It’s spring and the ranchers are doing Mother Nature’s work, burning the prairie. A line of fire rolls over the Flint Hills, reducing the grasses to char. Half the slope is burnt black but the other half mixes the yellows and oranges and browns of the waving landscape. It undulates into the horizon like so many voluptuous women lying on their sides, the contours of their bodies repeating the texture as far as I can see. The pinks and purples of the sunset soothe like the crackling of a warm fire. The hills tease my eye into thinking I can actually see the curve of the earth.
So many Americans see Kansas on a weather map and think flat. But on the eastern end it isn’t so. Between the Kansas and the Missouri Rivers, the land tumbles from high bluffs to rolling hills and finally to the flat and expansive Plains. Once Lewis and Clark arrived, white explorers and hunters and trappers moved through the area regularly. Less than thirty years later, in 1830, Indian Tribes still living east of the Mississippi began to displace the Plains Indians as they moved into the area courtesy of Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act.
Present day Wyandotte County, the land my grandfather’s house sits on, the house I was born in and the house I live in now, ended up in the hands of the Delawares.
The white folk stayed, including Moses Grinter who operated a ferry back and forth across the Kansas River on the military road between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Scott. The house he built for his Delaware wife, Anna and their children, still hails the river and the valley beyond. Four small rectangular windows frame a square balcony on the second floor and a covered porch on the first. He surely stood there of an evening watching the ferry churning back and forth, moving men and horses and their supplies The rooms in his home are spacious with fireplaces in all four quadrants, warming the bedrooms and the parlors. The bed and the armoire, though large and ornate, take up barely one end of the room. An ancient crib rocks close to the fire.
The Missouri winds to the north and to the west of Grinter Place. Look straight up and to the left to the old place where the Wyandots (French trappers called them Hurons) hoped to build a city they called Quindaro.
More Coming Soon..Photo from The Afro-American Community In Kansas City, Kansas: A History, Community Development Program, 1980.