Friday, February 10, 2012

My Favorite Hatchet Woman

We Kansans brag about our fanatics. One of the treasured images is that of Carry Nation, the notorious temperance advocate, who went around smashing saloons. Carry is right next to John Brown for notoriety. 

Carry was large—almost 6 feet tall, and weighed 175 pounds. She described herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn't like.” She claimed a divine ordination to promote temperance by destroying bars.

In 1880, Kansas was the only state in the Union to have a prohibition amendment in its constitution. Today, it’s only one of three states dry by default. That means you can’t get a drink unless the good citizens have voted  a “local option” to allow it. Through local option, if a voting entity—say, a county, a town, or a township, wants to allow the sale of booze, they can vote to permit it within that little area. If a county is “dry” and a town is “wet,” you can get a drink in that town, but not in the rest of the county.

And get this, we still have not ratified the 21st amendment of the United States, which ended Prohibition.
No-booze applies to our airspace, too. In the 1970s, a crusading State Attorney General, Vern Miller, subjected passengers to arrest if they had a drink flying over Kansas.
All this does not mean, of course, that Kansans don’t drink. We simply disapprove of anyone else doing it. That includes our neighbors. The ways around the law are more convoluted than the classifications for liquor.
Here’s how the state became so extreme in the first place. As with most things Kansan, it began before the Civil War and the violent incursions by the dreaded Missouri border ruffians. Largely Democrats, I might add. (As am I, and all of my Georgia ancestors) Hordes of Democrats crossed from Missouri to vote illegally and make sure the new state became pro-slave instead of a free state.

The very first settlers here were pious god-fearing New Englanders. Missouri bushwhackers , mostly Southerners to begin with, were  thought of as “whisky drinking, degraded, foul-mouthed marauders.” So the state didn’t like Democrats and it didn’t like booze, either.

The Lottie Albright series is not a “cold case” series, yet it is both historical and contemporary with Kansas’s violent past intruding on the present.
By the way, we are not the top state for tourism.

6 comments:

Rick Blechta said...

I make passing mention of similarly-armed female in my forthcoming The Fallen One. The small Picardie town of Beauvais has a larger-than-life statue of Jeanne Hachette who helped defend the town against a Burgundian invasion in 1472. Based on this statue, I certainly wouldn’t want to meet this imposing woman when she was armed and angry! Here’s a link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ranopamas/759159939/in/photostream/

Charlotte Hinger said...

Rick, call and raise you one. Have you heard about the Bloody Benders?

Rick Blechta said...

No, but I sure hope you’re going to tell us about ’em!

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Rick Blechta said...

The comment above was deleted because it was sent by a spammer. All such comments will be deleted immediately, so please, if you’re one of those sorts of people, go elsewhere!

All other comments are most welcome!

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