Saturday, January 29, 2011

#225: Kansas

Kansas became a state on this day 150 years ago in 1861.  I've only lived here for my entire life so I know a thing or two about its history and how beautiful it is here.  I've been nearly everywhere in this state (southwest, northwest, I will get to you as soon as there is a reason) and I've taken a lot of pictures (most of which can be seen here) and I've seen a lot of sights.  I honestly don't really know what to do for Kansas' 150th anniversary.  I began writing on this thing twice and the third time isn't going any better.

Most of what people know about Kansas comes from The Wizard of Oz, Superman stories and various jokes in movies and TV shows.  Kansas is really nothing like that.  Yes, there is a lot of open space, few people, and a lot of general nothingness however, have you driven through Nebraska?  I've seen pictures of Nebraska and it looks more desolate than Kansas.  But I'm not here to knock other states.  Kansas has a very rich history which seems to get lost in the lore of other history.  For example, the Civil War began April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter, South Carolina but a battle between pro-slavery and free-state factions took place in the area of Baldwin City in June of 1856.  After Thomas Barber was killed during the Wakarusa War, John Brown, who was viewing the body which had been placed in the Eldridge House commented that we were now in a "civil war".  Charles Dow became the first person murdered in Kansas in 1855 after an argument was a pro-slavery landowner.  Out west, Nicodemus was founded in 1877 by freed slaves and remains a small town that has been declared a National Historic Site.  The Oregon, California and Santa Fe Trails went through Kansas and several places as Lawrence, Ulysses, Finney County and Irving have intriguing histories which are worth taking a look at.

I can't really see myself living anywhere else.  I fantasize about living somewhere else.  Denver, New York, Boston, Chicago.  But what are the chances I would actually move there or enjoy living in any of those places.  Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn't.  One thing I learned is that after driving in Chicago traffic I will no longer complain about traffic in Kansas City.

The more I've seen of Kansas the more I've grown to love it.  I am proud of where I am from and proud that I am a native Kansan--born and raised.  While Kansas may have its problems, I will still defend it even though we once stopped teaching evolution in schools, even though the awful people of the Westboro Baptist Church reside here and even though Governor Brownback's budget reduction proposal will make Kansas the only state in the country without an arts commission.  The state's been good to me, and I've been good to it.  Happy Birthday, Kansas.