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Kansas Soldiers Home

November 27, 2012

Kansas – Tuesday, November 20

I backtracked a little last night, ending up in Dodge City again. That’s because I really wanted this week’s military donation to go to The Kansas Soldiers Home, a veteran’s home that’s a little bit different from many of the others. This one used to be Fort Dodge, built in the mid-1800s, about 5 miles outside of Dodge City. It was only used as a fort for 17 years before being turned over to the state of Kansas to be used as a veteran’s home. And that’s been its purpose ever since. The first soldiers to stay there were Civil War vets. I read somewhere that at one point the croquet games had to be eliminated – turns out the “oldsters” were using the croquet mallets as weapons to settle their quarrels! Feisty til the end! I had called the Kansas Soldiers Home to see if there was anything in particular that I should shop for, and they put me in touch with the activities director. She said the most helpful thing right now would be a contribution to their Benefit Fund, which frequently needs to be replenished. The Benefit Fund is used for special events like going to the movies, holiday activities, a meal for a special occasion, etc. I was happy to make a contribution! Visitors could walk around Fort Dodge, so I got Tula out of the car, and we walked a mile a half up and down the streets, looking at all the old buildings. There were a couple dozen cottages, barracks, a big house where the commander would have lived, a chapel, the original hospital, and the Sutler’s Store (vocabulary word for the day – a sutler is a civilian who runs a store on a military post). It didn’t occur to me to see if the store was actually open or to see what it sold! I tried to take Tula out on the old parade grounds for a walk around, but once again she got a little burr stuck on one of her pads. I’ve noticed in Missouri, Oklahoma, and now Kansas, there are occasionally places off the paths that have tiny, sharp little burrs and once in a while Tula steps on one. I can tell instantly when she does, and we stop right away and she lifts up the affected paw and I get it off – they’re really sharp and I’m trying to keep her away from places where she might step on one. I thought the old parade ground was just grass!

From Fort Dodge we drove east to Greensburg, a town that was totally leveled by a tornado in 2007. They decided to rebuild (newer, better, greener) and did so in the most environmentally efficient way. As a result, the downtown is all new, and so is an adjoining neighborhood of town homes, and I think the schools are new too. The path of destruction was apparently very, very wide. I could sort of see the lines of destruction – the new areas were next to the areas with homes older than 5 years, and there was still the occasional boarded up building, and even a set of stairs that led nowhere. But people were out and about, and the town had come back to life. Tula and I walked a couple more miles.

When I was back in Hays, they did a test of their tornado sirens and I about jumped out of my skin. It was incredibly loud (as it should be) – almost painfully so – but it needs to reach people inside their homes and offices. I couldn’t even tell exactly where it was coming from, but the speaker must have rotated. It must be a comfort to know there’s such good alarm systems in these towns.

From Greensburg I headed north, and I never know what I’m going to see. One tiny little crossroads town had a long row of signs and metal art stretched out along fenceposts; then I passed cotton fields; there were ’50s/60s signs; and more grain elevators than I’ve ever seen in one place. I ended up in a Swedish town named Lindsborg. I had read they had a 3.5 mile “Valkommen” bike trail, and I thought that would be fun to walk on. I drove through town first, and it was another charming town with wide streets, easy pull-in parking, and I even saw the Andersen Butik, a store that had also mailed out catalogs in the past, and I’ve actually ordered Scandinavian things from them years ago. It was fun to look around the shop. But then I needed to get walking! I walked from one end of the bike trail to the other, and I guess the 3.5 miles was the round trip version. I needed more miles so I repeated part of the bike trail, then set off all around town. Even though it was getting dark, there were lamp posts and Christmas lights all over the place – making the town look festive. It was really pretty to walk down Main Street and out into the neighborhoods with all the lights. I finished my walking and also did 2 miles extra – it was such a pleasant evening out, I felt like I could just keep on
walking, but it was time to head to Topeka.

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