“Flat” Kansas and its friendly citizens made an impression on veteran newsman Dan Rather and his grandson over the weekend.
On Friday, Dan Rather and his grandson, Martin Rather, set off on an “intergenerational drive across the heart of America” from Texas to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
They’ve invited the public to follow along, tweeting and posting to Facebook along the way.
On Monday, for instance, after they had reached Rushmore, Martin Rather threw this question out on Facebook: “If a new Mt. Rushmore were to be built today, which presidents would you include?”
(He made the case for including President Barack Obama.)
The people they have met along the way have impressed the former CBS news anchor, now 85.
“Anybody who comes to Oklahoma, goes through Kansas and Nebraska as we did today and does not come away saying, ‘These are among the friendliest, most polite people in the world’ has missed something very important about the essence of America and particularly this middle part of the country,” Dan Rather said in the video they posted to his Facebook page Saturday.
In Kansas they made an unexpected stop in Lindsborg, known as “Little Sweden.” Martin Rather fessed up to almost stranding them along the side of the road when they ran low on gas. They took the first exit in search of fuel, which happened to be Lindsborg.
“I had heard of a Manhattan, Kan.,” Martin Rather said in their Saturday Facebook video. “I had not heard of a Sweden in Kansas.”
He was awed by the town’s “old-time video store.”
“I guess Netflix and Hulu haven’t come to that town quite yet,” Martin Rather said.
His grandfather, ever the news hound, is reading local newspapers along the way. He picked up a copy of the Salina Journal as they passed through the area.
The town’s name – pronounced “suh-line-uh” – tripped him up a bit, which the Journal politely noted in a story on Monday.
Dan Rather reported that in the Saturday edition of the paper, “everything about Donald Trump ... was on the sixth page of the newspaper. The front page of the newspaper included a pretty good feature story on why you should be a little careful about eating mac and cheese.”
He said people who live on the coasts see a lot of cable TV and read newspapers such as the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
“It’s easy to think the whole country is caught up with what happened with the Russians and the Trump campaign, and perhaps the president himself,” he said in a Facebook Live video. “That’s not the way it plays out here. I’m not saying that’s the way it should be or shouldn’t be. I’m reporting to you that’s what it is. It’s page-six news out here.”
Dan Rather unintentionally touched a raw nerve with a tweet he posted from the road on Saturday, one of his most popular thus far.
“You learn all kinds of things driving through mid-America. Like: Sonic doesn't have bathrooms. Also you forget how flat Kansas is,” he wrote in a post that has more than 6,500 “likes” so far.
Not everybody “liked” it, though, as several people, politely once again, begged to differ with his first-hand observation from the road.
People tweeted at Dan Rather about the state’s Flint Hills, the Smoky Hills and even the hilly campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence – and invited him back to see them. Even KU briefly joined the discussion.
And about those bathrooms at Sonic: They exist, Twitter reassured Dan Rather.