In Search of a Name in a Song – Day 65

In Search of a Name in a Song

Day 65 – June 4, 2003 – Wednesday

The day began in Salina, Kansas and ended in Garden City, Kansas. It was an ugly day — dark clouds all day and rain off and on. And it wasn’t a very exciting day, though I did see the Kansas version of Rock City, Dorothy’s house in Liberal (Wizard of Oz) Kansas, Pawnee Rock, Dodge City, the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well, the World’s Largest Pallasite Meteorite, Midway USA, and a great round barn. I found Earl in Bucklin, Kansas; he was just a name mentioned in a song. I had a delightful lunch and great pie at Granny’s Kitchen in Great Bend. I passed on eating anything or drinking the water in a town named Montezuma.

I left the Candlewood Hotel after telling stories to the ladies at the front desk. That’s happened a lot during the trip. It’s all due to the beads. People see the beads, ask about them, and then it is story time. The beads have become the best tool on the trip by far — much more effective than our shirts, caps, business cards, or the signs on the car. And we have to do a lot less work because the beads meet people for us! I don’t write about it every day, but I give beads to everyone I meet, and I meet quite a few people most days.

I’m heading north on Interstate 135 to connect to Highway 18 to go to the unplanned detour to the town of Minneapolis, Kansas where I’m going to see a version of Rock City. I had my regular weekly radio show this week. Every Wednesday, no matter where we were, we were on the radio in Palm Springs, California.

Rock City contains rocks that were left prior to the Ice Age. In an area about the size of two football fields, 200 rocks (some as large as houses) dot the landscape. There is no other place in the world where there are so many concretions of such giant size.

There are rocks that look like a turtle, steamboat, birdbath, twin sisters, kissing lips, and more. At Rock City, I took a photo of each of the interesting rocks. “The Lips” was my favorite. These are Dakota Sandstone, and these rare concretions range in size up to 27 feet in diameter and have been designated a National Natural Landmark. I met Ray, the man in charge. Nice man.

I bought a Coke, and it tastes like grass. I had a similar experience in Kentucky where every Coke I tried had a grass flavor. Very strange. I had no idea what causes the strange taste.

It was very easy driving in Kansas. It’s just farmland and wide open spaces and straight smooth roads. If it hadn’t been raining, it would have been nice.

I happened to see a sign for the little town of Claflin that said: “If you can’t stop, smile as you go by.” You can guess what I did. Any town with a sign that clever deserves a visit and a photograph. I went west on Kansas Route 4 for two miles. Jackie Stiles, WNBA rookie of the year in 2001, was from Claflin. There was a sign to prove it. There was also a little old weather-beaten sign outside of town with a big list of state championships that Claflin has won. I took a number of photos in Claflin. The downtown is just as cute as can be; it had been redone as an old western town. So, I stopped, and I smiled. Thanks, Claflin!

There were a lot of cars at Granny’s Kitchen in Great Bend, Kansas, so I decided to stop for lunch. I have been tricked before by restaurants with lots of cars…only to go in to find little or no one there. I wasn’t tricked by Granny’s. The place was packed, and I met some of the nicest people who work there, and then a really nice couple with their grandson, Gage. I took a picture of Mona, Diane, Nick, and Rosie; Diana and Nick own it. My breakfast burrito was great and the rhubarb pie was excellent.

Keith, Gage, and Alta were from Pawnee Rock. They suggested that I go there. Alta told me that they’ve lived in Pawnee Rock for 30 years and never had a murder, but they just recently had one.

I drove straight to Pawnee Rock and the Pawnee Rock National Monument. I met Autumn, Ariel, Austin, Dan and Melissa at Pawnee Rock; they were from Hastings, Nebraska. Pawnee Rock was a landmark used for navigation by wagon trains in the Old West.

I met Micah, Dustin Johnson, Denton, Trevor, and Bobby as I headed back to the highway. They were out hunting snakes. I’d guess they were maybe 10 years old. I was a little worried that these little guys were out hunting snakes, but I was somewhat relieved when I looked in their bucket and saw a tiny snake. I asked them how they liked living in Pawnee Rock, and they all said it was a nice place to live; it’s quiet; and they like it there.

When I stopped for gas, I saw a Sheriff’s Van, so I thought I would ask about the recent murder in Pawnee Rock. I met Stephanie and Officer Wyant of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. They were on their way to a state hospital to pick up an inmate who was having psychiatric evaluations. He murdered his mother and his aunt. I think psychiatrists should be required to make house calls at prisons. I wasn’t too comfortable with the idea of a serial killer being driven around Kansas in an old Dodge van.

