The Quintessential Kansas

It’s not a hard, fast boundary, but the feeling settles in as I near the Cottonwood River in Marion County.

The windshield time during my once-a-week commute from our home in Manhattan to

Wichita

,

where

I

came of age

leads, inevitably, to thoughts about my emotional connection to the two communities and the space in between.

913 to 316. Fellow precipice approachers will get the reference. Youngsters, ask your parents.

W

ichita is Shockers. Manhattan, Wildcats. 

NPR’s

Morning Edition

on Kansas Public Radio until the Junction City signal fades, then I switch over to KMUW out of Wichita.

I cross the Kaw, the Smoky Hill (twice), the Cottonwood and the Little Arkansas. If I go through Council Grove, throw in the Neosho.

Old people drive Buicks.

Slowly.

W

ichit

a is sand and Equus beds. Manhattan,

limestone and flint.

Never seen a cop in Dickinson or Marion counties. Of course, now that I’ve said it out loud...

Since it’s Kansas, rarely is the weather consistent. Frequently I chase, parallel or outrun rain, snow or ice. Often have I driven out from beneath a front into bright sunshine.

I grew up in a Wichita neighborhood called Pleasant Valley. Today I live on Sunnyside Drive in Manhattan.

The sunroof on the Escape’s nearly always open (uh... that’s why we got it..?) In the winter I look up at v’s of migratory birds. Like me, southbound.

Past Fort Riley on I-70. Hundreds of American soldiers picking them up and putting them down. Black shorts, grey t-shirts emblazoned with “ARMY,” neon green reflective belts.

Wish I could buy them breakfast. Every single one of them.

Manhattan’s the Little Apple. Wichita, the Air Capital. 

Five

roundabouts between here and there. We’re still early enough in the societal roundabout evolution that many Kansans are a bit unsure how to negotiate them.

It’s simple: Yield, then move. Not yield and then yield some more.

A sign in front of a Harvey County windbreak:

“Seek Christ today. Tomorrow is unknown.”

Evidence the gross national product is trending the right way: Double-stacked intermodal containers on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe paralleling U.S. 50 west of Peabody.

Graffiti artists have some chops. Is it a gangsta

initiation r

ite? “Yeah, we know you can bust a cap, but can you inspire and uplift with a spray paint can, using railroad cars as your canvas?”

Wichita is cowboys. Manhattan, free staters. 

South at Newton. Into the traffic mainstream with the bedroom community commuters. Set the cruise on 79 and ease into Wichita on Interstate 35.

Manhattan’s the Kaw. Wichita, Arkansas (Here in God’s Country, we pronounce it as it was meant to be pronounced: “ARE-Kansas.”)

Photo from "Megan in Butler Co." thru my friend Dave Grant at KAKE-TV.

Manhattan is where I was born and where I live. Wichita is where I grew up. My life is the Manhappenin’-Doodah sandwich. 

MHK-ICT.

And along the way I see the product of the sons and daughters of toil. I’ve picked out my wheatfield. Just north of Lincolnville on the east side of U.S. 77. I saw it when it was drilled. I’ve seen it ripen. I hope to see it harvested.

This time of year, when I am privileged to witness a combine churning through a wheatfield with a thunderstorm brewing on the horizon, I see and feel the quintessential Kansas.