L&T Publisher Earl Watt

 

During the Fourth of July weekend Heather and I traveled to Lawrence to help our oldest daughter move to her new apartment in Shawnee Mission. She started her “big girl” job as she calls it after graduating from Kansas University and is now an engineer.

While going from corner to corner of the state, Kansas is lush green from end to end, a sign of increased rain and also great land management by the farmers and ranchers.

I’m a proud Kansan through and through. Opportunities have come to make a living elsewhere, but it would have been like splitting myself in two.

While I love the amenities of Lawrence and Kansas City, there is something special about my hometown.

As I made my way back home Sunday, I always look forward to being back in Liberal.

If there is a specific problem we do have, it is simply our self esteem. We don’t realize how nice we actually have it.

As I was driving town to town after leaving Wichita, there is no other town that has as much to offer along Highway 54 than Liberal.

We have the most dining locations, hotels, attractions, repair shops, convenience stores and just about anything else this side of Wichita.

Even on the turnpike heading northeast, there is very little that can match what Liberal has until you reach Topeka.

All the traffic that flows from Topeka to the Southwest of America will have few options that can provide what Liberal does outside of Wichita.

When it come to public spaces, take a drive around Liberal on a summer’s evening and check out the activities taking places in the parks, on the ball fields and down the walkways.

Liberal is alive with activities that don’t cost a dime. From the soccer fields and basketball courts of Mahuron Park to the tennis courts at Blue Bonnet Park and everything in between, people are out and about.

They also feel safe about doing it. In a town like Liberal, we look out for one another.

Too often we focus on what we don’t have. We don’t have a big city mall. We don’t have certain chain stores.

But when we visit our daughters in Lawrence, we don’t necessarily eat at those places, either. We seek the local flavor, that something special about Lawrence, like Lady Bird’s for breakfast.

Liberal has a great mix of local flavor. From Billy’s and the Brick House for barbecue lovers to Napoli’s for Italian cuisine and a host of south-of-the-border styles, Liberal’s unique eateries range from Asian options to a sandwich straight from the prairie at One Way Deli and everything in between.

I asked my daughters about getting a shaved ice in Lawrence, but they said, “You won’t like it here. It’s not as good as Liberal.”

In Liberal we have options for shaved ice, too, from the Sno Shack to Ice Lickers and more.

There’s nothing wrong with the city. They are great to visit.

But driving on crowded freeways just to get to work every day creates an anxiety that I avoid.

Even when we get out on the open road in Southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle, we have space around us, and the freedom of not being boxed in by others.

We have seen industries come and go over the years. Liberal has been known as the Broomcorn Capital as well as the best watermelon seed source in the nation. We’ve built airplanes, oil industry trucks, semi trailers and more over the years. We’ve been home to some of the world’s largest oil producers.

While some industries have come and gone, the constant through it all has been agriculture. We can grow crops and animals like no one else. We can provide the food supply to the world.

We’ve even branched out to include cotton and ethanol as additional ag-related products.

Our future is secured in the fact that everyone has to eat. While driving by some of the corn fields on my way home from Lawrence, I was amazed at just how much we actually grow. Lush fields of corn and other crops going on for miles and miles and as deep as the eye can see.

We play an important role in the international economy right here in Liberal.

And my daughters, just like so many of the youth that can look back at their education here, can pick whatever path they choose. both graduated from Liberal and went on to Seward County Community College and then KU.

Much like the crops we plant here and then are shipped around the world, our children are also a product of our values, our work ethic and our pioneering spirit to find a way to succeed where it seemed almost impossible. They disburse to every corner of the globe and make a difference wherever they go.

We are a producing community, and we should take pride in who we are and what we do.

Too often we let the voices of dissent focus on the glass being half empty. But the true drivers of innovation have found ways to maximize what we have, to provide a home for Dorothy, to save the old railroad depot from destruction, to rehabilitate a nearly abandoned four-story hotel, to build activity centers and enhance public spaces and to never be satisfied by pushing for an even better tomorrow.

The negative voices tell us what we are not, but the cries from the pioneers tell us of a seed of a community planted on the prairie that needs the loving hands of a farmer to grow.

We have a choice. Listen to the voices that destroy esteem or those who believe in Liberal and what it wants to be. Liberal isn’t just a town, it’s the creation of those willing to do the work.

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