I haven't been on holiday for a while so this afternoon I took a flight to The States courtesy of Google Streetview Airways. I decided to visit the very centre of the forty eight contiguous states which took me to a small town called Lebanon in the northwest of Kansas. Just north of the town you find the stone monument shown in the top picture. It marks the very heart of America.
Lebanon's population has been dropping every decade from 822 in 1920 down to 178 in 2020. This reflects the progress of agricultural methods that require less human labour than ever before. Lebanon knows poverty well for 22% of the population live below the official poverty line.
Methodist Church in Lebanon
Google Streetview allowed me to cruise around the town. It appears very spacious as many towns do in Middle America. Even poor people live in detached homes, some distance from their neighbours. Very different from Europe where there are generally far more people in every square mile. In Smith County, Kansas where Lebanon is located, the population density is only 4.1 people per square mile.
Grain silos in Lebanon
Rundown house on the edge of town
The People's Bank on Main Street, Lebanon
The surrounding countryside is devoted to arable farming - huge swathes of prairie farmland that stretch out for miles. Mostly they grow grain and corn on vast corporate farms. The time of the small, independent farmer is mostly historical. Below, Highway 281 leads north towards the monument shown in the first picture
As I have said before in the pages of this humble Yorkshire blog, I am an unashamed Americophile in spite of Trump and The Grand Old Party and guns and crystal meth and KFC and other stuff like that. In the past, I often fantasised about living there in some faraway place like Lebanon. Just out of interest I wondered what kind of home I could buy in Smith County, Kansas if we sold up our house for around £420,000 or $560,000 (US).
I discovered that we could buy the best house currently for sale in the county. It is in nearby Smith Center a few miles west of Lebanon. It boasts five bedrooms and five bathrooms, hardwood floors, a huge double garage, spacious garden surrounds and a small guest house too. It would cost us just $350,000 so we would still have $210,000 left over to spend on burgers, milkshakes, guns and whatever else Kansas folk require for contentment.
I think they would require a certain Prog Rock band from Topeka to play a concert or two. Did I ever tell you I saw them play live in Warsaw YP? I would love to go to Kansas.ReplyDelete
Who are "them"? Do you mean Showaddywaddy?Delete
Kansas of course.Delete
I was just trying to wind you up mate!Delete
Thanks for taking me on a virtual trip to Kansas. Unless we drove through there on our only extended family vacation with all four children (in a station wagon), it's a state I've not visited. I was two at the time, so I don't remember much.ReplyDelete
You will have to ask one of your siblings Kelly. Smith County isn't the only one with a diminishing population.Delete
Welcome to America. Better hang on to your money. You may well need it if you ever have a medical issue.ReplyDelete
My fantasy suddenly deflated like a popped balloon. Thanks Debby!Delete
I hope I shall be invited to your housewarming party.ReplyDelete
Of course Dorothy.Delete
Is Lebanon, Kansas like Oakland, California of which Gertrude Stein said:ReplyDelete
*When you get there, there is no there* ?
I'm only asking, I ain't saying.
Your last sentence sounds like it might have come from the lips of Fatty Arbuckle who was born in Smith Center, Kansas.Delete
The the death of Virginia Rappe from peritonitis, followed by the three trials of Roscoe Arbuckle, haunted Hollywood for years.Delete
Did Arbuckle ever make a Talkie? I ain't saying.
He hated the name Fatty but the fans liked it so it stuck.
Bo'ness, the seaport on the south bank of the Firth of Forth, has a Silent Film Festival every year.
I have never been to Bo'ness, but I think of it on the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh, for it lies beyond Grangemouth whose petroleum flares can be seen from the train window, as the train approaches Falkirk.
*Bo'ness.* YouTube. The Kilted Cyclist. November 21 2021.
I remember Grangemouth from train windows as I travelled between Edinburgh and Stirling.Delete
In that you would want to fit into Lebanon, it is good that you have built the cost of guns into your budget. As Debby helpfully pointed out, there is one other major budget item.ReplyDelete
Yorkshire blokes don't need healthcare as we are as tough as old boots.Delete
Interesting trip. It's sad that the corporate farm has taken over.ReplyDelete
I guess it is why Esk declined too?Delete
Now had you decided to find yourself in the geographical center of NORTH AMERICA, it would have been in or around Rugby, North Dakota. And you would have been only about 120 miles (193 km) due east of my home town, Stanley, North Dakota. 'Course I wouldn't have wished that on you or anyone else.ReplyDelete
I might do a post about Stanley. Is there a heritage plaque on the birth home of Baby Catalyst?Delete
Since I have not visited North Dakota in 34 years, I don't know. If you visit there maybe you can check for me.Delete
Would you let me and O.K. stay at your guest house for a week or so?ReplyDelete
Lebanon looks very clean and tidy. Even the rundown house is devoid of what you would see around such a house here, plenty of rubbish strewn around, graffiti covering the walls and so on.
