Springs are plentiful in Missouri, both large and small. Sometimes the earth is like a sponge and a gentle squeeze will yield a squish of water. But in Kansas you are more likely to find a creek or a crick as some say it. After the fast and furious spring rains, rivulets of water meander across soaked fields; small streams bulge and race through pastures. Then in the scorching heat of a Midwestern heat, the pathways dry up or turn to stagnant puddles of dark mud.
At the edge of my in-laws farm, Flat Rock Creek putters by stands of oaks and cottonwoods. In this wetter than normal autumn, the water is unusually clear and abundant. The stream glides purposefully out of the Kansas meadows and dashes across farms to reach the Neosho River which in turns joins Spring River down at the Kansas and Oklahoma borders to flow into Grand Lake.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s this area of Flat Rock was a playground for local folks. They swam and cooled off there after haying or plowing. Occasional beer busts were held by slightly rowdy teens. When my husband was growing up, he meandered along the banks of Flat Rock with any spare time he could find to slip away from chores. One of his favorite pastimes was building balsa wood or even paper boats to float in Flat Rock; he pushed his creations with an oak or walnut branch to the center to catch a strong, spirited current and watched his boat creations float away into unknown lands downstream. He says he longed to have a boat of his own on this water, but that never happened. Now he still harbors a love of water, fishing, boating, and building his own boats when he can.
Meanwhile I grew up not far away but fearful of water despite swimming lessons, trips to lakes and streams, fishing and boating. I spent time with grandparents on Grand Lake and Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma. My grandfather loved boats too, fast ones, big ones. His boating days were over by the time my husband and I married, but they would have made a good pair dabbling in their love of water and boats had they had the chance.
Small farms still rest at the edges of Flat Rock, but daily traffic over the low water bridge is not as heavy as it once was. Folks have air conditioning, city water, and other interests than swimming in a creek. Farming itself has changed, but the little stream of Flat Rock flows onward, alternating with spring surges and autumn riffles, draining the bottom land of Neosho County like it has done for eons of time.