I saw the Garfield Memorial Wayside Chapel. It was named after President Garfield. It was 6 feet by 18 feet. It’s certainly one of the smallest roadside chapels that we’ve seen.

Kinsley was a planned stop today. Kinsley is midway between New York and San Francisco, 1561 miles to each. Kinsley calls itself the “Midway City.” A 1939 Saturday Evening Post cover showed two cars, starting in Kinsley and going in opposite directions, both bearing a sign saying “World’s Fair or Bust.” In 1939, there were two “World’s Fairs” — one in New York and one in San Francisco.

As I drove into Kinsley, I learned that Kinsley has a special connection to carousels. In 1901, Kinsley area farmer Charles Brodbeck, went to Hutchinson, Kansas, a trip of almost 100 miles. There he was fascinated by a small carousel, but more fascinated that people would ride a horse a considerable distance and then pay someone a nickel to ride a wooden horse around in circles. Brodbeck traded a quarter acre of land, some horses and cows for the little carousel. At first, he kept the carousel at his farm and gave rides to the neighbors. But in 1908, he and his son, Fred, loaded up the carousel and took it to nearby towns to sell rides. Very soon the family concluded that the little carousel with the wooden horses going round in a circle could make more money than farming. The next year, the family went out with the carousel and offered rides at small-town fairs and picnics throughout south-central Kansas. They added a Ferris wheel, other rides, games, and exhibitions, and soon the traveling carnival became a full-fledged “show.” The carnivals of Kinsley would travel throughout the Midwest from April to October setting up amusements for the delight of young and old. By the late 1970’s, the operation of the smaller family carnivals became too difficult. The business shifted to very large carnival companies.

The rich carnival history of Kinsley inspired the establishment of the National Foundation for Carnival Heritage in 1991. Bruce White, a nationally recognized wood carver of carousel figures, began working with the Foundation. Kinsley has a museum that houses a small carousel populated with figures that have been created from the winning entries in the “Design a Carousel” contest run in Kinsley. Carnival games, artifacts, memorabilia, and photos of the historic days of carnival are available to show visitors what family carnival life was like. In Kinsley, the legacy of a man who bought a wooden horse and developed an entire industry in a small midwestern town is being preserved and built upon for future generations. I liked that a lot.

Unfortunately, both the Carnival Heritage Center and the Economic Development Office were locked.

I took a photo of a mural featuring a carnival and a carousel. There was a colorfully-painted trash can filled with rocks next to the mural. I have no idea what the deal was with the trash can. I should call someone in Kinsley to ask.

There is a roadside park in Kinsley where US 50 and US 56 join. It has the Edwards County museum, Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe steam locomotive #3424, an old church, and a sod house.

My focus at this point was to go to Mullinville where I could see the work of a grassroots artist who I learned about in Lucas, and then on the Bucklin in search of “Earl,” a man mentioned in a Banks & Shane song that I like.

I detoured a bit because I saw signs for Greensburg having the world’s largest hand-dug well and also something about a world’s largest meteorite. I met Pam of the Chamber of Commerce at the big well. I took a picture; that’s a big well. I also saw the meteorite.

I reached Mullinville a little after 4 pm. I found the fields where M.T. Liggett has a number of his metal sculptures. Quirky.

I also strayed a bit from my route to see a wonderful restored round barn.

I reached Bucklin, Kansas just before 5 pm. I came to Bucklin in search of Earl, a man named in a song by our favorite singing group in Atlanta, Banks & Shane. Banks Burgess and Paul Shane started singing together in 1970, and they have been together and performing regularly ever since. Boz and I love them; they are wonderful singers, musicians, comedians, and entertainers. We have always been amazed that they didn’t become huge international stars. We sincerely believe they are that good. They have self-recorded some of their concerts and shows, and on one of their albums, they sing a song about the tough life that farmers have, and they talk about their friend “Earl,” a farmer from Bucklin, Kansas. I didn’t know Earl’s last name. I had no idea if he still lived in Bucklin, Kansas. But when I spotted Bucklin, Kansas on the map, I decided to drive to Bucklin in search of a man who I knew only by his name in a song.

As I drove into Bucklin, I didn’t have a clue how I was going to go about finding “Earl.” But the clue hit me right between the eyes. I saw big grain silos in “downtown Bucklin,” and I figured the local farmer’s co-op would know every farmer in these parts. So, I parked and walked in.

