Archive for the ‘Kansas’ Category


April 1, 2007

A year ago November, I drove Kansas and Nebraska with Dave Johnson (no relation to Spider). We’d read that in many counties there were now fewer people than in the late 1800s, and we wanted to see for ourselves. Prairie grass swayed in the wind where there’d been farms. Town after town looked much like what I’ve described of the Texas Panhandle. The architecture is different but always the beautifully built and long-abandoned county courthouse and dozens of empty stores. In Kansas and Nebraska you don’t see the diversity that you now see even in small Texas towns. Instead, you see mostly large white people of a certain ilk, the great- and great-great- and great-great-great-grandchildren of those who pioneered these plains. And many of these folks disliked me on sight.

I forget the name of the Kansas town where we stopped for lunch. It was like a scene in an old Western: We walk in; everybody looks; everybody stares as we take our seats. Dave, he could be a businessman from down the road (as, in fact, he is) – distinguished looking, tall, gray hair, casual clothes. He walks into this diner alone, and he’s fine. Me – maybe it’s the hat, the gray ponytail, how I walk, I don’t know. But the people in that Kansas diner, in particular – they looked at me with naked, livid hatred. (So did old women in Nebraska the next day. As I passed, one said to another, “Well, he’s different.” She spat “different” as though the word meant something vile.) In the diner, one farmhand couldn’t take his eyes off me. Sitting with his friends at lunch, he stopped eating and stared at me. His face was trembling – trembling! – with rage and hate. I expected something nasty to go down, but all he did was stare. I was baffled. Why me?

mad cow disease

December 17, 2006

Creekstone Farms, a Kansas beef producer, wants to reassure customers that its cattle are safe to eat by testing them all for mad cow disease. Sounds like a smart business move, but there’s one problem: The federal government won’t let the company do it.