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The Old Military Road

(c) Jersey Heritage; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Three trees surrounded our fort, and their roots shot out at the base as if they had multiple legs, but they were good for sitting on. My legs itched from carrying stone through brush up from the bank, from where Jason was throwing. I took off my Royals hat and loaded up on small stone, then with my right hand grabbed a large stone and lit out through the brush. Our fort was at the top of a hill, just off the trail. The eastern slope was steep, too steep to trek without climbing, but the northern and western slopes were less steep. I trekked up to the fort and placed the stones in a line, creating a low wall, then I went back for more stone, and after three trips, Jason joined.

“We should use branches of wood,” he said in between puffs.

“Agreed,” I said, thankful he was not throwing any more stone.

“We can create a wall there,” he said, pointing to the opposite end of the fort from the stones. “I will go to the Trading Post,” and he bounded down the hill in search of wood.

Jason stuck a branch in mud and placed it so its small limbs stuck out from the fort. The upright branch stuck out in between two of the trees in the fort. A man could wedge another branch horizontal from the leg of the near tree to one of the limbs of the upright branch. I placed three branches this way then another opposite to the other tree, and progress was slowly made. Jason heaved a log up the hill and placed it beneath my three branches.

“They used to make cabins this way,” said I, in wonder.

“We just need lots of mud,” he said.

We sat on the legs of the trees, and examined our work. A beginning. A base of one wall was begun, and this wall was meant “to keep the enemy out.” Jason, next to one of the trees, hoisted another branch, smooth and straight to the top, it was about ten feet long. Its end was mangled, and four or five little limbs jutted out in all directions, much like Gandalf’s staff. After it was wedged in mud and upright, Jason grabbed our jackets, stripped from the heat, and hooked them to the branch.

“All we need is a flag,” he said.


The Old Military Road in Manhattan is tucked away behind the Southwind Shopping complex to the west of town. It lay just north of Manhattan’s first disc golf course and assumes part of the eighty-acre Warner Park. Uncompleted, the trail traces a path once used by the American cavalry in traveling from the Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley military bases.

There are at least three entrances to the trail, but the main way is easy enough to find. A large, stone pillar explains the trail’s purpose shortly after you arrive, and about one hundred yards in, you must decide whether to climb up a flight of wooden stairs or take a more wooded path to your right.

I have taken both, and I say, if a man has any sense, he will probably end up on both paths at one point or another. They cover the same area of land, more or less. The trail with the steps leads close to the disc-golf course, and on a cool, spring day, a man can here multiple men hooting and hollering over their throws. This trail, in fact, comes out a ways on the fifth hole of the course, though a man would have to be a poor thrower indeed to hit you. No matter, for the trail weaves back into the forest, leading up to what I believe is an old oak tree with scraggly, though large, branches jutting out all over the place.

I cannot tell what happens if one continue on this trail, for I have never finished it myself. At one point in our exploration, Jason and I fled the main path, as any man would, for we saw a ledge covered in moss and it looked interesting. Most trees and slopes were covered in moss, and the entire forest was a mixture of dead limbs, leaves, and live moss. Birds fluttered about, but without binoculars I could not get a fair glance at their glory. Eventually, when one leaves the main trail in this forest, he is rewarded by one of many, lesser-known trails, and we spotted one.

Following one of these trails, we came to dry creek beds and cliffs towering ten to fifteen feet high. They do not appear dangerous by any stretch, but a fall would make a man think otherwise. One of these cliffs towers roughly forty feet in height, and I explained that “if I were ten,” I would climb it. This cliff was near an old pine, bent over from old age and other catastrophes. It bent over in a half-mooned shape near the trail and at the base of a cliff, and after seeing it, Jason called it “The Trading Post.” 


While we were on one of these lesser-known trails, Jason and I eventually ambled out of the woods into a small tall-grass prairie. This trail now seemed like a main trail (it is hard to know sometimes), and we quickly left it for another, small enough to be made by a deer. However, it led into a thicker forest of pines and evergreens, and we quickly knew it was made by man. For to our left was a campground made of small stones stacked upon each other and a fire pit made in similar fashion. The pit had dead leaves and twigs in it, almost as if the men were shortly to return. We stared in amazement at the scene, for over a hundred stones were used in its creation.

