Compiled by Professor Tom Averill of the Center for Kansas Studies, the following book of Kansas quotes is available to the public for reference purposes. These quotations, properly cited, may be used for any appropriate purpose. They are provided as a public service by the Washburn University Center for Kansas Studies.
"I know we Kansa people have been accused of being unable to talk about anything else. We have been accused of 'blowing our own horn' to excess. They say we are much given to hot air and statistics. However, you and I know better. We know that half has not been told of Kansas, nor ever can be..."
-Arthur Cooper, 1915, in ADDRESSES
"If there's anything better than life--it's life in Kansas.
-Chamber of Commerce 1930
"We have made the State of Kansas,
And today she stands complete--
First in freedom, first in wheat;
And her future years will meet
Ripened hopes and richer stanzas."
-Eugene F. Ware, "Quivera--Kansas," in RHYMES OF IRONQUILL
Rather than advise you this time or complain
I will report on one of our little towns
where I stopped last week at evening.
This town has no needs....
you could think of that place annually
on this date, for reassurance--a place where we
have done no wrong....
So, this time, please keep on being the way you are, and think of that town. A locust tree puts its fronds,
way, quietly into the streetlight repeated breaths of
came up-canyon. Let that--the nothing, the no one,
the calm night--often recur to you...."
-William Stafford, "A Letter," in STORIES THAT COULD BE TRUE
"Kansas...the land of diversity...the land of unity...Kansas...both the desert and the jewel of the West...born of the prairie...with the throbbing of Indian chants for a lullaby...Kansas...once the home of countless herds of buffalo..the stamping ground of Custer...Wild Bill Hicock...Buffalo Bill Cody...Kansas...the land of dreams where once again phantom wagon trains lumber slowly over the prairies to the echo of buffalo guns...Kansas...land of sunflowers...at the crossroads of the nation...the land of people who made it Kansas."
-Chamber of Commerce, quoted by W.G. Clugston, 1943
"The fact remains: if you are willing to work, you need never despair of getting a livelihood in Kansas."
-Percy G. Ebbut, 1886, AN EMIGRANT IN KANSAS
"...Kansas glories in her days to be,
In her horizons limitless and vast...
She has no ruins gray that men revere--
Her time is 'Now,' Her Heritage is 'Here.'"
-Harry Kemp in KANSAS
"...We believe in Kansas institutions; in the Kansas language and in Kansas ideals; in her cleanliness of society, and in her demands that honor, sobriety, and respect be maintained in public and private life; in her marvelous productiveness, and in her wondrous future." -Charles Moreau Harger in THE KANSAS CREED
"How for Kansas, the land that restores us
When houses choke us, and great books bore us!
Sunrise Kansas, harvesters' Kansas,
A million men have found you before us..."
-V. Lindsay in THE SANTA FE TRAIL
"Mine was a Midwest home--you can keep your world.
Plain black hats rode the thoughts that made our code.
We sang hymns in the house; the roof was near God..."
-William Stafford in ONE HOME
to Coronado, meant 'buffalo'
to the Indians, but onward, to El Dorado, 'The Gilded One,'
a country where
boats were incrusted with gold, where
golden bells hung from trees..."
-Ronald Johnson in QUIVERA
"...No reasoning, no logic can confound the Kansan. Figuratively speaking, you may knock him down, but you cannot knock him out. As an instance in point, it is related that one day, after a seemingly endless stretch of the most horrible weather, the sun came out. The air was soft and balmy, the sky took on the deep summer blue, and all the conditions were as perfect as the most exacting could demand. The Kansas man was equal to the occasion, and began to descant on the beauties of the Kansas climate. 'Now, this,' he said, 'is a typical Kansas day.'
'But how about yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, and last week, and the week before?' asked the stranger within the gates.
'Oh,' answered the Kansan, perfectly unabashed, 'that is the kind of (damned) weather we used to have back in Indiana."
-Roswell Martin Field, IN SUNFLOWER LAND: STORIES OF GOD'S OWN COUNTRY
"The high plains at first gave him an overpowering impression of emptiness. Never before had he beheld such a sky--the cosmic vault of blue appeared to occupy a good three fourths of the world, making small and unimportant the scattered farm houses with their meager clumps of ragged trees and inevitable windmills.
But though the vastness at first oppressed him, eventually it distrilled in him a sensation of fetterless freedom which he grew to love almost jubilantly."
-Paul I. Wellman, in The Walls of Jericho
"...Kansas: Where the hen that cackles,
Always lays an egg;
Where the cows are fairly achin'
To go on with record breakin',
And the hogs are raisin bacon
By the keg!"
-Walt Mason, "Ode to Kansas," 1914, SUNFLOWERS
"Mine was a Midwestern home--you can keep your world.
Plain black hats rode the thoughts that made our code.
We sang hymns in the house; the roof was near God.
The sun was over our town; it was like a blade.
Kicking cottonwood leaves we ran toward storms.
Wherever we looked the land would hold us up."
-William Stafford, 1960, WEST OF YOUR CITY
"Come, all you folks of enterprise who feel inclined to roam
Beyond the Mississippi to seek a pleasant home
Pray take a pioneer's advice, I'll point you out the best--
I mean the state of Kansas, the Lily of the West.
Our prairies all are dotted o'er with houses white as snow,
Where nothing stood but dugouts just ten years ago.
But that's the way we do things, here; we enjoy it with a zest,
In the lovely state of Kansas, the Lily of the West.
