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Jack McCall: We aren’t in Kansas anymore

Jack McCall • Updated Sep 30, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Two weeks ago, my speaking travels took me to Dodge City, Kansas. I flew into Wichita by way of St. Louis, and then drove 170 miles west on state highways 54 and 400 out to Dodge City. 

The land really flattens out after you leave Wichita. You can see for miles in all directions. It is beautiful country.

My view of this breathtaking part of the world was only marred by those government-subsidized windmills that seem to pop up all over the west “where the coyotes howl and the wind blows free.” 

Highways 54 and 400 run between two indistinct ridges where the wind must continuously blow. I felt surrounded by windmills that, in the distance, looked like giant, white stickmen slowly flailing their arms. Aesthetically, it is quite a price to be paid in the name of “renewable energy.” As someone has said, “The wind blows out on Cape Cod, too, but you won’t find any windmills there.” 

My destination was the Boot Hill Casino and Resort in Dodge City, Kansas where I spoke for KFCA Insurance. As I drove into town, I had visions of the Long Branch Saloon, the Dodge House Hotel, Marshall Matt Dillon, Chester Good, Festus Hagan, Doc Adams and, of course, Miss Kitty.

But, alas, Dodge City is not what it used to be. 

Driving down Wyatt Earp Boulevard, I found Dodge City to look like most mid-sized towns in America. There was a Best Western Hotel, along with O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, almost every other name-brand establishment you could think of, and a host of Mexican restaurants. When I arrived at Boot Hill Museum, I was shocked to find an Applebee’s Restaurant to be within a stone’s throw. I must admit the Boot Hill of yesteryear and the aura of the old West seemed a million miles away. The thought occurred to me, “Matt Dillon would roll over in his grave if he could see Dodge City now.”

The first evening I decided to enjoy some Mexican cuisine. I found it at El Charro Mexican Restaurant on West Wyatt Earp Boulevard. Best chili relleno I have ever tasted. As I finished cleaning my plate, I thought, “that was larapin.” The ghost of Festus Hagan had to be nearby. 

The accommodations at the Hampton Inn, which is a part of the Boot Hill Casino and Resort, were first rate. I enjoyed a restful night’s sleep in preparation the next day’s keynote speech. I found my audience of Kansans to be great people who laughed easily.

After the afternoon’s presentation I returned to El Charro for another go at the chili relleno. It was that good. But duty called. I had to be in Wichita on the next day for another speech, so I found myself “getting the heck out of Dodge.”

The sun was at my back as I drove the 170 miles back to Wichita. If it had not been for those darn windmills, I would have been in paradise. For some reason my selective vision didn’t block out the windmills like it does telephone lines. There they were, again, buggering up the landscape. I ignored them the best I could.

In Wichita, I stayed at the Homewood Suites Hotel, another Hilton property. Great accommodations make for pleasant travels. The audience next day was friendly as anticipated. My keynote ended at promptly 3:30 p.m. My flight was scheduled to leave at 5:05 p.m sharp. It made for a mad dash across town in my rental car. I arrived at my gate with time to spare.

The state of Kansas has many nicknames – the Sunflower State, the Wheat State and the Jayhawk State. No matter what you call Kansas, it remains a centerpiece of the sweeping “fruited plain.” I can hardly wait to go back.

Jack McCall is an author and also writes a weekly column for The Lebanon Democrat.

 

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