Pinky on Museums in Kansas

I will not belabor the point nor will I paint a rosy picture of the
journey across Kansas on I-70, but it may be of some help to those
making the trip to know that there is life in the great wheat state.
On our trip out we were amazed to find that every village, town and
county had some attraction of which they were proud or some curiosity
they wished to share with the itinerant journeyman.  We counted 37
such significant sights either on the road or just several miles from
it.  Why a person could traverse Kansas marveling at all manner of
interesting materials!  So let me begin the listings:

Astronauts and aviators seem to arrive in large numbers from these
plains.  Perhaps the flatness and the sameness is a challenge which
encourages Kansans to be up, up and away.  We counted the birthplaces
of 4 astronauts (Salina, Topeka,Ft. Riley, Junction City).  Amelia
Earhart, lost in the Pacific in the 1930s, was also a Kansas native.

Abilene either has more attractions than any other city or it
publicizes them more efficaciously.  Of course there is the
Eisenhower Library and the original dwelling where he grew up, but it
is also the home of a heritage center, and Old Town, several
wonderful Victorian homes, and the Greyhound Hall of Fame!  The
Museum of Independent Telephony is also conveniently located within
its environs.

Topeka is the state capitol and within its walls are some wonderful
murals.  You can find here the Kansas Historical Center and Museum, a
tropical rain forest, and the Combat Air Museum.  Close by is the
Waubunsee Historical  Society and the Columbia Theatre Museum and Art
Center AND the Geary County Historical Museum.  In case your are in
need, the Microsurgery Vascular Center is also nearby.

Head for Wamego to see an operating Dutch mill, Lindsborg for a
Swedish sojourn, or Wilson to visit the Czech Center.  Want to know
more about Bob Dole and post rocks?  Russell has both.  Nearby is a
prairie dog town and the Oil Patch Museum.  See Walter Chrysler’s
boyhood home and the Railroad Museum in Ellis.  Worship at the
Historic Cathedral of the Plains in Victoria or take a detour to the
Garden of Eden in Lucas.  We did this once; it is really worth seeing
because it is naive art at its best.  Besides, you can stop in
Brookfield for a lunch of their famous fried chicken, creamed corn
and mashed potatoes.  (We had our chicken fix once in Abilene at a
wonderful old Victorian house right across from the Eisenhower
complex.)  You can gain access to the U.S. Cavalry Museum and the
Custer house in Ft. Riley.  You can visit the Fish Hatchery and
Nature Center in Milford and the Agricultural Hall of Fame in Bonner
Springs.  Each September and October the Renaissance Festival is
also positioned here.

As I said, all of the cities have museums, usually of a historic
nature dating back to the turn of the 20th century.  Many of the
citizens of these cities built collections of china and clothing and
bottles and hand work during their lives.  These were left to the
communities in which they lived.  Many retired and fulfilled a
lifelong ambition to travel and they brought their curios and
knickknacks home to roost in their native areas.  Old farming and
mining equipment and barns and sod houses were also resurrected in
these county and local museums.  Sometimes a Sunday painter or water
colorist bequeathed his art to the town.

Cultural centers are often combined with these museums of artifacts;
they are the only source of 3 dimension knowledge of the past and of
beauty for entire counties.  And this brings me to the theory or
understanding that we developed about rural living and the ideology
of the inhabitants of such areas.  This was primarily farming
country; we are all aware that Kansas is the bread basket of the
nation, that they grow more hard red winter wheat here than any other
state.  By the nature of their occupation farmers must be self
reliant and self sufficient.  They must handle the catastrophes of
tornadoes, floods, and droughts.  It certainly is a hard and limiting
life experience, yet for many a fulfilling one.  But when they live
is such isolation and a large metropolis is absent from their ken,
they surely  develop not only complete independence of others, but
also those few people within their purview are those to whom they
give a helping hand if indeed it is needed.  Their knowledge of
Darfur or India or the continent of Africa is almost totally lacking,
but a neighbor whose house has burned down or whose wife has died or
who has met with any tragic or injurious experience is a known human
being to them.  Charity begins at home.  It is also this spirit of
self reliance that has forged the Republican psyche that is so
prevalent here in Kansas.  Isolation, independence, self reliance and
limited knowledge of the world beyond their immediate one creates
this farmer or this small town citizen; it is what keeps him going.

So should you traverse I-70 at any time in the next few years, do not
fail to consult me.  Living conditions, like ideologies do not
radically change with any frequency here in Kansas.  Perhaps a few
new museums will be built and certainly the world will become smaller
and more pressing to these Kansan Americans, but by and large only
scientific not social innovations will affect them.  Listen, they are
the backbone of the nation!

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