Our boys, the bravest of the brave; our girls they are the best
In the lovely state of Kansas, the Lily of the West.
But that's the way we do things here, we always do the best
in the good old state of Kansas, the Lily of the West.
I've travelled the New England states, New York and North Carolina,
And down into the southern states, and thought them very fine,
But of all the states that I have roamed, the one that I love best
Is the good old state of Kansa, the Lily of the West.
-Folk Song taken from THE KANSAS ART READER, ed. by J.W. Bell
"If I went West, I think I would go to Kansas."
"To populate a county thirty miles square within six months, and round out the half-year with a fight over the county seat between six towns, or to build a fair-sized city within a twelve month--these achievements may seem like fiction, but they have been realities in Kansas."
-John A Martin, Gov. of Kansas, 1885-89
"When the cares o' day are done, on the plains o' Kansas,
And the kids begin to yawn, sleepy like in Kansas,
Farmer wipes his glasses blurred,
Reads a chapter o' the Word,
Then kneels down and thanks the Lord that he lives in Kansas.
-LITTLE RIVER MONITOR, November 1, 1906
"Be a Booster"
"If your town needs boostin', boost 'er,
Don't hold back an' wait to see
If some other feller's willin',
Sail right in, this country's free;
No one's got a mortgage on it,
It's your as much as his,
If your town is shy on BOOSTERS,
You get in the boostin' big."
-H.C. Bennet, LITTLE RIVER MONITOR, Nov 21, 1907
"Kansas is the Mother Shipton, the Madame Thebes, the Witch of Endor, and the low barometer of the nation. When anything is going to happen in this country, it happens first in Kansas. Abolition, Prohibition, Populism, the Bull Moose, the exit of the roller towel, the appearance of the bank guarantee, the blue sky law, the adjudication of industrial dispute as distinguished from the arbitration of industrial differences--these things come popping out of Kansas like bats out of hell."
-William Allen White, 1922
"During the boom of the 1880s, the GREAT BEND TRIBUNE writes that railroad construction 'Is only equalled by the number of street railways, waterworks, electric lights, colleges, and children to fill them. A town of 150 inhabitants that hasn't at least four trunk lines and all these other advantages is considered too unimportant to put on the maps.'"
"General Dwight David Eisenhower once said, 'The proudest thing I can say today is that I'm from Abilene.'"
"Kansas is indispensable to the joy, the inspiration, and the improvement of the world."
-John J. Ingalls, U.S. Senator from Kansas, 1873-1891,
in "A Collection of the Writings of John J. Ingalls, 1902"
"This flower has to all Kansans a historic symbolism which speaks of frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairies, and is full of the life and glory of the past, the pride of the present, and richly emblemaitc of the majesty of a golden future."
-Laws 1903, Chapter 479
"Neither Jayhawker winds, nor Jayhawker drought
Stops the Jayhawker's heart, nor the Jayhawker's mouth;
For the Jayhawker's faith is always first rate,
He has Jayhawker's pride in his Jayhawker state!"
"...These things--the air, the water, the scenery and we who fill these scenes--hold many and many a man to Kansas when money would tempt him away...Here are the still waters, here are the green pastures. Here, the fairest of the world's habitations."
-William Allen White, circa 1912
"...What Kansas will be 50 years hence is beyond the comprehension of people now living." -CHICAGO JOURNAL, May 14, 1889
"Our climate is pure and invigorating and health-giving, the atmosphere being light, and singularly bright and sparkling. The breeze that constantly sweeps over the prairies is redolent with vigor, banishing incipient consumption, and uprooting the seeds of deep-seated diseases, engendered by the vassalage of a sisypian (sic) labor, or a long residence in the thickly populated places of the East; imparting an appetite and fruition which only such an atmosphere can impart--and making the climate in itself a panacea more potent than the science of physicians, and more rejuvenating than the visionary 'Fountain of Youth.'"
-FORT SCOTT MONITOR, July 8, 1868
"The Kansas of to-day is a wonder of intelligence, wealth, enterprise, comfort, and culture...With a climate unequaled, a soil rich beyond comparison, and a population made up of the best nerve and brain of New England and Germany, it is fast taking a place in the front rank of our Federal Union...Many a pioneer has purchased his 160 acres of the railroad company...Soon his orchard is planted, his farm stocked, and he has all the hay he needs without cultivation (though he needs but little, for the winters are very mild here)."
-NEW YORK TRIBUNE, reprinted in the "Guilford Citizen,"
Wilson County, April 21, 1870
"...this country may with propriety be called the Deserts of North America for I do not conceive any part of it can ever silted as it is deficient of or in water..."
-Ordnay, a chronicler with the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804
"Kansas is herself again. The wind blows and the dust and sand flies, but no rain descends. A newcomer asked one of our fellow townsmen if it always blew this way in Kansas. He replied that there were perhaps two or three days during the year that it did not."
-SALINA JOURNAL's Brookeville correspondent-1880
"Kansas for three years has been decried from one end of the country to the other for elevating to office cabbage-headed statesmen, corncob financiers, and the exponents of repudiation and social disorder...but the period of flat, repudiation and humbug in Kansas is past."
-TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL
"As regards the emigration to Kansas Territory, I do not think many will be able to settle in this part for the next twelve months, there being almost an entire failure of crops...Prospects are...dismal here for all kinds of produce. There will not be 'hog and hominy' enough for the old inhabitants, much less for a large influx emigration."
