Kansas - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

June 2, 2014


Bluegrass Kansas
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DAMOCLES is preparing his sword. It was here, eight years ago, that a wonderful first ride across America ended with a saddle boil that wasn't a saddle boil. There's a medical name for it but, so far as cycling's concerned, it took a visit to a hospital and two doctors and it brought the ride to an end.

Now I have to get beyond Newton. Every metre beyond will be a blessing.

There's historical excitement about Kansas that makes up for the green desert of the countryside. Black people came because they saw it as the land of John Brown, the eccentric and blundering campaigner who may have achieved little but was undoubtedly on their side. All the cowboy names of my boyhood were here: Wild Bill Hickock was a deputy at Fort Riley, Wyatt Earp tried to hold the law in Dodge City. Bow-legged cowboys in leather chaps herded cattle across the plains to railheads here.

More than that, Kansas is the lost dreams of small farmers and those who depended on them, victims of nature and their own ignorance. They'd torn up the deep-rooted grass on which the buffalo survived - before the buffalo were killed for their hide and left rotting, or killed to starve the Indians who had lived here long before the white man - and they'd grown delicate crops that neither bound the land nor survived the extremes of weather.

As an old-timer said on American public television:

It produced good. It looked like the greatest thing would never end. So they abused the land. They abused it somethin' terrible. They raped it. They got everything out they could. Well, after a dirt storm the ground would just be bare where it had blown all the topsoil away and then it would be mounds over where the fence rows had been. So we didn't have much except just bare old hard ground. It was a bad time.

All this is Kansas - along with the national barbed wire museum and the country's largest tribute to the glory of Boy Scouts. And you didn't think I was going to miss any of that, did you?

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