When I found out the Army was sending me to Fort Leavenworth in 2011, my only image of Kansas was the tornado-stricken grasslands depicted in “The Wizard of Oz.” As in Oklahoma, the east of Kansas is not what the common imagination has dictated: that is its hissing grassland in the west. Eastern Kansas is green and rolling, fertile like Missouri. And prone to flooding. In 2011, the intimidating Missouri River was 16 feet over its banks.
Kansas, Gateway to the West…
Many places claim to be the gateway to the west: St. Louis, Kansas City, and Overland Park, Kansas, for example. Fort Leavenworth is one of the claimants. There is a striking terrain feature on Fort Leavenworth where so many wagons came out of the river that they left a permanent depression in the bank. The old river landing was a jump off point to the Oregon and Santa Fe trails, according to Fort Leavenworth’s nomination for the National Register of Historic Places.
Fort Leavenworth has haunting light… In fact, Fort Leavenworth is rumored actually to be haunted. I posit it is haunted for two reasons: the large number of prisons and the fact that we launched from here to kill the Indians and/or destroy their way of life. This sounds harsh, but it was pretty much the long and short of it. The best way to go extinct is to be a large carnivore taking resources wanted by other large carnivores, and that applies to humans as well; a good way to have your lifestyle changed against your will is to be sitting on land you can’t hold from someone who wants it. Economics is not always pretty.
Depressing asides on the nature of conflict … aside … if your travels take you to the Sunflower State, do check out the post museum at Fort Leavenworth. Fort Leavenworth is also the home of the Buffalo Soldiers, and a beautiful monument with a reflecting pool stands on the corner of Grant and Stimson.
The way ahead…
This project is evolving organically. First I meant to review every state in order of my having visited it, but I soon realized this was not in keeping with the concept of “a diary that interests the world.” That order is interesting to no one but myself. After my Vermont visit I swept up the surrounding states but then jumped to Arkansas. I turned north but now need to sweep back east. So, since we discussed movement west … Nebraska is a natural follow on to Kansas. Let’s backtrack on the Oregon and California Trails.