Friday, June 5, 2009
Anything Goes in Liberal
As a lover of words, I'm particularly fond of a good oxymoron now and then. Here's one of my favorites: Liberal, Kansas.
Now, that's not a dig on this fair city. It's just the truth. You'd be hard-pressed to find many Obama-mamas in this agricultural hub of 20,000 in southwestern Kansas.
This is the home of International Pancake Day every Fat Tuesday, which includes a friendly little competition between Liberal, and Olney, England, with women running down the streets of each town flipping pancakes. It's been going on for more than 60 years, and organizers say it's the only race of its kind on the planet.
Also, in Liberal you'll find the Land of Oz where a real-life "Dorothy" will take you on a tour of Auntie Em's farm house. (This was a big hit with Lyda and Willa and the big dude from Arkansas who was on the tour with us.) There's the Mid-America Air Museum (the fifth largest collection of civilian and military aircraft in the US), two massive cattle feedlots, and the National Beef Packing plant (the town's largest employer). Sorry, we ordered the vegetarian pasta.
And then today when I ordered two veggie burgers at the local Burger King, the guy at the counter asked, "So, are you a vegetarian?" But his bug-eyed face was screaming something like, "Wow, I've never seen one of you in real life!" When I acknowledged that I was, in fact, a functioning herbivore (actually pescatarian, 'cause I do like fish), he suspiciously asked, "Are you from around here?" When I told him I am from Kansas City, he sort of nodded as if that explained everything. And that ended our brief exchange.
I have driven through Liberal at least twice a year for the past 21 years. I've seen it add a few new hotels, but not change too drastically. That's why I like it. It's an oasis, and it's about half-way between Kansas City and Albuquerque -- two of my favorite places. And the kids here can rock with the best of them.
So, how did this glowing crimson beacon in a historically red state get it's blueish name? Legend has it that one of the early settlers, Seymour Rogers, was known to be "mighty liberal" with the water from his well to those passing through. (He sounds like a socialist to me.;)
Next stop: Hooker, Oklahoma -- Home of The Horny Toads. I'm not kidding!