Monday, March 06, 2006

This was the sign that greeted me today when I went into the bakery in Alma, Kansas. At first I assumed the proprietor was in the back, but then I spotted this sign on the counter. In case it's not clear in the photo, it says, "Please use the honor system. Thanks." And the plastic tub next to it was filled with money. I was more charmed than words can say.

Of course, I did leave some cash for the two items I took. I got a dozen "Monster Cookies," you know those things that have oatmeal and peanut butter and a little bit of everything in them.

I also got some white chocolate pecan toffee. Oh my goodness. Let me just say... I'm from the south... we know our toffees, pralines and caramels. This is exceptional. It was cooked to the perfect temperature. It was cooked to just barely past the caramel stage, which means it's the perfect consistency for toffee. If you think a Heath bar is what toffee is supposed to be like, you need to have some that's homemade. That stuff is far too hard. Perfect toffee, like this, offers the slightest resistance, but as soon as bitten into begins to melt - filling your mouth with sweetness.

To top it off, the building is also historic - an 1886 bank building - which fits in beautifully with the rest of this small town (population - 760). I decided to visit the bakery because of Marci's book, "The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers."

Before visiting the bakery, I had already paid a visit to the Alma Cheese Factory. I couldn't get any cheese today because I was on my way to Topeka and had no way to keep it, but I did enjoy the visit.

This area is known for its stone and there are some amazing examples of stone houses here. I saw two, almost across the street from each other, as I was headed to the cheese factory. The pictures don't do justice to some of the intricate work on both of these. I also spotted an amazing church.

After leaving the town, I took a scenic drive and enjoyed the prairie. I could see this from some distance away. I don't know what it is. I dubbed it the big giant ball. I'm sure it serves some real purpose. Maybe it's weather related. I have no idea.

There is a sound that's distinctive to the prairie, that I've only ever heard here. It's the sound of the wind, but it's more than that. To really hear it you have to get far away from humans and their trappings. The last time I heard it was about a year ago at Maxwell Game Reserve. The time before that was at the wagon tracks outside of Dodge City. The very first time I ever heard it was years ago in Gove County at Monument Rock. I don't know if Kansans realize this sound is unique to the prairie, but I've never heard it anywhere else. It's easy to assume something is "normal" when it has always been part of our world.

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