There are lots of great things about being raised in Prairie Village, Kansas. When I left Kansas to attend college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, for example, as soon as I established that I was in fact from Prairie Village, Kansas (which sometimes required confirmation from my driver’s license), people were willing to believe just about any childhood story I could dream up. You rode a horse to school? Whoa! You had to slop the pigs at 4:30am every morning? Sounds rough! Your school consisted of a single room that combined all grades from kindergarten to high school? Incredible!
One of my best friends in college was from the same part of Kansas – although I didn’t know him before we met in Michigan – and whenever someone asked us about our hometown we’d make up a new story on the spot, building off whatever the other person said. At one point we convinced a group of people that we couldn’t let our parents know we were friends because of an ongoing feud between our two families. My family, you see, owned the second largest farm in the state of Kansas, but my friend’s family insisted their farm was bigger, and years of bad blood had built up as the two families argued the point. (Part of the beauty of the lie was that we both acknowledged that a third family had by far the largest farm, so we were just battling for second place.) That set the foundation for increasingly ridiculous Hatfield/McCoy feuding stories that were limited only by our imagination. Nobody ever doubted us, because after hearing ‘Prairie Village, Kansas’ they were ready to believe anything.
In reality Prairie Village is just a normal suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. It’s actually closer to Pleasantville than Little House on the Prairie. It was a great place to grow up, and now it’s a great place to visit. Most of my family still lives there, including my parents, one of my sisters, my sister’s husband and their two daughters. A bunch of my friends live in the area as well.
After spending a couple of days in Glacier National Park in Montana I was able to drive to Prairie Village in time for my dad’s 71st birthday party, and it was great to be there to help celebrate. The next day I made my usual pilgrimage to Winstead’s, a local burger chain that opened its first restaurant in 1940. And the day after that I met David, one of my oldest and best friends, to have BBQ for lunch. Ever since high school my stand-by for Kansas City BBQ has been Gates, but – after a string of health inspector citations and a wicked case of food poisoning from my last Gates visit – we decided to hit Oklahoma Joe’s this time. Oklahoma Joe’s is located inside a gas station, but it’s arguably Kansas City’s best BBQ.
That night my niece Kate and I went out for sushi. Kate usually isn’t able to rally much support for a sushi night, but with me in town she had a rare opportunity to enlist a wingman. Clearly there’s demand for sushi in KC – the place we went to was packed.
The next morning I was on the road again, driving back west to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Really a fun visit in KC and great to have a chance to see everyone before I head overseas. Thanks again, Mom and Dad!