“I know we Kansa people have been accused of being unable to talk about anything else. We have been accused of ‘blowing our own horn’ to excess. They say we are much given to hot air and statistics. However, you and I know better. We know that half has not been told of Kansas, nor ever can be…”
–Arthur Cooper, 1915
And with that, I fondly wish you the Happiest of Happy Kansas Days. Okay, it was actually Tuesday (January 29, 1861), and I tried all day to get to this, but potty training sticker charts took my morning hostage, and the day became a series of mad dashes to the bathroom. I lost track of how many times I pulled G’s unders up and down or how many pee puddles I mopped up.
Back to Kansas. The best I can say the poet William Stafford says better. He spent most of his childhood in Kansas, so he’s got cred. Here are a few pieces of poems to commemorate the people as much as the land.
Mine was a Midwestern home—you can keep your world.
Plain black hats rode the thoughts that made our code.
We sang hymns in the house; the roof was near God.
The sun was over our town; it was like a blade.
Kicking cottonwood leaves we ran toward storms.
Wherever we looked the land would hold us up.
–from West of Your City, 1960
You couldn’t analyze those people–
A no-pattern had happened to them;
Their field opened and opened,
level, and more, than forever,
never crossed. Their world went everywhere.
–from “The Peters Family” in Stories That Could Be True
We ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love where we are, sturdy for common things.
–from “Allegiances” in Stories That Could Be True
I feel I ought to include a few words that some might appoint to the “negative” column concerning the place; admittedly they’re just as true. It’s all how you go at a thing I suppose. Or maybe how it (that being Kansas) goes at you.
Kansas is herself again. The wind blows and the dust and sand flies, but no rain descends. A newcomer asked one of our fellow townsmen if it always blew this way in Kansas. He replied that there were perhaps two or three days during the year that it did not.
–from the Salina Journal, 1880
O, dear this is a hard place to live, this Kansas is. I wonder what in the world will become of all of us, anyway. –Anna Webber, Mitchell County, 1881
Every school history of the present day tells under what stormy and peculiar conditions Kansas began to shape itself forty years ago. From the outset it was a Mecca for the eccentric people now commonly known as cranks, and from that day to this not an ism has presented itself to the sisterhood of States that Kansas has not felt its full force!”
–Roswell Martin Field, 1892, in The Sunflower Land: Stories of God’s Own Country
But in his veins the blood of sturdy pioneers
And he seasoned by the endless wind,
The blazing sun, the drought, the lonely plains,
Looked at the ground and said,
“I aim to try again.”
–Edna Becker, “Dust-Bowl Farmer”, 1955