Meeting the Kansas Locals: Day 36
Kansas from the eyes of a man who found me on the side of the road and welcomed me into his home. He liked guns, shooten most animals, dranken Mickey’s and a home made concoction called Bounce, and I think he liked cats and dogs quite a bit too.
05/25 (Day 36)
It was a pretty long night. I was too exhausted to sleep well. The 30 mph winds were relentless, blowing through the trees and shaking the shed. The noise from that along with all the turkeys, guinea fowl, and chickens, cawing, yelping, and shrieking made it difficult to get solid sleep. I was also very hot in my sleeping bag. My legs and my butt were overheated. The couple of times I woke up throughout the night I managed to get some water into my shaky weak body with the intentions of waking up hydrated. My stomach handled it well, which was good news. I got up at 6:00 to go pee and could barely move but when I woke up again around 7:30 with the sun up I felt a lot better.
I laid around and took it pretty easy for the morning and it was quite the beautiful morning. The sun was shining and the wind had died down. I stretched my muscles out a bit and ate some bread and jams. Jo gave me a full tour of her farm, Prairie House Herbs, and I learned that she is able to live out here very sustainably. Everything on the land has multiple purposes and coexists. Cats eat the rats. Goats eat the thorns, keep the property groomed, provide wool, and eat food that would have gone to waste. Chickens eat insects and lay eggs to eat. Everything seemed to mostly take care of itself so the place was not high maintenance. Nothing went to waste on these 6.5 acres of land. Pure water came from the water table 60 feet below and they even had a windmill to pump it up without the use of electricity. The house was heated with geo-thermal heating. One important thing I am learning about living sustainably off the land is the need for community. If you want to have a life outside of the land you need a community to help you and by sharing tasks and diversifying you can live an easier life with less work and more options.
The High Plains Food Coop that she is part of is just exquisite. Between their 37 farms they offer fresh vegetables and fruit, fresh and dried herbs and herbal seasonings, grains artisan breads, free range eggs, organic meats including Pork, Yak, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey, and Buffalo. Everything they produce is natural, organic, and produced locally. A few people eat 100% of their diet from the High Plains Food Coop. And you can pick everything up at one location each week. This food is good, fresh, nutritious, and free of chemicals and is good for everyone involved, the animals, and the planet. Of course it is also less energy consumptive to produce, not dependent on fossil fuels, and the money stays in the community.
At 10:00 I hit the road and the southern wind was not too bad. I took it real slow and easy, going just a few miles per hour to start and eventually picking it up to 10+ mph. My body is still week for sure due to the minimal calorie and water intake yesterday. By noon it was 90 degrees and I arrived in Bird City, Kansas, the only Bird City in the USA. I purchased some bananas at the market, which was my first time purchasing non-local organic food on the entire trip. I definitely did not want to but I know it was the right move to make. I needed the nutrients and did not have many other options. In Bird City the weather was still looking favorable and I figured as long as I didn’t get overheated it would be a nice day.
The road from Bird City to Atwood was fairly smooth. I was able to make good distance without exerting too much energy but the hot sun beat down on me the entire ride. The southern breeze made the hot sun more bearable but was still not desirable. For much of the ride my eyes were half closed and if I let myself I would have fallen asleep while riding. When I reached Atwood a calm lake with cool water welcomed me. I rested under the shade of an oak tree and then entered the lake and cooled off. As I floated in the lake I realized that yesterdays rock bottom might be a blessing for the rest of the trip. It’s time to start enjoying my days more. The purpose of this ride is more to create positive change rather than to have fun and enjoy the trip. But if I can do both I might as well and I know that I can. I took it all in and created a fresh start for the trip.
I headed to the local grocery store in town and found one locally produced item, lettuce from an aquaponics system. It was very cool to see it there but I didn’t buy it since it was in a very large plastic container. Instead I picked up oranges, apples, and peanut butter, none of which were locally produced or organic, but at least they were all products of the USA. I was somewhat reluctant to do so but I will record this under the trip statistics and I feel as if my mission is not hindered at all as long as I am transparent with my doings. My stomach is still queasy today and mentally I can’t bring myself to eat discarded food today.
