family lore “by jove!”

We had one heck of a haul from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Shawnee, Kansas. Weather was good, company decent, but it is a long drive. Few other fools were on the road like us – even on Memorial Day weekend. That $4/gallon gas has discouraged the masses. We figure it’s still “economical” compared with the purchase of airfare (especially for three) and the convenience of not renting or depending upon others while we’re in town. (Not that I’m not doing that anyway! Thanks Kay!)
We headed to Tucumcari and missed it. After getting back on track it was a long, late slog to Liberal, KS but we made it (arrival, 3:30 am, Mountain Standard Time). Few other vehicles were on the road. Mom told stories most of the way: my uncle’s buried treasure, my paternal grandfather’s mother’s dad, Greenwood Blackburn Turner, “who must have been born in this country with Scottish memories,” the backstory to my aunt’s moving in with us fresh out of high school, many more. Tommy also recounted some of his stories: football prowess, life in the Navy, white boys in the North Carolina mountains, his mom’s charity. “God will bless you!”
After spending the night in Liberal, Kansas, we managed to miss Dorothy’s House but did see the Rock Island Railroad Bridge, “one of the largest of its kind” according to the AAA Tourbook to Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma (2008). We did not go through Goodland, but mom informed me that I’ve been there before. Apparently we slept overnight there on one of our family drives from Denver to Mt. Carmel, IL. Dad did not enjoy driving across Kansas. It seems his time in the military soured the state. Something recalled to mom’s mind taking me to the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, and she informed Tommy that I used to live within a few blocks of the Truman Museum in Independence, MO. Indeed I did.
We drove through Meade but did not witness evidence of artesian wells. In Haviland, we searched for Lonny’s Café (I was tempted by espresso, mom by homemade pie) but had to continue on to Pratt. We ate in a downtown sportsbar, Tommy displaying his sportsmanship despite asserting, “ain’t no black people go in there!” Just past Pratt, before Cunningham (?), we saw evidence of a twister.

tornado damage.JPG.jpg

Not five minutes after stopping to snap photos we heard a tornado watch on the radio. “Wonderful,” mom said. We whipped through Wichita, despite its impressive credentials: “For 11,000 years Wichita served as a trading center and meeting place for nomadic people.”
Leaving the desert behind, we thoroughly enjoyed the profusion of spring on the plains. Not only did the gently rolling landscape turn an exquisite green, cows dotted the hills and were silhouetted on the horizon. “This sure is pretty,” Tommy said, more than once. ­čÖé
Enjoying the pastoral beauty was in stark contrast to the cemeteries we passed with flags a-flying for Memorial Day. “I don’t believe in that,” Tommy announced after I took a few photos of this large cemetery on the outskirts of Wichita. “I don’t either,” I said, “but we gotta talk about why we disagree.” Tommy, built fit to pummel, is a gentle soul.

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