There's No Place Like

A few more miles down the road, I pulled into Bucklin, Kansas, where both my mother and father were born and raised and where both sets of grandparents lived most of their lives. Bucklinís population of 725 never changes. One dies; one is born. Similar to Oberlin, Bucklinís wide main street dates back to the day when freight wagons needed that space to turn around.

Old BucklinNew Bucklin
While Iíve visited Bucklin sporadically down through the years, my fondest memories will forever remain the six months that I spent there in the 5th grade. That was when my parents moved from New York to California and dropped my brother and me off with the grandparents to finish out the school year. My best friend back then, Roy Lane, ultimately became a chiropractor and, uncharacteristic of small town offspring, came back to live in the town where he grew up. Roy and I have known each other for forty-five years.
Bucklin theaterI used to go to movies at Bucklin's Deluxe Theater, now long closed down.
In addition to being a nice guy, husband and family man, Roy is a sportsman par excellence. Fishing and hunting play a large role in his life. But whereas Iím a flyfisherman and tend to wade small streams and rivers, Roy races around sprawling lakes and reservoirs in his powerful bass boat, stopping to zing those plugs and lures out there a zillion feet with his raft of casting rods. Hey, both these methods of fishing are good! One afternoon, we stepped out into Royís back yard and shot clay pigeons flung out over an endless horizon of open farmland. Try that in Santa Monica..

Dalton houseDaltonsTalk to people who have driven across Kansas on their way from one coast to the other and they will almost certainly comment on how thereís "nothing out there, just flat land." Well, neighbors, this is just not true. For one thing, pioneer history abounds in the Midwest. Roy and I drove over to Meade to visit the Dalton Brothers hide out. If you know your western outlaw history, youíll recall that the Daltonís achieved lasting notoriety by trying to rob two banks at once and paying dearly for their cheekiness. Interesting but a bit on the too touristy side, the hideout didnít measure up to our next stop: the Meade County Museum, located in what was once a five-and-dime store up on Main Street.

Roy and I were the only visitors that day (that week?) and the docent there, a stylish woman still in her 30s, was pleased by our interest and happy to show us around. The museum was comprised mostly of rooms with different themes: a parlor, a print shop, a railroad depot, all spilling over with personal memorabilia and artifacts donated by locals. I was impressed that so many Meade County citizens found pleasure and pride in sharing their personal history.

Greg in DodgeRoy in DodgeWe ended the day with a visit to Dodge Cityís Front Street. Recently renovated (and long ago moved from its original site), it looked a bit too spic and span for my tastes. But even if a bit of a tourist trap, it's a reminder of Dodgeís colorful past. These days, Dodgeís connection to the cattle business is as a major meat-packing center. Not too colorful, I'm afraid.

My trip to Bucklin ended on a sad note with a visit to the cemetery where my parents are buried, along with my grandparents and many other relatives. My folks were fine people and I (and many others) will forever miss them. But life goes on and Bucklin will always remain a special place to those it has touched.

Next: Ooooo---klahoma!

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