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the quintessential Midwestern meal

June 6, 2012

Pittsburg, Kansas, sits in the southeast corner of the state.  Its major industry is education.

Pittsburg State University sits in the southeast corner of the city and edifies 7000+ students.

It’s home to the reigning champions of NCAA Division II football.


Many of the 20,000+ happy Pittsburg citizens are my family and friends.  I lived there 15

years, during which I ended my first marriage and started my second.  It is full of memories

all along the emotional spectrum.  So I was fraught with mixed feelings when I hit the city

limits three weeks ago.


I found my son Chris and my younger grandson Keith straightaway. It would be awhile before

I’d see my older grandson Sean.  He was honouring the tradition of high school seniors during

their last week of school, that of being too mobile to find.  Cell phones have affected the prac-

tice a bit, but it’s still best to give them some space just before they’re released into the wild.


Chris had just obtained several chicken hatchlings from John, an old friend with whom I’d lost

contact.  John had given Chris a note with his number, asking that I call.  I did later in the day,

but first I checked in with long-time friend Hudi and her husband Bryant.  In the span of two

hours, the three of us were able to solve many of the world’s problems, including NAFTA.


Exhausted from the effort, I took my leave of these fine folks and sought out this meal at

Harry’s Cafe in downtown Pittsburg:

It’s a chicken-fried steak, quite possibly

the quintessential Midwestern meal.

It had enough calories to sustain me

for my entire visit, but —  just to be

sure — I ordered more gravy for the

fries.  Thus fortified, I headed out to

find John.


John was more than willing to come out of the Kansas afternoon heat so we could get

caught up on each other’s lives.  One of the things keeping him busy these days is raising

several types of poultry, including Sebastopol geese.

I’d never seen such a species.  My first thought was “these birds have been vandalized”.  John

set me straight, though.  As we talked, his wife Patty buzzed through the kitchen several times.

She was enmeshed in at least two projects.  She’s a lieutenant colonel in the Kansas National

Guard, and very knowledgeable about PTSD.  She’s helping some other members of the Guard

cope with it.


John and I had a terrific talk.  I left with the hope I could see him again before I headed home.

I went back to Chris’s house, where I met his girlfriend Chris, a lovely young woman.  After

Keith went to bed, the Chris’s went over to her house.  I watched True Grit and got increasingly

annoyed that none of the characters used contractions in their speech.


The male Chris came home and we had some time together before he went to bed.  He had to

get up early to do some roofing before it got unbearably hot.  I imagine in other families,

reunions are marked with feasts, long conversations, possibly Bible study.  Chris and I ad-

justed our attitude, ate some Little Debbie chocolate donuts and watched a chunk of Life of



It was all so familiar and comforting.  He went to bed and I settled in on the couch, drifting

off as I wondered if it would be possible to chicken-fry a Sebastopol goose.



FRIDAY: Joe and Steve


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