peaceful

Kansas

Kansas

I drove due South for a piece where Kansas kisses Missouri. I landed just north and a little west of Joplin where a twister summarily leveled an entire community in 2011. Once I hit the Bourbon County line I lost all cell reception. I doubt this is a coincidence. The road was straight with more dips and interest than its neighbor. If lucky, two lanes to pass the 18 wheelers. It was peppered with scrap metal trucks, two-toned cars with replacement doors and Chevy’s towing silver Airstream trailers carrying both rust and American Flags for the Memorial Day Weekend. Cops stood right on the shoulder with traffic at the regulated 75 MPS and pointed the radar gun in my direction as if to defy to me to outrun them. I was left with the impression that, if they caught me doing anything wrong, they might have friends named Billy Bob and James Jr. to remind me of my manners. Every now and again I passed through a town that felt as if it stopped breathing in 1921. Brick on the buildings had peeled away showing its petticoats and begging for art. Low lying Marquee signs with busted bulbs and weeds growing through still point an arrow with curved determination toward a now empty lot where a building once stood. Bob’s Grill hasn’t changed even if its patrons have aged; the next generation still lives here to backfill. The traffic lanes through town shifted to make way for the parking slots that have been added. They wove me about as if I had already started my weekend celebration. And the houses on the outskirts were stocky with compressed pillared porches as if to say “Fuck Joplin. I stood”. Each had a God Bless America sign which is left standing all year draped in Christmas lights. And, on the outskirts where 20 is about to hit 75 again, a deserted Greyhound Track stood as an embarrassment to a community that still wishes it were there. Nature is winning as the grass overtakes the asphalt. Things began to speed by again. Nature’s Art Taxidermy. A rabid fox on the shoulder. John Deere Tractor Supply. Bait and Tackle. Until I found myself running along white fence rows again that tried to keep pace. And then there was nothing but open road. Groves of trees congregating around the water hole like a family at a summer picnic. Cornstalks stretching their hands out of the earth as if just getting out of the bed for the summer. Brown cows in fields where the grass swayed shoulder deep, their bellies burgeoning from trying to tame it. Farm equipment with outstretched wings taunting me with the invitation to play Red Rover. Every now and again a sign that said 274th Street…311th Street…1350th Street…with nothing in between but the Little Osage River and a whole lot of country. I turned on the radio to pass the time wondering what happened to all the other streets and settled back to “Dust in the Wind”.

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