-A report from Fort Scott appearing in the ST JOSEPH GAZETTE, 1854
"When It Gets Dry In Kansas"
"When it gits dry in Kansas
It puts some folks to rout:
They sell off ev'rything they have
'N go a hustlin' out,
A-sayin' they have had enough,
'N cussin' jus' like sin-
But ev'ry dod-blamed one uv'em
Jes comes right back again."
-LITTLE RIVER MONITOR, June 4, 1908
"When we have rain and crops, we don't want to go, and when there ain't no crops we're too poor to go; so I reckon we'll just stay here till we starve to death."
-John Ise, in SOD AND STUBBLE, 1936
"[We Kansans don't] preserve anecdotes of our politicians today...Is it because they are dull and say or do nothing worth embalming in memory? ...Are they dull leaders of a dull multitude?"
-William Allen White, "Just Wondering," 1934
"On the Road to California"
"Come all you girls and listen to my noise
Don't you never marry no Kansas boys.
If you do your fortune will be
How cakes, hominy, sassafras tea."
"We had the milk of from four to eight cows every year...There was anything but romance in skimming twenty pans of milk and churning every other day. The butter had its first working with salt; on the next morning it had to be finished for packing or made into rolls. There were all the pans, the milk pails again at night, and perhaps milk to skim for weaning calves. Romance, indeed! The heat and perspiration make large washings. I have rubbed the skin off my hands, in places, many a times. The Kansas mud was like paste to remove, and the dust storms would undo the work of a day in five minutes. I did all the sewing for the family besides knitting socks and stockings. Work was no mere pastime in OUR lives."
-Anne E Bingham, "Sixteen Years on a Kansas Farm, 1870-1886"
"When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray, also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child's laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at."
-L Frank Baum, in THE WIZARD OF OZ, 1900
"O, dear this is a hard place to live, this Kansas is. I wonder what in the world will become of all of us, anyway."
-Anna Webber, Mitchell County, 1881
"If I had know, I'd never have come. Never left the homeland! The promises he made! The letters he wrote! The country I'd come to! This! This isn't what he promised me."
-Mary Molek, in IMMIGRANT WOMAN, 1976
"No trees, only connecting dirt paths. Here the immigrants employed by the O'Leary and Flanagan Co. brought forth their youth in a desert-like barreness, sent them to the Catholic school controlled by the mine owners, got paid by scrip which they parceled out to their landlord-mine owners,...and drowned their sorrows in the home-saloons that mushroomed all around."
-Mary Molek, in IMMIGRANT WOMAN, 1976
"In Kansas, dreams do not give compound interest."
-Marcet Haldeman-Julius, letter, August 12, 1930
"Just across the border
you already know the territory
400 miles of rain ditches
and scrub trees hit your face
like a slap
you drive on astonished
I didn't do anything."
-David Perkins, in KANSAS CITY OUTLOUD
"...The universe swayed and swirled.
The monstrous horn of a unicorn
Gored the world."
-May Williams Ward, in THE NEW YORK TIMES
They are decently buried...
But towns die
and decompose scandalously
without decent burial
out here in God's country..."
-Joseph Stanely Pennell, in KANSAS POETS, 1935
"Just Before Sleep"
"...Where are the ones who dreamt the world?
who opened their eyes each morning and saw?"
-Diane Hueter, in KANSAS: JUST BEFORE SLEEP, 1978
"Gossip is '...an ugly, dirty little story, of the kind that is always running through every rural community which is starved for something to vary the dull round of its existence...'"
-Paul I Wellman, in THE BOWL OF BRASS
"Only when I looked out and saw the pasture lands fenced in by barbed wire and cows grazing here and there did I come to 'It must all be a horrible nightmare,' I thought."
-Mary Molek, in IMMIGRANT WOMEN, 1976
"Until 1895 the whole history of the state was a series of disaster, and always something new, extreme, bizarre, until the name of Kansas became a byword, a synonym for the impossible and ridiculous, inviting laughter, furnishing occasion for jest and hilarity."
-Carl Becker, 1910, in KANSAS "
(President Buchanan) stands in the White House 'with the lurid light of the sacked and burning dwellings of Kansas flashing on his brazen brow, and with the blood of the people of Kansas dripping from his hands."
-Sara T L Robinson, 1857 "A Song for the Prairies"
"Men who sell their souls to the inland Must be patient with quiet things; Never for them the hymn of the hills And never the chanty the wild sea sings."
-Allen Crafton, 1927, in CONTEMPORARY KANSAS POETRY
"But happy? They had been far too absorbed in the bitter struggle for a livelihood to have time to think of happiness."
-Mr & Mrs Haldeman-Julius, 1921, in DUST
"...Every school history of the present day tells under what stormy and peculiar conditions Kansas began to shape itself forty years ago. From the outset it was a Mecca for the eccentric people now commonly known as cranks, and from that day to this not an ism has presented itself to the sisterhood of States that Kansas has not felt its full force!"
-Roswell Martin Field, 1892, in THE SUNFLOWER LAND: STORIES OF GOD'S OWN COUNTRY
"Love a place like Kansas and you can be content in a garden of raked sand. For ground it is the flattest. Big sky, wheat sea, William Inge, bottle clubs, road houses--Falstaff and High Life, chili and big juke road houses--John Brown, Wild Bill Hickok, Carry A Nation, cockeyed Wyatt Erp, Pretty Boy Floyd, and shades of all those unspoken Indians..."
