Sunday, June 24, 2012

Governor's Day at Fort Riley

 On Saturday morning David announced that they were going to Fort Riley for Territorial Governor’s Day.  When LT gave him an inquiring look David responded, “Yeah, I know Kansas hasn’t been a territory for a long time, but they make a big celebration for it.  It was the capital of Kansas for four days in 1855 and they put it there because folks who were against slavery wanted to be as far away as possible from Missouri, who wanted to continue slavery.  But when the legislature met there, they kicked out the anti-slavery legislators and moved the capitol over near Missouri.  Folks in Kansas think that this was one of the things that led to the Civil War.  Oh, more information than you wanted, LT?  You probably just wanted to know if there’d be food there.  Well, yes there will, and lots of other things.”  David laughed at himself for explaining history to a cat and went off to get dressed.

Rudy, who had listened to the brief lecture remarked, “Hummph.  If cats had been the legislators, there would have been no question of slavery.  Cats don’t believe in subjugating other cats.  Although…if the question had been whether to enslave dogs, perhaps there might have been some debate.”

LT gave Rudy the ‘look’ and shook his head.  Sometimes she could be so silly.  He went off to make his own preparations – a drink of water, a bite of food and a visit to the poo field.  When he finished, LT walked outside and waited patiently by the car.  Privately, LT hoped they didn’t spend all day there, as he wanted to go see Ginger and the grown kittens.  He knew they were leaving within a few days and wanted to spend as much time as he could with them.  It was going to be very hard to part with Ginger and the kittens for a second time.  He’d resigned himself to never seeing them again four years ago, and to find them out in here in the wilds of Kansas had been a bit of a miracle.  LT sighed and looked off into the distance, deciding to think about the Governor’s Day events instead.

A newly groomed Rudy walked out of the RV with David, and they all got in the rental car.  “The celebration isn’t on the part of Fort Riley where I’ve been working.  It’s a bit to the east, so we’ll go in a different gate today.  Fort Riley is a pretty big place, you know.  There’s a big event going on near there, a country music stampede.  It’s early enough in the day that we hopefully won’t hit too much traffic.  Getting back from work last night was a bit of a challenge.  Lots of folks were trying to get in to see Travis Tritt last night, and the roads were packed.  Tonight is Toby Keith as the headliner, but that’s way late, so hopefully we won’t have trouble getting home.  I’m not much of a country music fan, so it’s been no hardship to come back to you guys rather than to head to a concert.  And, believe me; I’d never take a cat to a concert.  Too loud, too many people.”

Traffic wasn’t bad as they drove through Manhattan.  When they stopped at the gate into Fort Riley, David fished out his identification and was waved right in.  It was a lot easier to get on post when driving a car instead of a huge RV.  The cats stood on their hind legs in the back seat, each looking out a window.  There wasn’t much to see.  Buildings on the left, open fields on the right and then buildings on the right and open fields to the left.  David slowed down as they neared a building that didn’t match the other modern military facilities.  It was made of stone and looked very old.  He parked the car on the edge of a parking area in the shade of a tree, in case the cats wanted to come back to the car.  “Now, remember where we parked, in case you want to come back here.”  David pointed out landmarks to the cats as they walked back to the stone building.  LT shook his head.  It was nice to have a human who knew they understood what he was talking about but was it too much to expect for him to not treat them like somewhat dim kids?

There were all sorts of exhibits set up, and since it was early the place wasn’t crowded.  Some of the folks here were dressed quite oddly.  The woman wore long skirts, even though the weather was pretty hot, and the men wore old-fashioned shirts and pants.  When Rudy saw one pick up a long gun and sight down its barrel she ran behind David’s legs.  “Don’t worry Rudy Toots, they’re historical re-enactors.  There’s cavalry, mountain men, civil war soldiers and folks showing how people lived their everyday lives.  I think you can even learn how to weave a basket today.  I’m hoping to wow them with my basket weaving skills.”  David laughed, but Rudy stuck close to him.  If they were re-enactors, they might want to re-enact shooting game, and she didn’t want to be someone’s lunch. 

David saw someone dressed in Indian garb tanning a hide, and headed in that direction.  Rudy followed, but LT was fascinated by the clothing of the civil war folks.  He stopped to admire a man in a blue uniform with very shiny brass buttons.  The man reached down and distractedly scratched LT’s head as he talked to a visitor about Kansas’ role in the war. 

