Part II of Coming Home...The First Flight into America's Heartland.
Views of the Plains
Our first visit to our potential new home
I am sitting at my computer, wine glass in hand, gazing at a beautiful home for sale in a town near Independence which boasts a population of 2,215! The word pride is seen everywhere in ads and
promotional materials designed to attract visitors and potential new residents. Pride is a big thing here, a kind of self assurance that “we strive for the highest and best and we achieve it!” In grade schools, local colleges, newspaper articles, store logos and more, pride is predominant in reasons why one should and would want to be a part of these small communities.
Returning to homes for sale in SE Kansas listings, I continue to scan all the lovely grand homes being offered for unbelievable prices. My friend and partner, Al, is at work so I am alone in my new life fantasy. With a little bit of wine and a big 17” screen, the panoramic pictures open and move across the screen. I feel like a voyeur, peeking into the lives of others, their style, furniture and wall paint choices, window coverings and even, if the angle is right, the foods they like and toiletries they use. I see evidence of companion animals; a small fluffy padded bed here, food and water bowls there, toys strewn about and, in some cases, the pet whose items these are can be clearly be seen resting in the center of the bed in the master bedroom. I must remember these images when and if I decide to include a virtual tour when selling a home.
We’ve made our reservations for our first of two trips to America’s Heartland. Looking for a new life. Kind of like the play CATS! A new jellicle life! To be, essentially, reborn in to a different, jellicle life!
Encouraged, spurred on and urged by the beauty of the photos I’ve been perusing for weeks now, we have decided that if we don’t do this now…we probably never will.
“If I don’t try this, I’ll feel like I’m too scared to do it.” I said, “this time will pass and I’ll look back and wonder what it might have been like.”
Al had returned home by now to find me still in front of my computer looking at elegant houses. I showed him several of the tours and he had to agree with me.
“Kathy, wow! These are great! How much?”
“This one is my favorite…just look at the floors and fixtures! It’s over 3,900 square feet and that isn’t counting the completed attic and basement! The woodwork was imported from Germany and the home is an exact replica… just like one in Germany. The original owner oversaw the entire construction of this home. Look at the kitchen!! Wow! And the leaded glass windows!”
He had to agree. “What about the cats Kath? Is there enough room?”
At that time, we had been featured in the local newspaper, The Napa Register as “unsung heros” who went out of our way to save lives and do community work for free and unrecognized. Through this, we became the proud “pet parents” of several more furry friends. We thought that number was HUGE. So many kitties! Little did we know what was about to happen to our lives. We were well known among our circle of friends and associates for our love and rescue of cats but, now…the word was out! So, our family had grown but, surely, not beyond our ability to give them the best of care and love.
“It’s a 3 srory house, Al…actually, it’s 4 stories if you count the attic. Look at it!”
I fast forwarded to that part of the virtual tour and let it begin it’s slow movement across the computer screen. He was amazed!
“Are you kidding?”
“No! Isn’t this crazy?”
By now, I’d had a little more wine and was feeling very euphoric and as if there was nothing beyond my grasp. Nothing we couldn’t do!
We had talked with our friends about cat sitting while we were away and felt confident that they would be well taken care of. That part was done.
We’d secured our reservations for the flights to and from and had made plans to stay at an out of the way hotel which appealed to me because of the link to trains and locomotive lore. That part was done.
Now, we had an idea of what was available for sale and what we were looking for, what we definitely did want and what we absolutely did not want. We had called a realtor to make an appointment to see the wonderful home in the small town of Cherryvale as well as several others the realtor suggested as alternatives if we found ourselves disenchanted with it. That part was done.
Packing was easy. Just overnight clothing, several changes of socks, shirts, jeans, dress items “just in case,” and personal items. Carry on is how I always travel and how Al has always preferred to go. Never check a bag! That’s my credo. Who wants to stand at the round waiting for your bag(s), nudging and elbowing to reach yours when and if it finally does appear - and which may or may not have made it along with you on your flight? So, with the efficient carry on’s securely packed and at ready, we called Evans Airporter service for two seats to the airport. All we had to do was be there on time. Ok, check this part as done!
Because we took Evans Airporter to the airport, "leaving the driving to 'them,' getting to the airport and onto the plane was a breeze…no problems! The flight was hilarious…SouthWest! As always, I fly Southwest . They are the best! And the funniest, least expensive and easiest to navigate. And, since we always print our boarding passes right on time at the required 24 hours before departure…we always get A seating which practically guarantees the exact seats we want. I’ve never been disappointed or upset with this set up. Southwest is the BEST way to fly!
