Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 17, 2004
Something to crow about
My hometown of Burns has gone through some rough times in the last 20 or so years - just as many small farm towns in Kansas have. But on a recent visit there, I saw how much it still has to offer and how pride plays such a big role in a community's spirit to survive.
Mom's original intention of traveling to Burns was to get our photos taken for the United Methodist Church directory. If nothing else, she said, she wanted a free 8 by 10 portrait of us three kids with her. We got much more than just a photo.
Our first stop was at the Burns Café and Bakery, known for miles around for its generous portions of home-style cooking. After sharing a piece of lemon meringue pie for dessert with my sister, I ordered rhubarb and blackberry pie pieces to fill a pie pan to take home to Art.
After we ate, we began our "Rooster Walk." People in town decided that if Kansas City could have a Cow Parade and New Mexico could have a Trail of Painted Ponies, then Burns could do the same thing with roosters. They ordered 66-pound birds from a nearby concrete company and painted them, using different themes based on their owners' occupations or interests.
The first roosters we saw were The Chef and Chicken Pie - one inside and one outside the café. We walked across the street to the recently-constructed gazebo and saw five more - Rooster Booster, decorated with Kansas State University colors, a KU Rooster, the Quilter, the Patriot and Cockadoodle Dandy.
A mural painted on the side of the Buffalo Gulch Ranch House depicts part of the history of Burns with storefronts of two stores that used to be on the corner. In front of the mural, we found the Library Rooster, the Museum Rooster and the Southwest Rooster. Around the corner on the step of the ranch house, a rooster with a fuzzy buffalo head complete with horns greeted us.
As we continued along the main street, we found Vincent Van Crow at the Prairie Arts shop, which features wheat weavings, native wood dulcimers and other handicrafts by local artists. A rooster decoupaged with play money guarded the bank entrance and another one decoupaged with stamps greeted us at the post office. A bright yellow one painted with a school bell, an apple, arithmetic problems and other designs associated with learning stood at the entrance to the museum, which was the first consolidated grade and high school in the state.
So far, about 40 of the birds have found places to roost in Burns. A promotional brochure for tourists says: "Wake up to Burns! The little town that can! Come experience it! Take the rooster walk! Burns is traditionally a farming and ranching community. Back in the early days, farmers and their wives would take their eggs to town to exchange for groceries and other items. This summer you can experience the pride and excitement in Burns by taking the 'Rooster Walk.'"
A headline in the May Burns Blaze - the community's monthly newsletter - proclaims, "Burns is a town to crow about!" I would have to agree. I think I'll buy a Burns rooster and put it on my front step.
Mom, Gaila, Linda, Dave, Aunt Kay and Uncle Stan, with roosters in Burns.