Slideshow: What We Thought We Would See vs. What We Actually Saw
Our mistake was forgetting we were in Kansas, the land that invented no-frills, plain speaking. Totally our fault for anticipating something spectacular. After all, the sign advertising this "scenic" stop was 100% accurate: A double arch limestone bridge was exactly what we saw. Literally a bridge made of limestone, with two arches. Well, a defunct bridge surrounded by overgrown brush, discarded beer cans, and a gazebo that memorializes "Emancipation Picnics" held by the local African-American community more than a century ago. The gazebo had a few displays with Xeroxed copies of old newspaper articles about the picnics that were decidedly dated in their vernacular.
The bridge was nominated to be one of The 8 Wonders of Kansas, but it didn't make the cut. Perhaps it's the ninth. In short: The bridge was disappointing and the site itself was a tad creepy. Pepper and I agreed it was a good place to dump a body.
Our next stop wasthe Garden of Eden. Mr. Dinsmoor was clearly an eccentric. He made his home an art installation that is a chaotic political and social commentary. I suppose some of which is still relevant today, depending on your politics. I think I was expecting more flowers and fewer primitive sculptures.
Samuel Dinsmoor moved to Lucas, KS, in 1888, but he didn't start building the "cabin home" and Garden of Eden until 1907. Over two decades, he created the sculptures that are entwined throughout the property. He and his wife are buried in a mausoleum in the backyard. Guests are told that Mr. Dinsmoor would love for you visit him. Pepper and I did not take the tour, opting instead to only walk around the perimeter, but he's apparently in a glass-topped coffin in the mausoleum and the tour guides shine a flashlight on his corpse. Somewhat recently, the glass cracked letting in air and moisture. His face is reportedly "now a greenish blob." Yeesh.
S. P. Dinsmoor's Garden of Eden, Lucas, KS.
At first sight, Mr. Dinsmoor's creation seems helter-skelter, but I think a lot of planning actually went into it. There is a series of sculptures depicting a sort of food chain: A soldier aims his rifle at a Native American, who's aiming his arrow at a fox; a dog has his sights set on the fox, who is after a bird, who is after a worm, who is eating a leaf. Is he saying that, ultimately, we all go back to the earth? Or that "modern man" has reached a pinnacle of existence? In the backyard, there's a crucifixion scene in which Christ is "Labor". He's being crucified by a doctor, preacher, lawyer, and banker. Not much allegory there, right?
Mr. Dinsmoor's house is still a tourist attraction - Pepper and I arrived just a small tour bus from Hayes, KS, was unloading passengers, and they weren't the only visitors there. He's achieved a small measure of immortality as a result.
Some of the sculptures at the GOE. Click the pictures to read the captions
Right next to Mr. Dinsmoor's cabin home are two fenced lots displaying miniature buildings made of rocks and pebbles, and a variety of cairns, for lack of a better word. The miniature buildings were interesting. They were all inside a chain-link fence, so we couldn't get too close. I think the buildings were replicas of buildings from the town's early days. The colorful cairns were my favorite, although I'm not sure what one would use them for aside from decoration. I'm not sure if Mr. Dinsmoor made these or not.