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A rugged bunch, those Kansans

By Susen Foster

Month after month, for over five years, you have blessed me by reading my stories about interesting places to see, things to do, and places to stay in the High Plains region. While researching these stories, I've noticed nothing seems to come easy in this part of our country; but the heart and tenacity of long-time residents, along with the hope and conviction brought by newcomers who envision the potential, have proven to be the ingredients for eventual success.

Before moving to Oklahoma, I lived in southwest Kansas where I met a career journalist who became my mentor. She taught me a great deal while giving me the encouragement needed to pursue my own form of writing.

Unlike me, happy simply writing travel articles and hearing from my readers when they visit places I've shared through my monthly column, my friend is a true novelist and like her Kansas ancestors pursued her dream until she finally released her first book in 2007.

"Fragile Hopes, Transient Dreams" is a journey. Not unlike my tales of a train trip through the back country or the excitement of an upcoming event, her book takes the reader on a virtual visit to the past--southwest Kansas from infancy, through adolescence, into young adulthood.

Thank you, Edna Bell-Pearson, for granting me permission to share some of "Fragile Hope, Transient Dreams" with my readers. And congratulations for making the Kansas Sesquicentennial list of 150 best Kansas books.

Troy Boucher, author of "Prince of the Plains" and "The Last Kansas Exit," says about Edna and her book "...a clear and honest story about pioneer life in southwest Kansas. Her steady voice and compassion for her subject breathes life into her characters and reveals the conflicts and struggles early Kansas settlers faced as they attempted to tame the frontier. You won't be disappointed."

The next few paragraphs are direct excerpts from the book. I hope they will whet your appetite for more.

From Eva's diary:

1889--Mama was skeptical, but Papa's powers of persuasion were strong. Within months they had packed up, loaded their belongings and the children into a covered wagon and headed for Southwest Kansas. Papa filed his claim five miles southeast of Harrison, Kansas, in the summer of 1887. Both he and the state were twenty six years old.

1918--Living in Wichita, the metropolis of the Kansas Plains, had been but a dream a few months ago. But here I was - a young, naÃØve girl from a small country town - attending business school in the city! I was having the time of my life! When World I ended that November, the whole town turned out to attend a citywide celebration at the newly constructed Victory Arch.

1944--Those of us who'd lived through the Dust Bowl days could truly appreciate waking up to a sunny day, clean air and a good job to go to. It was like coming up out of a dank, unlit cellar into brilliant sunlight. The War - and the new B-24 Air Base - brought prosperity such as we'd never dreamed of. In 1944, the future looked bright and promising.

1999--To many, Kansas is considered a land of struggle. But only man struggles. Once he passes on, the prairie quietly, steadfastly, rights itself and heals its scars. Implacable, ever-changing, the prairie, like the sea, endures.

I hope you enjoyed taking this retro-visit to Kansas with me. For more about "Fragile Hopes, Transient Dreams" by Edna Bell-Pearson visit www.bell-pearson.com.

Editor's note: Susen Foster is the owner of Pecan Cottage Bed & Breakfast in Pauls Valley, Okla. She is the author of numerous travel books. Susen can be reached at www.greatersuccess.com or call 580-622-5408.

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