Bryan, the young man at the counter at the Offerly Co-op, asked if he could help me. He was probably trying not to laugh as he saw me walk in wearing my Mardi Gras beads. I’m guessing they don’t see a lot of beads in Bucklin. I told him I was looking for a farmer named “Earl;” I needed his name and phone number. The young man went to get the manager.

The manager took one look at me and my beads, and I suspect he was thinking he wouldn’t be telling me anything about anyone in the area named Earl. I handed him my business card with the story of the trip on the back, and I told him who I was, what I was doing, and this crazy idea about trying to find the man in the song. He asked me about how old did I figure this Earl was, and I told him he was probably about my age, 55. He decided I was probably okay, and he said he would dial the number of Earl Platner for me. He handed me the phone, but all I got was a recording. I left my cell phone number for Earl with a message about Banks & Shane.

I thanked Bryan and the manager, gave them beads, took a few photos of Bucklin for Banks & Shane, and I headed “Down the Road.” (That’s the title of one of the songs that Banks & Shane does so well.)

Well, it was a good try. I at least made it to the town, found out the full name of Earl, and made contact by recorder. I felt pretty satisfied, though it would have been great to actually meet Earl and enjoy some pie together. Maybe next trip.

I visited Old Fort Dodge and then Dodge City. Dodge City is a famous old west town. I was turned off by Dodge City because they wanted me to pay $8.00 to get into the town. If you want to see the buildings and artifacts, you have to pay. I wasn’t sure it was even the original thing; it was not very original-looking. It looked like a little amusement park street, so I didn’t pay the $8, and I headed to Liberal, Kansas to see Dorothy’s house of the Wizard of Oz.

The sky was very nasty as I drove to Liberal. All of a sudden I realized that the Wizard of Oz was all about a tornado. This was certainly the kind of sky that could produce a tornado.

I drove past windmills for at least five minutes when the cell phone rang. It was Earl Platner calling from Bucklin, Kansas. Earl got my message, and yes, he is the Earl in the Banks & Shane song! He asked where I was, and I told him I was in a windmill orchard. He advised me that this was a new thing that we would see more and more of where they’re harnessing the real strong power of the wind to generate electricity. If I had been closer, Earl said he would have given anything for me to have come back, give me a tour of the farm and the whole nine yards. I really enjoyed talking with him. He said to be sure to tell Banks & Shane that he’s still drinking beer and whiskey and chewing tobacco. He met the guys in Steamboat Springs, Colorado when Banks & Shane was performing there. He has stayed in touch with them. We talked at length about how rough it is on the farmers. They’d had two terrible years, but this year they’d had so much rain that it looked very promising for them to get a good crop. He said an awful lot of farmers would go out of business if they didn’t get a good crop this year. He said he wished the farmers could have a fair market, but he said the market isn’t fair. He said it makes it awfully tough on the farmers. Earl invited me for a visit the next time I happened to be in Bucklin, Kansas, and I invited him to come see us in Atlanta. I was really pleased to get the call from Earl. Not quite as good as it would have been to see him in Bucklin, but all in all, a pretty good adventure.

I reached the town of Montezuma just before 7 pm. I looked for some Mexican food, but then decided I should pass on eating or drinking water in a place called Montezuma.

Montezuma is home to the Stouth Memorial Museum. It is a place where some folks who traveled all over the world put all their artifacts on display for people to come and enjoy a trip around the world without having to go around the world. Great concept! Maybe I’ll write a book about this trip so folks can enjoy the trip without having to make it themselves…. 🙂

I made it to Liberal, Kansas at 7:45 pm — still a little daylight. I was able to get some photographs, including Dorothy’s house. I also got a photo of a building that had been recently demolished in a tornado here. It struck just a few feet from Dorothy’s house, but her house was spared.

I called it a day at the Comfort Inn in Garden City, Kansas.

I do not understand how we can allow farmers to earn so little from their hard, hard lives. We all depend on farmers. I just don’t understand how lawyers can get paid ridiculous amounts of money because of our badly flawed legal system, while hardworking farmers make little or nothing. It’s just not right. I wish the government could do something real to help farmers. I’d vote to give some of my tax money to farmers rather than give it to people in some foreign land who don’t even like us.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Rock City — Claflin Kansas — Pawnee Rock National Monument — Garfield Memorial Wayside Chapel — Kinsley Kansas — World’s Largest Hand Dug Well — M.T. Liggett Grassroots Art — Bucklin Kansas — Old Fort Dodge — Dodge City — Liberal Kansas