What I talk about when I talk about Kansas

So I got to be really cool last May and give a talk20 Spartanburg presentation. I’d never actually been to a talk20, but I’d heard such cool things about it that I took a chance and planned my own talk. On Kansas. Because I wanted to educate my newly-adopted state of South Carolina on my home state. Because there’s more to it than you think. Or, as I titled the talk, “Not Everything in Kansas is Flat.” Here’s a taste.

Not everything in Kansas is flat. So I learned when I moved from the endless straight lines of central Kansas to the hills of the Northeast corner. So I learned from hip shops and the t-shirts I knew I would never wear.

John Brown is not flat. Not his hair or his eyes or his fierce mission to end slavery in Kansas territory. He, his rifle and bible, and the tornado on the mural in the Capital building are most certainly not flat.

Mount Sunflower may look flat, but it's the highest point in Kansas at 4,039 ft, less than half a mile from the Colorado border and that state's lowest point. Beside the sunflower is a plaque that says “Nothing happened here in 1897.”

One advantage to sometimes being flat is that there is never a want for wind. And these tall stalks in the landscape show that not all minds in Kansas are flat.

From above, Kansas is far from flat, with vivid spheres of growth. Corn, sorghum, and wheat rise up and flank our lengths of highways.

In my hometown of Hutchinson, the oft-labeled World's Longest Grain Elevator is a half-mile long and can hold 18.2 million bushels of Kansas wheat. Our flat land supports this dance of elevation and gravity.

Kansas mountains are made of salt. Here, we're the Hub City, but I grew up in the Salt City, where my high school mascot was the Salthawk. In marching band, we were never to walk with flat feet, always rounded. Heel-toe. Heel-toe. Heel-toe.

The concrete sculptures that S.P. Dinsmoor built around his home are most definitely not flat, as every cryptic structure evokes Populist politics, modern civilization, and the Bible. It's the main feature of Lucas, the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas.

Because Kansas does not want to be known as flat, Manhattan, aka The Little Apple, throws a New Years' Eve Party on par with the one in The Big Apple. Only this one's ball is a sparkling apple that actually looks like a strawberry and falls maybe 10 feet.

The true reason why Kansas isn't flat is the Flint Hills, carved during the Permian Period when the state was a shallow sea. Each spring, the burns highlight the curves over limestone and shale.

The next talk20 Spartanburg is two weeks away on Saturday, November 5 at 7pm at The Showroom. Do yourself a favor and come. Learn. Have fun while learning. It’s one of the most talked about events that HUB-BUB hosts twice a year, and anyone can present on anything. So far, the line-up includes Erin Ouzts, Robert Frost, Aaron Ryba, Ben Caldwell, Sally Hammond, HUB-BUB Writer-in-Residence Eric Kocher, Michael Dickins, Chris Story, and Melody Williams. We don’t know the titles of their talks yet, but look for the poster to go up soon and look for the titles on the poster–they’re always fun teasers.

talk20 Spartanburg is about community and passion. It’s the exchange of ideas. It goes back to HUB-BUB’s original (and continuing mission) to build community through dynamic arts and ideas. We say that a lot, don’t we? Because we believe it. Because we live it.

And Celia and I are going to take that passion with us as we represent HUB-BUB, Hub City Writers Project, and the city of Spartanburg at the CityWorks(X)po Conference in Roanoke, VA, this week. If you get a minute, check out the schedule and please email me at kari@hub-bub.com if you have any questions/ideas you’d like us to keep in mind when we’re there. I want to host a gathering at The Showroom in November to share what we learn at this conference and to open up the floor for another exchange of “Big Ideas for Small Cities.” Big ideas for Spartanburg, y’all. That’s what we’re about.



Filed under HUB-BUB Staff, Kari Jackson

3 responses to “What I talk about when I talk about Kansas

  1. Nae

    Being from KS myself… I appreciate all of this and will use much of what you have shared here in my future arguments about the non-flatness of Kansas!

  2. Hi, Nae! Hooray to fellow Kansans! Yeah, I had fun putting my talk20 presentation together–it reminded me why I do have such a fondness for my home state, especially now that I no longer live there.

  3. mactraks

    I enjoyed your “talk about Kansas” very much! I grew up in the Flint Hills, but decamped to Texas 39 and a half years ago after divorcing my husband. Now it’s time to return to the land of my roots to be closer to my large family. Keep up the good work here!

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