Monday, October 12, 2015

Stuck in the Mud in Kansas

“Like Odysseus I have many experiences to relate,” Sara telegrammed Erskine from Emporia. ”Stuck in mud half Monday night, walked through water and mud a mile to farm house for assistance. Arrived 15 miles west of Hutchinson at two in morning. No bad results except cold.”

Kansas started out a little tough for Sarah and the Swedes.  I guess no one told them about the short cut across from Kinsley, so they followed the road to Great Bend and Lyons. But it had been raining hard and a mud hole swallowed their car outside of Nickerson. It was 10pm; they’d driven through the rain from Dodge City and had hoped to make it to Hutchinson to spend the night before taking off for Emporia the next day.

They couldn’t budge the car themselves, so they sat there and called for help. When it was clear none was forthcoming, Sara climbed out of the car into the knee-deep mud and made her way to a farmhouse they’d passed earlier- from one to three miles back depending on the newspaper article you read…But hey, even one mile in a pitch black, rainy, cold autumn night would be a rough walk. There she rousted the farmer, who agreed to hitch up his team and haul them out of the mud hole. That all took time, though, so they didn’t make it to Nickerson until 2am. They hunkered down there for several hours, lucky just to scrounge up a place out of the rain; hot drinks, food, and wash water were only a dream.

In the morning they learned that some men in Nickerson had heard them calling for help but, knowing they were suffragists, jerkishly decided that they should figure out how to take care of themselves and didn’t come to their aid.

That really irritated Sara, and she pointed out in various interviews that providing help was a matter of simple humanity. She’d gotten up at 2 AM any number of times to take care of a man who wouldn’t lift a finger to help himself, she pointed out. (I guess there were man-colds a hundred years ago, too.)  

Anyway, they eventually made it to Hutchison where Sara found a tailor to clean up their outer garments while they dined at the Bisonte, and then they were on their way again.
The Bisconte Hotel in Hutchinson, Fred Harvey Collection,
Main Library Special Collections
University of Arizona, Tuscon

Sara remembers the farmer who hauled them out saying “You girls have guts,” and in fact the bragging rights they earned from that event gained them a lot of respect as their trip wore on and the news spread.

Kansas has treated me much better so far. For starters the weather has been stunning- clear and warm. I got to drive some back roads and see fields stretching for miles with sorghum and wheat. If you like mono-culture and rural landscapes, Kansas is a treat.

In “Hutch” Mary Clarkin interviewed me for the Hutch News, and I was treated to a delicious lunch by Dennis Perrin and his wife Ladonna Fulmer. Dennis teaches technology at the Hutch High School, so after lunch he and his aide did a radio interview with me for Salthawk Radio in this cool studio they have set up just down the hall from his classroom. That was a blast- when the students finish the post-production I’ll post the link in this blog.

On Saturday morning I met with several members of the Emporia League of Women Voters. We talked about how Kansas is in a pretty tough financial bind right now because Governor Sam Brownback decided to conduct the Tea Party’s dream experiment and slash taxes, especially for businesses. The conservatives’ theory (some sort of voodoo, trickle-someway economics) is that new businesses will flock to Kansas because of the low taxes, and existing businesses will expand, and that will replace all the lost revenue. But it hasn’t happened. So public schools, and social services (things that women tend to care a lot about) have been hit hard. Kansas has also not accepted the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which benefits the working poor, including a large number of women. 

They groaned when I asked them about Planned Parenthood (PP) funding- check out this effort by the Governor to slam PP back in August when the doctored videos came out- Keep in mind that it was in Wichita, Kansas that an anti-abortion nut murdered George Tiller back in 2009. Tiller was a doctor who provided abortion services, and was one of a few physicians nationally who would do late stage abortions. Kansas conservatives are doing their best to shut down abortion services for women, and judging by a huge “Abstinence Works” billboard I saw coming into Emporia family planning might not be too popular either.

Emporia League of Women Voters
According to the Guttmacher Institute, there are now only 3 clinics in Kansas offering abortions, and most services are limited to situations where the mother’s life is in danger. In some cases- including plans offered in Kansas’ health exchange under the ACA- not even pregnancies resulting from rape or incest are covered. Crazy!

One of the League women I met with said that back in 1968 she was planning to get married, and she went to her doctor to get birth control. He (of course it was a he- there were almost no women MDs back then) told her that he wouldn’t give it to her until one month before her wedding. “You won’t need it until then,” he told her. And what made it his business?

It feels like in the red states we’re sliding back in time to a much scarier place, closer to what Sara and the Swedes had to deal with. Kind of like a giant mud pit. And, like Sara and the Swedes, we’re can’t rely on men to haul us out of there, we’re going to have to wade through the political mud and fight for our safety and our rights. 
Rural Kansas landscape

1 comment:

  1. Man colds? Too funny. Only three clinics in Kansas? Not funny at all.