36 Miles to C-Ville

You only have a century to bring meaning to your layer of passing time. Is your focus on escape or arrival?

Tammy Hader
Jun 3 · 4 min read
Springtime in the Flint Hills of southeast Kansas —Photo by author

The rains have been relentless this spring. Over worked sump pumps, flooded basements and impassable streets bring people together in conversation, turning strangers into comrades.

Mother Nature’s destruction is balanced by the lush, vibrant green grass atop the gently rolling Flint Hills of southeast Kansas. Springtime brings a majestic display of beauty to the Flint Hills. Dark green trees randomly dot the landscape, ranging from young wispy saplings to strong mature survivors.

We’ve made the journey to Coffeyville a hundred times during our 25-year marriage. Holidays, weddings and funerals the typical incentives to steer us away from our chosen life and send us along the 135-mile trek to C-Ville.

Cloudy skies are much appreciated as we head east into the sun. Bottles of water occupy the cup holders as we settle in, listening to our favorite morning radio show. Nothing more is required for the two hours and ten minutes we’ll be on the road.

Today’s trip is different. Boxes, soon to be filled with personal belongings, fill the hatchback of the car. In the not too distant future will be a day marking the last time that I look forward to seeing the sign that promises only 36 miles left to Coffeyville.

Highway cut through the hills near Dexter — Photo by author

My thoughts tune out the radio and follow my gaze out the passenger window. Below the grassy surface of the hills are nature’s layers of the passing of time. The previous night’s rainwater glistens on the artfully striated rock visible where man has sliced through the hillside to pave the way to civilization.

The hills flow gracefully into valleys. The earth has engineered shallow veins, like frayed ribbons winding down the hillside to carry water into the valleys, creating ponds and streams. The earth adapts. The scars left behind are a constant reminder of change and survival.

As the sun begins to shine, the clouds drifting overhead create shadowy dark spotlights on the panoramic view as if illuminating the ghostly figures of those who once traveled the open countryside by foot, on horseback and in covered wagons. Our two-hour journey in a climate-controlled vehicle would have taken them three or four days to complete. All the while exposed to the beauty and the brutality particular to each of nature’s seasons.

Were they traveling to escape hardship and despair or was their journey symbolic of reaching for hope and opportunity? Were they running from something or toward something?

Probably a little of both. The reality of their time was meaningful to them. Nameless and faceless, their lives are now suspended in anonymity.

Their existence was fleeting and forgotten, just as ours will be. A thought that will return to me as we are packing up the meaningful moments of the life lived by my husband’s parents in Coffeyville. The inevitability of change can be chosen or forced upon us, embraced or fought.

Our little orange Honda Fit is not usually the transportation of choice for a road trip. On this day, storage capacity edged out comfort. Today’s version of a covered wagon I suppose.

The grade steepens and the engine ramps up the RPM’s.

The sign of a journey nearing its end — Photo by author

My husband laughs at me as I pop my ears to accommodate the slight change in elevation. My half a century old body is accustomed to the flat patchwork quilt pattern of wheat fields and dirt roads of south central Kansas.

We rarely stop to look around at the magnificence of the earth and the persistence of mankind. Why don’t we stop and see?

The radio signal is breaking up as we approach the limits of its ability to function. The disruptive crackling sound brings me back to the present, hinting that it’s time to let go of what was and welcome what is to come. The interior of the car darkens as we travel inside the shadow of a cloud on our own passage into anonymity.

We pass the sign that promises 36 miles to C-Ville.

Soon, our journey will be over.

Panoramic view of the southern edge of the Flint Hills — Photo by author

Journal of Journeys

Each of us are the narrators of our own unique stories, dramas and sagas. Journal of Journeys is a publication that takes pride in helping share those stories.

Tammy Hader

Written by

Ex-accountant exploring a creative path during the second half of my existence. Reflecting on past experiences as a guide to living in the world today.

Journal of Journeys

Each of us are the narrators of our own unique stories, dramas and sagas. Journal of Journeys is a publication that takes pride in helping share those stories.

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