October, 1999
Chapter 17

The Answer Man - They sat in the living room of the small home in southern Nebraska, a family of people brought together by the greatest mistake of one young man's life. The visitors were grandparents and the natural father of an 11-month old child, who quietly played on the carpet, ignoring everyone, while enrapturing everybody. The hosts were the adoptive parents, who's lives have changed immensely with this mistake. These people are technically a family, because of an adoption, and they are here today, because the adoption was open, a relatively new policy that has us stumbling over rocky ground, in a headlong experiment in heartbreak.

When you see this situation from the outside - or even when you're contemplating adopting a child - you speculate far into the future and you consider odd hypotheses, such as; "what if the natural mother changes her mind - or the father his?" "What if the natural grandparents play too great a role?" "What will the child think about having four parents and eight grandparents?" "What will other people think?" "Who are we as a society to decide who cares for whom?" These are all questions we have forced ourselves to face, because gone are the days when a child is left wondering who his natural parents are.

The natural father sat on the couch for most of the visit - he didn't seem like the type of person to get into this situation easily, nor without feeling. He was quiet and polite as he watched his offspring bounce toys off the carpet, furniture and innocent people. A year ago, he may have regretted his mistake of passion over commitment, but it is hard to believe that right now he has any regrets. This is one of those nightmare situations that has been turned into a dream come true by a single decision.

The infant boy crawled on the floor, scattering toys like they were seeds upon a field, and pretending as though he knew none of the answers to these difficult questions. The adoptive parents aren't even considering the questions anymore, as they have seen their lives change completely - from two people with two careers and naturally selfish goals, to two parents, with an awesome responsibility and rewards every second of every day. The natural father has given a beautiful gift to this couple, and the grandparents are watching the new parents experience the same joys they once did, and they can see how their lives still greatly affect others. And if you're still baffled with long-term "what if?" questions, just take one look into this little kid's eyes.

possibly the only adoption agency in the country which
charges no fees. Founded in 1893, the organization
placed 110 children with adoptive parents last year.

The Best Ears of His Life

The first person to pop a kernel of corn must have been a bit surprised, but no more than B.K. Heuermann was when he put his in microwave ovens and watched his sales explode.
Posted November 20, 1999

Well Endowed - Let's all move to Aurora, Nebraska - one of the nicest, little towns I have ever seen. Everything here is so neat and clean, and, as the seat of Hamilton County, they have a nice town square. They have a beautiful park, with a free campground (with power hookups!) The library has a phone line for travelors' email, the restrooms at the ballfield have absolutely no graffiti (at least the men's) and somebody gave them a new cinema.

Merwyn Davidson is the driving force behind this unique venture. The retired minister has voluntarily run a youth center for the town, and when the old hardware store across the street was vacated, he spoke with the Farr Trust about renovating it into a movie theater. The trust and others donated over $300,000 to the cause, and 13 months later, the one-time opera house showed its first movie; "Runaway Bride." Davidson cleverly organized volunteers to run the theater; selling tickets and popcorn, running the projector and cleaning Raisonets off the floor. The 120-seat house was packed its first weekend, getting $3 for a sub-run movie. I think the volunteer part is great, but excuse me, if the donors couldn't find anything more worthy to throw their money at in this town, than a movie theater - well, it must be a great place to live! What next year? How about a large screen TV at the campground?

News Worthy
"Some have called him the epitome of the country editor - I would agree." Arnold Kuhn sought and delivered the truth in a small town for five decades, and this is the thanks he gets.
Posted November 4, 1999

A kernal of hope? - Seen on the south side of a building in a small town in central, southern Nebraska - I think it was Gibbons.

Hey there, big guy - These statues, about 15 feet tall, were popular during the interstate highway revolution of the 1950's, when hundreds of them loomed over motorists across this great land. Notice his right hand is turned upward and his left, downward. That is so he could hold something, like an exhaust pipe, I believe, to promote the muffler shop, in front of which he originally stood.

A Town for Swingers - A world record is held in the southern Nebraskan town of Hebron. After a tough fire, the volunteer firemen can stroll across the street to the town's park, and 16 of them can plop down on the world's largest porch swing. At 32 feet long, that gives each of them two feet of room for their gear, and if that's not enough, they designed the swing so they can easily lengthen it, should anyone try to steal their glory.

The "Mad Carver" Paul Boyer, wasn't in his Gallery, in Belleville, Kansas, but his clerk, Linda, showed me around, and we gazed at his marvelous mechanisms with great glee. Boyer has been making ingenious, intricate animating machines for over three decades. He combines whimsey with amazing mechanics and tedious designs to make fanciful figures, bouncing balls and clever characters. He spent over 500 hours making and tuning the music box on the left. He made dancing and delightful Indians, in the center, and, on the right, ball bearings roll up the tower, then bounce off trampolines into baskets for a roller coaster ride.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could all live our lives inside a perfect world?

Hey, that's below the Bible belt!" - I was sitting in a diner today, enjoying lunch in the small town of Washington, Kansas, when I overheard a rich comment from one of the girls talking in the booth by the door. They were discussing various clever ways to tell somebody good bye, and she said; "Don't let the door hit 'ya where the good Lord split 'ya."

Prehistoric Machines - Bob Dorris, of Erie, Kansas, has been making dinosaur statues out of junk automobile parts for a decade, now. "I'm one of them people that has to stay busy," says the retiree. He enjoys collecting rocks and fossils and other old things, and he decided he would just build something of his own. His creations grew and grew until he spent a winter constructing the 75 foot-long Dino in the background. Rules are that only unmodified parts may be used, and he must have fun. "I spent my life in a serious business," he says. "And I try not to be serious anymore." I think he should half-bury one out in the desert, somewhere - now, that would be fun.

