by cheri block
Full and warm with Joan’s home cooked breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and toasted rhubarb bread with preserves (and each of us now packing a weight gain of about 5 pounds), Hizzoner and I drive to Dodge City, home of Miss Kitty, Matt Dillon, and all the gun slinging and debauchery of the Old West.
Unfortunately, not much of that time is left, other than a fairly touristy reenactment. We did visit the tiny patch of weeds that’s left of Boot Hill and chew the fat with Richard, the piano player in the saloon.
Hizzoner’s eyes scanned the room for Miss Kitty and perhaps a lace garter or two, but he came up empty, along with his glass at the bar, so we hopped on our hosses and headed down the highway to sample Kansas at her best.
And She didn’t disappoint, nor did her people. Not every vista yielded a harvest below it. Tough times and a drought haven’t been easy for the plains states this year.
The grain elevators guard the entrance to these small towns, granular cathedrals of man’s artistry in tilling the earth and making her fruitful, in spite of little rain.
Midday approached; we searched for a small town cafe, where the locals might be out for lunch. First we entered Kinsley, Kansas, but couldn’t find an open coffee shop. Down the road a bit, came Stafford, where we parked in front of the Curtis Cafe and ambled on in. On its walls were hundreds of puzzles and sure enough, there were local folks having coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches, while discussing their health and their secrets to the perfect apple pie. Truly.
Both the owner of the cafe, Ruth, and a seasoned veteran of the lunch time set, Joyce, were silos of knowledge when it came to pie ingredients. It’s all in the vanilla, they both told us.
Ruth told me she has 39 grandchildren and 54 great-grandchildren and even gave me her phone number, should I need emergency pie-making assistance this Thanksgiving. Thanks Ruth and by the way, that Ford truck you and Sherry and Irene drove off in looked mighty good.
The Judge and I, full with Stafford pie, thought about taking a movie in but in order to get to Cottonwood Falls by dark, we had to move on.
About six miles off of Highway 50, we drove to Chace County, home of the oldest working court house west of the Mississippi. We needed lodging, a pole to tie our horses to, and The Judge needed a haircut and a sarsaparilla. Fortunately, Richard the Barber was still open!
What better place to secure all four than one of the most charming stops on our trip: The Grand Central Hotel in the Flint Hills area of Kansas.
At last, a bunk and a beer at the Grand Central