Kansas, You Fooler (In Two Unequal Parts)

Kansas, you fooler. You’re makin’ me smile. –The Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Rock Island, IL

Part I: Fooling Around in Kansas

During a break in the action at this year’s Prairie Festival I repaired to my tent to say the mid-day office. I prayed fervently for the peace of the whole world, for the stability of God’s holy churches, for Bill Kauffman’s hairline, that sort of thing, when I heard the sound of footsteps stumbling toward my tent’s front porch.

If my ears did not deceive me, these were no ordinary footsteps. These were the footsteps of faithful readers of The Front Porch Republic, America’s favorite and most popular electronic magazine, known far and wide for featuring only clear-headed writers full of all the correct opinions on all the issues out there—plus some of the finest curmudgeonly and vitriolic prose available anywhere among God-fearing men and women.

My ears did not deceive me. For presently I heard, in a kind of slurred speech peculiar to Kansans hailing from such places as Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California, “Peters! Peters, you bar-jesting misanthrope you! Come out here and get what you’ve got coming to you!”

I pronounced a premature “amen” and bethought me for a moment. Could it be a band of angry sociologists with a group IQ of 12? Could it be Sam M. or Jordan Smith come to set me straight in person? Has Sabin triplicated himself and come seeking a three-on-one-duel? Irreverent utterances at twenty paces?

No! It was—well, I must change the names to protect the guilty—“D’Jim,” “L’Adam,” and “DeRobert,” and they were bearing gifts—bearing, indeed, local beer! Actual Kansas beer! And with them was a woman of stunning and radiant countenance—I’ll call her “H’Anna”—who was obviously embarrassed to be seen with these merry derelicts, not to mention afraid for her infant son, whom she held protectively whenever he wasn’t sleeping in an armored stroller.

“Oh, my brothers! And sister! Welcome! Welcome!” I cried and greedily snatched the beer from their hands in one deft motion. Scurrying to secret it away in my tent, I was suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.

Immediately I suspected God. And, sure enough, from high above a loud voice—and a deep one too, I might add—said: “these are my beloved scallywags, in whom I am displeased. Except for the girl. She’s terrific.”

I realized at once that I was being called upon to break beer with these ruffians, these outcasts, these Front Porchers in hog-farmer denim and unforgivable Young Republican kakis.

So I did, and there we stood. (I did say there are no rockers on my tent’s B.A. F.P.) We stood for a good hour or more, quaffing the real Kansas stuff, and the real Iowa stuff that I was shocked (shocked, I tell you) to find among my own provisions in the beer cooler bearing, in large letters, my name and the phrase: “Keep Out Or Else I’ll Slander You in a Post!”

And don’t you know that we stood there and witnessed an operation of grace? I became less smug and self-righteous, less displeased with the world, less bitter about the Krustian Konspiracy that is ruining America. And at the same time—indeed, with each story I told, with each little bit of gossip I parted with—my benevolent guests became less enamored of Deneen, Wilson, and Stegal. They started calling Mitchell names unsuitable for print. One of them relieved himself by spelling the word “Beer” in the sand, and it was clear he didn’t have Tall Grass Ale in mind—though, I assure you, he had it most abundantly in his bladder.

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