Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pay No Attention to the Professor Behind the Curtain

I am in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. No, I have not been sentenced to a lengthy stay in a federal prison for some obscure violation of the postal laws. Since I doubt if anyone in the post office read last week’s semi-confession of low crimes and high misdemeanors, I am probably safe.

I am in Ft. Leavenworth to attend a course taught by the US Army to improve the skills of professors of military history. That makes it more like a plea bargain. It is somewhat comforting to learn that the Army believes I can improve. It is nice to have friends, especially ones with tanks.

So, I am truly grateful for the course, the Army’s confidence in my teaching abilities, and the two week vacation you taxpayers are giving me. And I am absolutely sure that Kansas is a beautiful place in the spring.

It is, however, winter. Kansas is as cold as boarding house soup.  The temperature is lower than the IQ of a Congressman.  The wind chill is in negative numbers and it just started to snow.  As far as I am concerned, snow belongs on Christmas Cards and penguins. 

That, in and by itself, would not be that bad. But Kansas has the kind of wind that back home we say could blow the nuts off a prairie dog. Arctic winds start in Canada, head south and accelerate through the Dakotas and Nebraska without finding so much as a good bush to slow them down, then hit the poor sap standing in Kansas with the velocity of a frozen missile.

I remember reading about the Titanic. Lieutenant Lightoller, not Jack Dawson, said the cold was like a thousand knives being driven into the body. Lightoller got it mostly right, but in Kansas those knives are red hot.

I am beginning to think I have completely misunderestimated the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was not trying to return to Kansas, she was attempting to escape. Her famous quote, “We’re not in Kansas anymore” was not a cry of despair, but an exalted pronouncement of victory.

Only after visiting this flat frigid frontier state can one fully appreciate what would cause a young teenage girl to deliberately fling herself into a violent tornado just to escape… Well, let’s just say that we have obviously interpreted the entire book incorrectly. The whole trip down the yellow brick road (an obvious literary metaphor for sunlight) was a desperate attempt to flee from a witch who intended to return her back to a frozen Kansas.

I intend to examine closely the history books concerning the Indian Wars fought on the Great Plains. It could well be that the Native Americans were fighting due to the mistaken belief that the federal government was going to force them to stay here. If the Native Americans had understood that the intended reservation was going to be somewhere south of Kansas, say Southern Florida, they probably would have beaten the US Cavalry there. By the time the Army caught up with them, the casinos would be ready to open.

Why until now have I never noticed the deeply sinister meaning in the phrase “Dead of Winter?”

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