The Cheapest Payphone in America - Calling a cab in Arkansas City, Kansas will cost you less than a third as much as nearly anywhere else. At only ten cents, you could call a cab, and while you're waiting for the taxi, call in an order at the Grinder Man, and while you're waiting for the sandwich, call the library and ask them why they named the place "Arkansas City."

Got... a lot... of MILK? - Arlene Stigers is the "Dough Lady" behind what may soon be the world's largest cookie. A recent brainstorm led to a flurry of donations, volunteerism, civic pride and national publicity for the small, south Kansas hotbed of baking, called Arkansas City ("Ark City.") On October 23, Stiger will direct the delicious, world record-breaking, dessert event, while creating possibly the world's largest Kansas state flag. (110' x 55', or 6,050 sugary square feet.) The regulation, one-inch thick, frosting-covered confection will be sold in pieces to raise funds for the fire department, which should have its hands full, what with all those ovens burning away. Stigers won't disclose just how the enormous biscuit will be baked, but she and the cookie crew have been busy this week, mixing the donated ingredients, including; 5 tons of flour, 3 tons of sugar, 2 1/2 tons of shortening and 16,000 eggs. For a better taste, try www.reallybigcookie.com

Unconditional Love

Service dogs help hundreds of handicapped Kansans lead a better life - what's not to love?

Two things I can brag about on this trip; I have not received a traffic ticket, and I have not run out of gas - two very remarkable achievements for me. I have come awfully close, like with the befuddled Memphis cop; "We don't allow U-turns around here!" Last week, a construction detour made me miss a gas stop, and I was a good ten miles from the next town when ol' Bob started sputtering. My timing was unreasonably perfect, as I approached a farm house, and the wife was just pulling in the drive. I asked her for a quart of gas. Ends up, that they had a gas tank for their equipment. "Sure, just take what you need," she said, not knowing me from an escaped convict. I gave Bob a squirt of fuel, turned around and she was gone. So I stashed a dollar in her mailbox, thanked the petrol-angel who must be looking over me, and tore off for the next gas stop.
I first met Warren Myers about a year ago, during my westward crawl down Route 66. I had been looking for a campsite, and I had just turned one down on a lonely street corner, for fear of making the morning paper but not being able to read it, when he let me stay in his yard. He helped fix my bike, and his wife, Klea, kept me well fed for a few days. So, this year, I was excited to roll into Tulsa, and to see them again. They are as wonderful as ever, and I can't say as I have met more beautiful, down-to-earth people on this trip. Warren is as patriotic as they come. He served in the Pacific in WWII and not only does he have a flagpole out front, but, when his flag isn't flying outside, it hangs inside his home. The Myers' home is a busy one, with friends calling and dropping by and phoning all the time. They have 35 grandchildren, most of whom live near them, and he is a wonderful friend and role model for them. He has a way of talking sometimes that is beautiful. He piles his emotion into the end of a sentence and turns it up with a giggle or, when speaking of his war years and war buddies, sometimes a wimper. Warren is a deeply religious man, and during grace before every meal they gave me, he mentioned me and my family, and though I'm not very religious, I would like to thank him for that. On Thursday, Warren took his first hit of chemotherapy. A cancer is challenging this great man, and this great man is fighting back. I just hope that I can come back and see him again, soon.

The spark for my fire - I built a fire tonight, something I haven't done in a long time. I love campfires - as have all men, since we were apes - but even though I camp out nearly every night, I rarely indulge in this primeval rite, because sitting alone in front of a fire is pretty boring. Sure, it gives you time to think and contemplate, but I have thousands of miles of fifth gear to do all that. Actually, I have been on the road for nearly a year and a half, and though I am alone, I'm not, really. I have this little laptop, and it is like a old friend. It is an old friend because through it I can talk with you, and you are always there for me. I can talk about the great day I had today, or the wonderful people I've met, and you will listen. I'd like to thank you for that, because frankly, if I had to travel alone, without being able to write for you, I would go bonkers in a month. Tonight, the moon came up so full and spectacular, it nearly took me with it. I could actually watch it move as it crept up out of the trees of eastern Oklahoma, and in its glow I gathered firewood. I found a decent radio station and the music is soothing, the fire is warm, and the moon is heralding great things - and I just wanted to tell you about it.

Date: October 27, 1999
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
Recent Stops:Tulsa, Panama & Heavener, Oklahoma. Hot Springs & Ola, Arkansas
Next Stop: Either Texas or Louisiana
Mileage so far: 46,940

Frank Lloyd Wright on the Farm - I found this beautiful building in Scott, Arkansas, just southeast of Little Rock. It's mostly cotton fields around here, so this must have been some kind of cotton trading center, but right now it's just a remnant of an American way of life, and a place I'd love to move into - what a classic!

Beautiful Remnant, Part II - You start with sand - ordinary, ugly sand, and you crush it and heat it to make beautiful glass, and that glass is so pretty, that the leftover scrap, or "slag" is beautiful, also, and driving around the hills of northwestern Arkansas, you can see these beautiful scraps on tables in front of rock shops, gleaming in the noon sunshine. "It's kinda the modern-day Tiffany," says Robert Gossage, owner of the Lucky Strike Rock Shop. He's talking about the Fenton glass, but I like the slag.

True America Tip

The collection of True America CD photo albums is available from the main page. Here are two:

Click on the open road to view the
True America Utah photo album.

Click on the rustic cabin to view the
True America Colorado photo album.

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