Shit, Max McCoy!
It’s not enough that I’m both intellectually and emotionally moved by your Kansas Reflector stories, now you tell me I’ve failed at a favorite pastime. My hobby is reading about Kansas, a year-round activity for me and not just for Kansas Day celebrations.
I know I’m writing this just three days away from our state’s 161st birthday on Saturday. This seems relevant to my wish to have a Kansas Day column. This Sunflower State girl loves to pay homage to her home.
McCoy recently listed 10 Kansas books we should all read. To date, I’ve only read (and owned) four of them. Now 40% is a failing grade in any course, so clearly I have some remedial work to do. I am not discouraged by this prospect. In fact, I welcome his suggestions. It’s just that the timing is bad.
As you know from previous comments, I’m downsizing, which means taking a hard look at all of our “stuff”. This includes books. I knew the task would be more difficult than boxing old vinyl records and almost as difficult as disposing of old family photos. However, it causes me a lot of stress at a time when I neither want nor need it. I really don’t need to think about adding more pounds now.
I don’t really have my own Kansas library, but I do have a shelf or two of state-related works, fiction and non-fiction, that I’ve selected, savored, and cherished for years. I say goodbye to some but not to others.
One of my favorites is a small volume from 1893 simply called Kansas Day. It was written and compiled by FH Barrington, then Superintendent of McCracken, Kansas Schools. He wanted his book to be used in schools and included history, poems and essays relating to our first 40 years of statehood. He aspired to contribute “an appreciation of what we fought to build in Kansas’ bleeding times”.
Barrington’s sources are many and varied, but what caught my eye when I found the book on a “dusty shelf” store was a photo of the soldiers’ monument, here called the John Brown Monument in Osawatomie.
I have studied this image for years as tall buildings appear in the background. The publication date of 1893 allows these structures to be part of the State Hospital, but it does not seem possible that they could have been seen from the site of the Ninth and Main monument.
So, by adding valuable information and insight into the thinking of that time, the book also offers a riddle.
The Kansas history that the author shares in his own prose and poetry selections is a story every Kansan can be proud of. It is the tale of the triumph of law, that which can “broaden our sympathies, energize our faculties, and enable us to correctly perceive the history of our State”.
A selection is divided into “per astra”, the difficulties and “ad astra”, reaching the stars of the State. It helps me remember what the people of Kansas have accomplished in the past and look forward to a united and purposeful future. The book, like most of Hays Hill’s, is cause for celebration.
Like Charles F. Scott, author of “Kansas Courage,” part of this work, I believe that “The thing Kansas does is the thing it does…Steadly, with vigor, with tireless energy, with l he keenest intelligence, with a courage that no disaster can beat down, she climbs to the brightest stars.
I want Kansas to keep climbing, and somehow I have to think Mr. McCoy is okay with it.
Margaret Hays is a longtime Osawatomie resident who writes a weekly column for The Miami County Republic.