Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Wickedly Wild(Cat) Weekend

The soundtrack from Wicked has been playing in the car - and my head - since Randy and I saw it last week in Wichita. If you haven't seen it, the underlying message is that there is a back story to everyone. Was the Wicked Witch of the West really wicked? Or was she just misunderstood because she didn't look like everyone else? Is Glinda the Good Witch really just a pretty face or is there more substance there? 

It's been a long summer. With rain delays, wheat harvest took a month and ended when we had to hire a bulldozer to pull a borrowed combine out of hail-damaged wheat. That was followed with haying. The past few weeks, we've been harvesting fall crops and planting the 2017 wheat crop. Seeing Wicked was the first stop in a weekend away from the farm. On Friday, we drove the back roads from Wichita to Manhattan.

We missed the height of the red sumac season in the Flint Hills, but the region was still dressed in its fall finery. The rolling hills and the brownish-red tinged grass against the blue sky even caused this confirmed bookworm to put down the novel and instead feast on the surroundings outside the windshield.
We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks and then made our way to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve on Kansas Highway 177 near Strong City. I'd been there once before, but this was Randy's first stop.
The National Park Service operates 32 acres there, including the 1881 historic ranch house, limestone barn and outbuildings, as well as a one-room schoolhouse just down the road. 
I suppose there is a fair amount of irony in the farm couple stopping at a farm during a mini vacation. But maybe there was an explanation on one of the displays at the preserve:

You must not be in the prairie;
but the prairie must be in you.
William A. Quayle
The prairie - and Kansas - are in us. Just like Glinda and Elphaba, we are products of our surroundings and our upbringing.
So, it's not a surprise when Randy wants to be photographed with a three-story historic barn. The barn where we live will be torn down this winter, so it was with a bit of nostalgia that we walked through the restored barn at the Preserve.
Further down the road, we visited another restored barn on the Kansas State University campus.
The Gardens at Kansas State University also have a barn for a backdrop. The K-State Dairy Barn and Milk House (caretakers cottage) was built in 1933 in the same location where it sits today.

The actual dairy production was moved to a new site north of campus in the fall of 1976.
The cottage, which today serves as the Gardens Visitor Center, once housed student workers that lived upstairs and milked for their rent. The first floor contained a weighing room, milk room, refrigerator, washroom and the herdsman’s office.
The gardens today serve as an educational resource and learning laboratory for K-State horticulture students and the visiting public.

After a visit to some of the older buildings on campus at the gardens, we were off to see the newest building. The K-State College of Business Administration moved into its new building just in time for the start of classes this fall. The grand opening ceremonies were earlier this month, but we were planting wheat and couldn't go. 
As Communications Coordinator for the College of Business Administration, this is Brent's new "stomping grounds." So we got a personalized tour on Friday. (He is his mother's son: He wouldn't let me take his picture. At least he didn't walk away from me while I was snapping away during the tour.)
I had to settle for a photo of Randy in Brent's office chair.
At my core, I'm a mom. So I like seeing where my kids spend their time. Besides experiencing the beauty in the new building, we also got to see some of the fruits of Brent's labor, since he updates the college's interactive displays.
There are places for group and individual study scattered throughout the four floors of the building.
Randy says he would never get any studying done since the huge glass windows would be the centerpiece for endless daydreaming.

It was homecoming week at K-State, and we had a mini family reunion on the steps of the Manhattan First United Methodist Church while we waited for the parade to pass by. My parents were there, along with my sister and assorted nieces and nephews. Eric brought the girls to their first homecoming parade.
Neither was very brave to begin with.  Willie was admired from afar, though other kids gave him exuberant high 5s.

The girls wouldn't wander very far away from Daddy.
Eventually, the lure of candy pulled Kinley out to the street. And Brooke leaped from Daddy's to Grandpa's to Grandma's laps. She admired the "big trucks" and "fire trucks."
The theme for homecoming this year was Growing Up Purple. (I wish I'd gotten the whole phrase on this shot, but I didn't see it until I was editing photos.)
Just like Glinda and Elphaba, we are products of our environments. Elphaba grew up "green." I grew up on a Kansas farm "bleeding purple." Through osmosis, our kids and granddaughters also have that heritage. And no matter Kinley's and Brooke's eventual paths - whether it takes them through the doors of a K-State classroom or not - the people and places of their childhood help form them into the adult people they'll be some day.
And that's all "For Good."
My favorite song from Wicked is "For Good," which says in part:

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives

For a reason

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led to those who help us most to grow

If we let them

And we help them in return

Now I don't know if I believe that's true

But I know I'm who I am today because I knew you


So much of me is what I learned from you

You'll be with me, like a handprint on my heart

... Who can say if I've been changed for the better

But because I knew you,

I have been changed for good.

See why that song has been playing on a continual soundtrack in my head?

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