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Asked to write about the house on Burma Road, I hesitated.  It’s been so many years since I have lived in that house and much that I recalled has come from stories told by others; stories about things that happened before I was born.  I decided to share what I remember, knowing full well that my memories would be colored with feelings that overshadowed the facts.

I looked through a box of old photos that have been stashed for years in my closet.  Perhaps it’s because of those pictures that I recalled the house with a wooden, billboard-like sign attached to the roof above the front porch, two huge plate glass windows that faced west, and wooden double doors between them as an entrance.  That, in my mind, gave the building the look of one that you might have seen in a western movie; the building that stood facing the dusty street, the building in front of which the hero tied his house to the hitching rail; the building where the pioneer woman, bonnet and long dress, entered to buy supplies for the family living on the homestead; the building that served as the sheriffs office, or the stagecoach hotel, or the Chinese laundry, or the hardware store.

Stories came to me that the house was built as a hardware store.  My father may not have had a horse to tie to the hitching rail, but Mom and Dad did come from a homestead west of Salemsborg and moved into the house on Burma Road to operate what had been turned into the Salemsborg Farmers Telephone Company.  Though I might not have remembered a dusty, rutted street or a hitching post for horses, I remembered the shortest driveway in the world which attached the house to the, what became,  asphalted road; a road that stretched from north to south and flowed endlessly across the middle of Kansas.

In the early days there was a hedge row across the road.  When I was old enough and brave enough to cross the road, I found the foundation of another building, confirming Salemsborg’s status as a village.  When I lived in Salemsborg all that remained of the village were the Salemsborg Lutheran Church, it’s adjourning graveyard, the parsonage, the telephone company, and three other private houses, surrounded by fields of wheat, oats, and alfalfa.  The hedge row and the abandoned foundation disappeared with the expansion of the wheat field belonging to the neighbors, shrinking the village even more until all that remained of the business part of the village was the former hardware store, now telephone company.

From the place across the road one would turn to face the house on Burma Road, noting the expansive porch that stretched across its facade and would see the very short driveway framed by lilac bushes.  I never knew those lilac bushes to bloom.  Dad was very vigilant about restricting their growth so that those leaving church could see cars coming from the South.

For me, the front porch was as important a room as any inside the house.  Splinters from the porch were pulled from my feet each summer; those young summers when I lived without shoes.  The porch was the perfect launching place as I learned to walk on the stilts that Dad made for sister Emmie and me.  It was also the place in the summer to wait for the neighbors who came to pick us up for church or vacation Bible School in Smolan.  Occasionally a skunk would find its way to the quiet place under the porch.  Only when the skunk decided to move on could the front porch be used.  Early memories include sitting on the porch under a canopy of a million stars and hearing coyotes singing to each other across the flat prairie.   Then during teenage years there was the summer night when my sister, cousin, and I lounged on the wooden boards watching falling stars and waiting for a car, any car, to pass by the house on Burma Road.  There wasn’t a lot of traffic in those days.

When I was very young I enjoyed the big plate glass windows jutting out from the double-door entrance.  I seem to recall a time when, after the hedge row was removed from across the road, I could sit and look west out those windows.  From my perch I could see storms coming in from the West carrying clouds that billowed majestically.  Their dark undersides and brilliant white tops seemed designed by Mother Nature to match the clouds that were on the altar painting of the Salemsborg Church; the clouds that framed Christ as He ascended into heaven.  The storms brought wind, rain, hail, and tornadoes.  Perhaps that’s why when we lived there that the plate glass windows were removed, and replaced with smaller, more weather resistant ones.  With the large windows gone my world seemed to shrink.

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