Christmas in Kansas City

Farm Forum

My wife and I recently motored to Kansas City to visit our youngest son and to sample some of the exciting offerings in the City of Fountains. We considered touring the Federal Reserve Bank, but decided that this might be too exciting.

It was Christmastime, and as we pulled into KC we marveled at all the festive lights: the reds, the greens, the golds. You know you’re a country mouse when you get that much enjoyment from a traffic jam.

After telling our son that we wanted to enjoy some of the sights and sounds of Christmas in Kansas City, he took us to a train station. This seemed fitting; Christmas and trains go together like spaghetti and the words “How did you manage to get that in your hair?”

But we didn’t go to any random train station: we visited Kansas City’s landmark Union Station. Union Station is in excellent shape for something that’s a hundred years old. I hope I look half as good when I hit the century mark.

We stepped though the soaring arched doorway and were greeted by gleaming marble floors, ornate, 95-foot-high ceilings and colossal chandeliers that weigh some 3,500 pounds. Union Station is a magisterial masterwork of stone and steel. I suddenly felt underdressed; I should have been wearing a double-breasted suit and a snap-brim fedora.

A moment of slack-jawed silence was needed to absorb the grandeur of our surroundings. “Whoa!” said my wife, “What do you think?”

“Pretty nice shed,” I replied. “Big, too. I bet you could park a combine over in that corner and nobody would notice!”

Union Station was once a hub of railroad activity, with thousands of rail passengers passing through its elegant hallways each day. Now it’s a hub for shopping and museums with thousands of shoppers plying its retro-chic corridors.

This made it a prime site for people watching, one of our favorite hobbies. My wife and I sat on a bench and observed all manner of species, including some that were quite bizarre and very colorful. We noticed that couples would suddenly stop at a certain place to share a smooch. Closer inspection revealed that a mistletoe was dangling just above that spot.

Yep, we did.

Santa was taking visitors at the end of a long hallway. The line for Santa, which didn’t seem to be moving, stretched to the far horizon. Patience wore thin and fuses grew short. We witnessed more than one temper tantrum, complete with the falling onto the floor and the kicking and the caterwauling. And those were the parents!

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the children had grown up and had kids of their own by the time they finally reached Santa.

We began to feel peckish, so we quit Union Station and headed for the legendary KC barbecue joint called Arthur Bryant’s.

Arthur Bryant’s is off the beaten path, but that didn’t stop people from beating a path to it. A queue of patrons stretched out the door and spilled onto the sidewalk.

It was enough to make us wonder, but then we were hit by the heavenly aromas of tangy hickory smoke and slow-roasting pork. That did it! We’re eating here even if we have to stand in line until Valentine’s Day!

There was ample time to study the photos on display as the line crept forward. A plethora of movie stars and presidents and presidential wannabes grinned down from the wall. Well! If Arthur Bryant’s was good enough to cause Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter to get their fingers sticky, it’s good enough for me!

My wife struck up a conversation with some local ladies who were in line ahead of us. They were startled to learn that we are from South Dakota.

“Don’t y’all have barbecue where you come from?” asked one of the ladies in a charming Southern lilt.

“We do, but I’ll bet it’s nothing like this,” said my wife.

“True dat!” replied the lady as her companions nodded their heads in affirmation.

We finally arrived at the counter. The kitchen staff were a blur of activity; orders were shouted and filled using a method that might best be described as “controlled chaos.” This would also describe my home filing system.

The moment of truth arrived and I sunk my teeth into a chestnut-colored rib. It was so good, I nearly cried. It’s difficult to express my profound feelings other than to say I would have married those ribs if I could.

But my wife summed it up best when she glanced at me and asked, “How did you manage to get barbecue sauce in your hair?”

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