Somewhere County, Kansas

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The Friday Cover

The garbage man doesn't get excited when he turns the corner and sees trash, because he's expecting it. Likewise, you should be expecting fire on every run. When on an emergency, be the firefighter who sweats from doing the job, not the firefighter who sweats because he does not know his job.

Hill, engineer, Eugene Oregon Fire Department. Sometimes you save the buildings. Sometimes you make parking lots, and there is nothing you can do about it. If you use a fog pattern, bring your own mustard Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but firefighters don't have that problem.

Our job is to protect the public from themselves. The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in battle. A firefighter is a hero only once, which is the day he joins the department. Everything else is done in the line of duty.


Walton Fire Department. How to report a fire. The greatest tragedies occur when people panic and are unable to decide what to do. Knowing a few simple rules ahead of time will avoid tragedy when the emergency occurs. Do NOT try to save valuables, get extra clothing, or report the fire from the same building. The greatest risk and cause of loss of life is when people re-enter a burning structure, often to attempt a rescue of someone else or a pet, or to obtain valuables. Fire is a fast-moving and deceptive phenomenon, and if you are caught inside, you will most likely perish, along with anyone else and your mission will still be unaccomplished.

If there is someone trapped and visible at a window, attempt to reach them from outside. Be prepared to tell arriving responders where trapped persons or pets are, and forget the valuables items can be replaced, people cannot.

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Once outside, go immediately to a neighbor's house and dial Tell the call-taker that you are reporting a fire, and YOUR address. Remember, you are calling from a different house, so sees the neighbor's address, not yours. Tell them what is burning your house, a car, a shed, etc.

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Also tell them if anyone else may be still inside, and where they may be located upstairs bedroom, basement, etc. If you come upon a fire somewhere else, know where you are when you call. This is especially important if you are calling from a wireless phone. You have a small amount of time to think and take steps to give yourself enough time to survive until rescue arrives.

Always have and practice an escape plan from your house, and especially have a meeting place outside away from the house where everyone knows to stay after they get out. If you are still inside, remain as low to the floor as possible, as this is where deadly smoke and flames will go last. We just gotta get close and get started.

What Makes the Flint Hills of Kansas a Sight to See

Most of the agricultural producers, most of the industry folks are ready to go. The same is true with agriculture as it is with renewable energy and climate change. We can fix this stuff. The foothills can be here for our great-great-grandchildren. Jim Hoy is a well-regarded author and folklorist and professor, with a doctorate in Medieval and Renaissance English literature.

The Flint Hills let you catch your breath. They run head of longhorn, and maybe 1, yearling cattle. Vacationers come here to ride and ranch a week or two at a time. Tallgrass legend has it that Zebulon Pike was sitting on their property when he made that Flint Hills journal entry. Josh is married to Gwen, and they both wear the big straw hats favored here against the sun. And Josh, with his brush mustache and wire-rim glasses, bears an uncanny resemblance to young Teddy Roosevelt. But yeah, the generational transfer in this generation and the next generation after that coming up is gonna drastically change this landscape, because right now land is really starting to turn over in this area.

Christy Davis is executive director of the Symphony in the Flint Hills nonprofit. She worked at the Kansas Historical Society and runs a preservation business, too, and owns what may be the most charming laundromat in America just across the street. That said, how do they get the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra and a giant stage and six or seven thousand people from the middle of somewhere to the middle of nowhere? And 60 to 70 structures. Parking for 3, cars. After their rehearsal in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Jason Seber, associate conductor of the KCSO, who will lead the orchestra the night of the Flint Hills concert, talks about the specific challenges of that venue.

Evan Halloin, double bassist, agrees. You just play through it. So he jumped off the stage with his cello, got the music, got back onstage and started playing. I always hope for wind because the stagnant heat is what can really get you. And for the audience, I think. I mean, talk about big sky. You become so tiny. As soon as you get out there. So has violinist Alex Shum. The cowboy music, the Americana music, the view, the horizon: So you sit out there, enjoy the space, soak in the music. I think you just feel rejuvenated. I grew up in Hong Kong, buildings, no space. You see as far as the eyes can see.

No trees, no houses. It is an astonishment. And while this land demands to be walked, to be lived on, to be felt under your feet or galloped across, to drive these rolling hills at dawn or at dusk under a sky the color of saffron feels like the kind of proto-road trip that speaks to a mythology as powerful as that of the lonesome cowboy: cars and landscapes and speed.

That light! Windows down and the clean rush of air over the car, the cool and the shadows coming off the hills, the birdsong in the distance and the smooth turning of the world beneath you feels like a kind of optimism. And in those moments you can find in yourself a reminder of why so many for so long came west. From Europe, from the coast, from the East—the East with its Park Avenue aristocracy and its factories and its smokestacks, its boardrooms and its barren fisheries and exhausted forests, its hedge funds and its courtiers and its pedicures. Somehow, the East has always felt used up, at once corrupt and corrupting.

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But, oh, the West! The West is somehow always new, still fresh, still green. The frontier closed more than years ago, but the West of our imagination remains pristine and unpopulated. The illusion of which is our true inheritance. It employs a lot of people hereabouts and pays out a lot on oil and gas leases to farmers and ranchers.

And a lot of that oil and a lot of that gas sits right under the Flint Hills.

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  4. She lives on the other side of the county with her two daughters, one of whom, 7-year-old Rosemary, has just finished telling us she can drive a skid loader and is a great dancer. Just about a year ago she raised objections to a proposed wastewater injection well out near Diamond Creek, not far from the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. Along with several other women she was crowdfunding a legal campaign to oppose the high-pressure injection of saltwater—5, barrels of it a day—deep into the limestone. They lost, but the Flint Hills Stewards were born. We are going to start talking to the rural water districts that are selling the water—to pressure them as consumers, to get them to stop selling it. Elexa worries about oil company earthquakes and polluted agribusiness runoff and wind farms and pesticides. Elexa is Native American—Potawatomi—and this is her home. For hundreds of years, the Osage and the Wichita, the Pawnee and the Kansa—the People of the Southwind—all made their homes along the streams and rivers here, until forced farther south onto ever-shrinking holdings by settlers from the east.

    These were their communal hunting grounds and today are littered everywhere with knapped flint arrowheads. By the end of the 19th century, the Kansa were mostly gone from Kansas.

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    Relocated to Oklahoma. This place is crowded with old ghosts. Getting to escape and be in that place is very restorative for me. I think it empties my head, restores my soul, fills my heart. The site takes up a couple hundred acres on the vast property.

    In fact the ranch is nearly the same size as the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, 10, acres. Lonnie and Carlos are volunteers. I knew what a treasure this land was in the heartland. She and then-Senator Nancy Kassebaum worked to secure the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and collaborated with the Nature Conservancy to make sure that the park and surrounding lands were protected. Maybe it is enough to say of Senator Kassebaum, now 86, and the causes and conservation she championed, that when she retired from Washington, when she came home, she settled here, in the Flint Hills, in the quiet of the tallgrass, not far from Council Grove.

    The day is covered wagons and cowboys, horses and cattle, wind and sun. Annie Wilson and her band, the Tallgrass Express, are walking around. There are food tents and beverage tents and tents for the patrons and tents for the lectures and a tent for kids to try musical instruments. There are tents for cookies and water and folding chairs, first aid and emergencies and guided prairie walks.

    They produce a stunning annual journal of the event.

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