The Town of Kansas

Rubber Boot Sole, Goodyear’s Brothers, Naugatuck, Connecticut, 1855

We decided to explore the view that we had been looking out at from our hotel room for the last few days. So, we headed downhill to the Missouri River. We parked at the City Market, which we explored first. We did lots of looking, but not much buying. We looked for the river walk and after wandering for a while, eventually found the entrance to it. At first, it felt spooky to me, being all alone together along the Missouri. The landscape is rather post-industrial, with only a strip of now brown zoysia to delimit the park boundaries. Eventually, enough joggers and dog walkers appeared to allay my fears. We walked the path until the bluffs receded, exposing us to the day’s stiff winds. We persisted for a while, but eventually turned around. Returning to the market, we shopped for lunch. We looked at Vietnamese and Ethiopian, before settling on Brazilian.  

At the east end of the market is the museum for the sunken steamship Arabia. We had visited this museum years ago, when Bob and Nink lived in KC. Our kids were still young then, as was the museum. Privately owned, this museum is the fruition of generations now. We had visited first, shortly after it had opened. A generation later, it was so much grander. In 1855, when Kansas City was but a town, the up bound steamboat Arabia passed by. The captain wanted to make more miles, before calling it a day. Unfortunately, disaster in the form of a snag speared the bow of the boat and caused it to sink in 15 minutes. Fortunately, the only loss of life was a single mule. The boat sat in 50′ of mud for 150 years until this enterprise decided to dig it up again.

I’ve chosen to show only one of the 1000s of artifacts that have been unearthed, a Goodyear boot seal. Before the tire company made tires, it made boots, but when contacted about this find, Goodyear denied the possible existence of such shoes. The vulcanization was too unstable at that time. This shoe is now bathed in nitrogen. These amateur archeologists are already embarking upon their next target, the Malta. 15 years older than the Arabia, the Malta should shed light on an even older period of Missouri history and western expansion.

Middle 19th-century, while headed west, you would decamp from a steamboat and head south three miles to Westport. There waited three trailheads: Oregon, Santa Fe and Mormon. Now, it is a bar district. We visited Kelly’s, which is housed in the oldest building in KC. There we witnessed some frontier injustice, when a gang of lesbians were displaced by a bunch of bean bag boys. They did not go quietly. I should have been more heroic, but it was not my monkey and not my circus. After a beer, it was Thai for dinner and then bedtime for Bonzo. 

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