Tuesday, June 08, 2004


--His policies mortgaged our future and the futures of our children and grandchildren. Some people called it Reaganomics; others called it Voodoo Economics: in either case, we are still suffering its effects.

--He presided over the decimation of American agriculture.

--Henchmen in his employ, on his watch, and in his name committed criminal acts without shame.

--He made the skies a whole lot less safe by firing all the air traffic controllers.

--And didn't he, in 1947, appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities to name groups within Hollywood that he believed were "following the tactics we associate with the Communist Party?" Or have we forgotten that?

May the Great Communicator rest in peace. And may we learn from our mistakes. Amen.



"US Not Bound by Torture Laws" - Why is this not a surprise? When will it end? I think there is no need to comment further, as it - unfortunately - speaks for itself.


SEPTEMBER 13, 2003, cont'd

In September, 2003, I drove down through North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, into Kansas; I drove from Rugby, North Dakota, site of the geographic center of the North American continent, to Smith County, Kansas, home of the geographic center of the lower 48 states; I drove along the western edge of the middle west, staying between the 99th and 100th Meridians. It was mostly backroads I drove, not the highways but the lowways, the by-ways. I wanted to see what the western spine of the middle west looks like. This is the third part of my report of the trip.

At the edge of a wheatfield, in a little dish in the landscape, a clump of beehives.

A roughness of land off to the southwest, and to the south where I am heading now. Some corn, some wheat, then range-land on the ridge.

Three cars have been parked at intersections, sitting empty. Is this North Dakota's way of car pooling? "Come out to the hard road and I'll pick you up and take you to town."

Now and again the sun breaks through the clouds. The sound of the wind picks up.

Sign: "Landfill." Off to my left a half mile back, an artificial mound.

Anhydrous ammonia tanks are lined up in a work yard like bombs waiting to be loaded.

Sign: "Burstad."

Sign: "Wishek Welcomes You."

Wishek is holding its own anyway. I turn south with Highway 3. There's a big junkyard just off my turn.

Nearly to South Dakota on Highway 3, a field of soybeans as bright as a coward's streak. A pile of stones looks like an altar. What are these careless cairns? I leave Highway 3 for an unnumbered asphalt road headed directly for the state line.

Then all of a sudden I am headed west towards the Hundredth Meridian. I think I should be headed south, and as if in agreement the road turns south about halfway between the Ninety-Ninth and the Hundredth Meridians. A red-tail hawk sits on a round bale in the ditch watching me pass, watching everything.

Serious rock piles - several of them to a field. What gift were these? I will have to study some geology.

South Dakota State Line. McPherson County. Speed Limit Strictly Enforced. 55 m.p.h. instead of 65 m.p.h.

I will follow Highway 47 down through South Dakota, nearly as far west from Redfield as I can get while staying in the middle west.

A pasture with horses. Corn. Soybeans. Wheat stubble.

I look at the speedometer; oops: "Honest, officer, I didn't mean to speed, I just have to tear off some of these miles."

Just north of Eureka, South Dakota, the corn looks as if it made ears. Perhaps these farmers will have a crop. Across the road, the soybeans are turning. A deer runs across the road in front of me, in broad daylight.

I stop for lunch in Eureka at the Luncheonette Cafe - "Luncheonette since 1926" says a sign inside. A "German meal" is served every Wednesday. The two women tending business wear T-shirts for Eureka's 14th Annual Schmeckfest - Sept. 21-22. "The Place To Be In 2003." I order knoepfla soup and a double-cheeseburger, cherry pie and soft-serve ice cream. A man and his son and daughter were eating when I came in. An old woman was having coffee and a newspaper.

My waitress speaks a kind of English, but an English badly bent by another language; she isn't as old as I am, I'd say not more than fifty years of age.

Three older women come in; they seem well-dressed for farm country. They take a booth, get themselves coffee and cookies. A fourth woman wants to join them. They are expecting someone else and five women would be too many for the booth, so they pick up and move to the big booth behind me. I hear them talking.

