July 19-20, 2016, Hays, KS- Early alley-oop, on Wednesday morning, got me over to Country Cupboard, in Carterville, about five miles west of Marion. I wanted a simple breakfast, in a place favoured by locals- so there it was.
The conversation in the establishment was all about autistic children, and how they fare in the schools of southern Illinois. It seems a mixed bag. One mother found her child’s school to be minimally supportive. A grandmother expressed annoyance at how her grandchild was being received, day to day. This is an area which hosts a sizable public university. That, of course, in and of itself, does not guarantee equity in the treatment of special needs children. I read, just a few minutes ago, of a threat made against the parent of a special needs child, by a university professor in another state. Education does not guarantee either wisdom, or human decency. So, these ladies, and thousands like them, soldier on, fighting for their children- as only decent mothers can. We won’t concern ourselves with the indecent ones.
I headed northwest, then due west, passing through metro St. Louis, noting that the Mississippi and Missouri appear to be in good shape. I stopped , momentarily, at a Steak and Shake, in suburban St.Peter, and turned myself into a balloon with a delectable mint Oreo shake. The burger, sadly, was forgettable, but life goes on.
In Columbia, I surprised a couple of old friends, who had moved there from Prescott, a couple of years ago, to be near family.
We spent about two hours catching up on life events, and mutual friends, in the comfort of their living room and at a nearby Cracker Barrel. I bid farewell to Emil and Pam, as evening approached, and drove on through Missouri, stopping only to savour the preserved prairie, at a rest stop outside Boonville.
It seems to me that the more prairie we keep around, the more the soil will remain rich and productive. Monoculture, under whatever guise it is implemented, will only add to our food security problems, in the long term.
I skirted around Kansas City, took the toll road to Topeka, then got back on the freeway, as far as Salina, before stopping for the night. Super 8 offered a decent breakfast, the next morning- and I got a relatively early start, reaching this western Kansas university town, just before noon.
Hays is another quintessential prairie town, in some ways a blast from the past, though people here seem as informed and contemporary in style, as anywhere else. There is a mixed view of Donald Trump, much as I found in the conservative communities in which I found myself, in southern Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia and the Southeast.
Construction-wise, people here rely on stone.
I was taken by the smoothed brick streets of downtown Hays. The mood was fairly quiet, but there were plenty of people out and about- just going on with life, despite the heat. It was 104 here, as I spent about twenty minutes poking about the north end of the city center.
The law office that looks like a church has this as a cross street neighbour.
It occurred to me that there are a few, at the famous church back in Topeka, who could stand to learn a thing or two from the folks at St. Joseph’s Parish. Then again, there are many, liberal, conservative, and in-between, who could do the same.
Here are a few more scenes of St. Joseph’s Parish.
The above is surely a place of restoration, on a busy day.
Downtown Hays has a popular lunch counter, inside the stationery store. Northwestern Office Supply’s soda shoppe is the place to go for a full salad bar, freshly made (from scratch) soups and all the soda fountain treats one can imagine. I behaved, somewhat, opting for a Reuben with cole slaw, and iced tea. Had it not been so hot outside, soup would have been a magnificent thing.
There are other interesting towns in northwestern Kansas, such as Colby and Oakley, but I had this little agenda, of getting to the Denver area in time enough to skirt rush hour, so I say, “Another time.” Yes, those of my friends who travel in rarefied circles, there is value to visiting the Prairie. It has our roots.