From the Hilltop

I was listening to a book on CD and the author mentioned how flat the land is in Kansas. That’s partially true, but it makes me think that this guy has never seen the Flint Hills. His contact with the state must have been on I-70 which I’ll admit would bore the devil out of anyone.

I got to thinking about my hometown of Augusta, Kansas and the terrain there. It’s true that a large part of the town is flat, but there are a couple of hills in town that have provided some good memories.

Toward the west side of town there is a limestone outcropping that forms some interesting landscapes. The formation generally runs from north to south. From the crest at High Street, the hill slopes off to the south,  to the east,  and to the west. State Street follows the spine in the north/ south direction. The high point of the two best hills in town is at the junction of State and High.

The city’s water tower is located at the high point of the town. It’s 50 yards west of State Street and almost far enough south to be even with Columbia Street. A few feet west of the water tower, the land falls off into a steep slope. This would be right behind and to the north of Mr. and Mrs. Money’s home. The limestone is exposed and looks like shale. It’s thin sheets of rock, stacked one on top of another. There is not enough dirt to grow anything but weeds and short grass. It was special, though, because it was the only place I knew that I could catch horned toads and ring-necked snakes. The horned toads were neat little creatures. They looked  so ferocious but were really quite docile and easy to handle.  The ring-necked snakes were pretty little things. They were coal black with a bright orange ring around their necks. They were no bigger around than an earthworm and were only 5 to 8 inches long. As neat as they were, I had learned a long time ago that you can’t take frogs, toads, lizards, or snakes home with you.  You can’t provide enough of their natural food to keep them alive.

State Street forms a really nice hill for riding bikes. Starting at High Street, you can coast past Columbia Street, Broadway, Clark, Main, and stop at the stoplight at 7th Street.  I remember one morning, I was trying to go as fast as possible down that long hill. An older guy I knew pulled up in his car. I yelled and asked him how fast I was going. He yelled back that I was doing 22 mph. I don’t know if that is good or not, but I was pretty proud. Another risk-taking activity was riding all the way down the hill without holding on to the handlebar. One kid, Harry Bryant, not only let go of the handlebar, but would stand up on his bike seat and ride all the way down! That was too much for me.

Another interesting feature of State Street is the brick paving. That’s something rarely seen. If you wish to know more about the brick paving, consult Burl Allison’s book on Augusta. State Street has also been the site of fun and entertainment. For a number of  years the annual Soap Box Derby was held there. The starting gate was set up just a few yards south of the High Street intersection and the crowd of family and friends started there and continued   for quite a way down the street. It was always fun to watch but I don’t think our town ever got far in the national competition.

The other good hill in town was High Street. When it snowed, High Street was the official sledding site. The city would put up barricades at State Street and at Osage so the sledders wouldn’t have to worry about traffic. When I was young, I didn’t have a sled. Fortunately, my great uncle and aunt lived at 124 High which made things perfect for me. Uncle Dave had a No. 10 scoop shovel that he taught me to ride. Put the shovel out in front of you and straddle the handle. Sit down in the shovel and raise your feet and away you go. When we got a little older, Dad found a second -hand sled for us and from then on, we were living big. 

Dave Thomas    4/22/2022

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