Nineteen eighty two was one of the most precious years in my life. Things would happen to me during the year that only months before seemed improbable if not impossible. The first of three major events was a trip to one of the Majors. If you follow golf, you know that there are four Majors. There is the U.S. Open, The British Open, The Masters and the PGA Championship.
This isn't a story about golf. It is a story of a trip made by three twenty-somethings to Tulsa, Oklahoma to see the final round of the PGA Championship at the Southern Hills Country Club. Dennis, Steve and myself worked together at the company. We were all in the engineering department and at least once a week we, along with a few others, would go golfing together. As a result of playing golf we began to watch golf. When we found out that the tournament was to be held in Tulsa we decided to go. Tulsa was just a short five hour drive and we could afford tickets to at least one round of the tournament. We bought tickets for the Sunday round and made plans to travel on Saturday so we could be at the course early Sunday morning.
We left Kansas City mid morning that Saturday on what would become a rather warm August day in the midwest. We headed down 71 highway which hugs the border between Kansas and Missouri. The day was off to a good start.
I was driving my car and so anything that may happen in the car was my responsibility. Ordinarily this would not phase me but Dennis and I were traveling with Steve for the first time and we didn't know what to expect until an hour into the drive. Steve finished drinking his orange soda and then went to work making the can into a pipe of sorts. I had never seen anything like it. Dennis and I were not that wise to the habits of the drug world so while Steve sat in the back seat poking a hole in his can and denting the top of it we just sat and wondered what was up. Steven then pulled out some weed and sat it on the can over the little hole he had punched. Lighting it he would smoke the weed and it looked like he was simply drinking some soda except for the smoke coming out of it.
Dennis and I being in the engineering field were pretty impressed by the design of the soda pipe and told Steve so. He offered each of us a hit off the soda can but we politely turned down his offer. What was going through my head though was if we got pulled over and that soda can was found, I may be heading off to jail. Thankfully Steve did not require the use of the soda can much that day and it probably just isn't as much fun getting stoned if you are being chauffeured by two of your friends who don't partake. So the soda can was put away and pretty much forgotten the rest of the trip.
As we were driving we started seeing signs telling us we should go see the original Little House On The Prairie. Apparently, according to the signs, this was the cabin that Laura Ingalls Wilder lived while she was growing up. All of us agreed that this may be an interesting find since we had plenty of time and nothing to really do in Tulsa once we got there that evening. We all decided to go just a little out of our way to see the Little House on the Prairie.
Exiting the highway where the signs told us to we began our adventure into Wilder country. It started off on a nice smoothly paved road which gradually started getting narrower the further from the highway we got. The signs indicated us to turn onto another road and while this road was paved, it pushed the definition of being paved. It was a very narrow road that was extremely rough. I found myself dodging potholes before long and soon we were all checking to see if we had lost any fillings in our teeth while on this obstacle course.
When we came to a third sign telling us to turn onto a gravel road I stopped the car. We had already logged fifteen miles out of our way to see this log cabin. I wanted to know how important it was that we follow through with this plan. Apparently it was important enough to justify the previous fifteen miles and we came to the conclusion that it would just be a couple of miles down this gravel road.
Ten miles later the gravel road held a sign indicating we had made it to the Little House On The Prairie and sure enough there to the side of the road was a little log cabin with a huge sign that said "THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE". I pulled the car over and we got out to stretch our legs. As we were stretching, Dennis and I walked over to the big sign and started reading the small print. We were stunned. While I can't remember the exact words that were on the sign in essence it said this: "somewhere in this general vicinity with at least a twenty mile radius once sat a log cabin very similar to the one built here. It was in a cabin something like this one that Wilder spent a small portion of her childhood which inspired her to write her series of books about life on the plains."
In other words, somewhere around here, we don't know where, there was a cabin that may or may not have looked something like this one we built for you to look at and that Laura Ingalls Wilder may or may not have lived in it for a very short period of time. We stood there letting the anger turn into more of a "well they got us" type of mood. A little over twenty miles later we were back on the highway and heading for the next adventure. It was the zoo in Independence, Kansas.
Steve had worked in Independence, Kansas as he began his career. According to him the first American monkey shot into space was from the Independence zoo. The good thing about the trip to the zoo was that it was more or less close to the highway, unlike the log cabin we had just left. Independence, Kansas is a very small town. It is so small you would be surprised to think there would be a zoo there. As we headed into town, Steve gave directions to the zoo. We finally arrived at a fairly decent sized zoo for such a small town. On the outside of the zoo were signs indicating that it was indeed home to Able, the first American in Space.
We walked through the zoo and found ourselves to be pretty much alone as visitors. Finally we got to the monkey cage. There was a small house built in the cage area where the monkeys could go inside during bad weather. It was a two story house and had balconies coming off of windows on the second floor. As we approached the house there was a sign on the front door that said "ABLE LIVED HERE" and had a cartoon drawing of a monkey hanging out the window of a spaceship with stars around it. Off on one side of the house above one of the second floor balconies was a second sign that read "ABEL SLEPT HERE". Take a moment now and check what I just wrote that the two signs said. I did not make a typo. One sign called the monkey "ABEL" while the other sign called it "ABLE". For such an important part of such a little zoo, you would think that they could at least come up with one spelling or the other. We looked at where Able/Abel use to live and sleep and then slowly walked back to the car. The positive thing about this stop on the trip was that it wasn't too far from the highway and every indication pointed to the fact that a monkey had indeed lived there that had apparently gone into space. We just weren't sure how to spell the monkeys name.
After that we drove on to Tulsa and checked into our hotel room. Exhausted by the day of exciting sight seeing around the state of Kansas all three of us fell asleep pretty easily. The next day we went and watched some of the best golfers in the world play the final round of a Major championship. Raymond Floyd won that tournament and we were able to see such figures as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Craig Stadler. It was exciting and fun to watch the golf tournament and when it was over we piled into the car to begin the drive home. We had to be at work the next day so we decided to bypass any sightseeing in Kansas on the way back. We had our fill of sights to see in Kansas the previous day.