Going to Kansas City
I’m going to Kansas City
Kansas City here I come
Going to Kansas City,
Kansas City here I come
They got crazy little women there
And I’m a gonna get me one.
“Kansas Lovin” was a song written and recorded in 1952 but gained little notice until 1959 when it was covered by rhythm and blues singer, pianist, guitarist, and harmonica player Wilbert Harrison, under the title “Kansas City.” It has since become a classic covered by everybody that ever twanged an electric guitar, a staple of every rhythm and blues/country act across the nation. Can’t go anyplace in the country/rock/blues geographical music-scape, without taking a stroll through the streets of “Kansas City.”
Actually, KC has never been on my own musical itinerary though I did travel to the city’s geographical location over the Christmas holiday but for reasons other than to get me a “crazy little woman.” Already got one of those. Hmm. Perhaps I should rephrase that? On the other hand the gal does have a no small connection to the place having lived there 39 years from 1962, ere moving to Ozark in 2001. A scattering of family and friends yet reside.
Kansas City, with historical ties to both the Santa Fe and Oregon trails, and really, really famous for the KC Stockyards that operated in the West Bottoms from 1871 until 1991, is no doubt a mighty fine town with or with out its “crazy little women.” Back during the late 1940s and 50s it was an important consumer of northwest farm products including the strawberries I picked over on my fathers little field of rocks truck farm six miles southwest of Chester. However, for all its history, it’s heritage, interesting places to go and things to do, Kansas City will be remembered for the shivering cold Christmas of 2017 and the kind of wintery road trips that the old gent having grown weary of such, had sworn henceforth to avoid.
No, it’s not that he didn’t want to go there. Good family, good friends and the best of hosts, but somehow in the scheme of things God placed the U.S. Christmas at the worst time of the year for traveling the nation’s highways and byways. Oh, it was fine and dandy when a guy was younger and more daring; then, every vacation was necessarily undertaken in the winter months and every mile down the road with a dollar in my pocket and gas in the tank was an adventure. But even then there were harrowing occasions when one found himself driving by the seat of his pants, when scary instances set off electric tingling’s in more sensitive areas of a fellows anatomy.
The December trip to Branson had been concern enough but was over and done: The weather had been better than anticipated with only one chilly evening at Silver Dollar City and one morning scrapping a coating of ice from windows and windshield of the parked automobile. Piece of cake! Time to kick back and enjoy the winter from the comforts of hearth and home. Surely springtime would be more suitable for venturing beyond one’s doorstep. Oh well.
It’s one of those cute little “Why didn’t I know about that hon?” Welst babe, it’s because you don’t listen moments that unsuspecting husbands are bound to encounter whilst treading the tedious waters of matrimony.
Home from Branson I discover we’ve made plans to spend Christmas with sister Becky and husband Chuck, at their home outside Kansas City.
Say hey? Ain’t a mountain on the whole spread! I get visions of tundra-like plains stretching on forever, icy roads, snow covered fields and stark fence lines with nothing to brake sub zero winds sweeping down the steppes twixt there and the north pole. Been there, done that had enough.
Well, if not so much Kansas, other places across the country where cold and inclement weather left the “old bod” battered and chilled to the bone; like a line from an old song by Hank Snow, “I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve traveled I’ve had my share man, across the desert stair man, I’ve been everywhere.”
Those road experiences are some that should never have been taken, including countless winter trips between California, Arkansas and on up into Minnesota, Interstates 40, 80 and 90 and a multitude of secondary roads, all mixed with countless winters timbering in the Sierra and Mendocinos where blizzards raged and temperature’s dropped below zero. Wintertime timber harvesting in the Cascades was sitting in the truck on wintry mornings hoping the day would be called for cold and blizzard-like conditions (it seldom was) falling into snow holes arm-pit deep, warming cold hands on the muffler of a saw, kicking against tree stumps to restore circulation to toes and feet, or creating warming fires by setting ablaze every pitchy pine stump we came across.
Despite bundling against contentious conditions, keeping warm was a frustrating proposition: One never checked the time because under such adverse conditions the day crawled. Glancing at a watch caused time to stand still altogether and the misery of the day never to end.
Despite the misgivings, I settle into the idea of a Kansas Christmas well enough when long range forecasts calls for relatively mild weather Christmas weekend. With a resigned shrug, “Kansas City here we come.”
