. We were close in the dream. And I realized from reading this he never said those three words to me or hugged me. But his presence in my life and now in my dreams makes me experience those words through his loving presence and understanding.

    Reply
  24. Trish Cordell - January 10, 2021 1:36 pm

    This is absolutely beautiful. I can totally relate to the non-hugging man. God is all about breaking those barriers, in His time. So good.

    Reply
  25. Bob Brenner - January 10, 2021 1:40 pm

    Sean, this is I think the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a long time! It makes me think of Will Rogers. Thank you ❤️

    Reply
  26. Maryann Root - January 10, 2021 1:40 pm

    Thank you for this. We can’t hear those words too often. <3

    Reply
  27. M.P. - January 10, 2021 1:43 pm

    Amen and Amen 😇 I look forward to reading your story every morning and either cry or laugh. Thank you

    Reply
  28. Molly - January 10, 2021 1:44 pm

    Amazing. Your words are amazing! Thank you for reminding me of the miracles God puts before us every day!!

    Reply
  29. Gay - January 10, 2021 1:47 pm

    The sun shines in Kentucky because of you

    Reply
  30. Bob Rennick - January 10, 2021 1:49 pm

    You left no doubt today, you are a writer.

    Reply
  31. Deb Canter - January 10, 2021 2:04 pm

    From one of your fans who lives in the Flint Hills of Kansas, thank you Sean. God bless you.

    Reply
  32. Heidi - January 10, 2021 2:15 pm

    I so needed this today. Thank you for your beautiful words and loving sentiment.

    Reply
  33. Dean - January 10, 2021 2:15 pm

    Touching story my Dad never hugged me much but I knew he loved me.

    Reply
  34. Marilyn - January 10, 2021 2:44 pm

    My coffee cup is empty, but my heart is full – and my eyes are leaking. It took a long time for my father and mother to speak those three words to me. I knew they loved me, but I wanted to hear the words. They have been gone many years now, but I still think of them often and of all the sacrifices they made to raise my brother, sister and me through the depression years.
    Every morning I look forward to your words and am not disappointed. Thank you for your stories that ring true!

    Reply
  35. Carole - January 10, 2021 2:45 pm

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  36. Jan - January 10, 2021 2:46 pm

    Beautiful story, precious words. Thank you!

    Reply
  37. Debbie g - January 10, 2021 2:50 pm

    I am for giving everyone in the world a puppy. Then let the hearts grow soft and the loving begin

    Thank you Sean we all love you and Jamie

    Reply
  38. Bob - January 10, 2021 3:12 pm

    Darn you Sean – made my eyes wet again..
    Thanks

    Reply
  39. Harini Simpson - January 10, 2021 3:27 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful story!

    Reply
  40. Donia - January 10, 2021 3:28 pm

    Well, this one made me cry. My Daddy never hugged me or said I love you either…not until I became a middle-aged adult and decided to start hugging him and Mother. I’m still not sure he ever said he loved me, but I knew. I think most people from that era didn’t voice feelings or show affection because they grew up the same. Times were hard for both men and women. Working a farm or a rough job to make the living for his family took all a man’s strength and concentration. It is sad, though. What person wouldn’t like to have loving memories of affectionate parents. We just trust that their love was evidenced through their labor to provide for us. Maybe all this is the reason we love on and spoil our children and grandchildren today.

    Reply
  41. Becca - January 10, 2021 3:33 pm

    Sean, Thank you! There are magnificent stories to be told and you do it well! Your stories remind me that there is life to be lived regardless of fake news, accusations hurled in all directions and that God is still in control!

    Reply
  42. DiAn - January 10, 2021 3:46 pm

    WOW! What a blessing and a Blessed way to start this incredible New Year! Thank you, Sean, for sharing this Wonderful news with us. Yes, Miracles DO happen all around us – if we are open to witnessing them. Sometimes we need our angels on earth to point them out to us.

    Reply
  43. Chasity Davis Ritter - January 10, 2021 4:12 pm

    Thank you for this one, Sean.

    Reply
  44. Mary Burns - January 10, 2021 4:47 pm

    Goes to show that people can change, even old hardened cowboys! Sweet story.

    Reply
  45. Jenny Young - January 10, 2021 5:05 pm

    I love you Sean…you & your sweet family.
    Thanks for sharing this. I say I love you many times a day so I think it can become common…but it’s not & this helps me remember that.

    I read some advice a few years ago that I try to follow. When you hug someone you love, never be the first to let go….I do that. I’ve noticed some days my loved ones hold on for a long time, they need that long hug. But I never let go.

    Reply
  46. Helen De Prima - January 10, 2021 5:06 pm

    Thinking back, I can’t recall my father hugging me. I’m sure he must have, when I was very small, but not that I can remember. I knew he loved me, that he was proud of me, but displays of affection came hard for him. It’s best to believe the love is there even when not expressed.

