My Flint Hills

Observations and Reminiscences from America's Last Tallgrass Prairie

Jim Hoy

Between the Nebraska border and Osage County, Oklahoma, are the Flint Hills of Kansas, and growing on those hills the last of the tallgrass prairie that once ranged from Canada to Texas, and on those fields of bluestem, cattle graze—and tending the cattle, someone like Jim Hoy, whose people have ranched there from, well, not quite time immemorial, but pretty darn close.

Hoy has always called the Flint Hills home and over the decades he has made a study of them—their tough terrain and quiet beauty, their distinctive folk life and cattle culture—and marshaled his observations to bring the Flint Hills home to readers in a singular way. These essays are Hoy’s Flint Hills, combining family lore and anecdotes of ranching life with reflections on the region’s rich history and nature. Whether it’s weaning calves or shoeing horses, checking in on a local legend or a night of high school basketball in nearby Cassoday, encountering a coyote or a badger or surveying what’s happened to the tallgrass prairie over time, summoning cowboy traditions or parsing the place’s plant life or rock formations, he has something to say—and you can bet it’s well worth hearing. With his keen eye, understated wit, and store of knowledge, Hoy makes his Flint Hills come alive, and in the telling, live on.

“Jim Hoy knows the Flint Hills as well, if not better, than anyone who has written on the subject, and My Flint Hills is Hoy’s ‘love song’ to the region. The stories in this book are reflections of life lived in the region and of the deep family ties he has to the hills. There are works on the Flint Hills but none with a passionate and informed voice like Hoy’s. It is a joy to read Hoy’s deep-rooted affection for the place he calls home.”

—James Sherow, author of The Chisholm Trail: Joseph McCoy’s Great Gamble

“Grass isn’t the only thing that grows beautifully in the Kansas Flint Hills. So do families, horses, tall tales, myths, unwelcome cedar trees, the number of stars you can see in the sky, and women who make legendary pies. Even when some folks are remembered only in fragments of amusing yarns, their names have a place in the deep and horizontal root system Jim Hoy cultivates. It’s as if he anticipated the rest of us, stopping on I-35 between Emporia and Cassoday to admire the view from the scenic overlook at the Bazaar Cattle Pens, and wondering what’s really happening out there in those hills. He did us the favor of writing it all down.”

—C. J. Janovy, opinion editor at the Kansas Reflector, an affiliate of the national States Newsroom network of nonprofit news sites, and author of No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas

About the Author

Jim Hoy is professor emeritus of English, Emporia State University, and director emeritus of the Center for Great Plains Studies. Among his many books are Flint Hills Cowboys: Tales from the Tallgrass Prairie, also from Kansas, and, with Tom Isern, Plains Folk: A Commonplace of the Great Plains.