Saturday, December 16, 2006

Kansas Christmas Quest

Friday afternoon around 2:00 Dan called on my cell with an idea. How about a little trip in the Trekker. The weather was unusually mild, I said why not. I was home from the mail route at five and we were on the road by six.

Our thought was to head southwest on back roads to visit small towns and enjoy their Christmas lights with the eventual destination of Gander Mountain in Wichita to Christmas shop. I was armed with Marci Penner's Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, a list of the best Chicken-fried Steaks in Kansas from the Kansas Explorers Club, and a map. Our first taste of Christmas was Overbrook. We could not "Overlook Overbrook" with their cheery decorations; however, we might be prejudice as we haunt this small town often. From there we headed west on Hwy 56 and considered stopping at the restaurant at Four Corners because the parking lot was full. We had the Chicken Fried List, however, and it wasn't on it so we headed on--past the Trop, for inquiring minds.

Scranton's lighted snowflakes were very beautiful for the size of their main street. We continued on to Burlingame because the Santa Fe Cafe was on The List. The Santa Fe, housed in an obviously historical storefront, nicely decorated and a varied menu for the size of the cafe, was pure small town with young families and farmers in from their work. Even though a prerequisite to be on The List is pan fried steaks, not deep fat, which ours were, the wonderful homemade gravy and real mashed potatoes were enough to make them qualify. We were full and armed with enough leftovers for breakfast. One last look at their brightly lite main street and we were "on the road again."

Continuing on Hwy 56, which follows the Santa Fe Trail, we reminisced about our trip to Phoenix last January in which we followed the southwest Kansas route. We Trekked close by Osage City, Admire, Allen and Bushong and marveled how even the smallest towns managed to be festive. As we approached Council Grove, we discussed it would be interesting to see how this noteworthy town welcomed the Christmas season.

Council Grove was tasteful and understated. As we slowly drove down the street, the lights outlining the buildings and the festive storefronts all came together very nicely. Almost a similar look to the Plaza in Kansas City. We took a little extra time to drive back through before taking off south on Hwy 177 toward our destination of Strong City and Cottonwood Falls.

The beautiful court house and Cottonwood Falls are synonymous. We wondered if it might be decorated so we wanted to get there in darkness. We weren't disappointed. The store fronts on the one block street leading up to the courthouse were all brightly decorated, but not to take away from the main attraction which was the beautiful white building completely outlined in white lights. My picture does not do it justice, very impressive.

We weren't ready to call it a night so we headed back to the Emma Chase Cafe, which we passed on main street. A group of Bluegrass musicians were jamming there and we grabbed a corner table and to enjoy the music. Toward the end, there were more musicians than listeners, which tells you how much the jean and overall clad participants were enjoying themselves. At 10:30, the Emma Chase was winding down and so were we. We headed back to our Trekker and drove around town until we found a spot to boon-dock for the night.

Check back tomorrow for our early Saturday morning drive down the southern part of the Flint Hills Scenic Byway, Wichita and home.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Prairie Dogs

Logan County is in Western Kansas near Russell Springs. It has been in the national news with its battle over the little rodent called a prairie dog. I listened to at least an hour of talk radio out of Topeka on the subject yesterday.

Picture from Hays Daily News
The owner of the 5,500 acre ranches, Mr. Haverfield and his wife Betty and Gordon Barnhardt, , have no problem with the prairie dogs. They have cattle herds which share the space with the dogs. The neighbors, however, want the county to enforce a law enacted a century ago to eliminate the plague. This law would allow the county to come in and poison the entire village. Read the story here.

Prairie dogs multiply quickly and poisoning them does not fully eradicate them, often driving them to another spot. However, Mr. Haverfield and another rancher nearby, are confident their cattle and the dogs can live side by side. They see increasingly more wildlife such as eagles and the swift fox. They are considering reintroducing the endangered black-footed ferret which lives on a diet of prairie dogs.

As of yesterday, it was still a standoff. Stepping back, it is not too hard to see both sides of the story. However, it is an issue of property rights. Mr. Haverfield would like to leave the prairie dogs, and it is his land. It becomes a question of who has the right to tell people what animal on what land. I see similarities with the prairie dog and the feral hogs in our valley, although from entirely different perspective.

Monday, December 11, 2006


This time of year I begin thinking about next year's calendars. I have calendars all over the house. This year we had an especially nice bird calendar in our reading area. I might try to find something like that again. Here at my desk, I use our friend, Blake's business calendar. Downstairs in the laundry room we put a freebie from the pharmacy or hardware store.

The big calendar decision each year is the one where we post all our activities and birthdays. It is predominately placed on a wall in the kitchen. I like Kansas calendars for that area. One year I had Kansas wildflowers. This year we have Kansas landscapes. I should have stopped by Barnes and Noble yesterday when we were out shopping and looked at their selection.

I also carry a calendar in my purse. It is usually just a small one--I am not organized enough to use one of those day planners. Last year my friend Kayzie who winters in Phoenix sent me a small one with pictures of Saguaros. Yesterday, I stood in front of the display of portable calendar/planners trying to make a decision. I think I will just make a homemade one on the computer this year. For one thing, I need addresses with me. I should get it done as there are dates and times for the new year already.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

This N That

Wow! What a weekend.

Saturday night we hosted the Post Office Christmas party here. We ended up having 25 adults and 8 children. We don't live in a huge home, but it is fairly open. The kids were in the basement play room. It wouldn't have worked if not for that area. We had barbecued brisket, baked beans from scratch and scalloped potatoes. That latter two were Kim's recipes. One of my coworkers brought scalloped corn and the rest desserts. Everything was delicious.

Today it was time for Christmas shopping. We started at Sam's in Topeka. Moved on to Wal-Mart and ToysRUs. We were looking for easels and the board game Payday for the grandkids. Our kids played that game at their Grandparents home when they were growing up. They had fond memories and it does teach good lessons about handling money. We were heartened to see there was still a fairly big selection of board games in the stores, although no Payday until ToysRUs which had an especially impressive selection of board games, although an even bigger selection of video games. Thankfully, our grandkids are still happy with board games, probably because their parents take time to set down and play with them.

At the last minute, we headed east on the Turnpike to Kansas City. We found the easels at Nebraska Furniture Mart-- on sale! I had a makeshift one set up downstairs Saturday night and it was a big hit. Hope these will be with our grand kids. We also found some little things at Cabala's. That place is so impressive.

I am having trouble keeping my eyes open as I write this, so it is on to bed--a big week of Christmas Card delivery this week.