Sunday, June 20, 2010


I've been invited to come see for myself: A Mayberry of a town out on the Kansas Prairie. Cottonwood Falls, an Emeral city in the emerald green flint hills--Darlene and Linda's hometown and they've invited our "tribe" to come see for ourselves.

I stopped to take a picture--turned around--and these curious cattle had assembled--looking expectantly at me. I naturally assumed they wished to hear a few words from me--so I quoted a special poem I wrote for them some years ago.
Whenever I walk by a herd of cows
they stop whatever they're doing,
raise their heads to look at me
and quietly keep on chewing.

Such focused attention is truly rare
so far's I can determine.
It rouses up the preacher in me
so I preach the cows a sermon.

I introduce myself as Randy,
a long-time lover of milk,
a special friend of cows everywhere;
my words flow smoothe as silk.

I urge them to be good cows;
stay within their fences;
share the grass evenly;
honor their bovine senses.

I warn them about those handsome bulls;
rascals up to no good,
who satisfy their lust and run
away from fatherhood

I'm warming up--I speak of calves;
I warn of loco weeds;
describe the joys of bovine heaven
for those who've done good deeds.

I'm prepared to preach on but suddenly
they're all back grazing again;
such a wonderful audience---but
a short attention span.

Stopped to puzzle over this odd structure--what is it--a water tower? Nobody was around to ask--have to remain a mystery, I guess.
The tribe was already assembled for evening circle when I arrived---full time RVers from around the country will gather like this when the call goes out to come experience something new.
This was Mothers day --Ernie provided roses to every mother--I offer a poem to these now-single ladies brave enough to travel the country in their own motor home:


These are Mothers of the road--

finished rearing up their brood;

now with time and lighter load

express a traveling mood

Ernie gave each one a rose

honoring Mothers day.

let flowers speak what everyone knows,

but none of us can say.

Cottonwood Falls fairgrounds---free parking if you don't need electricity---stayed a week.

Courthouse---stately status symbol of Chase county pride. Courthouses usually are--symbols of status and pride. In Texas counties-- they carried this urge to ridiculous extremes--building massive, ornate, county courthouses to rival the Taj Majal---each seeking to outshine the others. It's worth a trip through Texas to see them.

From the 3rd floor looking down on Cottonwood Falls. That's the whole business district.
The interior floors, walls, staircases and furniture were marvels of carpentry.

A stallion and his harem? Close enough! We're touring the courthouse jail.

The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve---just outside town--a vast area--treated with great care by dedicated rangers--you're seeing almost precisely what the pioneers saw--heartlifting just to know its there.

I happened upon this stunning scene--A sure fire sign you're in Shangri La----bicycles NOT LOCKED UP.

Madonna of the trail---famous statue in nearby Council Grove.

A strange man lived 3 years in this tiny cave---declared himself a holy man--migrated to Las Cruces, New Mexico---Indians killed him.

This marker lets me return to the subject of Shangri La. Is it reasonable to believe that somewhere else you might make a better life?---yes!--But not reasonable to think that the good life could ever be a PLACE. I go further and say that all places (and all people) must be MOVED THROUGH to experience the Shangri La feeling. All people and all places grow stale--It is MOTION (albeit sometimes very slow motion) that generates happiness. I see signs everywhere that humanity is beginning to grasp this insight---marriages are shorter---jobs---avocations--even friendships. To be happy, one must be going somewhere. Happiness like electricity can only be generated by motion. Thoreau left his Shangri La of Walden Pond because the experience was complete and he "had many more lives to lead." I believe most people squander their lives chasing the delusion of permanence.
So to answer the title question precisely: SHANGRI LA IS AN EVER FADING FLICKER IN THE HEAD. The Good news is that there is an infinite supply of flickers available to those with the courage to MOVE.


Walt said...

While I appreciate a great deal of what you say, I question whether marriages growing shorter is a good thing. Bad marriages (as in abusive), yes, but marriages in general? That seems to imply that couples are incapable of growing together or of being in motion, to use your phrase, together. Or am I reading something into your post that is not there?

Rob said...

"I believe most people squander their lives chasing the delusion of permanence."

So says Randy the wander, but I would expect no less from a wander.

Boonie said...

So then, essentially you are saying, "I move. Therefore I am?"

Randy said...

Precisely Boonie--if you agree that reading a book is a kind of movement. Perhaps I should have said EXPLORING generates flickers of Shangri La----only the QUESTING can enter the "kingdom of heaven."

Andy said...

Brilliant (as usual), Randy

Randy said...

High compliment from you Andy--who I consider one of my mentors--a great life adventurer---long ago you "grasped me firmly round the waist and pointed to landscapes of continents and a plain public road." (Whitman)

Wandrin said...

Shangri La... the search for for a beautiful land isolated from the real world... is fiction. Kind of like believing there is heaven after death.... No matter where we go... when we open the suitcase there we are.... What has changed? It is only the world around us. Same person looks at the world and soon the boredom and ennui will set in again. Soon it will be the "same old same old" once again and it is time to pack up the suitcase and head to a new location where the owner of the suitcase continues to search for happiness... fulfillment... the answer.... whatever.... to life's perplexing questions.

Randy said...

Well said Wandrin. But do you celebrate or bemoan the transient nature of our "highs" and the sticky nature of our troubles. Count me a celebrant. Now that I think about troubles--I do in fact drive away from a host of them--bad neighbors--hot weather--but have not been able to get away from my character flaws.

Randy said...

Walt: I do believe that shorter marriages are a good thing. We all "have many lives to lead" and everything--even love connections exhaust themselves. Courageous people move on. I really think that marriage itself is a primitive institution---in need of radical rethinking. World society is rapidly moving toward singling as a lifestyle. Contract marriages are a good idea worth trying--with a time frame agreed to up front.

Rob said...

You wrote, "World society is rapidly moving toward singling as a lifestyle."

World society? Wow, that is some assumption...

From what I've read society in China, Afghanistan & Peru are all very different from each other and none of them come close to (sameness) with our society.
I'll bet a family in SoCal and another in Kansas would argue that they are not the same society!

Take a look at "What the world eats",29307,1626519_1373664,00.html

I think we are not even close to a "world society"

Ed said...

You were in the heart of PrairyErth a deep map account of the history and people of Chase County, Kansas.

Travelers are very aware of Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon but few know of, or have read, PrairyErth. In my opinion it is the better book of the two.

Randy said...

Read the book Ed--and I agree. Never has anyone probed deeper into a community.

Anonymous said...

I dont know if anyone answered this, but that tower with Cassaday painted on it is actually a water stand pipe. You,ll find them in rural townships where water pressure is needed