After spending an evening with a group whose focus is to preserve the Flint Hills, I decided that is is important to paint a portrait of who we are.......the people who were birthed, breathed and struggled through a lifetime in this most unusual place. This is not a place where exotic flowers bloom in a generous environment but rather a place where tiny, scrappy flowers push through the flint rock and endure generations of harshness. Each of us is a strand of the deep roots of the tall grass. In order to protect our prairie we will need to be aware of each other's strengths and be wary of those bringing plows.
Zach, Age 28
Born: Emporia, Kansas
6th generation in the Flint Hills region
Driller for an oil company in Oklahoma
Early life: I don't consider myself raised in the Flint Hills. I mean I know where they're at. I was raised in a pretty flat place (North Lyon County). I remember hunting and fishing with dad and Phil. It's pretty land out there (southwest of Emporia). You can always see the Flint Hills off the turnpike. Sights I think about are that everything is open and the big flat rocks. The roads look like pastures with cattle guards every so often. You think you're driving on someone's land but you're not. I think of the ponds and the tall grass.
I think they need to be left alone. Definitely not drilled in. I wish they could stay how they are. They don't need to be messed with. All these people have crazy ideas about them, but they need to be left alone.
(On making a living) If you were a farmer, I guess. I couldn't find any work in Emporia and that's why I left. (currently living in the Wichita area and working in Oklahoma on a drilling rig.)
(We had a conversation later about the farming concept vs. ranching concept. He wasn't aware that the land around his childhood home was not well suited for farming but rather ranching. Nor that the Flint Hills extended as far as it did to include his home. He didn't know that it's the last 4% of an ecosystem.)