from East of Liberal

by Raylene Hinz-Penner

I have read that the Apaches believe land makes people live right. Can that be true? The Apaches also honor place as the origin of story. I know that to be true. It is said they begin and end every story, “It happened at. . . .”

For us, it happened three miles east of Liberal in the corner of Seward County, Kansas bordering Beaver County, the Oklahoma Panhandle once known as “No Man’s Land.” My parents, a young and eager post-World War II couple, were looking for a place to farm and considered themselves unaccountably lucky in 1950 to have found a half-section of sand left mostly untended since its topsoil had blown away during the 1930s catastrophe known as The Dust Bowl. 

The children of generations of Mennonite farmers, my parents set about bringing the land back into productivity. Realizing almost immediately that the dry land would not sustain them, they accumulated a herd of Holstein milk cows and managed the dairy together for a quarter century. Purportedly, Menno Simons, the founder of our faith, was the child of a dairy farmer. So was Georgia O’Keeffe. So am I.

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