Yes, Toto, this is definitely Kansas!

Meade cowboysAfter bidding farewell to the Bargers, I pointed the Ranger due south, crossing the Republican River at McCook. Back in the days of the big cattle drives the Republican was no doubt a challenge to cross. Now it measures maybe two and half feet wide at best. They say that the waterís been diverted for irrigation before it even gets out of Colorado. Whatever the reason, itís sad to see these once formidable rivers like the Republican and the Arkansas reduced to trickles.

In the Midwest, with few exceptions, roads run dead straight either north south or east west. The secondary highways are two lanes and almost always deserted -- save for local traffic and a combine or two. I passed through the quaint town of Oberlin with its wide, brick streets, vintage sandstone bank building straight out of Bonnie and Clyde (but now a restaurant), and The Sunflower Cinema (two shows a week: Saturday 7pm & Sunday 2pm). So wide is the main street that pickups with horse trailers park right smack dab in the middle of it.

Unlike Oberlin, most of the small towns I passed through looked none too healthy. The buildings and houses in Gove (pop. 105), whose tenuous existence apparently hinges on its one dilapidated grain elevator, seemed to literally be crumbling before my eyes. Itís no secret that corporate farming is quickly sucking the life out of most small farm towns.

PheasantOn a more positive note, another thing that Kansas lacks is billboards. You just donít see them along the roadsides. Are they against the law? Donít know, but itís a pleasure not to have them cluttering the landscape.

Between the towns of Dodge City and Ford, I passed sprawling feedlots obscured by thick white clouds of something that looked none too healthy, at least to humans. I held my breath and squinted. The next moment I barely missed wiping out a brightly plumed male pheasant that whizzed by inches in front of my windshield. Got to be bird huntin' season.

Next: Back to Bucklin

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