Friday, January 29, 2010

Kansas - January 29, 1861

Come along girls and listen to my voice,
Don't you never marry no Kansas boys.
If you do your fate will be
Hoe cakes, hominy and sassafrass tea.

I think my first trip to Kansas was brief - just jumping over the border from Kansas City, MO when James and I went out to visit his uncle in 1989. We drove across it once though, I think it must have been when we were moving from Oxford, Ohio to Tucson, Arizona in 1990. We stopped in Liberal, Kansas which has a tribute to the Wizard of Oz. We went to Dorothy's house and followed the yellow brick road. I remember James asked a gas station attendant there "I'm sure you are asked this all the time, but how did Liberal get its name?" The young man scratched his head and allowed as how no, no one had ever asked him that before, and he really had no idea how it came to be so called. This website gives us the scoop. We also stopped in Greensburg, Kansas, which has, well, a big well. I mean really big. Two years ago today it was named one of the 8 wonders of Kansas.

While I was looking for Kansas books, Prarie Poetry: Cowboy Verse of Kansas struck me as a unique title, and one that I wouldn't typically read as I do not read much poetry. I get too distracted anticipating rhyming words. And the non-rhyming poems I find too heavy, even when they're not. The vast majority of the poems in the collection were definitely of the rhyming sort, the ABCB scheme being a favorite. Of the136 poems, almost half follow this patten. Divided into 12 broad themes, the poems weave together an image of cowboy life. Heavy debt, good horses, bad horses, stubborn cattle, lousy weather, tall tales, and lying and cheating are all part of the picture. Dodge City, and other places familiar to even those of us who don't know much about the cowboy life, are a theme in many of the poems. Flint Hills prarie was a a recurring image throughout, which is a place I had not heard of before.

As a Spanish instructor I was especially interested to see one "corrida" in Spanish (with English translation) included in this collection.  One thing I think would have enhanced this work is a glossary. Although I correctly guessed that a "soiled dove" was a prostitute, and that those who complained of "riding drag" were at the rear of the herd there are still a few other terms I am not quite sure of though. What exactly is a "drover" and what does it mean to be "slacked" at a rodeo?

Some other cowboy terms can be found on this page.

My late friend Walt once told me he and his wife "got married in the good old days - back when you got married for sex." Of the movie Splendor in the Grass I have this to say: that's what Bud and Deenie should have done. What a tragedy it must be to settle for a life with someone for whom you have no passion. The first time I saw this movie a woman I was working with at the time said that  she was glad to see that Bud had gotten what he deserved and was living in that filthy house. I don't think though that that is a fair assessment though. Bud was just as much a victim of the society as Deenie was, and although she looked better, I don't think was was doing much better than he was.

Of course Warren Beatty never really looks bad.

By the way - who knew that there was a made for television re-make of this movie in 1981 starring Melissa Gilbert (yes, the one from Little House on the Prarie)? I did. I think I saw it before I ever saw the original.

And one other thing about the movie: Natalie Wood's bra can been seen through the sheer blouse she wears in the final scene - a view of women's undergarments rivaled only by Winona Ryder in How to Make an American Quilt, and my cousin Lori's high school graduation picture.

James and I enjoyed a simple lunch of a Kansas Tomato Sandwich. Although this recipe calls for toasted white bread, we opted for fresh wheat bread, still warm from the bread machine. Wheat: it's what make's Kansas great.

For dessert, in honor of the Sunflower state, I baked Sunflower Pumpkin muffins. Find it and other Kansas recipes at this Kanas Foods website. I spent a lot more time on this recipe than I expected. I pureed my own pumpkin, rather than using canned, which took about 10 minutes. But the true time sink came when I realized the recipe called for "shelled sunflower seeds". I was so happy to finally be using the sunflower seeds that had been in my cupboard since the summer that I didn't realize that I would have to shell them - not exactly an easy task. I'm sure one can buy the seeds without the shells already, but I have a rule of always making due with what I have before going out shopping. So with a fondue fork in my nimble little fingers, I pryed open a bunch of the dastardly little kernels. Suffice it to say that my muffins don't have nearly as many seeds in them as the recipe calls for. Nevertheless, the flavor came through strong and true. They are quite good.

We have a lovely garden at our house, for which I have James to thank. He has planted perennials so that we have something blooming at our house nine months out of the year. Our meal today, though, honors the two annual plants that I take credit for each year - tomatoes - just about my favorite food; and sunflowers - just about my favorite flower.

1 comment:

  1. Wow -- informative post! A few thoughts of my own:

    Pam sings the opening song of this post from time to time, squeezing in "City" between "Kansas" and "Boys," because although I never lived in Kansas, I did live in Kansas City from 1977 to 1980, while my father attended Midwest Baptist Theological Seminary. On weekends, we would sometimes drive out to small churches in Kansas where he would be a "supply" preacher. And our family of four would supply 1/3 of the congregation.

    About Splendor in the Grass -- I agree with Pam that Warren Beatty looks good and Natalie Wood looks better. Much better. The "lesson" is a bit twisted and very old-fashioned, if there is a lesson. It was also eerie to watch so many scenes of Natalie Wood contemplating and threatening and attempting suicide, especially around water, since that was her ultimate fate.

    Pam wanted me to write a bit about Kansas grasshoppers. Not the cute little green grass hoppers you might see in the spring here in the East. No -- Kansas grasshoppers: a plague of thick, gnarly black-and-gold creatures swarming over fields and highways. I clearly remember the grasshoppers smearing on the windshield and the crunch of thousands of grasshoppers one hot summer as we walked across the plaza of a war memorial in Kansas City. The grasshoppers are not a constant, though. Usually their population is kept in check by harsh winters and an arsenal of pesticides. Those very pesticides, though, breed resistance and the monoculture of wheat -- thousands of miles of the same exact strain -- create a veritable feast for them. We lived in KC over four summers, and the bumper crop came only once -- 1977 or 1978, I believe. The latter would make some sense -- it was an El Niño year.