47 images. WARNINGS: Lots of rambling.
It had been a while since I visited Kansas. The last time I was there was right after I finished fifth grade. I've been out of college for four years now, so yeah, it had been a while. My mom was busy with trying to get stuff for her class wrapped up (she's a teacher, and it's my dad's dad who passed away, not hers) and my little sis is still in the UK, so it was just my dad, my brother, and I heading over (from our immediate family). My dad left a day earlier than my bro and I did to take care of some business, but it worked out well because we were able to schedule our flights to get into the same airport as two cousins and carpool with them. Unfortunately our flight was early enough that I had to wake up at 3:30am to catch a 4:00am train to the airport. FUN. My brother had it worse though, he had a work engagement that meant he didn't get home until midnight and had to wake up at 3:00am to catch the train. Yikes.
We flew into Phoenix (sort of depressing airport, at least where we were), then flew from there to Oklahoma City. There we met our cousins (Sierra and Michelle), rented a car, and headed out. We grabbed lunch at Sonic and it was surprisingly good! I see Sonic commercials ever so often, but we have very few in the Bay Area and I had never been to one. After lunch it was a nearly four hour drive through the middle of nowhere to the capital of nowhere: Ashland Kansas. Okay, so there were a few really neat things on the way… we saw two bulls fighting, GIANT windmills, pretty clouds, but it wasn't the most interesting drive I'd ever been on. The four hours felt like four days.
But yeah. Ashland, Kansas. It's a tiny town, a farming community with a population of about 900. We were there because it was where the Christman Family Homestead is. And where my grandpa grew up. My dad's cousin Frank lives there now (I have no idea what relation that makes me to him), and he tends to grandpa's farmland. After checking into our B&B (can you believe they had THREE B&Bs in this tiny town?), we headed out Frank's house. We were in for a bit of a treat, he was finishing up harvesting one of the wheat fields! Like the wannabe photographer I am, I grabbed my cameras and shot a bajillion pictures and had a good time. My cousins and brother did the same, but they're actually pretty skilled with cameras!!
Kansas!! So flat!
My brother. Waaaay in the background you can see something that looks like a building. That's the town's grain elevator. It's right next to the actual town, we're a bit outside of the town in these photos.
The combine harvester cutting some of the last bits of wheat in the field.
The combine pulls up to the truck and….
BLARRRGHHH GRAIN EVERYWHERE
Frank let my cousin Sierra hop in a help him drive the combine while I ran around taking pictures of the ground. Yay, cut wheat!
These were taken at something like 8:30 at night, it was surprisingly light out!!
Peeking into the back of one of the trucks…
Yup, a whole bunch of wheat.
More ground and harvested field!
Frank used two old trucks to load the cut wheat into. They were so battered-looking I couldn't believe they still ran!
My uncle Pat and my dad. They used to come out to the farm to help every summer, so I think they enjoyed being around for harvest time again.
And yup, wheat.
It's like a reverse crop circle! A MESSAGE FROM SPACE! AND IT SAYS…. I'm pointing to Ashland. It is this way. Boring message.
Finally just about done with cutting the wheat, just as the sun is disappearing behind the horizon. I was going to say "disappearing behind the hills," but the highest hill in the area was tiny!!!! I mean, the average elevation is higher than where I live, but overall it's SO FLAT. They are just a bajillion miles of plains that are 1,800 ft above sea level.
Sun still setting.
Frank let me help him drive one of the trucks to the grain elevator and help dump the wheat. It was fun!!
We went to Frank's house, ate dinner, and chatted until we decided it was getting pretty late and we should head back into town. We got back to our B&B and… guys, it was so weird. This B&B is this lady's house. Her children are grown and moved out, so she rents out rooms. That's not the weird part. That makes sense to me. The weird part is the "themes" of the rooms. There were three of them; the Christmas-Bordello Room, the Creepy Doll Room, and the Hunting Room (names we gave them, of course). I can't really describe the Christmas-Bordello Room well enough, but it was covered in this rich green velvet and white feather boas that simultaneously reminded us of Christmas and the types of brothels you see in old westerns. The Creepy Doll room had lots of creepy dolls, but the creepiest things in it were these plush fruits and veggies with googly eyes. Strangely frightening. The room also had some cool unicorn and pony statues. Last but no least, the Hunting Room had bull horns above the door and pelts from some sort of weasel-like creature inside. I thought it was the least… odd of the rooms, but my brother seemed really bothered by the pelts and we decided to stay with the creepy dolls. My cousins stayed in the Christmas-Bordello room.
The next morning we woke up and had a lovely breakfast. Sierra, my brother, and I chatted about lucid dreaming until the proprietress decided to join in. Not that it was a problem, but it got a little creepy when she started implying that she could change things in her dreams and then they would be changed in real like AND that she could predict when people were going to die. Like… she said that if people died in her dreams, they would die in 36-48 hours in real life. UM. UM. UHHHH It was a little strange. Don't get me wrong, she was a very nice lady, but yeaaaaaaah. I'm believe some weird things, but this was strange even to me. She was telling us about the powers of rock energy when my aunt and her two girls, Rachel and Annie came by.
We met up with my uncle and day and all found our way to the court house, because THIS TINY TOWN IS THE COUNTY SEAT SOMEHOW. I'm SO used to crowded places, this boggled my mind. There was a huge map of the county carved into the side, and we had fun looking at all the local landmark locations. There was a dinosaur dig area in the county!!! …but we didn't make it out there. =( We then headed to...
OH GOD IT'S ALL BRIGHT ALL OF A SUDDEN WHAT THE HELL
Ta-daaaa! It's the Christman Homestead!! One of these building is a garage, one is a barn! They both seemed pretty barn-like to me, so I'm not sure which is which. There was a house on the grounds too, but it's long gone. The family owns a number of fields in the area too, but I'm not entirely sure which ones. I guess my great (x2?) grandpa got this land in one of the old timey pushes west way way back in the day, so it's been in the family for a while.
