I sat at the soda counter at Clark’s Pharmacy, on the corner of Main Street and US Highway 50 in Cimarron, admiring the antique signs on the
wall above me. One says “Pop’s greasy spoon — It ain’t healthy but it sure tastes good!” Surplus antique Coca-Cola signs lay tucked away on a
shelf above the front window. The ceiling here is made of textured pressed metal; it’s often found adorning 19th century merchant buildings but is considered too fancy and expensive for today’s construction.The soda fountain at Clark’s offers a dozen varieties of milk shakes and malts. All are too cold to enjoy at 9 am, so I look around for something better suited to the morning. I’d been walking about town and wanted something to eat, hopefully something homemade.
Main Street Cimarron is a bit like a 1950′s movie set. (My mind started playing “Mr. Sandman” as I looked around.) The storefronts are in use; people are at work. The Vogel Accounting agency is open across from Daylight Donuts and next to the Farm Bureau office and the new Wind turbine company.
At the grain elevator down the street the foreman blows the horn as I take a photo of an American flag painted on the side of his office. This particular rendering includes bolts of lightning coming from a dark turbulent sky, reminiscent of the violent storms that rage through these plains. Tracks of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe service the grain elevators. These are working train tracks, not like the abandoned ones I am more used to seeing.
The 1927 county courthouse occupies the lot across the tracks, atop a well-trimmed green lawn and enveloped by giant oak trees. Old photographs suggest that the trees were planted at the same time the courthouse was built 84 years ago.
Just inside the front entrance, next to an American flag, is an Autumn tree. (I don’t really know what it’s called because I’d never seen anything like it before so I’m calling it an Autumn tree). Like an artificial Christmas tree, it’s supported by a central pole surrounded by green spruce fronds and decorated with Fall leaves and Halloween ornaments. The staff must have put this together. I hope it becomes a national trend.
Back at Clark’s Pharmacy I saw nothing to eat but candy bars and packaged cupcakes. I asked the lady why she didn’t sell donuts like the Daylight Donuts a few doors down. She told me she used to sell fresh, giant cinnamon rolls, baked by a local Mennonite woman, and had done so for twenty years.
“The best most delicious cinnamon rolls you’ve ever tasted!” she boasted. I could believe it.
But one day, she explained, a state inspector decided to ask about the rolls and found out that they were not baked on-site and thus not baked in
a state-inspected kitchen. That was the end of the cinnamon rolls after twenty years of sales. No more. No ifs, ands or buts. Forbidden. The lady offered me a packaged pastry instead, its white icing smeared all over the plastic wrapper. I said no thanks.
So home-cooked Mennonite pastries are banned for public sale. Who knew? I sat there, hungry, wondering why the government would choose the nuclear option and actually ban this activity. Couldn’t they have just decreed some ridiculous warning label be affixed such as “Danger! Danger! Food not cooked in state inspected kitchen” instead of leaving me hungry? Surely I could decide for myself if risk exceeded reward.
Before leaving I overheard an excited conversation about the chance of rain rising to 70% later in the week. Fall is winter wheat planting season, and the seeds need moisture to germinate. Mother Nature is the greatest power out here on the Kansas plains, but the state is jealous to catch up.