Sunday, 22 October 2017

A Once in a Lifetime Event part 4

For the next few days nothing much happened. Because we had timed our visit to include the eclipse, and the family all had to get back to work or in The Grand Son's (TGS) case had to go back to school, so we were left to our own devices and would spend the morning walking to the nearest shops or doing a little house work or washing our clothes. American washing machines and tumble dryers are much larger than British ones as a rule and the tumble dryers do not crease the clothes anything like as much as the smaller ones we have over here. All British machines seem to be made to fit under a work surface, where in the much larger middle class American homes, they are expected to be stood in their own dedicated space and so are a lot larger and roomier inside.

Part of our walk to the shops

There was a really good farm shop called Sprouts within an easy walk and we would go there just to get some exercise and to have a look around, inside an air conditioned building after being out in the Kansas sun, before walking home. Despite being morning, by ten it got quite warm, even though it was not as warm as it should be in August, but to us Brits it seemed pretty hot and so the respite was welcome.

Sprouts did a lot of good quality fruit and vegetables and we would top up on tom-ade-ohs, or in English tom-art-ohs and cherries or strawberries. All being top class quality. The Daughter In Law (TDIL) was only working short hours and would come home soon after lunch and we would sometimes drive to some of the larger stores with her.

One morning whilst out on a walk, we spotted a humming bird hovering around some flowers in a neighbours back yard (back garden in English) and one afternoon TDIL suddenly spotted one just outside their window. I was able to grab the camera and got these pictures. The quality of the images were not good since they were shot through the blinds, but you can see it hovering with its wings just a blur.  The blinds caused the horizontal stripes in the background.

On the subject of birds, it seems that some local birds were planning on migrating early and were collecting on the power lines in huge numbers much earlier than usual. Possibly because the weather was cooler than usual for the time of year.

Something I had not spotted on previous visits were the number of birds of prey that lived along the freeways. This was the first year I had been to America after having my cataracts removed and my vison corrected for short sight and I found I was able to see and identify more than I had ever seen on previous visits. Most of the birds living by the freeways were scavengers, turkey vultures and buzzards, presumably living on the road kill, with only the occasional eagle. Although it was hard to tell which was which, eagles tended to be solitary and further away from the traffic, so they were hard to photograph.

One morning we went with TDIL into Lawrence and whilst she went to work, we walked around Lawrence looking in shops for souvenirs and while there we visited the local museum. This was full of soldiers from Fort Leavenworth who were on a an educational trip, so we did not get to see all of the museum, but what we saw was very interesting. A lot of the history of the American Civil War was featured and the history of what took place locally was pretty gruesome. Kansas and Missouri were on opposite sides and both were responsible for what today would be considered war crimes, where civilians were massacred in brutal cross border raids. The interesting thing was the fact that racial prejudice was not so apparent immediately after the war and intolerance slowly increased over the next fifty or so years, presumably as the next generation forgot what the war was all about.

In among the exhibits there were some things from my own personal past, one of them being an X-ray machine to show how well your shoes fitted you. These were in common use when I was a child and whenever my mother bought me a pair of shoes, they were first tried on and viewed in one of the machines. The child stands on the platform with their feet under the machine and you could look into the front viewer to see your own bones wiggling about.  I have no idea how much damage the repeated X-rays did to me, but so far nothing has showed. There were two more viewing slots, one for the parent, one for the shop assistant as well as the one for the victim… I… I mean child.

In the local antiques store, I found a 1953 copy of the Dandy, which is now back in the UK where it belongs.  Antique stores in America tend to be full of fairly recent, things which over here would be classed as brik-a-brak  only Native American artifacts exist that are really old.

That evening we went to the local liqueur store and topped up on some drinks. I was intrigued by some of the fancy labels found in the store.

But I could not resist getting TS and family a much more sophisticated, etched and decorated commemorative bottle of wine celebrating their local baseball team, KC Royals, becoming 2015 world champions.

On the Sunday we planned to have a day out in Kansas City and visit the museums there.

That morning it rained a bit.

But we were not put off as the weather forecast showed it would clear up – and it did.
The rain did not let up until we were nearly at KC and the trip there was not good. Inevitably someone found out the hard way that driving in heavy rain can be a problem.

We went to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art where we first of all ate lunch in the Rozzelle Court Restaurant which serves pretty good food.

The museum is notable for its giant shuttlecocks that feature on its grounds outside and inside it is filled with a wide variety of art from all ages and an afternoon is not really enough time to do it justice.

There are ancient works of art right up to a section of modern contemporary art. I am not a fan of a lot of modern art and feel that some people are suckered into believing that a blank square is art, when as far as I am concerned it is just a blank square and completely uninteresting.
A work of art?
A discussion of this led to the news story of a pair of a pair glasses being left behind on the floor under a painting by an absent minded art lover. When he returned to recover his property, he found several people admiring the outrageously simplistic piece of art, a pair of glasses on the floor and they were taking pictures and wondering who the genius was who created it. Duh!

After the discussion, TGS seemed to have mislaid his glasses at one point, not sure if this qualifies.

One piece of modern art that took my attention was a chess player contemplating his next move, it is only a part of a person, but it captures the deep concentration of a chess player.

By the time we had seen all the galleries, we were ready to start for home and left a little after four.

The last Monday of our visit, we went for a walk in the Clinton Lake Park.

It has a number of paved footpaths which are kept free of long grass for a few yards either side in order to avoid snakes. The most common snake in the area is the copperhead which is poisonous, but rarely fatal in humans. They have a nasty habit of freezing when approached and their camouflage is so good, it is possible to accidentally tread on or very close to them causing them to strike. More poisonous is the rattle snake, which tend to prefer dry areas and the cottonmouth which prefers wetlands. Of the 38 snakes found in Kansas, only five species are poisonous, so there is only a small chance of encountering one. Most snakes are harmless.

 In many parts of the USA there are trees that grow this odd looking fruit.

 They are the Osage Orange tree and the large fruit they produce is known as a hedge apple.

The Osage Orange tree

They are inedible even for most wild life, but the trees were once used as hedges by the early settlers because they sprout long thorns which made them impassable to cattle. With the introduction of barbed wire, they fell out of use and now grow wild. There is a folk belief that the hedge apples will repel insects, but this apparently has been disproved. However, the juice is an irritant and you should avoid handling them.
A denizen of the park
All around the park, we saw turkey vultures and buzzards and several of the buzzards flew close enough for some good photo opportunities and both TS and myself took several pictures.

A pair, photo by TS

Some of the wild plant life, complete with beetle

Some more plants.  There were a whole range of plants and insects in the unpaved areas, conservation is alive and well.

On our way home we took a slight detour to some wetlands where we hoped to see some cranes, but they had guessed we were coming and so had gone elsewhere. I did see a heron, but it was too far off for a good photo. This was the last outing of our trip and quite soon we had to catch our flight for home.

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