I lost a good friend last week and, in a way, so did you. His name was Arthur Schuetz. He died six days from his 99th birthday.
He was my neighbor for years in the College Hill area. Art lived a quiet life, to my knowledge never making any newscast, never getting his photo and name splashed across the newspapers, never running for public office, never having streets or schools or businesses named for himself.
Greetings from The Land That Time Forgot, also known as Wichita, Kansas. We’ve been a little slow to accept some of them new-fangled things that other towns have had for years. Take bicycles, for instance. We weren’t too sure they’d catch on so we waited a while. Then the other day I noticed an actual bike lane on First Street in the College Hill area. Right there against the curb was the white outline of a bicycle indicating a bike lane. At first I thought it was a crime scene. Like on TV where the police draw a chalk outline around the victim, in this case a bicycle.
Lots of good folks locally feel pretty strongly about college football. Some of them are convinced that Wichita State University made a wrong-headed move when it punted its own football program into the trash bin of history at the end of the 1986 season.
There is always a conspicuous absence of WSU on the sports pages this time of year as Kansas State and KU become the subjects of endless speculation about this season’s football teams.
The unprecedented nastiness of this season’s primary campaign seems noteworthy. Has there ever been a political atmosphere as charged with negativity as this one? Have there ever been so many candidates who’ve had so little to say about what they are actually in favor of? Okay, we did hear some platitudes about “Kansas values.” But mostly we heard negative messages telling us what they were against. They were against President Obama. They were against health care reform. They were against taxation. They were against undocumented immigrants.
So my family went out of town for a week and Wichita had a whole lot of rain during that time. There was the usual indicator of too much moisture in Wichita yards: a mushrooming bumper crop of political yard signs.
The recent death of Tom Leahy Jr., better known as Major Astro to Kansas baby boomers, caused my mind to rocket into the past. The good major wore his astronaut jumpsuit while hosting a daily afterschool kiddie show on local TV from 1962 to 1973. Wally Gator, Touche Turtle and Felix the Cat cartoons were beamed earthward to all the little tykes watching their rabbit-eared TV sets. Many were, no doubt, clutching their membership cards to the Major Astro Club.
Had a garage sale the other day. Swore I’d never have another one 2 sales ago. But stuff just kept piling up and something had to be done. So my wife, my daughter and I spent a long 90-degree June day saying over and over, “Yes, we’ll take 50 cents instead of 75 cents for that.”
I was going to do another commentary today about British Petroleum’s oil massacre of the Gulf of Mexico. But when I sat down to write it and began thinking about the leak which is a mile below the surface of the water, my thoughts were interrupted by a BP official who burst into my brain and quickly waved me away from the scene.
“You can’t consider this at all,” he ordered. “This entire area of thought is off-limits to anyone except employees of BP. Cease all mental cogitation on this subject immediately.”
The amazing thing about the tragic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for me, is not that it happened. It’s not the gargantuan size of the spill itself. And it’s not that the three corporations involved are each blaming the other. What’s unbelievable about this disaster is the fact that the drilling industry had no plan for what to do in the event that such a spill took place. They seem to be scrambling and improvising in a way that reminds me of a three-year-old who shattered Mom’s favorite flower vase all over the kitchen floor while trying to get to the cookie jar.