They are talking about a woman who was picked up by the police yesterday. She was blonde, 5'2", 120 pounds. A fellow had found her along the highway, confused. He'd taken her to the motel in town. She had no place to stay, the old man had paid for a room for her for one night. A ministerial association paid for a room for two nights more. Still the woman had no place to go, so the owner of the motel called the cops to come and get her.

One of the women in the booth behind me isn't sure the woman was confused, so much as she was lying, telling different versions of her story. She'd apparently had "about ten suitcases and plastic bags" when she was brought to the motel. One of the women behind me speculates the woman must have had a car at some point, with that much baggage.

Another of the women behind me wonders if the troubled woman might be the missing woman they've read about, described as blonde, 5'2", about 130 pounds.

"She had nice hair, she was very clean, she had nice clothes," one of the women said.

To be continued....



(501 W. Third #12, Smith Center, KS 66967)

Ivan got political right off; he said: "We might as well have casino gambling in Smith Center. Gambling takes place all the time right out in public. Just last week, Saturday and Sunday to be exact, we had two days of betting right in Paul's Cafe. Now you can expect it Monday through Friday, but on Saturday and Sunday? That kind of carrying on would indicate to me we are ready for casino gambling. It was on Saturday that Kendall Nichol and J.C. Chance bet a dollar on the location of Nichol's 800 acres of land in south Smith County. That's what you call bettin' a cinch. It was Nichols' land and he ought to know where the boundary is. And then on Sunday morning the same two combatants bet a dollar on if, when, and whether Don Rumsfeld would resign. The local people are always ringing their hands and saying gambling would ruin the town because of all the poor people it would make. Now there was some rampant gambling right there and I doubt if either of those guys will miss a meal or a car payment."

He said: "You know, there has been a strange silence out of Arizona this spring. It used to be that Claude Gripp wouldn't have let day one go by without quoting Rush Limbaugh. But his silence along these lines has been deafening this spring. Maybe I should have just left well enough alone on this front. But diplomacy has never been one of my strong suits."

"Fred and Martha Coon were in town last Tuesday," Ivan reported. "They came to get some pampas grass from the Linton Lull residence to take back to their acreage near Grinnell, Iowa. They showed up at the As the Bladder Fills Club looking for volunteer labor to help dig the pampas grass and load it on a trailer. Out of eight or ten people sitting there they didn't receive one solid commitment to help. There wasn't even a good solid 'maybe.' The reaction by the group was one of fear for their physical or emotional well-being. The reason Fred and Martha drove all the way to Kansas to get pampas grass was because it was some of the original plantings of Ruth Lull. Martha said the plantings had more sentimental value than they did intrinsic value. Fred didn't comment either way."

"Oh," Ivan said, "the milled asphalt has been laid at the Faith Congo parking lot. Looks good and I believe it is going to be all right. But it does take away one more excuse for not going to church. Can't use the old 'afraid of getting stuck in the parking lot' as an excuse for not going to church."

"I asked Bobbi Miles if the old bank building had any mold," Ivan said. "She said it did. So I said I won't be able to help on the work day because I'm allergic to it. She said 'the mold?' I said 'No, the work.'"

"Don't know if you have noticed it or not," Ivan said, "but Dick Stroup has gained two pounds. All thirty two ounces of it hangs over his belt buckle."

"Woke up on Thursday, May 13th, and it was 34 degrees," Ivan said. "Now that's cold. Probably be a run on the ASCS office with city folks turning in their tomato crop disasters."

"You know, I talked like the church building program was some of my business," he said. "It is none of my business. So why am I even talking about it? I'll tell you why - because it is getting close to when I've got to have this paper written. And if you are in the newspaper business you occasionally frequently all the time have to write about something that is really none of your business. Except if when it has to do with boosting Smith Center. I'll not take a back seat to anyone when it comes to boosting Smith Center - even though I think we are terminal - you still gotta be a booster."

"I don't know where it is all gonna end," Ivan concluded. "All I can tell you is: Stay Ahead Of The Posse."

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