restricted access Preface and Acknowledgments
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vii Preface and Acknowledgments The true West differs from the East in one great, pervasive, influential, and awesome way: space. . . . It’s that apparent emptiness which makes matter look alone, exiled, and unconnected. Those spaces diminish man and reduce his blindness to the immensity of the universe; they push him toward a greater reliance on himself, and, at the same time, to a greater awareness of others and what they do. But, as space diminishes man and his constructions in a material fashion, it also—paradoxically—makes them more noticeable. Things show up out here. No one, not even the sojourner can escape the expanses. You can’t get away from them by rolling up the safety-glass and speeding through, because the terrible distances eat up the speed. . . . Still, drivers race along; but when you get down to it, they are people uneasy about space. —William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways So you are crossing Kansas on Interstate 70. Early pioneers heading west hesitated at the edge of the eastern forests, mustering their courage as if the prairies were a lonely ocean or dangerous desert to be conquered. You will soon experience the vastness of the Great Plains and seemingly endless open spaces as you proceed across the state. Some travelers still find the prospect of crossing the Plains daunting , even in climate-controlled cars cruising along at 70 miles per hour. Today as in the past, for many travelers, the Plains are an obstacle to be overcome on the way to a better place—the Rocky Mountains or maybe California. For eastbound travelers, the great eastern cities or Atlantic beaches beckon. Perhaps hometowns with family and friends are the ultimate destination. Least Heat Moon wrote of the “apparent emptiness” of the Plains and the “terrible distances that eat up speed.” Ian Frazier, in his book Great Plains, noted that interstate highways seem designed to get people across the Plains “in the least time possible, as if this were an awkward point in a conversation.” This book’s purpose is to guide travelers through the apparent emptivii viii d r i v i n g a c r o s s k a n s a s ness, to interpret things that show up out here in Kansas, and to break the silence in the awkward conversation. Rather than having sojourners escaping the expanses and being uneasy about the space, our goal is to have travelers revel in the spaciousness; sail under spectacular skies; perceive the beauty in subtle, understated, earth-toned landscapes; appreciate the buried treasures of rich soils; and discover compassion and courage in the tales of others who crossed these lands. Our hope is that this book will make travel across the immense space of Kansas an enjoyable and enriching experience. As you drive through Kansas using this guide, you will glimpse what the state was in days past and what it is today. You will be introduced to prehistoric animals; vast herds of bison and antelope; Native Americans, French trappers, and Spanish explorers; and European settlers —all of which have impacted the landscape and natural resources of Kansas. You will see that the Great Plains are more than they appear at first glance. These lands played a pivotal role in westward expansion and in shaping our American heritage. The vast open spaces not only influenced our past but also continue to affect the lives of Americans from coast to coast, particularly at the dinner table. As you travel across Kansas, you may come to agree with Ian Frazier, who wrote, “The beauty of the plains is not just in themselves but in the sky, in what you think when you look at them, and in what they are not.” We wish to thank the many individuals we interviewed along the route of I-70; their names appear in the references. We also offer our thanks to the many anonymous people who so generously volunteered information about sites or provided us with directions. In addition, the following people offered valuable information or other assistance: Kelley Blankley, LuAnn Cadden, Mike Chaneske, Robin Grumm, Hank Ernst, Keith Lynch, Elaine Marshall, Mike Rader, Scott Seltman, Jeff Sheets, Joan Shull, and Kasey Windhorst. We are especially grateful to Lowell Johnson for allowing us to use his excellent bird photos. Most of all, we would like to thank our wives, Marianne Maley and Diane Cable, who served as drivers and readers as we developed and road-tested this book...