Last night there were two owls having a hooting contest in the trees above Penelope. I opened the window so that I could hear them better and fell asleep to the song. I love those nights! MW was up and out very early, as usual, but I woke up and talked to my daughter for a while before getting dressed. By the time I was ready to go it was 10ish, so we called Shawn to see if he could meet for lunch and headed over to Fort Leavenworth. We met him outside the gates and went to grab a bite at a Kansas City barbecue joint called All Slabbed Up. MW and I both had brisket sandwiches, mine with baked beans and his with slaw. It was darned tasty. Shawn has tried the big name places around and says this little hole in the wall rivals them all. We talked for a while, solving the world’s problems (because you know we are infinitely qualified LOL), then headed over to the base for an insider’s tour.
The US Army Garrison Fort Leavenworth is really pretty, which is a funny thing to say about a place that is known for it’s prison. Alcatraz is that way, too, but in this case the Fort is so much more than that. It is the oldest Army fort west of the Mississippi and has the distinction of being the oldest permanent settlement in Kansas (and in fact predates Kansas becoming a U.S. territory). A lot of those buildings sitting on the rise overlooking the Missouri River are the oldest buildings in the state. In fact, what is thought to be THE oldest building in Kansas is The Rookery, which is currently used for housing and was built in 1834. Since brick was used to build all of the old buildings, including the barracks, they are all still standing and have been repurposed into offices, housing, etc. They still look pretty good, although the Army could invest a little in some painting and maintenance. The Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery is also here as well. Burials began in 1827 when the fort was established, but the cemetery was moved to it’s current location in 1862. General Leavenworth is buried here along with several Medal of Honor recipients, Custer’s brother, and some of the other soldiers who fell at Little Big Horn. Shawn said the fort is in it’s current location in Kansas due to an act of “willful disobedience” by Leavenworth. He was ordered to follow the Mississippi to the mouth of the Platt and build a fort on the east side. He arrived and decided the west side was a better site with higher ground, so that is where he built. At the time, that wasn’t even in the United States! Another cool fact, this was the base for the U.S. 10th Calvary Regiment, which was famously called the “Buffalo Soldiers” by the tribes they fought.
Shawn is an instructor in military history at the U. S. Army Command and General Staff College. The school was established in 1881 by none other than General William T. Sherman as the School of Application for Calvary and Infantry. Many amazing officers, such as General Dwight D. Eisenhower and General George S. Patton trained here. The college was given it’s current name after WWII and continues to train officers from all branches of services and several countries. We were given a tour of the college building, which included the wall of honor with plaques of distinguished attendees, Shawn’s office (filled with cool memorabilia), a classroom, and more military memorabilia on display, a lot of which belongs to him. (It should be noted here that Shawn is a hoarder of military stuff. He has hunted and bought items for most of his life and even found some things at the Somme battlefield using a metal detector. He honestly owns a large enough variety of it to fill his own museum!) In deference to my interest, but not immersion, he and MW looked, touched, and lovingly talked about some of it, but didn’t stay all day. Shawn dropped us back at Brutus, and we left with the promise of seeing more stuff when we meet later, and let him get back to work.
We headed up the road to Atchison, passing the U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth along the way. Everyone knows about the military prison (which is actually two: the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility) being here. The Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan, is currently housed at the MWRCF awaiting execution, and Chelsea Manning, who leaked classified information to WikiLeaks, is at the USDB serving out her sentence. I was surprised that the town of Leavenworth also houses the federal penitentiary, the state Lansing Correction Facility, the Leavenworth Detention Center, the Leavenworth County Jail, and the Leavenworth county Juvenile Detention Center. Crime is BIG business in Leavenworth!
Next to the federal penitentiary, there was a field with a herd of buffalo. It appeared to be part of the prison property, but I’m not sure about that. If it is, what would they use a small herd of buffalo for? We also passed a giant cutout showing Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Electra. Why? Because Atchison is Amelia’s birthplace, and that is the reason we were going there.
Amelia Earhart was born at the home of her maternal grandparents, where she lived (along with her parents) until she was nine years old and her father was transferred to Kansas City. Her grandfather was once a federal judge and also the president of the Atchison Savings Bank. The home is very large and pretty, and sits on a hill overlooking the Missouri River. Amelia was flying at a very young age and bought her first plane when she was 26. I’m sure coming from a prominent family was helpful in her pursuits, although they do say she had a job at the telephone company to pay for that first plane.
Back in Brutus, we passed the post office, which was amazing in it’s own right. It was built in 1893 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Still an active post office, the building has been restored and maintained very well.
We headed back to Leavenworth where I was hoping to get my hair cut, but couldn’t find anywhere with a short wait. We went to McDonald’s for a cold drink instead, then headed out to the Faulkner’s for dinner. They live outside of town down country roads through farmland, and it was a nice drive. When we arrived, we were greeted by Shawn, Laura, their daughter Brena (who is to be a blushing bride on October 27th), and Nan (Shawn’s Mom). MW and I were both pleasantly surprised to see Nan, although the visit and old stories clearly burst her bubble about MW being “perfect” as a teenager. LOL We had a great dinner and visited for quite a while. We finally left, reluctantly, to head back to Penelope. It was a great night, and I hope we don’t wait too long to repeat it. Who knows…Brena lives in Fayetteville, NC, now, so maybe they will come our way.
A few more from today:
This morning we were both up early, and I worked on my journal for a little bit before heading out to Kansas City. Our destination this morning was the National WWI Museum and Liberty Memorial. It was a bit of a challenge getting there, and MW was not too happy about being in a city, but it all worked out (not without a LOT of grousing, though!). The museum is amazing. Too bad that Shawn couldn’t come with us, because he would have been great to have as a guide! He told us this museum does a really good job of laying out the reasons for the war and the timeline leading up to and through the end. He was right. I found it easier to follow than most military museums where those putting together the displays seem to think that everyone coming in will have a general knowledge of the battle being discussed. The timeline also made it very clear that, while the US was in WWI, it was only the last year. For the first three years we were Switzerland (neutral). It was also interesting that some of the same items we saw there were a part of Shawn’s collection. In the museum store, both of his books were prominently displayed, too.
We finished up there at about Noon and headed south on US-169. At Paola we found a nice city park for lunch. It was very large and had ballfields, basketball courts, a swimming pool, and a lot of other areas. Our picnic was on a hill overlooking the ballfields. The table was concrete, and instead of benches, they just had concrete pillars to sit on.
On the road again we continued on US-169 south to US-54 west to US-75 south to get to Elk City State Park in Independence, KS. This was a very large, nice park. We were surprised when we arrived that they said there were only a few sites available for three nights. WTH…it’s a Tuesday in October!! We found our site, then MW dropped me back at the office to pay while he took care of dumping duties. When I walked in the lady was clearly a little stressed. As it turned out, she was dealing with water issues (which mean’t that we might be without water until tomorrow). Since the tank was full, we were good to go, but her phone was ringing off the hook. It turned out that there was a water main break in town, which caused them to shut down the system to make repairs.
After setting up, we had leftovers and settled in for the night. When we went to bed, there were owls hooting and, a little later, lots of coyotes howling. It was awesome!
Just a few more: