On my recent bus trip through the Rocky Mountains, a fellow traveler told me, “You must really be enjoying this scenery being from Kansas.” His tone implied that people living in Kansas had never seen any beautiful scenery in their lives.
I did not really resent his attitude, since I realized that a majority of people who do not live in Kansas view us as a vast wasteland to fly over on the road to somewhere else — anywhere else.
However, I did feel an urge to attempt to set him straight,
“Well,” I told him, “I live in the Flint Hills in Kansas. I don’t think the Rockies are really any prettier than the Flint Hills; they’re just bigger.”
This incident leads into a review of a book I am reading titled, “Flyover People,” by Cheryl Unruh. It is a collection of some of the essays Unruh has written for her column of the same title in The Emporia Gazette. These are simply observations from someone who has lived in the state all her life. The subtitle is “Life on the Ground in a Rectangular State.” It made the 2012 list of Kansas Notable Books.
Some of the essays deal with modern-day events such as the annual Symphony in the Flint Hills. Other pieces talk about bits of the state’s history. Then there are affectionate descriptions of her hometown of Emporia and her childhood hometown of Pawnee Rock. Still others take the reader on scenic drives down Kansas roads to sites like Rock City near Minneapolis, the cabin where “Home on the Range” was written, the Eisenhower Museum, and the state Capitol.
One of my favorites deals with her childhood memories of watching the trains go through and waving at the train crew. Since I grew up a quarter of a mile from Union Pacific tracks, I have similar warm memories, and I’ll bet most of my readers do, too. I even wrote a poem about the experience titled, “Unwavering.”
When I have lost the great rat race
And clouds of gloom descend,
I know a special secret place
Where I can find a friend.
When I lack strength for that next mile
And no one seems to care,
I know where I can find a smile
Which always will be there.
When I’m so lonesome I could cry
And too tired to be brave,
I like to watch the train go by,
For train men always wave.
If you love Kansas as much as I do, you will also love this book. While I am on the subject of reading matter, I also highly recommend a book I just finished reading titled, “365 Thank Yous” by John Kralik. One New Year’s Day when reverses in both his professional and personal life had the author in a deep depression, he seemed to hear a voice saying, “You will never get the things you want until you learn to be grateful for what you already have.”
Kralik made a New Year’s resolution to write 365 thank you notes, one for each day of the year. The book tells how this exercise transformed his life. You will not be able to read it without an increased awareness of the countless opportunities you have for being thankful.
Happy reading to all.