n 2000 my family left New York and moved to Kansas for three years. Yesterday, the state with the magnificent motto, per aspera ad astra (“to the stars through difficulty”) was on my mind, for the Royals just won the World Series and my memory of Kauffman Stadium happens to be very clear. During the first game we attended there, Buck O’Neil – one of the great players on the Negro American League team, the Kansas City Monarchs – threw out the first ball. He died in 2006. By that time we had left Kansas.
This past weekend, I chatted with a young man who grew up in Johnson County, Kansas. This is where we lived, as well. It is right on the state line with Missouri and the most liberal county in the state. At the turn of the 21st century, this area was in the throes of residential and commercial development. Mega-churches and Walmart proliferated. Townhouses rose quickly on land where bales of hay were scattered . . . just the day before yesterday, it seemed. Evidently the development continued although corporations (like Sprint) did not deliver the jobs.
As an Easterner, I was fascinated by the new five-lane asphalt roads heading south, dwindling to four lanes and then two lanes and ending in dirt roads that trailed off into towns that looked like 1913. Along one of those roads I snapped the photograph above. Someone planned a mansion but for whatever reason had started the construction with iron gates. I have often wondered what happened next.
Photo, Claudia Keenan, 2003.