Prior commitments prevent us leaving until 3:30 p.m. Friday before Christmas, at which time the forecast has turned from mild to wild with a strong weather front bringing heavy rains to the area by mid-afternoon; my original misgivings were proving to have been well founded.
The plan had been to overnight with my son at Bella Vista and head on to KC early Saturday morning. With heavy highway construction from Fayetteville north to the Missouri state line under way now and into the foreseeable future, 1-49 is a royal pain even in good weather; add torrential rain, rush hour traffic, a race against darkness and who knows what on a busy get away weekend?
Our only break from the considerable downpour and wet gray road spray was the short sprint through Hopper Tunnel, but surprisingly, traffic from there northward was less than expected.
We beat darkness by a hair arriving a bit stressed but no worse for the wear. Ideally that would have been the day but a prior dining arrangement down at a Bentonville restaurant took us right back out onto the black and sloppy nighttime highway.
Later still, night temperatures dropped and rain turned to sleet and snow. Come the dawning an inch and half of the stuff lay on the ground and a coating of ice covered the entire automobile.
The lady, expecting holiday plans might be canceled, quietly expressed her disappointment but despite the adverse circumstances, the sky had cleared, the streets wet but free of ice and snow; the car was warmed, windows and windshield scraped, in we hopped and it was “Kansas City here we come.”
There is a special beauty to the day as the sun peeks over the eastern horizon its early morning rays sweeping across a landscape covered with a sheet of crystal-like ice. The road itself, northward of Bella Vista was clear of it, but a thin dusting of snow lay to the side, with stretching fields of ice lying beyond.
We are not in Kansas City proper, but at an outlying community to the northeast. To this point driving conditions had proven favorable, the scenic beauty spectacular, yet, evening time the weather again turns sour as the temperature drops like a stone in water, a storm front moves in after midnight and spreads about a sizable dusting of dry white powder.
Glancing from my bedroom window an hour before dawn on Sunday morning, there in the lighted street below, a fellow bundled head to toe is walking his dog along the snow-covered sidewalk. The unfortunate dog tender holding the leash is my host. The temperature hovers around zero, I shiver’s a bit and crawls back into the warm comforts of my bed.
During the day, streets and roadways become hazardous avenues of hard-packed snow. Planned activities were curtailed except for one trip down to Cosco with Ms. Becky’s husband Chuck for supplies; I’m on the edge my seat the complete trip.
Despite a below zero wind chill and icy snow packed roads, we make it to 8 o’clock Christmas Mass and home again without incident. Monday morning, all over again: an hour before daybreak another skiff of dry white powder, temperatures teasing zero and out there on the streets midst the twisting swirl of it all, Chuck walking his dog Murphy. Shivering at the sight of it, I draw the shades and return to bed.
If there was cause for concern ere the trip began, the concern turned to near consternation as weather conditions grew steadily worse and departure for home grew closer.
Schedule for the day after Christmas is a 40-mile run up the road to the Polish Pottery shop at Weston, Mo. Not looking forward.
Not wishing to be a wet blanket but praying that better judgment prevails, I hold my peace and hope we while away the day at less stressful activities. Alas! Come Tuesday morning we climb’s aboard Ms. Becky’s four-wheel auto and heads north into conditions surely worse than the Siberian pasturelands we have here.
The way north is a glaze of hard-pack snow and as we go along the reality of it travels from the slippery road, through the tires and on up through the chassis and frame of the automobile to the very seat of ones pants. Not good, still I offer no advice. Thankfully it ends when we come across a pick-up truck off the road and upside down in the median. We reverse course at the first opportunity and return from whence we came. Yet the reprieve is short-lived; the Missus and I face the same worrisome conditions when we depart for home next morning.
Departure date and I tells the lady I’m accustomed to driving this stuff, I have the experience, trust me I can handle it.
Nevertheless she insists on the wheel and it’s her automobile. Underway, secondary roads are hell but Interstates are free and clear. Our first fuel stop is 4 below zero but for all the worry, it’s been a piece of cake! Five hours later we’re back at Alma, little worse for the wear.
Yesterday the gal suggested taking another road trip: Didn’t say where to and I didn’t ask. Just turned over and went back to sleep.