"Where John Brown and Pretty Boy Floyd could have run one-two in any election through 1937, there are still more members of the Townsend Clubs than anywhere else save Long Beach. And professional baseball can't make a dime, while semi-pro can draw 25,000 fans to a swing-shift game getting under way at 1 AM of a Tuesday between the Honolulu Hawaiians and the Boeing Bo-Jets. The state was stronger for Bryan, and it HAD Alf Landon. It was for Nixon and dug Goldwater. It admired John L. Lewis for his stubborness but never let labor unions get more than a toehold anywhere. It built one of the best educational systems in the land, then let the Boy Scouts set miniature Statues of Liberty on ALL the laws..."
-Earl Thompson, in GARDEN OF SAND
"But what sort of people squatted in Fork City anyway? They all sold each other wheat and bacon and corn and beef and farm machinery and squeaky shoes they all talked in the same Goddamned flat, nasal voice about the same Goddamned trivial things day-in-day-out year-after-year---eating, sleeping and growing more rustic and pompous and proverbial (as if the secrets of life with a capital L were to be found in the saws and mouthed over a corner rail or a gutter: You kin ketch more flies with molasses than you kin with vinegar. Where there's that much smoke, there must be some far. First ketch your rabbit. Time is money.) They began their kin, hating each other because of the no-privacy of the place, stunned because of the sulness of the virtues they felt obliged to wear, beckoned at and tempted by the rich vices that each kept from enjoying except in deep, painful secret..."
-Joseph Stanley Pennel, 1944,
in THE HISTORY OF ROME HANKS AND KINDRED MATTERS
"...Therefore, Lee said, though I was a boy in this no-place, this bleak town on the prairie's edge, which now seems hardly more than an overnight encampment of ill-satisfied, overproud people so ignorant, that they had been examined closely along with their town--in truth, if they had stopped a moment and examined themselves, they would have found themselves to be a sad joke without substance or with enough to keep it sweet..."
-Joseph Stanley Pennel, 1948, in THE HISTORY OF NORA BECKMAN,
A MUSEUM OF HOME LIFE
"...A town of false fronts. All the little, squalid, one-story buildings have false fronts to make them look like two-story structures; and people have assumed false fronts, too. Never in my life have I encountered so many fourflushers..."
-Paul I. Wellman, in THE WALLS OF JERICHO
"...They spend the first sixty years of their lives in a plae which had been stuck in the eternal mud and dust and wrapped all around so tightly with the earth of a continent that it takes several decades for a new idea to filter through to the people and several more decades for them to decide whether or not the new idea (which is old then) is sinful or not. They spend their lives working for a living and living that living in the future--and then they come back after six months from Miami or Long Beach saying: Well, it's just fine there, but home's best--after all..."
-Joseph Stanley Pennel, 1948, in THE HISTORY OF NORA BECKMAN,
A MUSEUM OF HOME LIFE
"John Brown of Osawatomie"
"John Brown wasn an egomaniac, HE KNEW how to save the world.
His brain was a spoonful of crude petroleum;
Into his wooden head they drove the red hot nail
Of Abolition, And John Brown's brains caught fire..."
-C. L. Edson, 1924, in PRAIRIE FIRE
"Here in the plains, where our fore-fathers furled
The canvas of their prairie-ships,
We feel the sunrise hop upon one cheek,
The sunset scorching on the other.
Never for us the wide, free days of old:
The open sea, or the still broader
For us, only the day's return,
To plow and plant and garner
For the need of half the world.
Even the stars Are much too near the fertile furrows."
-Helen Rhode Hoopes
Beecher's brother in THE NARROW COVERING:
"Joe was nearly eight years older than Ella and always so much bigger. He's been busy with the work of the fields, the drilling and harvesting, and the cattle, as far back as she could remember. Once, one rare time, when she was about six, he came in muddy from the spring fields and he mended her doll...Afterward, the doll had been better than before. But Joe didn't smile and he seldom talked, ignoring her as well as Alice, and he was always busy."
-Julia Ferguson Siebel, in THE NARROW COVERING
WOODCUTS OF KANSAS
"Shelter and Higher Life"
"Shall houses, pressed into virgin prairie
By a carpenter's crude thumb the gray pinched steeple
of a creed-suffocated church."
"Ditch water, sloven and dirty brown,
Slithering into mud, past frowsy cottonwoods
And battered willow trees."
"Stark tube, thrust upwards usefully,
Bursting to keep the foreigner from bleating
Hungrily for meat."
"Rancid air, trees stand as bigglets along a stream
Dull and polluted; deserted derricks like greasy skeletons
of fat desires."
"Quiet macadam silent school and church
'The Isis' closed lewd posters by the ticket-seller's
"Whir of swift wheels death-dealing locomotion cheap
And effortless; an amply schoolhouse with few books
And a complete gymnasium."
-Helen Rhode Hoopes
"Seven said Mrs Beecher."
"Seven I leave in this dry ground. Six children and now him."
"The Lord giveth and He taketh away," the minister said.
"Amen," said the women, their voices dropping variously into the silence of the room like rain on hard earth.
"And I never got back East," said Mrs Beecker. "Now how can I go? Lord, let me go back home!"
