Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Kansas Homestead, An American Pioneer

Ness County, Kansas
October 7, 2010

The homestead is 160 acres in west central Kansas, near Walnut Creek and the small town of Beeler inhabited by a hundred or so down-to-earth folks, surrounded by fields and fields of wheat and other water-miserly crops , over 50 miles from the nearest college. The pioneer was born into slavery almost 150 years ago, titled the “Black Leonardo (da Vinci)” by Time Magazine in 1941, synonymous with Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a pioneer of American agricultural science in the early 20th century. Ness County, Kansas and George Washington Carver – an unlikely pair that only the American Way could put together and which I could not imagine as I traveled westward along Kansas Highway 96.

Historical marker on Highway 96
It was a warm, sunny day with hardly any traffic on the road except for the occasional passing car or the slow, cumbersome farm tractor that decelerated my truck and my wandering mind. Conditions perfect for stopping at and reading each and every roadside marker. The next candidate was on the other side of the highway with a pullout and a shading tree to make my stop more comfortable. The marker was just past a county road leading to a small farming community a half-mile to the south, and I expected the usual local propaganda touting the significance of this small community. The title of the marker, Homestead of a Genius, intrigued me. The homestead was only a mile and half to the south which was a tolerable detour and delay to Dighton and my lunchtime plans there. I was curious to discover the nature of the land that would bring this genius to the wilds of Kansas.