Thursday, April 23, 2009

State Memories Project: Kansas

My 2004 Spring baseball trip brought me to games in Wichita and Tulsa before heading to see Rangers and Astros games. Very, very few people fly to Wichita on their spring breaks (the plane from Dallas to Wichita was nearly deserted). I went to a freezing cold April night game (a bad one, too, final was 10-0) on Holy Saturday before heading to Tulsa for an Easter Sunday matinee.

I took back roads. Not quite as deserted as the tiny ones I took that morning in Illinois, but smallish state roads through tiny towns. My only real goal was to head south and east and to get to Tulsa for first pitch, so I meandered along rather improvisationally. Looking at the map, I’m pretty sure I headed to Winfield and then struck out into the quiet farmland, passing through (perhaps) Dexter, Maple City, Cedar Vale, Wauneta, Chautauqua…three-digit population towns at most.

But what I remember was that every town had one massive church, and that every parking lot was filled—overfilled, actually—with cars. Everyone in Southern Kansas was celebrating the Resurrection. And while I probably would not have agreed with what I’d heard from the pulpit if I’d walked into these churches, it was still a very sweet, wonderful drive that day. As much as I wanted to be cynical and coastal-blue-state-liberal smug about all the heartlanders at church, I just couldn’t do it.

In fact, I popped in my CD of Jesus Christ Superstar and sang my way through the crucifixion and resurrection, singing the Passion as I passed by all of these churches, filled with what I believe to be decent people worshipping the same God I do. It was a wonderful solitary religious experience. I’d even say it brought me closer to God, and in a transcendentalist kind of way, closer to the people in these Kansas towns. I won’t soon forget that beautiful Easter.

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