I’m sitting in a hotel room on Wichita’s south side for the first time in many years; it has changed a little the desk clerk wasn’t behind bulletproof glass when I checked in otherwise no significant change. I have spent many hours killing time in Kansas. Most of the people I know think the only reason Kansas exists is to provide a route to the mountains of Colorado. I like it here and have always considered it my home away from home and although not a world traveler, I have been to 41 of the 50 states and a few foreign countries.
This time my stay will be short, in fact I may finish this at home. I’m here to watch the Liberal Bee Jays play a couple baseball games. Cale is a member of the Bee Jays team and seems to be enjoying his time n Kansas. I came here to watch them because it is a long way to Liberal.
My fist trip to Kansas was in the summer of ’59 either just before or just after my 17th birthday. It was my first attempt at conquering the world; I didn’t make the trip alone; my brother and two friends were with me. One of the group had some connections in Scott City; there was supposedly a lot of work and the pay was good. I stayed a few days and made the trip home alone while I still had gas money; I think it is about 425 miles. The only work I did was haul hay; I could do that at home and mom would fix my dinner and do my laundry. I slept in my car; a ’51 Oldsmobile in a gas station parking lot in Woodward Oklahoma; wouldn’t do that today.
My brother had settled (probably not a good word for a 20 year old) anyway he was still in Scott City so when I got out of high school I returned to Kansas. It went a little better this time; I found work, not get rich or career stuff but it wasn’t hauling hay. I had a very fun summer and grew up some. I worked my butt off but I met some good people and had a lot of fun; it wasn’t all good clean fun one of the things I learned was to drink alcohol. Some years later and through much trial and error I learned to do that responsibly. I came back home that fall to do some other things; I don’t remember what but I’m sure I had something big in mind.
Other than making a very quick trip in ’64 to pay my respects to a good friend who lost his life in an auto accident I didn’t return to Kansas until my rodeo endeavor brought me this way often from 1975 to 1981. I became very familiar with Kansas in ’77 I spent 17 weekends in various towns scattered from Dodge City to Hill City to Paola. I learned to like the people and appreciate the lifestyle; they work hard, play hard and enjoy life. I looked at a lot of Kansas’s two-lane road and was almost on a first name basis with the toll both people at the Wellington turnpike gate.
I still remember coming through Wichita one night about midnight Sharyl and the girls were with me; we were on the almost deserted turnpike and had an excellent view; if I would have had a video camera I could have got some wall cloud, lightning and tornado footage that would have made Gary England and Mike Morgan (Oklahoma City weathermen) do back flips. We made it OK, and did it again the next weekend minus the storms.
Beginning in the late 80s my day job brought me to Wichita frequently for about ten years, someone else was paying the bills so I stayed where they didn’t have bulletproof glass, but I can truthfully say “Wichita ain’t a bad place to kill some time” especially if you are like me, laid back and aren’t looking for bright lights and touristy things.
I plan to go to Liberal this summer and while I’m that far west go ahead and make the 100 mile drive up north to Scott City; not so much to see how things have changed but to see how they have stayed the same, that is kind of the west Kansas way. It feels good to be back in my home away from home.
Keep me in your prayers.