“And this,” said Jason. Walking over to a smooth stump by the fire pit, Jason sat on it and marveled. “It’s a perfect stump for sitting.”

Two other ply boards were placed across stone, and though they were not perfect for sitting, they did the job. We sat for some minutes both wondering and weary. Eventually, I too sat on the stump, and indeed, it was glorious. If any man reading this post finds the place, he must have a sit on this stump, for a man can nearly lean back while he cooks his dinner. It is proof not of man’s desire for convenience but for God’s grace toward men. I say, the stump was made for one thing, sitting.

In our wonder at this fort, we realized that we had been one-upped.

“We must make a spot like this,” we concluded. But where? It must be out of the way and hidden, somewhere not likely traveled.

And back we trekked to the fort of The Old Military Road.

Broom Snow,*
Written at his sister's house,
While watching the nephew squirm during quiet time,
Austin, TX

Painting: "Fort Henry"
By British (English) School,
Oil on board, 1850

*For information on the sad end of Mr. Samuel Snow, click here.


As Slow as Possible

[Dear Reader, it may be useful to consult this link for a bit of background (see "Halberstadt performance")]

Based on the piece by John Cage

Patience has no place in the Burchardi church,
not anymore, not at the organ
built for six centuries’ undertaking,
pipe and pedal imbued with resilient alloy,
encased in a wall of glass,
the abyssal roar shaking dust
from the air itself—the pollutant wisps
of immortality. To breathe them
might vault a mind forward
into the dream of a Methuselanic Age;
the congregated host of centenarians,
hands clasped wrinkled and papery
like pages of a worn Bible,
heads greyed and white, a field
of patched, thirsty grass before rain.

Those blind will be lucky,
if the condition still exists,
no fidget in the seat while those chosen
approach the throne of a bench,
no nervous rub of knuckle on the pew
as they reach to remove the weights,
just the steady drone reverberating in the ear,
a sound that always seems to have existed.

The schoolboy stoops to pick a rock in the courtyard,
the young woman’s hurried heel against cobblestone,
the click of gardener’s shears,
the nun knelt in prayer,
the frequency of births and deaths,
overtones to the ruling chords.

A concert the first of its kind, listeners engrossed
not by beginning, nor middle, nor end,
not by voice, or by string, but by the stoppage
of a line long as Hapsburg,
an acoustic dynasty.

There are those who will file out from the doors
as dutifully as they arrived, shielding their eyes
from a harsh light, walking the steps of a new epoch,
while others inside remain seated,
wondering at the things that endure, the heaviness
of a dying tone settling into their feet for minutes,
then hours,
until they begin to question
how they’ll ever leave.

Bryn Homuth
In a resurgence to writing
March 12, 2015 

"Cesar Franck At Organ"
Jeanne Rongier (1852-1934)


The Escape, A Fake-Patty's Day Tradition

(c) NHS Ayrshire & Arran; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“I challenge you,” I said, lifting a boulder over my head. With both arms, I hoisted the boulder and flung it away from the shore, watching it soar, sink, and strike the ice. Geese to the south and east of the Tuttle Creek Reservoir squawked and cheered, and I looked at the thin ice and damage. Each boulder shot straight through, and then small air bubbles floated to the top and clung to the ice. Then some, needing more air, traveled to the edge, where thinning ice met water, and reaching water, released themselves.

“Where’s our throwing-spot?” Jason asked.

“There, on the rock you threw from just now. I will throw first.” Grabbing another large boulder, I crouched into position, then took three steps and sent the boulder into the air.

“Well, shoot,” I said. The boulder barely made it past the shore.

“My turn,” Jason said. Taking a different approach, Jason spun around like an Olympian warrior, and the boulder flew well past my own and careened through ice.

“Okay. Best two-out-of-three.”

“They used to throw logs too,” Jason said, as I looked for a new boulder. I casted a glance at him throwing a log into the lake and watching it float.

