87. Odyssey Through Oberlin

The porcelain insulators are ripe for the picking

(If I only had a ladder and a little more time)

Perched like parakeets along the crossbars

An hour out of Concordia

Westbound on 36

Higley’s Home on the Range somewhere off to the right.

But the rusty boxcars are easier to count

As I ponder the question

William Allen White

Sage of Emporia

Put to his readers in an essay

In the August 16, 1896 issue of The Gazette:

“What’s the Matter with Kansas?”

Politics aside … 14, 15, 16, 17

Not a whole lot in my estimation

If I might be allowed to render an opinion

… 18, 19, 20

And at any rate, in Oberlin

I expect to find some answers

… 21, 22, 23

Either at the newspaper office

Home of The Herald

Or huddled around the Great Western

Basking in the warmth of the eight o’clock fire

At my cousin’s unpretentious place.

I didn’t.

Only the affirmation of answers supplied earlier

In the kind eyes of the Jack-of-all-trades

Who flags me down with a friendly wave

After hearing my right front tire go whap-whap-whap

Over the brick-paved street, then offers to help.

In the sunny smile of the high school girl next door

Who also hears my tire’s whap-whap-whap

And springs from the front porch

To join the Jack-of-all-trades,

Then wants to know if I’d like to borrow her cell phone.

In the steady hands of the high school boy (often next door)

Who follows Skinny Jeans to the scene

And is there to pull me up when I trip at the curb

Trying to beat them all to the tire.

Welcome to Oberlin

Red Devils country

Site of the state’s last Indian raid.

But today I meet no devils, only angels,

And it’s experiences like this –

Just right for packing

That belong in my bag of memories

As I count my blessings

An hour out of Concordia

Next stop Emporia.

— Rick Nichols

Rick Nichols penned 51 Burma Shave-like rhymes and a poem, “The Messengers,” for his book 50 Sermons, 50 States: Presentations from the Pulpit for the People of America.  Residing in an old river house with a good view of Missouri at Leavenworth, he has dubbed himself the “Border Bard.”