“I’m from Kansas. It’s about as American as it gets.” Thus, in the movie Man of Steel, Superman tells an American military man to back off so he can save the day. Clark Kent wears a University of Kansas sweatshirt in the film. Such distinction may appear hokey, but Kansas does have many Super features going for it.
Throughout Kansas, acres of awe-inspiring wind turbines stand testament to the wisdom of the People of the South Wind, the Kansa Indians. Even though these giant blades appear to rotate in slow motion, they in fact turn powerful turbines which create vast amounts of electricity and help reduce the dependence of Kansans and their neighbors on nonrenewable resources.
Not only is Kansas squarely situated in the center of America’s wind tunnel (which stretches from the Dakotas to Texas), but also the center of the contiguous United States exists in Kansas—in the cozy small north central Kansas town of Lebanon.
The culture and resources of the Kansa Indians made them natural resource preservers. They lived in settled villages of cozy round earth lodges, the original earth-sheltered homes, made from wooden frames covered with packed earth. Only for hunting trips to the grasslands did the people use buffalo-hide tipis as temporary shelters.
To the unaware flyover crowd on the East and West Coasts, Kansas may appear to be a vast, flat prairie. In truth, the east side of the sate consists of forested rolling hills intersected by rivers and streams. The largest urban centers grew and remain here.
The central Flint Hills support farmers, ranchers, and the towns which cater to them. The Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve (http://www.nps.gov/tapr/index.htm) provides visitors an awesome view of a piece of the natural grasslands and its flora and fauna, a natural habitat which once covered 170 million acres of North America. One can hike through waist high grass, visit historic houses and schools, eat gourmet food in Cottonwood Falls and Strong City, or attend the Symphony in the Flint Hills (http://www.symphonyintheflinthills.org/ ) in June when the Kansas City Symphony orchestra totes its concert shell way out onto ranch land in the middle of the Flint Hills and performs against a background of full sky and stark beauty.
Western Kansas gradually transforms to semi-arid plains, utilized by modern ranchers. The state’s cattle, corn, and wheat feed the nation and the world, and miles of hiking paths serve to let people realize what the pioneers saw and felt on the many wagon trails towards the West. Swales made by wagon wheels on the Oregon Trail, Santa Fe Trail, and Chisholm Trail, and others can still be seen in some preserved areas.
Kansas towns and their rough and ready old West residents have become the source of American legend, movie themes, and television shows—Wyatt Earp, "Wild Bill" Hickok, Annie Oakley, Bat Masterson, Carrie Nation, Dodge City and its Boot Hill, Fort Riley. Now, however, industry and culture have replaced the Gunsmoke aura. Urban centers such as Kansas City and its suburbs, Wichita, and Topeka enjoy “everything up to date.”
Education in Kansas is top notch. Museums and artistic endeavors abound. And although this state may appear on political maps as a bright red patch, progressive firsts are associated with Kansans. A few of them: The first woman mayor in the United States was Susan Madora Salter, elected to office in a Kansas town in 1887. The graham cracker was named after the Reverend Sylvester Graham (1794-1851) who strongly believed in eating whole wheat flour products. Amelia Earhart, from Atchison, was the first woman granted a pilot's license by the National Aeronautics Association and first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861, just before the Civil War, as a strong free state.
The world famous fast-food chain of Pizza Hut restaurants opened its first store in Wichita.
Joyce Ann Brown writes essays for local publications in the Kansas City area, and her about-to-be launched first novels, two books of a cozy mystery series, are set in Kansas City, Missouri and its Kansas suburbs. Her protagonist earns a living as a landlady of rental properties, and when special tenants become involved with murder and mayhem, Beth must react. The klutzy, reluctant sleuth pushes headlong into dangerous clue-seeking situations, because like Superman, she cares passionately about the people and places involved. Her unpredictable cat friend (appropriately nicknamed Psycho Cat) figures prominently in the alternately scary and amusing plots.
Visit Joyce Ann’s Extremely Interesting Writing Blog: http://retirementchoicescozymystery.wordpress.com
(all photos provided by author)