While traveling through North Central Kansas, I noticed and then became mesmerized by fence posts carved out of rock. Mile after mile of these posts with barbed wire strung around them effectively kept cattle in the pasture.
I pulled to the side of the road, got out of the car, crossed the bar ditch and got up close to the fence posts. I couldn’t help but wonder at the first pioneers on the prairie who, faced with survival on a daily basis, were able to carve fence posts from stone.
The prairie was endless miles of grassland when riding on a horse instead of a pick-up truck. There was simply nothing else from which to fashion fence posts. The farmers found limestone deposits protruding from embankments where erosion had exposed them.
The limestone that was buried was softer and easier to form than limestone exposed to the elements for a while. Even so, hammering and chiseling out these fence posts, up to six feet in length, was back-breaking work.
Then it was necessary to load the heavy fence post into a wagon, transport them and then maneuver them into the ground. After the limestone had weathered and it hardened it stood up to wear and tear, weather and age astonishingly well. Many posts are still in the original holes dug by pioneer farmers and ranchers.
I returned to my car and as I left Kansas behind at 75 mph, seated in my comfortable padded captain’s chair, I adjusted the air conditioning and settled back for a smooth ride. I am afraid I know the answer to the unasked question—could I have survived on the Kansas plains?