Remember the great song by the Platters; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes?
Well, if you live in Kansas, at the edge of the Flint Hills, that’s exactly what’s happening this time of year.
Ranchers and farmers burn the short prairie grasses to rid the pastures of weeds and cedar sprouts. The dormant grass is revitalized when the dark charred earth gets a little shower. The most brilliant green you can imagine springs forth with a beauty beyond imagination. Later on the bucolic hills of grass will be dotted with a brillant red-orange Indian Paint brush, , yellow primrose and yarrow, and Thickspiked gayfeather, to name a few.
There is something primeval and mesmerizing about the burns. They are strangely exotic and beautiful, pulling one in to the spellbinding dance of flames and smoke as it moves and glides like a snake, hissing and slithering across the hills.
Of course, Mother Nature does the burning on her own, sometimes with lightning strikes. Settlers feared the raging firestorms as much as anything they endured during those early years of homesteading. If you ever have the chance to drive through the Kansas Flint Hills you’ll see signs that warn travelers to beware of the burnings. It can be a dangerous drive if you ignore the precautions.
The downside to all this is that the air becomes thick with smoke, a grey-brown haze that mixes with the atmosphere. Whenever you smell smoke out here on the plains you get a little nervous, and pray it’s a controlled burn. The grasses this time of year are very dry and brittle… just ripe for a discarded cigarette, or careless trash fire, so that when the strong winds whip up, there’s no stopping the furry.
There is a beauty to the burns though. We have beautiful sunsets because of the smoky haze and if you’re lucky enough to be on hand for a burn during the evening hours, it’s beauty is haunting and spectacular!
So I thought I’d share a few of photos my husband took while out scouting the hills the other evening. The last two are from our place.