Matt Discovers Kansas

        In the summer of 2008, Matthew, the middle of three New Jersey grandsons, discovered he was only half Italian.  The other half, from his mother's side, had roots deep in Kansas.  As luck would have it, his older brother was heavily involved in stuff, his younger brother was equally deep into sports, and he was stranded in the middle.  Sensing this middle child's dilemma, his grandmother asked if he would like to go with us to his mother's family's reunion in Kansas in July. 
        Matthew had never been to the land of Oz, so he was excited by the chance to spend a week checking out his mother's roots.  Another mother in his New Jersey neighborhood asked Matthew what he was going to do in the summer. 
        "I am going to spend some time in Kansas" was Matt's reply.    
        "And what is in Kansas?" she asked.
        "I don't know", Matt said, "but I will let you know when I get back" 

        This is the rest of that story, with color and comments by Matthew and his grandparents. 

        As an unaccompanied minor child nine years old, the flight from Newark was carefully coordinated to be sure grandma and grandpa would be in Kansas City to pick him up.  Kansas was hot and dry, and the only relief from the heat was the wind that blows almost constantly.  After picking Matt up, we left the Kansas City airport and immediately headed for Abilene, Kansas, childhood home of Dwight Eisenhower, one of the country's presidents. 

Matt's writing is underlined, and (grandpa's is in parenthesis).  Grandma slipped her influence into the story through stealth and cunning.  Her contribution is in plain text.

(This statue is in the middle of the memorial park dedicated to President Eisenhower.  The statue shows him in full uniform as a General in the Army, with what came to be known as an Eisenhower jacket.  These jackets were very popular at the time. 

As you can see, there were very few clouds in the sky, and it was already quite hot by late morning. )

(The Eisenhower Museum shows many of the things that were part of growing up in Abilene in the early 1900s.  The building was filled with historic things from Ike's high school days, his career in the army, and later as President of the United States. )
(This picture of Ike as a four star General in the army shows some of the personal weapons that were issued during World War II.) 

This is a real general tank at the Eisenhower museum.  They shot gunpowder which explodes when it is shot.

This is Grandma at the Eisenhower home.  This is where the general lived when he was a boy and in high school in Abilene, Kansas.


(Chapel where Ike and Mamie are buried)

Matt was impressed that their young child that died was buried there, too.

(Matt was not that interested in visiting "Rock City", a feeling that he kept to himself until we arrived there.  He said "Wow, this is a whole lot better than I thought it would be".   He imagined it would be a little city carved out of stones.  Instead he discovered a field full of concretions, house-size boulders, a few of which are almost perfectly round.  After crawling on top of them and walking around them, he thought his brothers should see this place, too.)

This is my Grandma and me on a rock that is 10 feet tall.  There were over 200 rocks in the field.

(These Concretions were formed under water when Kansas was below sea level. As the land was raised, or the oceans lowered, the land surrounding these concretions was washed away, exposing them on the surface.  This site is located in Ottawa County several miles southwest of Minneapolis, Kansas. These almost perfectly round rocks are featured in the stories of Paul Bunyan, who reportedly played with these huge stones like marbles. )

Here I am at a cowboy mailbox in a field. 

This is near Hays, Kansas.  It is a metal sculpture.


Iím about to enter a soldier prison where bad soldiers used to be and were kept.

This is the guard house at old Fort Hays in Hays, Kansas.  There were 68 of these forts built in Kansas and surrounding states.  The soldiers were there to protect the railroad workers and the settlers from the Indians.

This is me behind the cell bars in the prison. I felt like I was going to be trapped forever cause they did not have an unlock.  My grandma had to get me out.

These are real buffalo from the fields in Kansas.  

Before there were fences in Western Kansas there were whole herds of these buffalo roaming the prairie.

These legos were put together as a special birthday present to my grandfather.   This is the Indiana Jones Lego series.

(To fill some of the dead time, Matt brought along a Lego toy to assemble.  Having assembled one, he still had more time on his hands.  Grandpa bought the nearby Indiana Jones set for him to assemble.  Grandpa liked it so much, he talked Matt  into giving it to him as a birthday present. After we got home, Matt asked Grandma if Grandpa had just put it away.  She assured him that Indiana Jones and his vehicles were on display in a prominent place in the family room in Florida.)