-Julia Siebel, in THE NARROW COVERING
On Kansas City: "To anyone brought up there, as I was, Kansas City always meant the Missouri one.... Kansas, the whole state, was dry. And moralistic about everything...The truth is that Kansas was Yankee territory, windy and dry, with blue laws on its books; and the women from there wore unbecoming clothes and funny hats."
-Virgil Thomson (composer), quoted in THE KANSAS CITY STAR (11/24/96).
"One of the first whites to come into contact with the Kansas Indians, Etienne de Bourgmont wrote in 1717 that he visited "...the Rivers d'Ecanze and a nation of the same name, ally and friend of the French; their trade is in furs. This is the finest country and the most beautiful in the world; the prairies are like the seas, and filled with wild animals; especially oxen, cattle, hind, and stag, in such quantities as to surpass the imagination. They (the Kansans) hunt almost entirely with the arrow; they have splendid horses and are fine riders."
"The honeybee exemplifies Kansans in that it is proud, only fights in defense of something it cherishes; is a friendly, energetic worker with limitless abilities; and is a mirror of virtue, triumph and glory."
-House Bill No. 3009
"Lindsborg, in McPherson County, was settled by Swedes and was so well publicized in Sweden that many Swedes knew it was a famous American city. Kenneth Davis, in his bicentennial history, "Kansas," (1976), tells the story of a "Kansas-bound Swede who, landing in New York City, was overwhelmed by the hugeness and richness of the metropolis. 'If this is New York,' cried he in his native tongue, 'what must LINDSBORG be like!'"
"Captain Henry King, early Kansas newspaperman, said the press '...came in even before our sins...Here was a printing press in the very vane of affairs, standing upon the yet untrodden weeds, and canopied by the leaves and the sky, waiting to catch and record the earliest whispers of history in this new land of promise."
"A local headline at the time read: HOW WOMEN LOSE SELF RESPECT--ARGONIA? SYRACUSE AND OSKALOOSA UNDER FEMALE GOVERNMENT. Another newspaper complained: 'There is reason to believe that all billiards will soon become a lost art in all the smaller towns of Kansas, for the women have entered politics for the purpose of reforming the men..."
E.W. Howe writes in the ATCHISON GLOBE: 'When it is announced that a Kansas girl will give a party, one doesn't know whether he is expected to take his dancing pumps, or study up arguments on suffrage." 1894
"...as I drove down through the northern Flint Hills into the valley of the Kaw...my sense of homecoming, of having returned to the vital center of my experience of life, became overwhelming."
-Kenneth S. Davis, returing in 1975 to research KANSAS: A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY
"There is a certain wholesome manhood in this chapter of the Kansas man that is very comforting to know. His talk, his point of view, his something of sprightly picturesqueness of speech is good to know. Not everyone can talk the Kansas language. It is an accomplishment. There is no dialect in it--especially--it is a form of imaginative poetic hyperbole. It is full of short cuts to meanings. Single words speak paragraphs."
-William Allen White, circa 1912
"A citizen of a country so hilly as some of our Eastern states, that one has to look up the chimney to see the cows come home, is, as a rule, quite universally of rugged character, but close and conservative and as narrow in his thoughts as the hills in which he lives. This is in marked contrast with Kansas, a prairie country with nothing but waving grain to obstruct the vision between observor and horizon, where the climate is balmy, breezy, invigorating and robust and the citizen is full of vim and energy, and as progressive, liberal and broad as her boundless prairies."
-Myron A Waterman, Kansas cartoonist, 1899
"With Kansas history back of him, the true Kansan feels that nothing is TOO MUCH for him. How shall he be afraid of any danger, or hesitate at any obstacle, having succeeded where failure was not only human, but almost honorable? Having conquered Kansas, he knows well that there are no worse worlds to conquer. The Kansas spirit is therefore one that finds something exhilirating the challenge of an extreme difficulty."
-Carl Becker, 1910, in "Kansas"
"Admiring the determination, hard work and steadfastness of the German imigrants in Kansas, the KANSAS CITY STAR writes: 'They farm, not by the year, but by the decade or the century.'" 1911.
"Moving on. Always moving on. And that is the potent evocative image. The prairie schooners lurch, creak, sway--a long line of white sails on the sea of grass--as they beat their way slowly, inevitably, into the mystic West, bearing young men and women with dreams in their eyes."
-Kenneth S. Davis, 1976, "Kansas"
"...You couldn't analyze those people--
A no-pattern had happened to them;
Their field opened and opened,
level, and more, than forever,
never crossed. Their world went everywhere."
-William Stafford, "The Peters Family" in STORIES THAT COULD BE TRUE
"I envied him the places where he had not been."
-William Stafford, "At the Klamath Berry Festival" in STORIES THAT COULD BE TRUE
"...We ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love where we are, sturdy for common things."
-William Stafford, "Allegiances" in STORIES THAT COULD BE TRUE
"Reluctantly he found and kept on finding himself the man the land meant. It subsided and became a state."
-William Stafford, "In Sublette's Barn" -in STORIES THAT COULD BE TRUE
"I happen to be so joined together that I like stayin put in one place--in a little town right in the heart of America...I have interesting work...I have stimulating contacts--charming women, adventurous men, law-breakers, bootleggers who really know their stuff. So here I am."
-Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, manuscript notes, 1934
"...In Kansas, it was against the law to strike, but the miners nevertheless went out. Governor Allen ordered them back, just as the slaves of old used to be ordered back into the cottonfields. Again they refused--refused--refused to desert their brothers and produce scab coal."
