Just the Guys
Bill Long 11/12/07
At Hanna's Corner, Garden City, KS
Early in October, I made arrangements with my former student and long-time friend Lance Woodbury to return to Garden City KS ("GC") to do some consulting. When I knew I would be returning to GC, I contacted a newer friend Jim, whom I had gotten to know during my previous trips to GC. Jim is in the roofing business with his brothers, but the scope of his interests and intellectual curiosity belies any notion that he is a narrow "roof guy." He invited me to join him and a few of his buddies for breakfast and conversation on Saturday morning at this favorite spot for the locals on the north side of Garden City. I arrived a few minutes after 9:00 a.m. on Saturday and had some difficulty finding Jim and the guys because of the bustle of activity in the place. But soon he spotted me, introduced me to his friends and we set into our breakfast and conversation.
Seven of us were there, and we spanned three generations. Ed brought his grandson Eddie, who probably came so that he could order a huge cinnamon roll and four large strips of bacon for breakfast. No mom to tell him "No," and the "guys" couldn't care less what Eddie ate. Then, there were two Dales and Jim's brother Steve. We talked as a group and in smaller clusters as we awaited our food. In fact, I had to wait considerably longer for my food than anyone else, since they messed up my order of two eggs over easy twice. I thought for a moment that I was being "hazed," but the food eventually came.
What Guys Talk About
We didn't talk about women, except to compliment Jim for his recent marriage to Penny. We didn't talk politics, even though these guys seemingly would have no reluctance to do that. We didn't even speak much about sports, even though Kansas University was having its best football season since the 19th century. It turned out that 2 of the guys were wearing Kansas State Univ. insignia, and KState was just getting set to be blown away by a weak Nebraska team.
I remember asking Ed, whom it would be incorrect to call a laconic Jayhawker, about the origin of "Mary Street," where the restaurant sat. He explained that there used to be a St. Mary's dairy there decades ago (his dad moved the family to GC in 1941, when Ed was six weeks old). Then, we morphed to speaking about WWII and the "tire board," which was an important local body whose job it was to allocate scarce tires to the GC farmers.
More subjects came up. Steve, sitting across the table from me, was flexing his wrist, and so I asked him about that. He had arthroscopic surgery a while back to repair some damage, and he proceeded to regale me with the details of that procedure. One thing you learn quickly about Kansas men is that they are fascinated about the way things work. They can take apart and put together combines blindfolded, and so it was only natural that Steve would describe for me how his surgery worked. But his fascination didn't extend to a desire to "stay awake" during surgery; he preferred to be "out."
Dale was more quiet than the others, so I asked him about the tee shirt he was wearing. It had letters and numbers on it, as well as a regional map of some of the Western states. Quickly becoming animated, he began telling me about ham radio operations and a grant that they had received from the federal government to train medical workers in Western KS to learn to use the equipment. Ah, that is another thing. Kansas men aren't only interested in the way things work, but they are fascinated by what you might call "backup systems"--those things that operate after electricity, cell phones and the Internet are disabled. I also learned that Dale was a supervisor for the Kansas Highway Patrol, and I filed that away. I think it rarely is a bad idea to get to know higway patrol people.
We continued talking for a little more than an hour before it was time to leave. I don't suppose it will go down in anyone's annals as a life-changing morning. But it was a great re-introduction to Kansas living and Kansas guys. Their practicality, good judgment, friendliness and straightforward honesty set the tone for the rest of my visit. I left to head out to Greensburg, KS, to view the destruction caused by the May 4-5 tornado. You can read about that here.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long