Friday, February 03, 2017
Last Friday I drove back to Kansas to give a talk at the annual meeting of the Solomon Valley Highway 24 Alliance. It was nothing short of miraculous that the weather was unseasonably pleasant both in Colorado and Kansas.
I don't mind long drives. I listen to audiobooks written by writers I haven't had an opportunity to read. Flying is impossible when I take an assortment of books along. I always drive when I can make my destination in a day.
The growth of the Solomon Valley Alliance was very impressive. Once again I'm stunned by the energy and accomplishments of small rural communities. Budget cuts have about brought Kansas to its knees. Everything is do-it-yourself. We make the most of what we have. We make do.
Much to my delight I was awarded a special merit plaque for writing Nicodemus: Post-Reconstruction Politics and Racial Justice in Western Kansas. Additionally, I received an exquisite miniture copper windmill.
When people ask me where I live, I always say Kansas. My kids look at me funny because I've been in Colorado eight years now. But here's my story and I'm sticking to it: Colorado was once part of Kansas Territory. I don't care what these ignorant people call this state. I would never leave Kansas.
The next day I went to the Kansas Salt Mines. What an amazing trip. And yes, it has everything to do with my next mystery. The mines are 650 feet underground and the humidity and temperature are constant year round. The mines are where the negatives of Ben Hur, Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz and countless other films are kept. There are thousands of government documents stored in the mines.
There's nothing like on-the-spot research. The mines are not at all like I had imagined from on-line reading. There are so many tunnels, the ceilings are lower, and I still can't understand how the shape could be so perfectly rectangular.
The Salt Mines are a natural wonder. But in the make-the-most-of-what-you-have category, a wonderful lady who helped me with my book signing introduced herself as "the ball of twine in Cawker City."
Oh, you've never heard of this? Kansas has the world's largest ball of twine. People come from all over the world to see it. She said recently there was even a vistor from Mongolia.
But you would have to live there to understand this brand of humor. And who would have thought the ball of twine would become a leading tourist attraction.