Friday, July 9, 2010

Spearville, Kansas

Joe grew up in the country a few miles outside of Spearville, Kansas. We lived for a few years on a nearby farmstead that had been in his family a hundred years ago. And Billy started kindergarten at the grade school in Spearville.

When we became full-time RVers, the kids were anxious to know how they would keep up their relationships with friends in Spearville. We decided we should return for a couple of months a year to the closest thing they have to a hometown.

Summer in western Kansas doesn't really fit our overall travel scheme of following the fine weather. It's hella hot at harvest time (June-July). But other considerations make summertime in Spearville the logical choice. The town kids are available for play in all the hours they'd normally be in school or doing homework. Harvest is kind of exciting. And the pool is open.

The boys learned to swim at the Spearville pool, and their love of the water is a big part of what makes beaches and warm springs so fun to visit all winter long. There are same-age kids that Billy, Leo, and Karl can each relate to and have fun with, and all the kids drift into and out of mixed-age groups in their play. It's a great scene for informal acquisition of social skills and interpersonal awareness. Joe gets in some relaxation and socializing, bringing the kids for at least a few hours almost every day. Sometimes Meg comes along, though she usually opts for walking around town, visiting the library, or just staying home. (The place we're calling "home" for these weeks is the subject of the next blog entry.)

Spearville has a handful of businesses and services, including our beloved Windmill Restaurant, two sole branch community banks, the township Library and the Spearville Mercantile ("The Merc"), which serves as our primary source of groceries when we're in town. The Merc is half grocery, half old-fashioned department store, with toys, hardware, fabrics, and jewelry. I've often been surprised at the arcane items they carry -- we once needed a replacement weight for an older-model pressure cooker, and there we found it, neatly filed with the other pressure cooker parts.

Spearville is also home to a wind farm, built in 2006. Joe was so absorbed in the construction and start-up of this project that anytime we were in town (almost every day of the week, that is), he insisted on driving a wide circuit to the various sites where the turbines were being anticipated, stored, assembled, and tested. He still can't take his eyes off the windmills for long -- our game on the way to town is always "Guess how many windmills are turning!" (Usually at least 2 or 3 are being serviced.)

With alternative energy the hot topic it is these days, little towns like Spearville are popping into the spotlight, becoming the subjects of board meetings, hosting community information sessions, and spawning activists for and against the boon or curse of proposed wind farms. The towns that succeed in attracting wind farms earn grants and income from the companies that harvest the rural wind to power the urban machine back east.

It was rather disappointing this year to see that no progress has been made on the second phase of the project, which would double the size of the wind farm. Sadly, the windmill towers, generators, and blades were delivered over a year ago, and here they sit, a huge investment in materials awaiting funding and scheduling to become productive.

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