-Mary Harris ("Mother") Jones, AUTOBIOGRAPHY, 1925
"...If there are any unfortunate idiosyncrocies in the Kansas people they are only skin deep, and time will remove them."
-William Allen White, "Aqua Pura", 1896
"...If the liquor men could bring back saloons into Kansas, then a great blow would be struck against prohibition in all the states."
-Carrie Nation, AUTOBIOGRAPHY, 1910
"Except beneath the blur of a winter sky,
Where in the name of measurement am I
(We know ourselves, we live, by measurement)
This ageless day?..."
-W R Moses, Position: Oregon Trail", from IDENTITIES
"Today the men begin the harvest
and I go up to the roof
to watch their long bodies spread slowly
where they fall off into nothing..."
-Nance Van Winckel, "Her House" from THE ARTS REVIEW,
A Special Three Post Issue, v 4, No 2, 1978
"A two weeks' stubble was on his chin,
His overalls were worn and old
his hands were hands of toil..."
-Edna Becker in DUST--AND STARDUST
"The village derelict
dozes in front of the corner drug store.
His faithful dog snaps the flies
that swarm about him..."
-Jeanne Rathbun Haines in "Noon"
"...The wire stretchers hammers
rolls of shining wire
stacatto barbs and horseshoe staples
lie upon the ground
ready to take up where the landscape left off,
Our hands begin opening to the tools..."
-Harley Elliott in "Building a Fence Around Horses"
"...An old Indian recites
Topeka, Manhattan, Wichita."
-Victor Contoski, in BROKEN TREATIES
"No photographs exist. This man
comes to us unrecorded...
His horse is plain; he has
an average build; the most normal
of men; yet there is
a blue stone tied behind his ear
the sparrowhawk skin upon his head
and around his body a stormy light
And when the time comes to describe his face
they stare into their coffee cups."
-Harley Elliott, "Crazy Horse Return to South Dakota"
in ALL BEAUTIFUL AND FOOLISH SOULS
"My husband was a farmer. But he could see beauty in the land. He could see the promise of the seed. Now he was no literary man, but he could almost make a poem out of a clod of dirt."
-Flosse Curtis, Manhattan
"The Son of the Kansas Emigrant"
"We cross the prairies as of old
The Pilgrims crossed the sea,
To make the West, as they the East,
The homestead of the free.
We go to rear a wall of men
On Freedom's Southern line,
And plant beside the cotton-tree
The rugged Northern pine
We're flowing from our native hills,
As our free rivers flow;
The blessings of our mother-land
Are on us as we go.
We go to plant her common schools
On distant prairie swells,
And give the Sabbaths of the wild
The music of her bells.
Upbearing, like the ark of old,
The Bible in her van,
We go to test the truth of God
Against the fraud of man.
No pause, nor rest, save where the streams
That feed the Kansas run,
Save where our pilgrim gonfalcon
Shall flout the setting sun.
We'll treat the prairies as of old
Our fathers sailed the sea;
And make the West, as they the East,
The homestead of the free."
-John Greenleaf Whittier, from the KANSAS EXPERIENCE IN POETRY, ed by L Leland
"...Many, to their former home--
Glad to be gone--yet leaving some,
Who could not go,
To suffer, slow
And bitter pangs of hard privation,
Amounting almost to starvation.
But they struggled bravely on,
Conquering hardships, one by one,
Until, inured to suffering and want,
Nothing could their spirits daunt."
-Celeste May, "The Drought", 1886 in SOUNDS OF THE PRAIRIES
"...But in his veins the blood of sturdy pioneers
And he seasoned by the endless wind,
The blazing sun, the drought, the lonely plains,
Looked at the ground and said,
'I aim to try again.'"
-Edna Becker, "Dust-Bowl Farmer", 1955, in DUST--AND STARDUST
"His face was weathered like the calf-hide hung on a nail
In the barn, tanned by wind, sun, rain.
His eyes owned a slit of that sun like brown hickories
Which go to something good beyond the shell..."
-Sylvia Griffith Wheeler, in "Kansas Farmer", 1966, in Kansas Magazine
"Whoever travels into Kansas
exploring the great American desert
goes out into space
into the interstellar distances
between the lights of the prairie farms.
Suddenly his hair turns white
and he rejoices in his age.
The wind touches his face
like a wrinkled wife
who loves him
and grain moves at his feet
in the humn of the locusts
voices of dead Indians.
and feels buffalo hooves
in his heartbeats.
he shall fall headlong among the stars
and lie with dead
Marais de Cygnes
He shall lie with Jedediah Smith
and the Kansa Indians.
And he shall be at home."
-Victor Contoski, "Journey West", 1977, in ARK RIVER REVIEW
The Kansas Magazine brought out its first issue in 1872. In it, John J Ingalls writes: "...no genuine Kansan can emigrate. He may wander. He may roam. He may travel. He may go elsewhere, but no other State can ever claim him as a citizen. Once naturalized the allegiance can never be forswarn."
"There was an old woman, and what do you think?
She lived on nothing but hatchets and ink.
Hatchets and ink so long were her diet,
That now the old woman can never be quiet."
-a description of Carrie Nation by the NEW YORK PRESS, 1901
"'I guess Kansas is getting like the South, isn't it, ma?' Sandy said to his grandmother as they came out on the porch that evening after supper. 'They don't like us here either, do they?'
