At present: Sitting in the school clinic for athletic physical. It takes 20 minutes, because they also talk to your kid about Things. She’s working on a form. There’s lots of questions.
One asked whether the student was hit by anyone at home, and I said you answer that correctly or I’ll give you such a smack.

Oh, relax. You get a lot of latitude in these situations when the women in the office had read last Friday’s column about schools, and enjoyed it. The receptionist snorted and apologized for overhearing, and I said no, I was counting on it.

Poster: Get Yourself Tested! And not for your IQ. Poster: More than 3 out of 4 teens DON’T smoke pot!

I thought about that. So, more than 75%. But obviously less than 80 percent, or they’d say “more than 8 out of 10 don’t,” which is more impressive. So, it’s 76%?

Lots of sex questions. Don’t remember when I entered 9th grade being asked if I had had multiple partners, and if so, how they were distributed across the gender spectrum.

Does your household have a gun? In my day it would have been simply “How many guns? _0 _1 _2 _3” and so on. I told her to leave it blank because it’s none of their business.

Anyway, it’s her birthday! She got a camera. An instant camera. Polaroid-style, but a Fuji. Ordered it online last week, and when I told my wife, she asked “which color? She had mentioned blue or pink.” Pink? Since when? I got white. Wife said that would probably be fine. But now I’m thinking blue or pink, so Saturday I went to two Targets, one Best Buy, and one Wal-Mart looking for a pink or blue, so I could have it in case there was a sag of disappointment over the color. My first trip to Wal-Mart since, I think, a visit in 1979 when I was working down south. When I approached I smelled fried food-aromas rolling in waves out the door. Inside, it sounded like this:

Wal-Mart ambient sound

I’m not a Wal-Mart basher, but let me just say I will not be a Wal-Mart shopper in the foreseeable future, because the store was just a heap of jumbled stuff - or so you thought until you came to the DISCOUNT aisle, which was, literally, just heaps of jumbled stuff strewn on the shelves with no order, pawed through and discarded. Anyway, they didn’t have the camera, so back to that subject.

She sort of knew she was getting one, because she’d hinted, and hinted some more, and outright asked, but there’s always that doubt, isn’t there? Then happiness and relief. You might think a Polaroid-type camera is a horrible step backwards, and you’d be right - as I explained to her, I just bought a 32GB card for the cost of her 20-shot film, and my card will hold thousands and thousands of pictures. But it won’t hold them forever, will it? One surge and shazap! they’re gone. Or I lose it. Or it just gives up the ghost, as cards will do some day. Whereas she has a small little picture that exists in a way my pictures don’t, and she’s glueing them in a Field Notes book I gave her. They have notations and dates. They’re much more charming than a computer photo library, or even a slideshow on the iPad.

Still, a buck a pop.

As for those old pictures I have in digital form, here’s one from 2004, ten years ago.

And another from the Bowl-Cut Hello-Kitty / Care-Bear era:

And from the cruise a few weeks ago, somewhere in the Aegean, looking bored and model-like, although that’s not her at all.

She's more like this.


The school evaluation asked for three words to describe herself, and I saw the first two:


And that was a present all its own.




I present what appears to be a perfect little small town, without any of the blemishes usually encountered. Quite remarkable. Or is there a dark side to be found?

It’s the plucky local paper, seated next to a picturesque building that gleams with 19th century pride . . . an Opera House, perhaps?

An Opera House. A restored Opera House.


Says its site:

McPherson, founded in 1872, quickly developed a degree of prosperity because of its rich agricultural land. Nevertheless, the men who formed a stock company to build the Opera House in 1888 had a bold vision. The Opera House, one of the first with electricity, had no equal between Kansas City and Denver.

On opening night, all 900 seats were sold—this in a town of less than 2,500 people—and the Opera House quickly established itself as the county’s cultural center.

Well, you know how that goes - movies come along, and it goes dark right?

Most of the living memories of the McPherson Opera House center on the Mac Theater. For young children it was a place for summer daytime fun, with double features, cartoons and a serial. For young teens, it was the scene of many an awkward first kiss. For older teens, it was a place for dates. For adults it was a source of entertainment.

Eventually it did close. It was spared the usual fate - demolition for a parking lot was in the cards, but preservationists fought for it, and over the decades it was returned to its old glory.


A ghost sign that's vibrant and alive.

Here’s an old commercial structure that would be LOANS and vacant storefronts elsewhere:

Books and coffee. And elegant details.

An old decoration-through-brick structure that could be 1930, could be 1914 - the latter, guessing from the cornice . . .

. . . and a late 40s modernized facade next door, in good shape, and occupied . .

. . and in good shape as well. WHAT HELLISH SECRET DO THE MCPHERSONITES HIDE? Corn, probably. Well, there’s probably a vacant bank with the windows bricked up . . .

Hmm. What’s this? Capital Building? 1887? But McPherson isn’t the capital. Well:

It was the dream of some Kansans, led by speaker of the House of Representatives A. W. Smith, later a Republican candidate for governor, to bring (the state capital) here to McPherson. In 1887, city officials began an attempt to have the community named the state capital. The push lasted until some time in 1889. Toward that end, several amenities were created, a scant few of which remain today.

“Things that still exist from that plan? Well, they’re very few. At 305 North Main, there’s the stone emblem on top of what’s now the Firestone building that says Capital Hill Block, and there’s the first opera house, where Sounds Great and CTFIT24 now operate. That would be about it,” local historian and president of the McPherson County Historical Society David Nigh, said.

At least there’s this at the end of town, a mainstay of rural towns:

And this, which I love, because it reminds me of Fargo. The downtown building right next to the train tracks. Also, the windows: looks as if they resized them once before bricking over the whole shebang. It still looks nice.

Take a cruise. It's a nice little place.

Work blog around 12:30, Tumblr around noonish or so - see you then! And of course, the Fargo site continues.


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