You and O.K. can stay as long as you like. One day, we can drive over to the little cabin where "Home, Home on The Range" was written. It is the Kansas state song.Delete
A house like that here in Adelaide would cost you around $1million or more if the sale happened via auction as so many are these days.ReplyDelete
4.1 people per square mile sounds lovely to me. I'm tired of being this close to my neighbours.
Around Sheffield that house would cost £1.5 million or $2.6 million (AUS).Delete
The balance you had left would be soaked up the first time you needed to go to hospital for anything serious. A retiree trying to get insurance for the first time? Good luck with that. I should heave read the other comments first! At least I'm not alone in my view.ReplyDelete
Critics of my plan overlook the fact that I am invulnerable and do not require healthcare. Also I am married to a nurse who will tend to my needs should I ever need medical assistance.Delete
From the pictorial evidence, it looks very bland; even sinisterly so - there may be reasons why the population is dropping rapidly, and I understand that the contents of those grain silos can suffocate a body in seconds, the evidence lost for years. More a pencil sketch than a watercolour. I think you would need to paint the front door of your new house a bright colour, plant a cottage garden and get some of Shirley's beautiful hanging baskets installed, to make it look a bit friendlier and homily. The accent may have to be worked on. I can also see that your walks may not yield such wonderful images and happenings either. It is, of course, your choice, but lovely Yorkshire seems the far more preferable to me.ReplyDelete
We always want what we cannot get. The other man's prairie is always greener. You are right about country walks!Delete
My first thought too, after reading your financial calculations, was how much will you put aside for health care? Doubtful you'd have any left over for milk shakes, burgers or guns.ReplyDelete
For years I had an American penfriend who lived in Kansas, before moving to Houston Texas, after marriage. She was a committed Anglophile, and in the mid 70's finally made it across the pond to stay with my husband and I. She was so emotional about her visit and all things English that it became embarrassing. If she hadn't had a husband and children back in Texas, I think she would have stayed with us for good!
I've enjoyed holidays in the US, but never wanted to live there.
I am kidding about Lebanon, Kansas but San Francisco, Exeter (New Hampshire), Apalachicola (Florida), Chagrin Falls (Ohio)... if I were younger I could have happily lived and worked in such places.Delete
I must admit that the last time we were in California we did seriously look at property in Carmel, which we loved, but even in the early 90's the properties were eye wateringly expensive.Delete
You would have got more for your money in Kansas or Oklahoma or Arkansas.Delete
Also, babysitting? With your family back in old England, visits would be rare. I think I would go and live in the real countryside by a lake, they have more sun in America and I have always wanted a porch to sit out on and watch the world go by.ReplyDelete
We could check out the family via "Zoom". I would want a rocking chair on the porch. There I would play my guitar as the Kansas sun went down singing sentimental songs of Merrie Olde Englande... "Alas my love you do me wrong..."Delete
You wouldn't enjoy Kansas. Too bland, too cold in winter, too many tornadoes in summer. However, the "research triangle" in North Carolina might be right up your alley. I could see you really enjoying the Raleigh area!ReplyDelete
I must admit that I had never heard that term before Jennifer. There seems to be a lot going on in The Triangle whereas in Northern Kansas very little seems to happen.Delete
Though many Midwest farms are incorporated, it doesn’t mean they have multiple owners. There is no difference than the “independent farmers” except size of the farm. I think most farmers would prefer the smaller size but economics no longer allow then to be profitable. My parents incorporated their farm years ago for tax purposes, mainly to be able to invest in their farm, just like any business, before being taxed.ReplyDelete
I find many people are blown away by real estate value here in the Midwest. In my town, you could buy nearly any house in town and in some areas, perhaps an entire city block… or two. But for me it comes into focus when you compare the average family income here versus on a coast.
Thanks for your well-informed "native" response Ed. Much appreciated.Delete
No. No, no, no.ReplyDelete
That's all I have to say about that.
Don't you think I'm good enough to join you in the good old US of A?Delete
I can't judge it from Google views. It is like anywhere - some people love it and some can't imagine living there.ReplyDelete
You make a good point Ellen. One man's meat is another man's poison.Delete
You would need to buy burgers, milkshakes, guns and the biggest flat screen TV you could find. And a recliner to sit and watch it in. Oh yes, and a riding lawn mower to mow the grass.ReplyDelete
That is a lovely house but I see one glaring problem with it, it is a looooonnnnnggg way from Phoebe.ReplyDelete
LOL -- this was quite a flight of fancy! You might have a big house, but the downside is, you'd be living in Lebanon, Kansas. (As Pixie pointed out, a long way from Phoebe! Unless the rest of your family moved there with you. You could ALL live in that big house!)ReplyDelete