I found a smaller boulder this time, and when I threw it, a distinct hole was made in the ice. “My spot,” I said, hoping Jason could not beat it.

Jason took a large boulder, and I thought I had him beat. I couldn’t see the hole my boulder created as easily now, and I told Jason he better not throw it near mine, or there would be a controversy. But the boulder flew further than any I had yet seen, beating my spot by a few good feet.


Every year Manhattan, Kansas unofficially observes Fake Patty’s Day. The day is a horrid “holiday,” created by the Aggieville bars for immature college students. It was observed, some years ago, that St. Patrick’s holiday fell during spring break. And since all the children go away during the week, the gluttons created a fake holiday for business, occurring the prior weekend. So adult children come in from insane distances to drink. These children pre-game on Friday, drinking cheap beer and howling at the moon. And on Saturday they pre-game in the morning, dressing in green and drinking cheap beer, and they continue to howl at something, probably believing it the moon. Come Saturday afternoon, the real game starts. And the children stumble around, drink cheap beer, and howl at the bright, yellow god of the skies.

By the evening, the children are repeating Friday night, only now more green children are involved, and the blackouts occur sooner, as the human body was not meant to consume cheap alcohol for thirty-six hours straight. Sunday is spent in agony, regretting the choices made under the influence. If they howl on Sunday, it is a groan. The giants who conquered Friday are feeble, weak pigmies on Sunday.

Green is the appropriate color for this day, for it is the color of the novice. It is a novice who must prove to himself that he is not a novice. There is a man who drinks a beer and must talk about the event, as if assuring himself he is a beer drinker. This man drinks beer and adds conversation. There is another man who drinks a beer but does not mention it. This man has a conversation and adds beer.

Fake Patty’s is nothing more than novice beer drinkers assuring themselves and declaring to the world that they drink beer. It is as bad as a man who is not funny telling a joke and pining for attention. That afternoon, on my way to Jason’s apartment, situated amongst fraternity and sorority houses, I dodged children in green stumbling across roads. I imagined all of them would be so pleased that I knew they were drinking beer. But like the fake comedian, I would only be pleased if they were quiet; nay, I would only be pleased if they did the sensible thing, putting on their straightjackets and locking themselves in their homes.


Fake Patty’s is a tradition for adult children in Manhattan, but it need not be a day of woe. The sensible men and women in town find ways to make their own tradition. So flying down Tuttle Creek Boulevard in Jason’s blue PT Cruiser, my friend and I embraced our own: escape. For three-hundred and sixty-four days of the year, Manhattan is lovely; no one despises it or tries to escape. But on this day of the dead, Manhattan becomes very ugly; it is a reminder that the world is not our home, and the outskirts of town are embraced as the devils have taken the center.

Tuttle Creek is our destination. The second largest lake in Kansas, Tuttle Creek spans over 19 square miles northwest of Manhattan. Wildlife is rampant to the south of the dam, and north lays the lake. Jason and I maneuvered our way up the western coast, drove down an abandoned rode, parked, and let out for the shore. If one discovers this spot, he will have a mere two-hundred yard trek to the peaceful shores. And as we neared the lake, we saw layers of green and blue where the ice met the water. From above (one may climb a ridge to see) the ice looked like tiny continents with rivers and oceans dividing. Cliffs of mud and clay, about fifteen to twenty feet, align the coast, and the shore, about forty feet wide, consists not of sand but of pebbles, stones, and boulders. Fire pits from past explorers dot those shores, some of which have been conquered by rising waters.

If one travels to this spot when the waters are low, he can explore the shores northwards for some distance; but on days where the lake is swollen, exploration is impossible unless one takes to the cliffs. But our intent this day was not exploration but escape. We found our spot where the lake was melted in such a way, creating a peninsula of water surrounded by ice. “An alley for rock-skipping,” Jason said.

We fired up a small grill and cooked Irish sausages and potatoes while drinking Defiance Beer, brewed in the nearby town of Hays, Kansas. We listened to the sounds of nature and a radio broadcasting the Wildcat basketball game in the background. Looking up from our dinner, we noticed the peninsula was gone, for the ice to the south was completely melted away.

