A Meandering Reflection on Growing up in Ulysses, KansasLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Ulysses, Kansas was a great place to grow up. I know, I know, we always love home and we always cut out the junk from memory, or at least we try. Thankfully, there was very little of the real junk in my Ulysses memory. Yes, there was the occasional after-school fight, once over a $5 bet and more than once for who-knows-what. And there were sadnesses to be sure, like when my Little League friend was killed in a go-cart accident. He and his friends were driving in the road and a car could not stop in time. I was a pall-bearer. He was only 11.
But it was still a great place to grow up, a little town like so many, never known by the rest of the world but home and heart and happy to generations of farms and families, schools, businesses, churches. And it was there I grew from kindergarten to eighth grade, 1971 to 1979, with four siblings and a Mom and Dad. They were good years.
In the 7th grade I attended Kepley Junior High, a school that housed only 7th and 8th grade along with a classroom for special needs students of various ages. Being a 7th grader meant I was new, I was younger, I was picked on. Ugh! But I had a friend and his name was John Hastert. John was not big and tough to beat up the bullies, but he was smart and he was friendly. I saw all these signs that said, "Vote John Hastert for student council!" What is student council I wondered. So I asked someone and they told me. You put up signs and if you get elected you serve with this group of students and do things for the school. I still didn't know what it was but I decided I wanted to do it.
So the next day I asked John if he would help me. "You should do it," he said. "Ok," I replied. what do I do?"
"Get a bunch of paper and we'll make some signs." Paper was easy. Across the alley from my house was the Ulysses News, a business I had variously supported by delivering papers off and on for some 3 or 4 years. They threw out lots of paper. I knew because at the age of nine I had become a dumpster diver, finding all kinds of stationary delights to stash away for some imagined future use.
I once dug a hole in the back yard, on our side of the alley from the newspaper offices, and hid a bunch of paper in it. I'm talking stacks of chopped card stock in various sizes and colors. Maybe discarded tablets of one kind or other and who knows what else. That place threw out so much good stuff! So -- and I'm not making this up! -- I dumped some of that treasure in this hole, found a piece of plywood to cover it, then cover the plywood with dirt. Several weeks later I happened to look out while my Dad was tilling the garden plot. He seemed befuddled at the plywood and paper he found. I went about my business elsewhere, knowing that little treasure was gone forever!
Anyway, they also threw out small rolls of newsprint -- light paper about 3 feet wide and 30 to 40 feet long. I got a roll from my pile inside the garage and hauled it to school the next day.
"That'll do I guess," John said, as I arrived 30 minutes before school. "Let's go to Mr. Fast's room and make the signs." He provided plain, black markers, we cut the paper into several three foot squares and began to make the signs. "Vote Huff for STUCO (Student Council) Representative" was a creative as it got. We taped several in hallways throughout the school. A week later, to my genuine shock, I was elected!
[to be continued]