Moving on, LT found a covered wagon and thought he’d try it out.  He always thought he would have made a great pioneer.  He was a rough and tumble cat, or had been when he was younger.  He sat in the wagon bed, imagining himself on the frontier, traveling from New Jersey in this wagon.  It wouldn’t be easy, but LT would be there to help his humans on the trip.  He’d keep the mice out of the grain and patrol for snakes that might bite the children.  He was envisioning himself the hero as he saved the baby from a rattlesnake when someone jumped up into the wagon and screeched, “Oh, take my picture in the wagon with this cute cat.”  A woman posed with a wide smile, so LT sat there and sighed.  Right.  He wasn’t the hero in this tale; he was the sidekick to some woman in turquoise crocs who wanted a picture taken with him.  Whatever.  After the photo opportunity LT went to find David and Rudy.

He caught up with them at the basket weaving area.  An older man dressed in period garb sat finishing off a lovely little basket.  He was coaching a young girl in making a simple basket using a wooden base.  She had put canes up through the bottom holes and was struggling to weave the rush in and out around them.  The older man put down his basket and showed her that it was a lot easier to weave them around the tops of the canes and then push them down.  She smiled and got to work.  David was making his basket from scratch.  He had what looked like a spider web with the canes poking out from a center point.  He’d woven a small circle, and as LT and Rudy watched he started tightening his rush weaving so that the sides started to form.  The older man grunted and said, “You’re no novice at this.  Where did you learn to make baskets?”

David laughed and said that his mother had woven baskets for fairs when he was young.  She’d made them to order too, and he’d been enlisted to help when orders got backed up.  He said he hadn’t woven a basket in probably twenty years, but it was like riding a bicycle.  You didn’t forget how to do it, although you might wobble a bit at first.  The man laughed and said that the basket didn’t look too wobbly.  David chatted with him about basket making techniques as his basket grew.  When he’d gotten it to the height he wanted he wove the upright canes into the top row of weaving and cut them off, leaving a small beautifully woven basket.  He looked at Rudy and asked, “So, do you think your folks would like this as a souvenir of our trip?”  She nodded and he thanked the man weaving baskets and they moved on.

Rudy was very impressed.  David could do all sorts of interesting things.  He fished, wove baskets, built sweat lodges and cooked really well.  He was quite an accomplished guy.  They were standing in front of the stone building when she heard a man yell something behind him and then there was a terrific ‘BOOM’.  She turned and saw smoke rising from the area where the civil war soldiers had been standing.  She tensed and prepared to run for safety when David crouched down and put a hand on each of the cats.  “It’s okay, guys.  They’re demonstrating the cannon.  Nothing bad is happening.”  It was a good thing he’d said that, as both of them were about to head into the trees, and it might have been a while before David found them.  The smoke slowly cleared, and there was no repetition of the horrible noise.  David reassured them that they’d be gone before the cannon was fired again.

Since there was a sign on the stone building that said “No Pets Allowed” they passed it by and headed to where the Territorial Troubadours were playing.  They had instruments the cats had never seen before and were singing old folk songs, assumedly from the 1850s.  David and the cats settled under a shady tree and enjoyed the music for a while.  Rudy was surprised that David didn’t jump up and grab one of their instruments to play.  He could do most everything else; he probably played the, well, whatever those things were.  When the Troubadours had finished their set, David applauded and asked Rudy and LT if they were ready to head back.  They got up and followed him back to the car.

The ride back to the RV took a little longer, as there was a good bit of traffic on the roads by now.  At stop lights there were cars blaring country music from different artists, all competing to see which was the loudest.  David rolled up the windows and turned on the air conditioner.  “Too loud, too much.  I think Car Talk might still be on.  Let’s listen to the radio.”   He turned it on, and they were accompanied on the rest of the ride by Click and Clack joking about cars as they gave their advice to the callers.  Much better than loud competing country music songs.  David laughed at their jokes and said that it was good to hear folks talking properly again.  LT and Rudy looked at each other and then understood as one of the guys on the radio said something about living in Massachusetts.  David was a bit homesick for New England accents, and probably his fiancĂ© too.  Well, they’d be home in less than a week and then David could head back up to his home in New England.  Rudy agreed, it would be nice to hear people talking without accents again. 

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