"A family story related by my grandmother told about a Native American warrior buried somewhere below the intersection of the old ironstone sidewalk and the gravel driveway. When digging a well for his newly constructed black walnut log cabin, my great-grandfather, the original homesteader, unearthed human remains clothed in leather with other personal artifacts, including the skeleton of a horse. He reburied the find out of respect and changed the location of the well, but decades later, my brother and I dreamed of exhuming the grave to discover what lay beneath our surface world. Not far beyond the driveway lay another field where we hunted flint tools, bones, and arrowheads, and our imaginations would engage vividly while we peopled the encampments in our minds. That early connection with the land and its secrets is something that still fuels my waking dreams."
--–Don Wagner, 2013
Kansas has always been Don Wagner’s home; his great grandparents homesteaded in the Solomon River Valley of the Smoky Hills during the early part of the 1860’s. The family has remained on the original homestead for generations and continues management of land that has been in production for over 100 years. That continuous presence in a rural community is at the center of much of his work, which focuses on a rural way of life and explores a relationship between the environment and its residents that is beyond the experience of most modern day Americans.
Knowing the history of a place stirs a dimension of older times into the patina of the present and offers a richness of interpretation to those who occupy that space. It is this dimensional aspect that inspires Wagner’s writings and lets him delve into simple aspects of the impermanent world we inhabit. “Everything we touch during our existence leaves an impact,” he reiterates. “We can only hope to leave a legacy of words and actions that stretch beyond our years in tribute to those who did the same for us.”
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I sit in the biology classroom
Trying to comprehend mitosis
But the life inside my womb
Disrupts academic thought
Why, in spite of all I know
About cellular reproduction,
Am I pregnant with this child?
It seemed like such
An appropriate act
Between two teens in love
My mind whispered "Consequences"
While my body screamed "Consent!"
My classmates in their innocence
See school in terms of text,
But mine is the living lesson
Of an interactive education.
--- from The Apple Tree
A Father's Gift
We walked out over the hills that day,
The two of us and the dogs.
The sky was grey, the wind cold,
But my heart was warm with pride.
You are my son, I am your father.
I would show you what I know:
Colors of the prairie
Tracks of coyote and white tailed deer
The sudden flight of bobwhite quail
Changing weather in the clouds
Sounds beyond the swirling wind
Connectedness of land and life
The love that's in my heart.
--- from Waiting For Rain
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