On Monday we departed St. Louis and headed west. While passing through the Kansas City area, we stopped at Unity Village, the headquarters of the Unity Church. Suzanne had been interviewed by Unity Radio, and then gave a reading to Carla McClellan, Director of Retreats, who was kind enough to give us a tour of their beautiful and serene campus. We then met with Denise Blake, the new Director of Retreats, to discuss Suzanne coming to Unity Village to lead a retreat in early November. (See Suzanne’s web site for details).
We are now driving across a very wide and windy state… Kansas. With 25-30 mph headwinds, the fuel economy of The Bus (okay, stop laughing out there!) has taken a hit today, down from almost 9 mpg to just under 7 mpg. When the wind shifts astern, I’ll be getting the sails out! The farmers here have figured out the wind… we passed hundreds of modern towering windmills producing electricity to feed the power grid.
It was going to be a scorcher, up to 98F, so we stopped at Fort Riley at 0930 for a run before the heat became dangerous. Fort Riley is the home of the First Infantry Division, the Big Red One. It used to be a cavalry post, as this statue of a cavalry soldier from the 1870’s proves. The grave behind me is where Chief, the last horse to be part of the US Cavalry, is interred. He served from 1940-1949, and died in 1961.
We also took a few minutes to tour the Cavalry Museum. Just a few yards from where we parked were the stables where the commanding general’s ceremonial guard horses live. We enjoyed listening to the whinnying of these beautiful horses who all carried the same US brand on their left shoulders like Custer’s horses did when he fought the Sioux over 150 years ago.
One of Suzanne’s books, The Priest and the Medium, has several chapters set in Victoria, Kansas, where (medium) Anne Gehman’s husband (former priest) Wayne Knoll grew up. This tiny town of 1,342 souls was just a mile south of I-70 as we headed westbound toward Colorado, so we turned left and stopped to recon. We parked next to Wayne’s home church, St. Fidelis Catholic Church, “The Cathedral of the Plains”. When it was built in 1911, it was one of the tallest buildings west of the Missouri. Suzanne was very excited to see the town and places she had written about but had never visited.
As we approached the cathedral, we noticed a woman about to cross the street. We introduced ourselves to Betty Brungardt and asked her if she knew Wayne Knoll; she replied, “Yes, Wayne was one of my classmates.” We were amazed, and after hearing some of her stories, Suzanne gave her a copy of The Priest and the Medium.
We then toured the church; it is stunningly beautiful, a real testament to the faith of the German-Russian farmers who settled here in the 19th Century. The building stones were hauled and cut by hand, with some families, including the Knolls, recorded as hauling up to 80 wagon loads of stones; engineers estimated that townspeople cut and dressed over 125,000 cubic feet of rock.
As we departed, we met Ivan, one of Wayne’s brothers’ fraternity brothers from college. Both local residents that we encountered had known Wayne well; that doesn’t happen often except in a very small town!
We stopped for the night in Oakley, Kansas. While My Lovely Bride set up camp (sort of like a troop of cavalry might in 1876), I found the local blacksmith for some tack for my horse (also known as a replacement car battery, since mine was failing). I was going to put a .45 through the battery to put it out of its misery, but the NAPA store clerk was aghast, so I holstered my trusty Colt revolver and trotted to the campground for some firewater (a very nice Cabernet). What did I find but Suzanne, Rudy and Gretchen trying to hunt dinner, in the form of several rabbits that they were chasing hysterically around the campground. The hounds got within a few feet, but the bunnies were too bashful to play. (I had to settle for pasta and chicken sausage, but it was better than cleaning bunnies, that’s for sure). Corvette Chick was feeling frisky, and decided to visit the playground and ride the kids’ swings. I don’t think she will ever grow up…