    Reply
  47. Ann - January 10, 2021 5:17 pm

    Sooooo touching and need in this world!

    Reply
  48. Larry Dreiling - January 10, 2021 5:46 pm

    As a western Kansan, I really needed this. Thank you.

    Reply
  49. Linda Moon - January 10, 2021 6:12 pm

    I was one of the lucky ones. Words and hugs were not always in abundance, but affection was. I was raised on it. The myriads of family, friends, teachers, church ladies and more gave me LOVE. The cowpoke finally said words and gave hugs, but the love was there all the time. It just took a quiet miracle for the Kansan to show and say it. Your words and some bone-crushing hugs from you shine for me, decent human!

    Reply
  50. Todd Carter - January 10, 2021 6:14 pm

    That was great. Thanks Sean.

    Reply
  51. Tammy - January 10, 2021 6:35 pm

    If a tree falls in the wood does it make a sound. I think of this when people start losing their minds over a tweet or video or news clip. Turn it off and focus on love. Then that’s what you see and hear and know.

    Reply
  52. Susan Kennedy - January 10, 2021 7:34 pm

    That’s good Tammy.

    Reply
  53. Patricia Gibson - January 10, 2021 8:01 pm

    Wonderful story

    Reply
  54. Faye Hutt - January 10, 2021 8:30 pm

    Thank you! I love you.

    Reply
  55. Katherine Karsten - January 10, 2021 8:44 pm

    I (too), had a Father that did not hug, or show much emotion. I could entirely relate to this article. Actually, my Mother did not show much emotion, or hug much either. My Grandmother did hug me and showed her love with “things”.
    Sunsets in Arizona are incredible, as I’m sure you know. The violets, yellows, pinks, orange, reds are spectacular!
    I lived in Arizona for 38 years, but was not a native. I (always), made sure that I would go outside (regardless of the weather), to view and take some amazing pictures of those desert sunsets.
    I suppose that how we are raised is one of the main reasons of how we express our emotions as we age.

    Great article, Sean.

    Thank You!

    Reply
  56. Tom Wallin - January 10, 2021 8:47 pm

    Sean, what a wonderful story – now and anytime in the future.I think of Christmas morning. It just shows it’s never too late even if it has been decades.
    One of your All Time Best. Thanks. We love you too.

    Reply
  57. Sandi Buntin - January 10, 2021 9:15 pm

    Oh thank. You for. this , we all needed it badly😢❤

    Reply
  58. Sue Mckinney - January 10, 2021 9:40 pm

    Love conquers all ! This story was wonderful and so needed during these difficult times …….

    Reply
  59. Alva Barksdale - January 10, 2021 10:22 pm

    Simply beautiful!!!

    Reply
  60. Cynthia Russell - January 10, 2021 11:27 pm

    BEAUTIFUL LETTER TO ALL OF US.. THANK YOU SEAN!

    Reply
  61. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - January 11, 2021 2:45 am

    I love that story. My daddy was not a hugger either. One day, a man called our house and told me my father had died in an accident on his way home from work. This was before cell phones. I fell apart. When Daddy got home, we hugged and I cried tears of joy that he was not harmed. I never knew why I got that call.

    Reply
  62. Anne M Robinson - January 11, 2021 3:20 am

    Beautiful story! Love is the greatest gift of all! My friend Linda lives on a Kansas farm. She takes sunset photos that take your breathe away, When our son attended college in Kansas, first Ark City than Salina we visited and I took hundreds of sunrises and sunsets. Kansas is a beautiful place. We are Colorado natives and we have some gorgeous sunrises and sets too. Sigh…God is good, so very good.

    Reply
  63. lfwoods - January 11, 2021 3:23 am

    Amen, amen, amen and hallelujah too.

    Reply
  64. Margaret S. Stephens - January 11, 2021 5:43 am

    What a beautiful story. Thank you!

    Reply
  65. Nancy Bosché - January 11, 2021 5:52 am

    What a perfect story for these times! I am a new fan! (The Flint Hills region is probably my favorite place.)

    Reply
  66. Evelyn R League - January 11, 2021 7:04 am

    I was blessed to have wonderful parents — maybe they didn’t say “I love you” very often — but their actions spoke louder than words. They
    farmed/ranched in Butler County during the depression. When I started playing the oboe in the school band, dad’s rough, scared hands learned to make the delicate double reeds an oboe requires. Maybe he didn’t say he loved me, but he showed it. In looking back, I wonder how often I took the time to thank him or tell him what a great dad he was.

    Reply
  67. Constance Ridgway - January 11, 2021 7:24 pm

    Thank you!😪💖

    Reply
  68. Dawn B - January 12, 2021 6:25 pm

    Isn’t it amazing what the unconditional love of a canine can do for a lonely or hurt human!❤

    Reply

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