It so seems that the unfortunate Father Time has slithered his way into my usual weekend routine, hindering me from composing my weekly Ambler. Thus, I present to you, dear reader, a work I sent to the local papers for publishing that was met with either completely disdain or, what is more likely, neglect. It is a simple bit about the town in which I temporarily reside.
If one happens to be out among the western hills of Manhattan, west of the Seth Child Commons shopping center, and is so inclined to travel up Arbor Drive, turning north onto Warner Park Road, he will meet an open field. And in the field lies a lonely stone in between a black, full-size replica of a trooper and an informational placard about a man and his two wives. This man was Kern Warner.
As I ambled my way to this peculiar spot in the heat of an afternoon, I took in the scenery. To the west was the Miller Ranch subdivision, and, like many spots in Manhattan, one looking out in this direction believes he can see forever along different shades of the green, rolling hills of the central plains.
The east afforded me an equally enjoyable view as I was surrounded by tall grass that in the days gone by ruled the land. The walking path led down to a cluster of trees a wilder imagination might believe to be an enchanted forest.
But my course was not meant for the path, and I made my way through the tall grass to that lone stone, trooper and informational placard. I read about Warner Park – over 80 acres of land situated in between a shopping center and a subdivision. The land is largely undeveloped, and I imagined troopers like the one by my side roaming the landscape and making discoveries.
I thought about how it is becoming harder to make discoveries.
I thought about how if one explored that wooded area in Warner Park he was more likely to find a cheap beer can than two boys making a fort.
But I thought, primarily, about Manhattan.
There is a common notion in our country that Kansas is rather dull, and by consequence, its towns suffer from this same characterization. But the man who believes that Manhattan is dull has probably only ever been to Aggieville and never once stood atop Warner Park Hill by Kern Warner’s memory and the daunting Trooper. He has never looked westward with that Trooper, imagining the valley of the Miller Ranch homes before the development, seeing those luscious green hills as uncharted territory—an immense green sea with stagnant waves. He has never seen the sun sink like a submerged lifeboat sending out flares minutes before it goes down to the depths of that green sea.
He has never stood on the banks of the Blue and been bewildered at its lack of blueness, or ascended the front side of Manhattan hill, singing a war song as if he is conquering the hill and the region, ever ready to stake the “flag of Manhattan” wherever he goes. He has never stood atop the Top of the World and actually believed it to be the top of the world.
He has never seen Manhattan as the world.
But, as an outsider, the memory of Kern Warner’s contribution to Warner Park is the memory of Manhattan, a town that is full of life because it is full of nature. It is a town that preserves areas of land, keeping them relatively undeveloped. In doing this Manhattan invites its citizens to wander outside, to discover the small nooks and crannies that, though small, offer views big enough to catch a grand glimpse of or our world.
Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Written at Kansas State University,
Early September, 2014
Painting: “Trooper in Full Marching Order”
By Alfred James Munnings
Oil on canvas, n.d.