In the part of the country where we live, particularly for those of us who call North Carolina home, we can be a bit conceited.Along with our pristine sandy beaches and majestic Blue Ridge mountains, …
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In the part of the country where we live, particularly for those of us who call North Carolina home, we can be a bit conceited.
Along with our pristine sandy beaches and majestic Blue Ridge mountains, we have the oldest river in the country (ironically called the New River), the largest private home in the country (Biltmore House in Asheville) and plenty of towering pines. Plus we’re the birthplace of flight (the Wright Brothers were from Ohio, but first flew here), Pepsi and Krispy Kreme doughnuts and the spiritual home NASCAR racing. And there’s an eight-mile stretch of highway not far from us that’s bookended by the second- and third-best college basketball programs in the nation – the Tar Heels of UNC in Chapel Hill and the Blue Devils of Duke University in nearby Durham.
I say “second” and “third” on that list because as a graduate of the University of Kansas and someone who considers Kansas a second home, I’m partial to college basketball’s best program – that of, of course, KU’s Jayhawks. But more important, I’ve never joined some of my fellow North Carolinians in considering Kansas as anything more than a flyover state.
Ever that I’m a Tarheel born, I’m quite partial to Kansas as a whole.
The website urbandictionary.com doesn’t even rank Kansas as good enough to be a flyover state (listing, instead, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Iowa and Arkansas as the “flyovers”). I find that pretty amusing, considering how many people here learn of my Kansas connections and immediately respond, “Never been there, but I flew over Kansas once.”
So yes, here in North Carolina, Kansas is something you have to sometimes explain to people. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t.
My grandfather, God bless him, didn’t.
In the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I took a 10-day trip with Bill Horner Sr., whom we grandkids lovingly called “Pa.” Pa took each of his eight grandchildren on a jaunt at some point during their respective high school years, and it was my good fortune to accompany him during the summer of 1980 on a freighter trip from New York City to Brazil. The “Love Boat” it wasn’t – in fact, it was a working freighter, with but a single deck for 12 passengers – but the accommodations were still nice.
Every morning we’d gather in the dining room for breakfast, and every single morning the same routine was repeated: our kind, starch-outfitted server would bring a half a grapefruit to us, then take our juice and food order. My grandfather would eat his grapefruit while mine sat untouched; after a few minutes he’d look at me disapprovingly and say, “Son, you’d better eat that. They don’t have grapefruit in Kansas.”
My grandfather was a smart man, and well-traveled. He visited all 50 states and more than 100 countries during his lifetime, but every morning, without fail, he’d say the same thing as I turned up my nose at my grapefruit: “Son, you’d better eat that. They don’t have grapefruit in Kansas.”
I’m not sure I ever convinced Pa that it was the grapefruit’s disgusting taste, not the fact that I’d never seen one, that kept me away from it. But each morning it gave me a chance to defend my adopted home state, to tell him something good about the state where I spent most of my schooling years.
We DO have grapefruit in Kansas, but some of us Jayhawks just have better taste in fruit.