“I’m going on vacation to Kansas!”

You get a lot of strange looks when you tell someone I’m going on vacation to Kansas!

The Courtland Journal
Kate Benz 

A lot of strange looks.

Looks that say quite plainly: Are you nuts?

And the people that wonder if you’re nuts often follow up their assessment of your mental state with a series of questions that include, “Dear God, why?” “Are you really serious?” “You’re joking, right?” and a few more that include words not fit for a family newspaper such as this one.

Four years ago, I stumbled on this small town in the middle of Kansas, breezing through en route home to Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania (read Kate’s article about that visit here). I had just dropped my son, Justin, off at the University of Colorado at Boulder to begin his freshmen year and was enjoying a return voyage on all the back roads. When I set foot in Courtland, I immediately fell in love. There was something about this town that got its hooks in me and never let go.

I tried explaining it to people back home, but all I got were those looks. You’re nuts.

Which might be so, but they don’t know about Betty, how she gets in every morning at 5 a.m. to make the coffee and cinnamon rolls, six days a week. They weren’t here when Dan went under the knife and everyone went out to finish cutting his wheat because that’s just what you do. They aren’t here to see Mr. Mainquist driving up to Nebraska every week to print the paper or watch every one of you tolerate a strange girl with a pen and notebook in hand, invading your space, asking a question and another and another and then one more for five days straight. They don’t get to see the friendly wave when you pass by, to watch a crimson sun sink into the horizon, and look outside and see nothing but what the good Lord and the farmer put into the ground.

But I have. And maybe I am nuts, but I’m also very lucky. I’m lucky to have stumbled upon this small town, to have met you, and heard your stories: good, bad, ugly. From the start of this five-day long adventure of seeing what it’s like to live in a small town, it became blatantly obvious that every single one of you makes Courtland what it is. And it’s one of the greatest.

So, thank you:

Jim, for the golf cart grand tour through town.

Betty, for the cinnamon roll, fair warnings about earplugs, and daily snack bag accommodations in the refrigerator.

Dan for showing me the irrigation ropes.

Nolan, for putting me behind the wheel of the 7920 ( You brave man, you).

Caleb and Gayle, for the crash pad and amazing hospitality.

Sheila, for patiently explaining to me what makes a cow a good lookin’ one.

Shannon for the awesome trip back through time. Love those hooks in the ceiling!

Steven, Larry, Lug, Slug, Kenny Joerg, Mikesell, Mark, John, Don, Ken and the rest of the crew for putting up with me during your 5 a.m. coffee.

AJ, Cousin Steve, Terrill, and all the other Liars on the Liar’s Bench for all that God’s honest truth.

Luke, for always pointing me in the right direction and Jennifer, for the laughs over the Target withdrawals.

Norm, for permitting inappropriate footwear in your shop. Sandals are shop shoes!

The Kuhn family for fostering an addiction to those strawberry slushies.

Gaynell and Steve, for letting me eavesdrop on all news coming into the Journal.

And Mr. Mainquist, for all the kindness you and Colleen showed me over the years, in addition to putting together a weekly newspaper I look forward to getting every week, one that gets shown off to anyone with eyeballs east of the Mississippi.

  1. I also want to thank every single one of you guys who spend 10, 12, and 18 hours a day out on your farms, 365 days a year. What you do is amazing. It’s been a delight and honor to see how you make it all work, even when everything seems to be against you. Thank you for the resiliency, determination, and for never, ever giving up.

Until next time, all the very best.

Kate Benz

PS – I’ll keep everyone posted on my… well, your story. Within the next few weeks, it will be psoted to my website and you’ll be able to read it in its entirety. I’ll also be pitching it to one of the publications I write for, but sometimes stories in newspapers and magazines get edited condensed due to space constraints. Which is why it was important to me to create a website myself, so that way, your stories could run without interference. Thanks again for sharing them.