A Border Memory  

by Florence L. Snow

We had moved up to Palmyra,
   In the year of sixty-one,
From our claim on the Neosho
   When our harvesting was done.

Then my husband had enlisted,
   All his heart divinely stirred,
And I lived but for the children,
   And to hear the scanty word

That came slowly back to Kansas
   From his precious company,
As the crimson-tide of battle
   Bore it onward to the sea.

Twelve months passed, and the next
   Came with clouds of denser gloom,
And the passion on the prairies
   Broke into more deadly bloom;

And the summer brought the terror
   Close upon the shuddering town,
Of the bloody-handed Quantrell
   On the country sweeping down.

Day by day, the awful menace
   Weighted every lingering hour,
And we slept in troubled dreaming
   Of the fierce marauderís power.

Night by night, I made me ready
   For whatever blow might fall,
With the children all about me,
   Trained to waken at my call.

And I gathered strength and courage
   From the spirit of my son,
Such a bright, intrepid stripling–
   Ne'er a danger he would shun.

He had played so much at soldier,
   Marching ever in the van,
He had taken on the feeling
   And the valor of a man.

So I listened, sad and shrinking,
   When upon a weary day
He came in all flushed and eager,
   With the words he had to say:

"All the men are clean done over,
   Watching so by day and night,
And we boys are going on duty
   We're just spoiling for a fight.

"But they say there is no danger–
   Quantrell's clear across the line,
And we 've but to give the signal
   If we see the slightest sign.

"Jed and I–for we're the oldest–
   Take our stand at Curran's farm.
You don't care much, do you mother?
   We'll be safe enough from harm."

So I stifled my foreboding,
   Kissed him twice and let him go
Out into the somber twilight,
   In the pride that mothers know.

Such a night! all torn and tortured
   By a host of nameless fears,
I was certain every minute
   There would fall upon my ears

The abrupt determined ringing
   Of the heavy college bell
Which in preconcerted clamor
   Any peril was to tell.

And I seemed to bear the echoes
   Of the warfare far away;
All its horror, doubly dreadful,
   Pressed upon me where I lay.

But at length I slumbered briefly,
   And the dawn in sweet surprise
Filtered through my eastern window,
   Falling gently on my eyes.

Then deploring all my weakness,
   Since no evil chance had come,
I rejoiced in the glad morning
   That would bring my darling home;

So to give him instant welcome
   I flung wide the outer door,-
And I found him 'neath the trellis
   Lying straight upon the floor.

He but slept, I thought in wonder:
   It was death, instead of sleep!
Shot down by a passing ruffian,
   He had still the power to creep

Towards the town so gladly guarded
   In the strength he loved to try,
And but reached the dear home-shelter,
   Spent with effort, there to die.

That same day devoted Lawrence
   Was destroyed by Quantrell's band;
I was only one of many
   Smitten by a murderous hand,

And I tell the story calmly
   Now so many years have passed,
But whoever gives such life-blood
   Feels the anguish to the last.

Yet the sorrow has its glory,
   Shining steady like a star–
All the world had need of Kansas,
   Consecrated by the war.

And the God who guides our battles
   Shaped the purpose of the State;
We have bought her for His uses
   And the price has made us great.


Barrington, F. H.
Kansas Day
(Topeka: Geo. W. Crane & Company. 1892)

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February 23, 1999 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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