This is the actual size of a wooly mammoth.   The horns are several feet long.   I am looking up at the mammoth.

This is the skeleton of a saber tooth tiger.   This was a small kitten.  The adults were much larger.

This is a wooly mammoth foot and ankle.  Can you imagine how big this wooly mammoth must have been?

Here I am in a cardboard car in the Sternberg Museum.   My face is in the hole in the window of the cardboard.

These are the horses that are by the saddle shop in Kansas.   I could not ride the horse because they did not have saddles on them and they were behind a steel fence. 

These horses belong to my cousin, John Steeples.  His farm is near Palco, KS.  He has wheat and cattle on his farm, too.

This is me by a saddle in the saddle shop.   These saddles cost a lot of money.   These are handmade saddles. 

John Steeples makes other leather things, too.

This is an underground house.   It is protected from tornados or tsunamis.

It is easy to heat and cool because it is built in a hill.  The front is a walk out below the hill.

This is my grandma and me at the house where she grew up in Palco. She lived here in high school. She ran out of gas once when she lived in this house. 

She had to walk home in a snow storm.

These were calves in the pens on the farm where Grandma lived near Palco.

Another family lives there now.

That is me looking at a real oil well that is pumping to make ground oil.   It was not loud at all.  They have these in the hulk game cube game and I got to see what an actual oil well was like.

This is me in the huge wheat field.  The wheat was not cut yet.  Using a combine you can cut this wheat into small little specks.

(Actually, this is a stubble field after the field has been cut with a combine.  Matt likes actually.  The combine cuts off the top called the head of the wheat.  Stubble is left after it is cut.)

This is me on the ladder of my Uncle Daveís combine.  It cuts wheat.   It has a respondible computer that talks to you and tells you how much wheat you have cut. 

There I am with Uncle Dave in the combine.   It was in this big shed that kept a combine and a wheat truck. 

This is a bigger combine.  Itís blue and it has a pull horn in it.  It sounds like a train whistle.

(Actually, this is the rear end of a huge tractor, and Matt is standing beside the cab looking toward the rear.)


This is me getting to steer a real weed cutting tractor.   It cuts all the weeds behind the tractors path using the sharp blades on the end of it.  It cuts the roots and pulls them out of the ground. 

This is me holding Aunt Joanneís cat named Pebbles.   I got up at 5:21a.m. and petted the cat. When it got lighter out the cat was trying to break into the house and I knew it was trying to get itís food.  So I brought the food dish out and he ate for like 5 minutes from that dish.

Here I am with Pebbles the cat on the giant swing in the back yard at my auntís house.

Aunt Joanne and Uncle Dave live in Stockton, KS.

At the very small Stockton Museum I saw this huge room with at least over 2000 dolls.  Not even the owners of the museum knew how many dolls were in there.  I had no idea how such a small room could fit so many dolls in one room. 

This picture only shows two walls of the dolls.  There were two more walls full of dolls and dolls were displayed in the middle of the room, too.

This is the Kirby House restaurant.  We ate dinner there one day at this four story restaurant.  They called it the Kirby house because the Kirbyís once lived there.  Once they sold their house they decided to change the beautiful house into a restaurant.  I forget what I ate there.

This is the Steeples reunion dinner at the holiday inn hotel.  At this fancy place in the hotel you saw a piece of cake laying right in front of you before you got what you wanted to eat. 

These cousins are Neil, Pam, Hillon and Cathie.  My cousin Hillon Steeples is Grandma's double cousin.  That is because Grandma's mother and Hillon's mother were sisters and they married brothers, which makes them cousins twice.

This is an interesting place.  I forget what it is called but it is cool.  When I saw that symbol on the building I thought it was going to be a museum of some type but I was not sure what itís name was.

(The structure is the Robert Dole Institute on the University of Kansas campus. The artifacts from Senator Bob Dole's time in the House of Representatives and the Senate are exhibited there.)

This writing on the brick showed the writing of the Steeples people who they remember.   I saw the Steeples graves also.

These are my great grandparents.  My Uncle Don Steeples got this in memory of his parents.

This is the day that I got to fly home.  After spending a week in Kansas I realized that the state is very flat.  You can see extremely far.  Kansas is all made up of square places.  The counties are all square.  It was a fun trip.

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