When the basketball game was over and our food was gone, we lighted pipes and listened. Silence: No one howling at the moon, and then geese, far off near the dam, having just flown from the river pond area to the south. The sun was directly behind us, and on those shores of Tuttle Creek, one sees the rays bounce off the rolling hills on the eastern shores. Kansas does not have mountains or seas, but a different beauty resides in her. The beauty of Kansas is peace. Mountains suggest danger, the sea suggests vastness, but the plains suggest plainness. The plains suggest lack of adventure and wildness. One might say they suggest pleasantness and home.

Jason and I stood on the shores of Tuttle, glancing out at the ice and hills and smoking pipe-tobacco from Churchhill’s in Topeka. One might naturally say Fake Patty’s Day is wild, for it is full of noise and violence and depravity. They might say Tuttle Creek is tame, for it it is full of silence and peace and purity. But as Jason and I mused on the shores that day, we were wilder than any ten green children. The drunk is not wild, for the drunk is fettered to do the same thing every day and every night. We were wilder because we were free. We were purer because we could praise. We were louder because we were silent. For only silence allows one to hear the noise of nature; silence is often much louder than noise.

Sam Snow,
Written in The Ole Midshipman,
Manhattan, KS,
March 8, 2015

Painting: "Geese in Flight"
By Philip Thurstars,
Oil on textured board, n.d.


The Man-Hatter


Over the past year, I have written forty-two essays under the sweeping title of “The Ambler.” In these essays, I sought to comment on what I saw and experienced. I sought to prove man needs neither mountain nor sea to observe beauty; I sought to prove the common truths of life could be observed in the mundane, the typical; I sought to prove a mere amble down the lane can be as adventurous as a hike up a mountain, one only need view himself as an ant. Whether I turned out to be a successful Ambler, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, you, dear reader, must decide.

Those who have read the Ambler know that, while it concerned local places, events, and people, it remained, for the most part, an anonymous series. As I gaze out into the future, and observe my writing, I realize this must change. While I aspire to continue composing an essay a week (here the reader groans!), I will forego anonymity. And my series will be on Manhattan.

About six months ago, I approached the local newspaper with a column idea. The idea was to write one short essay a week on some overlooked aspect of Manhattan; the idea was, in short, to show that Manhattan was more than Aggieville and Fake Patty’s Day, the most wretched day of the year. The idea was rejected, but it was not murdered. It resides here, in the following weekly posts. In these posts I will, much like the Amblers, reflect on some obscure local place or phenomenon and promote it.

I will seek to accomplish the same thing my Amblers sought, but from a different vantage point. Instead of commenting on the amble, I wish to comment on the ambler; instead of commenting on the musings and philosophies within the ambler, I wish to comment on the ground underneath the ambler. Instead of showing how a mere amble down the lane is an adventure, I wish to show how the lane and the light post have their own peculiarities. And by promoting my own town, I hope I promote your own.


Now, some readers may be wondering how such a series could possibly be interesting; others may wonder why anyone would care. For this I give two reasons.

First, my generation lives too globally. We are too concerned about what happens across the sea and neglect what happens across the street. We spend our days shaking our fists at presidents and prime ministers, and we cannot name mayors. We gather around to watch teams from different cities we will never visit, and never think twice to support our own. We will rather pay a little more and support mainstream restaurants and retail stores and never experience the local pubs and shops. We live this way, and then before we know it, we leave.

Lest I be misunderstood, we should not live in such a way that is ignorant of the world. There is certainly nothing wrong with being aware of global news or shopping at mainstream shops. There is something wrong with being globally aware and not inwardly reflective. A man should read the news not to show up his neighbors with his knowledge about the president; he should read the news, and he should decide that the very last thing he wants is for his neighbor to be like the president. We ought to see globally in order to change our world locally.

