I am leap-frogging from happy, green, Ithaca, New York, early August, to rural Kansas (ughhhh) in late August.
I know, I know. I live my life in dribbles and droves. Ithaca was terrific. And I shall revisit my very enjoyable-yet- meager time there at some point.
However, I must report on rural Kansas as it is now, before the whole thing is wind-swept into the dusty, windy Kansas archives.
I think Rural Anywhere has a charm to it that may not appear in the realms of other places. Last Spring, a local couple were both diagnosed with cancer within weeks of each other. He works at a farm store nearby, and she is a public school music teacher. How difficult to do a balancing act when one partner is ill, but to double the time and energy and finances and scheduling...! Too difficult to want to try imagine.
Here is where that rural community charm comes into play, with empathy and compassion. Some locals planned a fundraiser for the couple, who are not spring chickens. Easy enough. Lots of communities do this. But this one seemed pretty special. It was an evening filled with music, a silent auction, and a live auction later in the evening. Both husband and wife were there, he looking gaunt and she, sporting a new colorful headscarf, post-chemo. There were more than 300 attendees - and this is a dinky town! Farmers and ranchers from miles around were there. (Here's an interesting aside from the non-rancher, me: One can spy the men who wear cowboy hats most of their work day - there is a crease to their hairline on the back of their heads when they come into town on a Saturday night!)
The live music ranged from jazz and bluegrass, to concert piano, and so sweetly, two young vocal soloists who were students of the music teacher/cancer patient. She (the teacher) accompanied both on the piano, and when that little kid (was she 9? 10?) sang Amazing Grace with sweet vibrato, the entire Columbian Theater was hushed. So sweet.
Here I must segue to describe the Columbian Theater in Wamego, Kansas. It was built in the late 1800s. Back then, a Wamego banker bought some paintings from the World's Fair in Chicago. Six of the paintings are 11' x 16'. They are huge. And they are really nice paintings. And they are in rural Kansas.
Inbetween musical numbers, the live auction would auction off 3-4 items. This was so fun and funny, and exactly where that rural Kansas charm comes into play. The auctioneer and his cohorts must have known nearly everyone in the Columbian Theater that night. This made the auction terribly fun. A gas grill up for bid: He points into the huge audience and states, "June, I KNOW this will be great on your sun porch!" KU-K-State paraphernalia up for bid: he knew exactly which audience member had graduated from KU, and which from K-State, and he played that ying-yang well! A very good time had by all.
All totaled, $21,000.00 was raised for this local family.
We do not know the family well. We greet each other once a year down at the Shamrock Farm's/ Crenshaw's annual Halloween Doughnut gathering, where 80-something Mrs. Crenshaw fries up doughnuts all evening for friends and neighbors.
Here was my donation to the fundraising cause:
Happily, our rancher neighbor Joe Carpenter purchased this at the auction for his barn, to the tune of $500.00.
And so it goes, life in rural Kansas...