Today is the 150th anniversary of Kansas statehood. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity or motivation to visit this place I call home, I’m going to share my views on why we Kansans love it here. I can’t claim to be a native son because I was born a few blocks east of the state line in Missouri and lived there till I was 5. I also spent a few months in New York City and Houston so I’m not a complete homer but I always came back to the wide open spaces.
Most of my childhood was spent in Prairie Village which is not much different from many other suburbs. In 1966 my older sister was off to Kansas State University in Manhattan which is right in the heart of the Flint Hills. Both of my siblings and I all attended college there and I will never forget the first time I saw the sun set as the burning prairie shot orange flames high into the air for miles in every direction. It was more incredible than anything I have ever seen in any museum and it was free.
FREE, that’s a word that is honored by all Kansans. We love freedom so much that we were fighting and dying for the right to be called a Free State for years before the rest of the country decided to join us in the war to end slavery. We were also at the forefront of the civil rights movement a 100 years later when Brown v Topeka Board of Education became a landmark Supreme Court decision. Every time I visit the Flint Hills and see no sign of civilization in any direction it reminds me of what it means to be free and why every human being deserves that basic right.
As much as we love the open range, we also love people. There may be less of us than a couple of New York City boroughs but we’re much more friendly and generous. The whole time I lived in New York, I never felt safe enough to sleep outside. When I was in college in Manhattan Kansas, if I fell asleep outside on the front porch of our house, by morning someone would have covered me with a blanket and given me a pillow. I dare you to try that anywhere but a college town.
Maybe all those years of fighting over statehood made us realize the importance of getting along and being there for one another. When the town of Greensburg Kansas was decimated by a huge tornado some years ago those people dug themselves out of the rubble and just started over. People from across the state showed up to help and today the town is better than ever. More than any other reason, that’s why we live here because we care about each other and we help each other.
We all know we’re not the Garden Spot of the Midwest or a tourist destination. We don’t have snow-capped mountains, or lush forests or sandy beaches. All we have are places where the bison will come up to your car and lick your windows, grasslands where cattle become prime beef, farmland that is considered the breadbasket of the world and skillful people who build GM cars, Cessna, Beechcraft and Boieng airplanes and Cobalt boats.
Kansas is great because Kansans care enough to endure the rigors of the wheat harvest when the temperature is high and the work doesn’t stop until long after the sun has called it a day.
Kansas is great because after the harvest there’s nothing like a community picnic where you can reach for a cold beer at the bottom of a huge metal trough filled with ice and refreshments.
Kansas is great because right about the halfway point of I-70 on your way to the mountains you can stop off at the Brookville Hotel in Abilene for the best home-cooked chicken dinner on the planet.(If you’re too full to drive afterwards, you can always visit the Eisenhower Library.)
Kansas is great because we like to have fun. For a good time check out the Czech Festival in Wilson or the music festival in Winfield or try to wrangle yourself a ticket to any KU basketball game in Lawrence or a K-State football game in Manhattan.
We may not have all the natural assets of other more beautiful places but you will not find more wonderful people. We know how to work hard and how to make our own fun and every night when we head home we are treated to the world’s biggest and best sunsets. Who could ask for more.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.