Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 3: No Intervention Needed

Thursday was the Jedi’s birthday. It was absolutely fitting that we were in the barbeque capital of the world. However, we were also in Independence Missouri, which is now practically a suburb of Kansas City. Independence Missouri was also the jumping off point for the Oregon Trail. So, despite the fact that it was the Jedi’s birthday and despite the fact that the Jedi had been pseudo teasing that we would be getting barbeque for breakfast, we had breakfast at the hotel and headed out to the Frontier Trails Museum.
Right next door to the museum we found an unexpected treasure, the Chicago and Alton Depot.

We walked over for a picture….

….and this kind elderly gentleman came out and invited us in. He was more of a treasure than many of the artifacts in the depot. The depot itself was the original depot built in 1879. After it closed, it fell into disrepair and was scheduled to be demolished. A group came together to raise the funds needed to move it to a new location and refurbish it, keeping it as historically accurate as possible. It was full of things that had actually been in use in the depot, some of them original from 1879. Our guide said that when they started the refurbishing process, a gentleman stepped forward. He said back when the depot had been decommissioned, he had taken many items from the depot. Now, he said, he thought it was time to return them. Without his unauthorized preservation, many of the artifacts would have been lost forever.
Among the items returned were—

an original phone, which had been installed just 6 years after Bell had filed his patent;

an Edison glass jar battery, invented when he still worked for the railroad (I think);

and an Edison phonograph, a second edition model with a new volume control feature. (Our guide told us that the originals didn’t have a volume control…so that if you wanted it to play softer, you had to stuff a sock in it, which is where that phrase came from. ) Our guide played some Irish music on the phonograph for us.

But, cooler even than these things was our host himself. He demonstrated the telegraph devices for us, quickly clicking out each child’s name in Morse code as well as the different signals the stations used to quickly transmit information about trains and departures and whatnot. He showed us how they used to get messages to the engineers and conductors on the train…by tying the messages to large metal hoops attached to a long pole. Someone on the train would lean out and snatch the message from the hoop as the train steamed past. He said he broke his own wrist doing this, and it got him a day vacation from work.

He took us on a tour of the agent’s apartment upstairs, which was all furnished in period pieces. He talked us through what life would have been like for the family and which chores each child would do. A butter churn was in the kitchen. He said the wives of the agents would frequently fill their butter church by dipping a ladle into the milk jugs the farmers had stored downstairs to be shipped out on the next train. They would just take a little of the cream from off the top of each milk jug, in the hopes that their dipping wouldn’t be noticed. He said that’s where the phrase “skimming a little off the top” originated.

He was an absolute joy, and I loved listening to him. Back downstairs, the kids each bought a wooden train whistle, and he taught them each a few train signals for their whistles. Toa of Boy has been tooting away on his whistle ever since.

We then headed next door to our original destination of the Frontier Trails Museum.

I don’t really know what the kids thought of this museum; I was too lost in my own little world of covered wagon bliss.

One thing I did note, one of the sections was about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the trappers and hunters that blazed the trail west. They had small squares of real animal fur as part of the display. Across the aisle, they had a glass case of full skin furs. Toa was grossed out by the full furs. Sweetling was intrigued. It was a complete reversal of what I would have expected. In the gift shop, Sweetling bought a coonskin cap. She was disappointed to later learn that it wasn’t made of real fur.

By then, it was lunch time, but my patient husband indulged me a little more by driving to a nearby field that still held the faintest traces of swales made by the wagon trains well over a century ago. I didn’t take any photos, because the faint corduroying of the field would never come through on a photo. Neither did I go all teary eyed over the experience of being at ground zero of the great overland migration, though I did come close.

Finally, we left my favorite period of history behind, and headed on to lunch at Oklahoma Joe’s. Anthony Bourdon listed Oklahoma Joe’s on his “Top 13 Places to Eat Before You Die.” Anthony said,
“Oklahoma Joe’s is the best barbeque in Kansas City, and that makes it the best barbeque in the world.”
Anthony Bourdon was dead on the money. Oklahoma Joe’s was awesome. As a measure of its awesomeness, my nearly vegetarian daughter who doesn’t really care for barbeque not only INHALED a full quarter chicken, but she was the first one finished with her food and WANTED MORE. Maybe it was the coonskin cap channeling some of its primal energy into her, but I think it was the awesome barbeque.
As Sweetling and I were in the bathroom washing our hands, the Jedi started chatting with the manager. By the time Sweetling and I came out, the manager was offering our family our own private tour of the kitchens and smokers of the restaurant. That was really cool. Our second unexpected special treat for the day.

I posted on Facebook that I might have to talk the Jedi into looking for a new job in Kansas City, just so I could eat at Oklahoma Joe’s on a regular basis. Luckily, the Jedi bought a large container of rub at their store, so we can recreate some of the Oklahoma Joe taste back in Cincy. I could then leave without having to grieve never getting that meat again. (The Jedi, of course, would have comment about meeting my meat needs, but I can’t repeat it here.)

In the afternoon, the Jedi had arranged a meeting with some friends in ministry to talk about adoption and orphan care. He dropped the kids and I off at Union Station in Kansas City because there was a little museum there called “Science City”. He thought it might be a nice little diversion from the kids while he was meeting with the ministry leaders.

Science City turned out to be our third unexpected special treat for the day.

I had expected something small and straightforward, but that place was large, interactive, engaging, and incredible.

We had a blast.

I think its something out old train stations that just channel all their energy into making amazing museums. This was the ceiling when we first walked into Union Station. Surrounded with all that artistic, historical, magnificant energy, how could the museum creators make anything less?

After the Jedi picked us up, our barbeque tour of force continued. We had several restaurants that we wanted to try, so we picked up some carry-out orders from two of the restaurants and took them back to the hotel to have a barbeque feast. In retrospect, while the other barbeque was all ok, we should have just gone back to Oklahoma Joe’s. Nothing else was even in the same league.

And, since we hadn’t gorged ourselves enough, we headed out for “frozen custard” as a night snack.

All in all, an absolute win of a day.

Read from Day 1
Back to Day 2
On to Day 4

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