After Prairie Fire, Family Told to Leave

Easterner didn't believe warnings of prairie fire risk.

| Good Old Days

The words "Prairie Fire!" struck terror in the hearts of the pioneers of Kansas. Dry grass was as combustible as guncotton.

Grandfather knew nothing of prairie fire when he moved his family to Kansas from an eastern state. While they were still living in a covered wagon and getting ready to build a house, he was visited by a sort of neighborhood vigilante committee that warned Easterners about the necessity of being extra careful with fire.

Grandfather openly laughed when they told him that a dropped match might mean a fire that couldn't be stopped without a team and plow. But in order to placate the callers, he promised to be careful with fire.

By some misfortune a prairie fire started on Grandfather's claim a few days later, and it burned over hundreds of acres before it was brought under control. That night after my grandparents were in bed in the covered wagon, a man rode up and called to them. Grandfather stuck his head out and saw that the man was masked.

"If it was just you involved, you know-it-all Easterner," said the man, "I'd let 'em hang you tomorrow. But it's your wife and kids I'm thinking about, so get hitched and get out of here tonight! And for tarnation sake, don't tell you was warned or it'll be my neck instead of yours."

Grandfather assured him he wouldn't tell anyone. No one ever would have known about it if Grandmother hadn't told me years later.

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