I thiiiiiink this might be one that the family owns. That little hill is said to be a Native American burial site.
"HBC," my great grandpa's initials. And I think my grandpa's too. And there's wasp's (maybe hornet's?) nest!
Going inside the building… a cool old radio!
And… stuff! I guess this was probably the garage?
Paint. Lots of it.
Bits of all sorts of stuff.
Your guess is as good as mine.
Alright, that was the garage (probably), so let's go to the barn!
Oh wait, no, let's look at one of the old trucks again.
AND THEN THE WINDMILL WOOOOOOO!! I like this thing a lot.
Lake of Malaria.
I still like this thing a lot.
More malaria, and finally going to the barn!
This is a bunch of cattle holding pens right outside the barn.
A random horseshoe.
My cousins, Sierra and Michelle.
Cousins and my uncle. Looking out into the wild wild… next field over.
The memorial was the next big thing to do, so we headed to a tiny chapel/church/building in the local cemetery and had a very nice service for my grandpa. A lot of people travelled a long distance to come, so that was very nice. This building it was in was REALLY nice, it looked like a tiny castle. Like something out of Robin Hood. Very lovely.
Sierra, Michelle, and Noah were dying for some alcohol, so on the way to Frank's for the reception we stopped at the town's liquor store. I don't drink alcohol, so they asked for some soda, but the man working there was all, "Soda? This is a LIQUOR STORE." But but but… phooey. You COULD buy something that looked like moonshine put in mason jars though.
The reception at Frank's was nice and I had some wonderful chats with people I had never met before. But… when Michelle asked where the recycling was to take care of her beer bottle, they pretty much laughed about it because "RECYCLING? What a hippy construct!!!!" Bwa-whu? Logically, I guess it makes sense because it's a tiny town and most towns in the area are spread out and all, but… REALLY? NO RECYCLING? They have a service that picks up cattle that died in your fields, takes it someplace, and renders it, but NO RECYCLING? It boggles my Californian mind!! And then one of my second cousins told us how lucky we were to live in California because we got to surf all the time. 'Cause you know, we're all surfers. Because we're Californian. Stereotypes EVERYWHERE from EVERYONE. We should all know better! But obviously none of us do. And then I missed California a whole lot.
We went back into town for a big dinner. It's hard to see in this picture, but that balcony seems like it's BARELY holding on there. I would not want to walk under it. I hear it used to be like… a skating rink on the second story of the building? Something like that? Interesting.
This is the place we had dinner. There were like… 25 of us there? It was a fun, noisy dinner. Look how wide the street is!! @_@
After dinner it was time to spread grandpa's ashes in the place he requested: the Native American burial site. It's the second tallest spot in the county (NOT SAYING MUCH), so instead of being able to see for miles, you can see for MILES AND MILES AND MILES.
AND MILES AND MILES.
As we were setting up chairs for the older folks, someone found….
This cool bug! It has watermelon colors!!!
It hung around for a long time. It was quite large and awfully squat. I wanted to pet it.
One of three markers that says this land is protected by the government or marks it as a sacred spot or something. I can't fully remember.
My cousins and I got all excited because some cows were coming pretty close, but we got yelled at for calling them cows. "THEY'RE CATTLE, NOT COWS." I didn't know there was a difference until we were yelled at!
We spread grandpa's ashes. It was… a little… unsettling? Grandpa liked dirty martinis and my uncle made them for everyone. The vodka smelled atrocious and when some spilled on my arm it burned like the time I got paint thinner on myself. Yuck, not gonna put that near my mouth. I just had a cup full of green olives instead. =)
Frank told us about the history of the land and some tales about our relatives. I like that sort of stuff so I enjoyed it… until he told us about the time the KKK burned a cross where we were standing and great-grandpa rode out to join them BECAUSE HE WAS IN THE KKK. WTF WHY WHY WHYYYYYY? And EVERYONE except us West Coasters was all, "oh, yeah, KKK, okay, yeah," and us West Coast hippies or whatever we are are all "GAAAAAHHHH WHAAAAAAA?" We talked to my dad about it the next day and he thinks the story is one of those things that just keeps getting exaggerated. I hope so.
During story time, a thunderstorm rolled by. It was far away enough that we couldn't hear any thunder but since we could see for miles and mile and miles, we got a great show. Unfortunately, when we got back to the B&B the power was out and the storm was moving in. The proprietress was worried about tornadoes which made me worried about tornadoes, but she called her son and got him to check and he said there were no tornado warnings for the area. Everyone seemed happy with that, so we went to sleep. Everyone except me. Because I had just watched a program on tornadoes that emphasized the fact that YOU CANNOT PREDICT TORNADOES VERY FAR IN ADVANCE. It was a worrisome night.
But we didn't die! And we packed up and drove out of Ashland, all the way back to Oklahoma City. We caravanned with my dad and all ate at Sonic again.
This was across the street.
This was in the airport. SALLLLTTTT LIIIIICK. =9 I'm very disappointed that there wasn't an actual salt lick in there.
Our plane was delayed which made us VERY nervous because we only had 30min to transfer to our next flight. Luckily the delay wasn't too bad, and they held the plane for the ~15 of us trying to make the transfer. The plane was PACKED and I sat between a married couple (why didn't they sit next to each other??). They were very kind and after I got some work done we chatted about geography. We saw Yosemite! I think. Even with the plane taking off late, we still got home right on time.
It was a 3-day trip, but I was SO tired at the end and SO happy to be home. Ashland was beautiful and I had a pretty good time, but... a couple days there was enough to last me the rest of the decade!