We have heard “you can take the boy out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy”. This was clearly the case with Don, a product of the small towns in western Kansas with farm roots as deep as the Arbuckle layer. The family farm was surrounded by dozens of producing oil wells, yet for the family seven dry holes was their reward. It follows that a natural curiosity might develop, so Don became a rock man, a geophysicist with strong ties to the earth. After a tour with the Survey, he ascended to an endowed chair in geophysics at the University. The farm boy had made good, and moved to the city.
Western Kansas is no tourist Mecca. For most travelers it is a wasteland with interstates which provide escape routes in all directions. The University faculty, consisting largely of city dwellers, tended to share this notion. For Don it was his briar patch with fascinating features clearly observable to the adequately enlightened. To fill this void, Don developed prairie culture bus tours lasting several days each year. They feature things like the flint hills, rock city, the oil patch, dry land farming, cattle production, and of course, a visit to a modern farming operation. In these tours, Don shares his view of the prairie as nature’s most under-rated work of art.
After a few years in Lawrence, the University wished to enhance its participation among the higher arts. To this end a modern sculpture was erected near Don’s old office with the Survey, requiring regular viewing from all angles. To Don the sculpture resembled most nearly the rear end of a buried cattle truck only partially excavated. The piece became the butt of local artistic comment, the essence of which was captured by a campus poster. On it Don was flashing the sculpture in an overcoat fully extended. The caption read “Expose Yourself to Art!!”.
This raised a variety of discussions on campus like; “Who funded this piece?” or “Is this the professor who is heavily endowed, or is it simply his chair?” Don had witnessed endowments on the farm far surpassing anything he had seen on campus, which may have been one of the more exciting revelations for the city folks on his prairie tours. In the final analysis, local authorities seemed to believe that professors, whether nicely endowed or not, should not flash the art on campus. The poster was banned, while the art is still exposed near the US Geological Survey.
One of Don’s more recent accomplishments is the production of a gallstone the size of a large pecan. It was extracted laparoscopically with considerable effort, and was immediately displayed on the internet with the headline “Geologist Creates his own Rocks”. It is of interest that one might go to such length for immortality. Don’s capability should not be dismissed casually.
With growing fame and popularity it fell upon Don to share his talents across the country, indeed throughout the world. As one who creates his own rocks and flashes art wherever it may be found, he traveled world wide exposing himself to as many as called upon him for service. Don was truly multi-talented, and one could never be certain what he might come up with next. This was indeed the case.
Don was called to serve in Korea, a cold and dismal place one winter. The trip over was uneventful except for the long plane ride next to a person with the most vile of respiratory conditions, assumed to be a form of Asian flu. As the plane was full, there was no place to escape the toxic effluence produced. One tries to avoid breathing, but that lasts a few seconds. Arrival in Korea was an escape he anticipated for hours. While there he went about his usual business, oblivious to the gestation within.
A week into the visit, he started to develop symptoms of his own, laying to rest his concern about catching it. He was caught, and for the next week, with the help of Korea’s noxious winter climate, he developed a full-blown infection in every air passageway above the navel. He became Typhoid Don, and would have hibernated in Korea until it passed except for pressing business at home. The long plane ride back to Kansas City was a dreaded necessity, although on this trip he would be doing the spreading. He found little consolation in scripture proclaiming the virtue of giving. Give he did.
Most of the passengers on the flight acknowledged Don’s presence in the terminal, blowing, hacking, coughing, and miserable demeanor well before boarding the plane. Once boarded they all fled like rats from his vicinity, seeking seats as far removed as possible. The twenty hour flight did little to relieve his congestion, which might otherwise be assisted through exercise. Over Wyoming the congestion got the better of him. At first there were several preliminary coughs, apparently in preparation for what was to follow. Then like Mt. St. Helens, a horrendous cough propelled a mighty goober into the constricted atmosphere. It must have been huge, as Don experienced immediate relief, and though embarrassed, he felt considerably better.
Then it occurred to him that this mighty goober could be anywhere in the cabin. It could be in the lady’s hair in the seat in front of him. It could be on any of the seats, ceiling, or floor. It should have been on the kid’s neck who cried four hours during the night, but it wasn’t. After a reasonable search, he resigned himself to its disappearance, and bid it good riddance.
On arriving in Kansas City the passengers maintained a respectable distance, knowing that Don was still quite contagious. While waiting for baggage, Don noticed a businessman complete with suit and briefcase standing nearby. On closer inspection he saw a huge, yellow-green glossy goober the size of a half marshmallow blended nicely into the exact middle of the man’s tooled leather briefcase. It appeared to be firmly adherent to the surface with little noticeable migration in spite of the jostling. The businessman was totally unaware of its presence, as otherwise he would have made a beeline for the nearest restroom. Like the prodigal son, this small piece of art had unexpectedly reappeared.
In a moment of weakness, Don first considered complimenting the man on the fresh decor on his tooled briefcase. Then the farm boy emerged to admire this monstrous yellow-green mottled glossy goober fresh from nature’s bounty. In an automatic, if not habitual response, he spread his overcoat wide, and exposed himself once more to the arts for that memorable occasion. He was relieved to know that his earlier search was now over. The goober had landed.