We arrived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the nearest airport to our final destination which lay exactly 80 miles due north of the Tulsa airport. So so easy. No circuitous route, no trying to find our path through busy, congested cities. The Tulsa airport is located outside the city and right off the main highway 75! One turn, and you’re on your way in any direction you need to go. We had our rental car all set and it took a mere half hour until we were in the driver’s seat…headed to parts previously unseen. The drive was simple, the traffic was minimal and our speed of almost 80 mph got us there in less than an hour..
“Can you imagine doing this in the Bay Area?” asked Al…
I just shook my head…it seemed surreal.. How could there be so few cars on the road? Even the airport seemed empty compared to the bustling, crowded, noisy and fast moving Oakland airport. And that one is miniscule compared to San Francisco International Airport. Geesgh!
We arrived at dusk as our flight was an early evening one out of the SF Bay Area and was 2 hours behind our destination point. As we drove into Independence and onto the main part of this small city of about 10,000, we noticed that there were NO parking places and there were people everywhere. We found a place for the car blocks away and walked towards the activity. Well, quickly, we learned that we had just entered the “twilight zone” of annual celebrations…known as Neewollah. What?
“What is going on here?” Al stated and asked at the same time. “It looks like most of the town’s residents are out in the street.”
There was music in the air, smells like that of a carnival with popcorn, cotton candy (when is the last time you’ve seen that!), ‘Funnel cakes, 'onion rings’ French fries and more. Entire blocks were closed off and filling those streets were all the typical rides you’d expect at the local state Fair. Bandstands were occupied by musicians, magicians and mimes! It was a festival!
“Hmmmmmmmmmmm, can you smell that?” Al purred. I knew what he was smelling..his favorite…pizza! Al is a pizza fanatic.
We approached an older man on the street and asked what was going on.
“What is happening?” Al asked.
“You folks aren’t from around these parts, are ye?”
“No, we just flew in from California.” Al replied
“California! What brings you to Kansas?”
“The beautiful homes,” I said; “and the Saturday Evening Post environment.”
“Yes, it’s so cool here!” (I ALWAYS make snap decisions, snap judgements…rose colored glasses, glass half full..you get the picture!) .
“Well, we’re glad to have ye and welcome to Independence“! He offered.
By now, we’d looked around as we talked with the nice gentleman, noticing all kinds of Halloween type decorations but with the word Neewollah in place of Halloween. Adults were the primary participants, we also noted, dressed in what appeared to be theme clothing.
“So, what IS THIS?” we asked again
“Oh!” He seemed to recall being asked, “ this is Neewollah. “
“It’s our big ‘to do’ every year.” he replied. “Folks come from all over the state and even from out of state,” he continued, “all the kids come back for this.”
I could see that we were going to have to figure this out ourselves if we hoped to gather more detailed information. We learned that years and years ago, this community decided to replace the unpredictable and, sometimes, dangerous activities of Halloween with their own interpretation of the holiday. To keep kids safe, out of trouble and in control, the town’s people created this alternative. It’s been going on for a very long time except for a hiatus during WWII and then resumed a few years later. The movie “Picnic,” with Kim Novak as “Queen Neelah” comes right out of this event.
So, we partook of a few things and then decided to find our hotel, the Leatherock, in Cherryvale, about 12 miles away.
Driving into Cherryvale, I urged Al - the designated driver because I’m “direction free,” - to drive by the home of my dreams, the gorgeous 3 story (4 if you count the completed attic!!) home on the corner of E. Main. A corner lot! We found Main and proceeded to E. Main…I still remember the number…426 E. Main. Oh My God! As we neared the property, I couldn’t believe how pretty the place was with delicate GingerBread detailing, high peaked roof, wrought iron fending all around and just magical! Oh, I was already in love! L-O-V-E!
It was dark now, no longer dusk but dark.
I implored, “Al, point the headlights towards the house, ok?” He did so. Even though the street lights lit up the place adequately, I wanted to see more. Here I was! Right in front of the home I’d been coveting for so many weeks as I sat at my computer. Here it was! A soft powder blue structure with white trim and huge wrap around lawns! Oh…
We remained there for what seemed like a long time. I was in "never never land," living out the fantastical reality of being here, seeing myself viewing this place from 2000 miles away. I was thoroughly enchanted!
The next morning was our appointment with the realtor. We were going to see the interior of the home. I was squirming with excitement.....
MORE TO COME…STAY TUNED…ADDED WHEN TIME ALLOWS
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