Kansas is my home state, and probably one of the most socially unacceptable states in the union. Despite its roots as a raucous free state, isolation and suspicion of government have left Kansas a backward joke, a jester even among conservative states. But I will write about the places of Kansas anyway.


Argonia is a speck on the map, about 50 miles southwest of Wichita, almost in Oklahoma. It's flat. The only trees are the ones planted in yards, and along the roads to keep dirt from getting into homes. Those tree lines date back to the 1930s. Otherwise you won't find much tall vegetation here. Argonia has one footnote in history; this town elected the first female mayor in U.S. history.

Other than that, my mom's side of the family has a farm here. It's about two miles from the center of town. One of the neighboring farms has exotic animals like emus and peacocks. I've had Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in that farmhouse. We sweltered in 110-degree heat and shivered in freezing cold nights. I've attended numerous funerals in the cemetery and family reunions in the one meeting place than can hold dozens of people. Argonia is isolated. Kids won't find much to do. Otherwise it's a fine place to escape the rest of the world.

Johnson County
Southeast Kansas

Southeast Kansas feels like another state, more like Missouri, and I can't explain why. The far southeastern corner of Kansas provided much of the zinc used in manufacturing in World War II. Zinc mine waste poisoned multiple towns. One town has mining waste piled so high it resembles distant hills.

I have relatives in Chanute, Kansas. One of them built a Y2K shelter for his family. He believes every election victory for Democrats is somehow illegitimate. These are the kinds of people you meet in Kansas, damaged by isolation from reality, suspicious of everything, fearful of the unknown.