"But Aunt Hager gave him no answer. In silence they watched the sunset fade from the sky. Slowly the evening star grew bright, and looking at the stars, Hager began to sing, very softly at first:
'From this world o' trouble free,
"And Sandy, as he stood beside his grandmother on the porch, heard a great chorus out of the black past--singing generations of toil-worn Negroes, echoing Hager's voice as it deepened and grew in volume:
'There's a star fo' you an' me,
-from Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes, 1930.
[Young Sandy has been just turned away from a children's day celebration sponsored by the newspaper of an eastern Kansas town. He lives with his grandmother, whom white people call Aunt Hager.]
"I've been in Dodge every summer since '77,' said the old cowman, 'and I can give you boys some points. Dodge is one town where the average bad man of the West not only finds his equal, but finds himself badly handicapped."
-Andy Adams, 1903, THE LOG OF A COWBOY "
"Gals is havin' lots o' fun,--smashin' things in Kansas.
Got them fellas on the run,--over thar in Kansas.
Swar them dives has ter go,--say th' Lord has told 'em so--
Gosh! them women folks ain't slow,--over thar in Kansas..."
-from "Out in Kansas", published in Mrs Carrie Nation's newspaper,
THE SMASHER'S MAIL
"Bleeding, cyclone-swept, grasshopper-devastated Kansas is a thing of the past. Now it is a proud, triumphant, glorious Kansas that produces the biggest crops, the most beautiful women and some of the greatest cranks in the county."
-CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1893
When a camel in the Barnes Brothers Circus dies at Winfield, the newspapers explain that the camel was not accustomed to a climate drier than the Sahara. 1913 "Cyclones, grasshoppers and populists have existed to prove that Kansas cannot be ruined."
-THE ATCHISON GLOBE, Nov 22, 1893
"Is it a good country for corn, you ask? Stranger, you'll never know what corn country is until you go to Kansas.
"When the husking is done in the fall the men go out with mallets and wedged and split up the cornstalks for shipment to the East as telegraph poles or saw them off in lengths to be used as car wheels.
"When the men are husking they carry along stepladders, which they place near the cornstalk. Two men then climb up and cut the ears with a crosscut saw, letting them fall to the ground. Four horses are then hitched to each ear, and it is dragged to the crib."
-from the Collidge BORDER RUFFIAN, July 10, 1886
"...the dust was so thick that a prairie dog was seen digging a burrow ten feet in the air and...a man was hit by a raindrop and his friends had to throw a bucket of sand in his face to revive him. The birds...(flew) backwards to keep the dust out of their eyes."
-Robert Richmond, 1974, in KANSAS, A LAND OF CONTRASTS
Bank accounts are red
Farmers are blue
If we go broke
So will you.
-1978 sign on U.S. 56 between Conway and Windom
"When I came here forty years ago there was not a stick on the place and now it is all sticks."
-A Hiawatha farmer surrounded by the debris of an April 12, 1911 tornado
which destroyed both his barns
"from DOWN IN KANSAS"
"Now a Mrs. Lease is yelling,
Down in Kansas;
Now a governor Lewelling,
Down in Kansas;
Now it is Carrie Nation,
With some startling innovation,
Who is causing tribulation,
Down in Kansas;
Now with whiskers of a Peffer,
Down in Kansas;
Monkeys with the gentle zephyr,
Down in Kansas;
Now it is an Ingalls spouting,
Or a J Ralph Burton shouting,
Some new freak is always sprouting,
Down in Kansas."
-James Burton Adams, June 23, 1910 in the TOPEKA CAPITAL
"A man in Kansas City is jailed for allegedly selling two Bonner Springs men a 'cyclone cable,' a device which would prevent a house from being blown away, in 1889."
"The Three Pals"
There were three lifelong pals that at one time had lived together. They later were separated, and one lived in New York, one lived in California, and the other one was a western Kasnas farmer. They decided that it would be nice to leave this world together since they hadn't seen one another for some time. After arranging for the use of a large furnace, they placed themselves in it to be cremated. Three days later the New Yorker was taken out, and he was burnt to a crisp. The Californian was taken out next, and he was cooked very well done. The western Kansas farmer was the last one to be removed. While he was being taken out, he remarked, "Another three days of this good hot weather,the wheat will be ready to cut."
-from "Tales, Tall and Short," William E Koch, in THE KANSAS ARTS READER
"Grasshoppers Starved to Death"
"You see, Ole, he is from the old country. He doesn't quite understand things in western Kansas. I think he played a pretty dirty trick on the grasshoppers. After all, the grasshoppers was here long before he was here...
"You see, you know how the grasshoppers are, they are awful bad about taking the wheat--the young wheat coming up. And they do like that young wheat coming up, and so he filled up the drill boxes and the drill and he went out. Well, it looked like he was drilling wheat to beat the band all over the field and edges you know. But listen, he shut the mechanism so he wasn't putting wheat in the ground. Oh no! But he made the furrows and everything and wouldn't you know, the grasshoppers came from everywhere. They sat there waitin' for that wheat to come up until they starved to death.
-KANSAS FOLKLORE, edited by S.J. Sackett and William E. Kock
"Mrs. Bales lost an eye in the storm and it was several weeks before it was found. Her son, C.R. Bales, was one day walking in the wheat field north of the Bales' house and he accidentally stumbled on it. As he was walking he happened to look down at his feet and there was that eye staring up at him. He picked it up and found the glass was as good as ever, so he gave it to his mother and now she can see as well as ever."