I left Atwood just after 4:00 and large hills and stronger winds greeted me. Even though I’ve been guzzling water today I still have not been able to hydrate myself. I continued on quite exhausted, eyes still wanting to close but was very appreciative of the fruits and peanut butter I had. As I continued to pedal on I peeked over my shoulder every minute to check out the massive storm brewing behind. Lighting was bolting in every direction across the sky and heavy rain was in the distance. I couldn’t tell if it was coming my way or heading north. With no shelter in sight I pushed on to keep my distance. At the slow pace I was moving up hill I knew it was futile to try to out the storm so I scanned the eastern horizon for shelter. I found an old abandoned homestead and as I stood in the road assessing the situation an old brown Chevy slowed down and stopped in front of me. A dark weathered man in overalls mumbled something to the effect of. “Are you looking for shelter for the night.” At my response he told me to take a right at the trees ahead and there would be a barn where we could take shelter. He was extremely vague and hard to understand and most anyone from outside of the state of Kansas would have seen this as the beginning of a horror movie. However I was sure that if I lived out here in the plains of Kansas I would look very similar to that man, so I took him up on his offer, not knowing exactly what the offer was. I took the right on the road lined with trees and in front of me a home surrounded by a few sheds unfolded.
The mans name was Brad and he was unloading some mulch that he picked up in Atwood. He seemed to be happy to have company. He offered us a Mickey’s malt beverage, which I of course declined but Brent happily accepted. We were also greeted by Boomer, a white 14-year-old golden retriever that was beyond excited to see us. Brad entertained us the entire night. He yelled out, “Kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty.” and simultaneously cats emerged from every bush, ledge, and shed. This place was flooded with animals and they all wanted to play. Kittens and mothers were tucked away in every little shed and we spent an hour sitting outside, Brad in his rocking chair smoking cigarettes and drinking his Mickey’s. Boomer got his fair share of beer too. When I first met Boomer I thought he might have been the stupidest dog I ever met but maybe he was just drunk.
The lightning continued from the south, west, and north and the old radio in the house warned us off 60 mph winds and large hail. Brad was pretty certain it was not going to make it our way but we decided to call it a day anyway. Brent had an extremely entertaining time, first going off with Brad to a tractor in the field to plant sorghum, and then returning to play with a whole array of guns. The first gun looked to me to be some sort of semi-automatic assault rifle and was called an AR-15. He mentioned this gun has all the media attention right now and is very hard to get ammunition for. It was obvious by Brad’s shirt that sad something along the lines of “Born to hunt, hate to work” that he was a gun man. He had more guns then I could know what do with and was darn proud of it. Brent and Brad enjoyed shooting these crazy weapons quite a lot while I on the other hand was not a fan of the ringing ears the powerful guns caused or the waste of brass and gun powder that was created by firing at a log in the yard.
I went inside and talked to Marsha who was originally from Texas but has lived out here for thirty years and learned all about her family. Her big goal of this year is to read the entire bible. She teaches mentally handicapped adults in Atwood. Photos of her four children plastered the wall along with a sign that said, “Grandchildren are your reward for not killing your children.” Also on the wall were two astonishing photos of her great great grandparents from both sides of her family. Brad also showed me a favorite drink of his called Bounce and is made in the following manner. Fill up a one-gallon glass jar to the top with cherries from the tree, add 2 cups of sugar and then fill in all the open space with vodka and out it in the closet for six months. “You set there dranken some, not thinking about it, you get up, start walking, might fall down.”
It’s a different way of life out here. As Brad would put it, a place where you can shoot guns from your porch, and as Marsha would put it, a place where your kids miss thirty days of school in a year from impassable muddy roads. This country is more diverse than most anyone can possibly imagine. The 50 states all have their own character and many I’ve learned are as different from each other as some countries are. The way of life, people, terrain, creatures, and climate can all vary so much from state to state. We are truly blessed to live in a country with so much variety to offer and we should never take that for granted.