A Flyover Farewell
Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:
A FLYOVER FAREWELL
For more than 11 years now, my dear readers, I have dragged you along with me on the gravel roads of Kansas. Willingly, I trust.
Eleven years? Even I find that hard to believe somehow. My first column was published in The Emporia Gazette for Kansas Day 2003, and since then I have been putting miles and dust on my car, and sharing Kansas with you as best I can.
But there comes a time to move on, and that time is now. I am ending the Flyover People column. My biggest sadness with this comes from a feeling of separation, because it has been you who kept me going. Each Tuesday evening, I knew that you were settling in with The Gazette, reading the front page news, page 2, 3 and then on to page 4.
I was pleased each time one of you stopped me in Reeble’s to share with me what you remember about your own grandmother’s farm or your small-town childhood. When you told me your own stories, that’s when I felt I had done my job.
And many of you have suggested places for Dave and me to visit. Early on, someone recommended Frannie’s in Yates Center. The place is closed now, but in 2006 Frannie was selling $1 lunches in her second floor restaurant, as she had for 20 years. Another reader suggested Courtney’s in Toronto, still a fabulous place for an upscale Italian dinner.
I’ve always enjoyed touring Kansas, but with the column I had a perfect reason to do so. And it got to be a fun obsession, rolling into a town I had never visited. I began to crave the next town and the next and the next.
Driving down a highway, Dave and I chased road signs. We’d see a sign pointing to Neosho Falls or to Dexter, and we’d veer off the highway onto a county road to see what those towns held for us. What made a community most memorable was when we had a conversation with a resident or two. Even after visiting more than a hundred towns over the past 11 years, I still remember towns and faces and how welcomed we felt by the locals.
When I began writing this column, I wanted my pieces to show the beauty of the world around us, to raise the everyday scenes of Kansas to a place of attention and glory.
There are unpleasant things in and about Kansas, no doubt about it, but I wanted to keep the column positive. I tried to stay realistic; I also wrote about decaying and shabby towns in Kansas, but I wanted to show that even though a town may not be shining all the way through that there are still good things in each town, good people and stories, interesting history, a great little café or a library or a park. Each community has worthwhile things to offer. And I’ve noticed that when residents nurture a place, the town improves.
What’s up for me now? Well, I’m about to release my second book of columns. In the next month or so, “Waiting on the Sky: More Flyover People Essays” will be published and I’ll be traveling around the state promoting my new book.
Although I will no longer write the weekly column, I’ll still be writing, just without the burden of the weekly deadline. Deadlines can be wearying. There’s something about being creative on demand that takes some of the fun and the magic out of writing.
I will write books that will be different in style and content than these columns, although Kansas will likely be the backdrop for future books.
I’m proud to have contributed to The Emporia Gazette over the years and my sincere thanks go to Chris Walker, and to everyone at the paper. Chris told me that I can still send in pieces if I want, and I may do that. So, a Flyover People column may show up in your evening paper from time to time.
But for now, it’s time to go. And for you, my beloved readers, this heart is filled with gratitude.