CONCORDIA, KANSAS “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we ARE in Kansas!”
We were eager to see and to touch the longest hand carved brick mural in the U.S, depicting the rich history of Cloud County Kansas, and we were not disappointed! The mural was carved by two female artists onto 6,400 “green” (unfired; the texture of hard ice cream) bricks each weighing 26 pounds.
Over 90 thousand pounds of clay was used, and now the three dimensional mural measures 140 feet long with five sections 15 feet high and two sections 20 feet high. It’s a beautiful work of art that captures the areas history, from the Pioneer Woman and Man planting seeds and the WWII German POW Camp to the 1935 John Deere “A” Tractor and the Orphan Train Riders (more on that to come). I particularly enjoyed the Sunflowers Abloom surrounding the building’s entrance; if you look closely you can find honeybees, the Kansas state insect, among the flowers! You can learn more about this amazing mural here: http://www.cloudcountytourism.com/whole-wall-mural
The mural is on the front of the Cloud County Historical Society Museum, so of course we went inside to take a walk into the past. Among a 1902 Holsman and Martha Washington letter we met Bob. He was sitting at a table in the middle of the room in his blue jeans wearing a 5th Infantry Division Vietnam Vet camo cap. His wife of 43 years passed away earlier this year, so he comes to the museum weekly to chat with the ladies to help “pass the time”. He had some stories to tell, but his wartime pen pal saga is the one that touched my heart.
I’m not sure how the letters began, but they were often, uplifting, and full of beautiful, encouraging, loving words. They carried him through those brutal months in Nam.
Bob said, “If there was ever true love, we had it!” He fell for a sweet 4’11” blond haired blue-eyed girl that he had never met! He sent her several pictures of himself over the months, but she never returned the favor. He asked her repeatedly, until she finally, hesitatingly put one in the mail.
While her photo was crossing the ocean, he told us “In my next letter I asked the fateful question, a stupid question, the wrong question, but I was a young kid and what did I know? After that I never got another letter, not a single one, and to this day I have never met that wonderful girl.”
Once Bob was back in Kansas safely, moving on with his life, his dad went out in search of that girl and found her! He wanted to thank her for the difference she had made in his son’s life. He had never seen a soldier who went off to war and became a BETTER person, a happier, healthier man while at battle than he was before he left. That young girl made a remarkable difference in Bob’s life. Can you guess what the question was that Bob regrettably asked over 50 years ago?