The wheat was planted on the full acreage was planted to wheat. Most of the time that worked fine, but if it filled the slough that part of the crop was lost. Now, Dad would sometimes take Jake and I with him when he went to do the harvest. Josephine stayed home with the younger kids while Mother drove the truck into town to the elevator. If it was dry, it was pretty boring, but if the slough was full, we had a blast. At the time it seemed to me that this raging river was my home. Once Jake built me a flat raft with a string tied to a matchstick that was poked through a hole. That way I could hang on to the string and keep it from floating away.
The Kansas sun beat down on us as we played by that wonderful body of water and we could put our feet in it and we were in heaven. We did not know what hot was and more then once we got a good sunburn. Mother would doctor us with whatever magic potion she had on hand and by the next day, the sunburn was gone and we were a darker shade of tan. By the end of summer we looked like a couple Indians. I do not remember combing my hair, but I am sure I did.
Jake was my hero and sometimes one of the boys from town would come to visit him. That was never any fun because they would wander off and the beautiful, cool riverwould turn into a muddy, dirty mess. Jake always made my life magic. He instilled in me an ability to see life through different eyes. He painted pictures of a world far away that was beckoning to him. From him, I got my love for music. Oh, not just music, country music.
With the help of a car radio and a good battery he delivered The Grand Old Opry to the front yard of our little house on Strong Street. He knew all the singers. Faron Young, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hank Williams, Ferlin Husky, Carl and Pearl Butler, and on and on. I always thought he would some day pick up a guitar and head south. But he didn't. When he was 16 years old he forged his birth certificate and went into the Army. I stayed home and wrote to him. He was sent to Germany and by the time he returned home, I was not a little girl anymore.
Funny how rain can trigger emotions that I thought were long lost. I wonder what is going on in Nickerson? It floods every Spring and I am sure this one is no different. I am planning a trip back there in August, but it can never be the same. The house is gone. The people I knew are gone. It is just a spot on the map now, but isn't that how life was planned to be? And our memories, they never leave.
I still love country music and I listen to Classic Country when I am at home alone. The radio used to crackle and break up so I could not understand the words. Now it is clear and while it is the same, it is not the same, but through it all I can hear Jake singing. I can feel the hot, humid air that is Kansas. And while this brings tears to my eyes as I think back, it was probably the happiest part of my life.