But the sad fact is that our world is becoming more global. Every year Manhattan, Kansas has their “local” Fake Patty’s Day, which will take place next Saturday. This day probably starts with good intentions; it ends in disaster. People travel from distances to this lovely town to drink beer they could just as easily get at their own local shops. They drink Bud Light or Keystone Light all day, and then the travel back from whence they came (would they stay and never return!). It’s a pathetic day where pathetic undergrads drink pathetic beer. If every person came to this town to drink the local Tallgrass brew, it would make sense. If every person came to experience Manhattan, there would be a point in coming to Manhattan.

And that to me is a shame. When I was a child, I wanted to eat at McDonalds when I went on vacation. Now that I have some sense, I want to eat at the local spots and drink the local brew. I now see that traveling is utterly pointless if one does not try to experience the town as the locals experience it. You do not truly know a town until you have lived in it, and if traveling is only an attempt to “see what their McDonalds are like,” a man may as well sit at home and watch T.V.


And this leads to my second reason for writing on Manhattan. It seems that after seven years, I will be leaving Kansas. In the past fourteen years, I have yet to live in a town consecutively for more than three years. In this, I have learned a couple of things.

You mainly remember the good in a town after you leave it. I did not enjoy my two years in Clarksville, Iowa; yet I cannot seem to reflect on the town with much negativity. I certainly won’t forget my last week, when the Shell Rock River overflowed and Ely St. was underwater. I won’t forget how the town of 1400 came together to help out families who lost most of their possessions. We ate as a town in the school cafeteria. My room was underwater, and as I left for a trip to Africa, with a small portmanteau by my side, I said goodbye to the town, not thinking it would afford such memories.

In five months I will likely be moving to Las Vegas, though there is a very slight chance I will move to Toronto. The hope in the following months is to live more locally that I ever have. The hope is to drink nothing but local Kansas or Kansas City beer; the hope is to eat at local restaurants and support local business.

There is always the temptation for the transient to live too much in the future. The temptation is to be excited and ready for the adventures that await. Man should not be a pessimist about the future; he ought to be an optimist. Yet man should not be so optimistic that he forgets his current place in life. He should not neglect this life simply because a better one awaits him after death.

The following posts in the next five months will seek to inform my readers on some aspect of Manhattan or Kansas. Like Zebulon Pike and John C. Fremont, I hope to see Manhattan in the final five months as I did in the first five months, making discoveries of things I’ve already discovered. Las Vegas may have its bright lights and shows; it will not have Chef’s Diner or Tuttle Creek. I certainly will not be drinking Tallgrass there, for I suspect whether they even have grass in the desert.

Sam Snow,
Written at The Ole Midshipman,
March 1, 2015

Painting: "A Flood in South Street, Worthing."
Unknown Artist,
Oil on canvas, 1877


The Main Event


If you've ever seen Rocky, you'll know
what a pile of student papers does
to the psyche. Piled manila folders,
each with its own jutting tab
displaying a name. They don't strike
in a bludgeoning fury, a looping hook,
a compact, straight right to the chin,
not like Tyson or Foreman. Each feels
flipped out into the face, like those jabs
flashed out of Creed's arm, a constant mash
of fist and fitted glove to eyes, lips, nose,
or even past the exterior, in the skull,
jostling the brain's spongy pink. A reminder,
like dripped plinks from a faucet, a valve
you can't turn off.

My trainer wrapped my hands though, with benchmarks
and a rubric, hanged a grammar speed bag
in my office, drafted other TAs
for calibration spars. These documents drop
by attrition, pummel a gradual slouch
over the desk, a loosening of the pencil
from its primed, cocked position in the thumb's bend.
Seasoned fighters will tell you—how to go
not fifteen rounds, but forty-four,
thirty minutes each. They'll suggest
you use the ropes: Save the A students for last.
Sometimes I wish I could stumble

into my corner, flop down
on a stool, towel around my neck
to soak up the blood, the sweat, the ink,
my critical eye swollen shut. With luck,
Mick will be there, razor blade in hand.
He'll draw a horizontal grade
across my lid, fluid draining down my face,
and I'll see, I'll stand again.

Bryn Homuth
Composed on a half-remembered night
While combatting the dark of an instructor's fright.

Oil on Canvas - Date Unknown
Jadwiga Umi?ska