pages fly away 63

Forty miles from the Pawnee Bill Ranch is the Standing Bear Museum and Education Center in Ponca City.  I took the 15 to the 177 north to get there.  Standing Bear was a Ponca Chief and early civil rights activist, who argued before the US District Court in 1879 that Native Americans deserved the same rights as the European settlers.  He pointed out that though his skin was dark, if cut, he would still bleed the same blood.  The judge sided with him and declared him a person under law. 

When I got to the museum, I saw the twenty-two-foot statue of Standing Bear from a distance.  There was a walking trail to reach it.  I stood at the periphery of the large medicine wheel in front of it, and then backed away slowly and took a series of pictures in which the statue grew smaller, and the horizon grew larger.  There was also an interpretive center that introduced the six tribes of the region: the Osage, the Ponca, the Pawnee, the Tonkawa, and the Otoe-Missouria.  A replica of each tribe’s seal was on display, like round shields, with their own designs and symbols.

It was four hours to get to Dodge City.  I got on the 35 north, which just happened to be a tollway.  That caught me off guard.  There was a machine that I needed to take a ticket from.  A few miles later I pulled over at a gas station and rest area, on an island, so to speak, between the north and south lanes of the 35.  I wanted to see if they had an ATM. 

I’d tried getting money in Tulsa that morning, but the transaction had failed.  Now it failed again, and I got worried.  It was the EDD card I’d been getting my unemployment payments on.  I called the number on the back of it and was informed that they’d placed a block on it, due to all the improbable locations that had been popping up on it.  Thanks for looking out for me, I let them know, but I need it to work.

The woman I was talking to transferred me to the IT department.  While she was doing that, I drew some money off a credit card, not happy to be doing so.  It took a while for anyone to pick up.  The guy who finally did was as suspicious as an FBI Agent, asking me all kinds of insane questions about my movements in the past month.  Then he asked me to answer three security questions, one about a home equity loan I’d never applied for, another about a telephone number I’d never had, and the third about an address I’d never lived at.  My total confusion at the questions seemed to affirm my identity.  He put me on hold.

Meanwhile, Karen from Google Maps, was giving me directions on where to go once I got to Wichita.  She started hounding me to exit, right when the security analyst got back on the phone to ask a few more questions.  Just then, I arrived at the exit for the toll road, and needed to feed cash into the machine to get out.  I was parked too far away.  When I stood up, all the money I’d just gotten out of the ATM spilled out onto the road.  I was trying to wrap things up with the agent.  Karen was nagging me.  The seat belt alarm started beeping.  I got down on my knees, sweeping up twenties, stood up, tried to insert a crumpled five-dollar bill into the slot three times before it finally went through, then got back in the car and started screaming at Karen.  Shut it.  Shut it.  Would you please shut up?   The guy from the bank had hung up by now, at least I prayed that he had.  I was losing it.

They say that Kansas and Nebraska are flat, but you don’t know what that means until you’ve driven across them.  There was not a mountain in sight, not a hill, not a bump, not a ridge, only miles and miles of farmland, flat as a tabletop.  I was on the 400 heading west now.  With nothing to distract me, the drive became a torturous grind.  The grass was bleached out and the sky was pale.  By the time I reached Dodge City I was sore in the saddle.  I got out at a gas station, swung the doors open wide, walked up to the ATM, and reached for my EDD card.  If it didn’t work this time, all hell was going to break loose.

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