-C.E. Williams of Alton, May 20, 1918
"'It was a cyclone that gave me my start in business,' W.C. Tandy announced. 'I was in the moving business. Two men in different parts of town decided to trade houses. Each wanted the other fellow's house, and I took a contract to move them. The men decided to leave town and so went on a vacation to avoid the inconvenience which would result while the houses were being moved.
While they were away and just before I started work, a cyclone came along one night and moved those houses for me. Didn't disturb another thing in the town and each house was set up just as nice and plump as if I had done the work myself. I just sat down and wrote a telegram to the two men tha the job was completed and I wanted my money. I never told them how the work had been done for me, and they never able to figure out how I moved the walls and cellers along with the houses.'"
-OSBORNE COUNTY FARMER, January 20, 1916
"The fame of Kansas is world-wide. Puck says in Italy children are taught that when they die they will go to Kansas."
-SHERMAN COUNTY NEWS, February 11, 1888
"The Boasting Hen"
"A certain hen was in the habit of cackling vociverously just before she seated herself on her nest, and giving another moderate cackle after her egg had been laid. A friendly fowl that scratched for worms in the same garden with the hen inquired the reason for this peculiar custom, whereupon the hen replied: "I was raised in Kansas, where we were in the habit of blowing about what we inteded to do as well as about what we had already done,--and frequently the first blow was all the one we ever had a chance to make. I acquired the habit, and can't get over it."
-TOM MCNEAL'S FABLES, 1900
"Kansas mud is incomparable; in the mudline it is a perfect triumph--slippery as lard, adhesive as tar, cumulative as a miser's gold and treacherous as hope."
-John J Ingalls, 1858
"Kansas in known as the state of ideals and pests..."
-Sister Mary, 1938, A SURVEY OF KANSAS POETRY
"...Cyclones fan the people to sleep
That live in the land of Kansas.
The catfish there are sweet as spice
And shade tree grows so high and nice,
And fleas and bugs, they never bite
Out in the land of Kansas."
-Land of Kansas
"Three thousands days of Kansas sun,
and it comes on again....."
-Bruce Cutler, in SUN CITY
"The Ghosts of Buffalo"
"...And eastward groan the schooners,
'In God We Trusted, In Kansas We Busted;'
'Gone back to live with the Wife's Folks!'--
nothing remains of the hope what drew them forth
save that ironic humor which sustains
their yet unconquered comrades..."
-Kenneth Porter, 1946, in NO RAIN FROM THESE CLOUDS
"The Ghosts of the Buffalo"
"...Patched knee of overalls crunch stone-hard clods
hands moulded to the plow-stilts clasp in prayer:
'O God, give us rain!
And when I say rain, O Lord,
A gully washer!';
rain makers (fee prepaid) send up balloons
and shoot off cannon--
and sometimes it rains-- more likely not.
But I shall treasure
drawling colloquies at the fence corners:
'Well, Jim, waht d'ye know?'
'Not a dam' thing. And you?'
'About the same. D'ye think it'll rain?'
'Can't say. But if it don't
it sure is gonna be a long dry spell!'
'Say Jim, you know, there's bullfrogs down my way''
full-grown ones, too--with calluses on their feet
from trampin' from creek to creek for water.
Them bullfrogs have me worried.
If it should rain they'd every one be drowned--
never havin' learned to swim'
'Well, Bill, you know, so far as I'm concerned
I don't much care whether it rains or not.
I'm over fifty--so I've seen it rain--
Yes, more than once--but there's my little grandson.
He's five years old and if HE doesn't see it rain
within a year or two, I'm mighty scared
he'll have conniption fits when he DOES see it.'"
-Kenneth Porter, 1946, NO RAIN FROM THESE CLOUDS
"Dog Days in Coal Camp"
"Old Lady Bob received from the Mouth of God
the revelation that she was to have the Gift of Flight.
She told everyone, hitching up her drag haying dress,
and to all who would hear she scheduled her impending
flight for the third next Sunday from the Polk School
steeple. Even skeptics came to see the show,
to the shame of a niece who begged Old Lady Bob
to stay firm on the ground, not to risk her neck,
but Old Lady Bob climbed and leaped, flailed
the air and broke both legs. That's all. Old Man
Brunskill yelled, 'What happened to your faith?'
as they took her inside to wait for the doctor.
'My faith,' she yelled back, 'was strong. I
just got off on the wrong flop!' There was
no laughter--just the nagging thought
she might try it again, come cooler weather."
"No Kansan likes to do anything easy. He raises his crops hard. He takes his religion hard. To be able to get licker easy would jest be contrary to nature for him. So he makes laws to keep him from gettin' it...which makes it harder, which give mo' of a oint to drinkin' it, an behold, yo' Kansan thereby derives greater satisfaction of soul ou'n it..."
-Paul I Wellman, THE BOWL OF BRASS
"...The Kansas Seven were: dancing, cards, the theater, non-attendance at church, tobacco, drinking and profanity. To the peculiar mental bent, the chief zest of which is the regulation of the lives of others, not even theft, murder, or adultery seemed somehow so important as these seven sins..."
-Paul I Wellman, THE WALLS OF JERICHO
"If you want to enjoy all the sensations of genuine 'sea sickness,' go out and stand in a large wheat field on a windy day. If you are at all suceptible..the waving, billowing motion of the grain will give you the jim-jam in short order."
-THE INDUSTRIALIST, 1876