The Wizards of Oz

The State of Kansas has had less than favorable notice the past few years. The Governor, the Secretary of State, and the legislature, in particular, head up the news you’re seeing. “What’s Wrong With Kansas,” became a best seller.

Kansans have always been touched by the crazy bug. I mean, consider moving to where no one lives, where nothing lives, really, but tallgrass and Native Americans, and building a home out of sod. We’ll start there. But Kansas also boasts the Garden of Eden, complete with concrete poured animals and a beloved, shrunken to a mummy, in a glass-topped coffin; a Wizard of Oz Museum; and a Rock in a Cage. That’s a very very very brief list. If you’re really curious, go here. You’ll find more in alphabetical order by town. Oh, and the geographical center of the Continental United States.

But here’s a Kansas only the local community will talk about, in particular, Marysville, Kansas, the town where we shop when we go to the farm, and the home of The Marysville Advocate, home town newspaper which arrives in my mailbox once a  week.

This week’s top story, along with a bond election for the schools, but we’re not going into politics, was on the Hong Kong Restaurant, a town favorite, which opened in 1997, and is closing. The owners are retiring and moving closer to children. Crowds filled the restaurant for a last meal, the patrons sad; someone changed the closing date on the door sign from Nov. 1, 2015 to Nov. 1, 2016. One of their children, Connie Chan, who grew up in the restaurant, graduated from high school and subsequently from Carnegie Mellon University, wrote a column in this week’s paper, saying thanks for the memories. And thanks to Marysville, her “hometown.”

While not exactly my hometown as the farm is seventeen miles northeast, nonetheless, I’ve known Marysville, Kansas since about five years old. As we drove Highway 36, the old Pony Express route, on the way to Grandma’s house, I always looked for the neon sign that read EAT horizontally and GAS vertically. EAT GAS. Even at a young age, words amused me. Eat gas was my first introduction to Kansas crazy.

When I returned to this part of the country, we live in Kansas City, Missouri, across the state line from Kansas a few blocks to the west, and when I began regularly going to the farm and to Marysville for supplies, one of the first things I noticed was the Chinese restaurant and the Mexican restaurant. In the newspaper, I noticed Asian and African-American and Mexican and Caucasian schoolkids, laughing in newspaper photographs.

Something remarkable had happened in Marysville and in Marshall County. True, it’s at a crossroad: the Pony Express, the train, the highways 77 and 36 in a major crossroad, and the county seat. But so much diversity in a small Kansas town surprised me.

So yes, while there’s a lot wrong with Kansas, there’s a lot right, too. And acceptance for differences (we’ll leave out the Legislature for now) is a hallmark.

We be a little crazy in Kansas. It’s probably in the wind.