Jon de Vos – Kansas: The space between
Winter Park, CO Colorado
I was born in Hollywood and for the longest time, if I thought of Kansas at all, it was the place that produced the wheat flour for pizza dough. Actually, I didn’t think about pizza crust, or especially Kansas, much at all.
That changed when I married a woman from Pittsburgh. Uh, that’s Pittsburgh, Kan., I should point out, famous for the formation of the first Ladies Auxiliary of the Fraternal Order of Eagles on March 24, 1927. And that is what I love today about Kansas, the odd and peculiar things people find to do with boundless skies and endless dirt.
Abilene, Kan., is home to the Eisenhower Museum. It is also home, at 27 feet tall, to the World’s Largest Spur. Why a big spur? Well, maybe it’s best explained like this: When life hands out lemons, some make lemonade, but a precious few make Limoncello.
Caldwell, Kan., bills itself as the Ornate Box Turtle Capital of the World. I think it’s because the Ornate Box Turtle is the official state reptile, and “Roll Up the Sidewalks Capital of the World” was already taken.
Then there is Atchison, hometown of Amelia Earhart and a one-acre perpetual portrait of the famed aviatrix created out of stone and garden plants on a hillside overlooking Warnock Lake.
Goessel is the Kansas town that boasts an exact replica of the Liberty Bell made of straw. It was fashioned by the Mennonites in 1976 and crafted out of turkey red wheat straw. It hung in the Smithsonian during the Bicentennial but it doesn’t ring worth a darn.
Independence, Kan., was home to America’s First Space Monkey, while Concordia’s claim to fame is a real Guard Tower From a Nazi POW Camp. Topeka, proof that sanity isn’t safe in the cities, is the site of Truckhenge, antique farm implements and vehicles arranged ala Stonehenge. Nope, don’t know why.
Coffeyville sports “Dalton Death Alley” replicating the final desperate moments of the Dalton Gang when, in October 1892, they met their undoing trying to rob both Coffeyville banks at the same time. The World’s Largest Atomic Cannon rests in a public park in Junction City, Kan. Only fired once, the problem was making a cannon that could shoot an atomic bomb far enough away that it wouldn’t kill the people shooting the cannon.
The World’s Largest Concrete Teepee is found in Lawrence, while Greensburg, Kan., is home to the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well. The World’s Largest Outdoor Concrete Free Municipal Swimming pool is found in Garden City. The World’s Largest Concrete Prairie Dog is in Oakley. The World’s Tallest Mennonite statue resides in Newton; the World’s First Bulldozer in Morrowville; and the World’s Second Largest Steam Shovel has been turned into a mining museum in West Mineral, Kan. The shovel, known as “Big Brutus,” was declared a Regional Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1987. The World’s Largest steel alloy Indian is located in Wichita.
Goodland claims the World’s Largest Easel. Norton is hometown to the Gallery of Presidential Also-Rans. Garden City advertises the World’s Largest Hairball. Bushton sits on the World’s Second Largest stash of helium. McPherson is proud to display the skin of Leo the MGM Lion.
And on, and on, and all of this barely scratches the surface of the odd configurations of peoples, places and things found in Kansas, that curious space between the sky above and the ground below.
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