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There’s Always A Reason…

November 20, 2012

Kansas – Saturday, November 17

I already knew what my donation was going to be today. In cities all across the country today, there were 5K walks to support St Jude’s Children’s Hospitals. The 2 cities in Kansas that were hosting these fundraising walks were Wichita and Kansas City. And I wasn’t near either of them since I was in the southwest part of Kansas. But I dedicated my 4 mile walk around Dodge City to them, and sent in a donation check. I don’t think it matters to them that I walked on my own and not in one of the organized walks!

Dodge City had the nickname of “Wickedest Little City in America” back in its heyday in the late 1800s. It was a stop on the Santa Fe Trail, a major buffalo hunting area, and had more saloons than anything else. Guns were the only form of law and he who had the fastest trigger finger usually won. There’s no longer much evidence of Dodge City’s wild west days, although it’s still a big cattle shipping town. There’s a Boot Hill Museum that has some artifacts and a video, and a fake “Main Street” from the era, and a portion of Boot Hill cemetery. The rest of town seems to be largely Hispanic, like many of the towns in western Oklahoma and Kansas. I walked through the downtown area and out into the neighborhoods. What actually struck me the most was litter – people in states with bottle deposits may complain about them, but it really makes a huge difference in keeping all that kind of litter off the streets.

On my way out of town, I stopped at a historic area where theoretically wagon ruts from the Santa Fe Trail days are visible, but I couldn’t really see them. But the walkway led out onto the prairie a ways, and the winds were crazy – the signs say the winds on the prairies never seem to stop, and can drive a man insane! Looking at the vast immenseness of short-grass prairie makes one feel pretty small and insignificant.

This morning I had also read about another event happening in a nearby town – it was called a Paws Festival, and was a fundraiser for the organizations that go to disaster locations and set up a temporary animal shelter to take care of pets who have become separated from their owners as a result of flooding, or tornadoes or hurricanes. I wanted to support them (and pets were welcome at the event!) so I went to the Garden City Fairgrounds and looked in the 4-H building where the event was supposed to be. But no one was there, and the place was set up for some kind of dinner or reception. I went and checked the computer again, and I was in the right place at the right time…but as I read the description beneath the address I was at, it was for a similar even 2 counties over. And I couldn’t get there before the event was over. I was a little disappointed because even though I was headed this way anyway, I had wanted to go to the Paws Festival (and will support them later in the week anyway).

But, as long as I was in Garden City, it was a good place to get out and do some walking. I had discovered a nice walking trail when I was looking for the fairgrounds, and there was also a pretty downtown area. As I was checking things out, and figuring out where to park the van, I drove past a group of kids trying to flag people into a parking lot. It took a moment to register that these kids were wearing Salvation Army aprons and were standing around a huge red kettle. I decided to turn around and see what was going on. I’m accustomed to seeing a solitary bell ringer by the door of a grocery store raising funds for Salvation Army – I wasn’t used to seeing an enthusiastic bunch of kids trying to help with the fundraising! So I pulled into the parking lot, and met the Community Center Director, who was overseeing the fundraising efforts. He told me this was a special event – the Salvation Army pantries were in such desperate need for food and money for some of their programs, that he got permission to hold 2 early fundraisers. His goal for the day was to raise $1000, and they only had about $100 to go. He had some of the kids in the programs helping – and they’re the ones I noticed as I was driving by. They were cute in their aprons and the Salvation Kettle was the biggest one I’ve ever seen – the size of a big cauldron! The community director figures it’s never too early to teach kids the value of helping others – and when you’re focused in something like that you don’t worry about your own problems as much. The kids were doing a good job getting people to pull in and make a donation. I was really happy to be able to help, and I would never have seen them if it wasn’t for the mix-up of the location for the Paws Festival. So, once again, there seemed to be a reason to be in town, and it wasn’t the reason I thought! We took some pictures and as I drove out of the parking lot, I’m pretty sure they only had about $20 more to raise to meet their goal. I have no doubt that they did!

Tula and I then set off for our walk, and I never expected to see a lion! (But I am in the Land of Oz!) We walked down the whole Main Street area and got on the bike trail south of town which led us to the driveway of a zoo, and a big recreational complex/park. We continued on the bike trail along the fence line, which I thought was part of the rec complex. But apparently the path led to the backside of the zoo, and when I looked over later, I saw a couple of lions! They were in their enclosure, which was fenced of course, plus there was the fence around the zoo property. It was late afternoon and the lions were moving around – just not a sight I expected to see! The whole recreation/park area was big with playgrounds and ball fields, and we walked all over. Back in town we walked around another park and this one had a band shell in the park that’s been used for over 100 years. Kind of amazing to think of all the people and all the performances it has seen! Altogether we walked over 5 miles – finished off my walking for the day, and have some extra for a later day.

Then it was time to head north to Scott City where I planned to stay the night. It was only about a 40 minute drive and it was just beautiful – the sun had set but there were still pink colors in the sky. The Kansas prairie was as flat as could be, and the remaining colors in the sky backlit the few things that stood out on the prairie – the occasional oil well, grain elevators, and barns – I could see every detail in silhouette. There was a row of train cars along the horizon that looked like a big centipede. And the best sight was a long straight row of telephone poles that looked as though they were marching in unison into the sunset. A pretty way to end the day.

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