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Who in the heck is Johnny Kaw?

View Kansas & Albuquerque, Durango, and Flagstaff on countycollector's travel map.

Most folks are familiar with Paul Bunyan, the giant mythical lumberjack of the great north woods, but did you know there is a similar character in Kansas folklore named Johnny Kaw? I didn’t until I came across his statue while visiting Manhattan, Kansas in mid-November. There are a number of improbable feats attributed to Johnny such as digging the Kansas River by dragging his scythe across the state, inventing sunflowers, and even besting Paul Bunyan in a fight after the lumberjack trampled Johnny’s wheat field. Make of that what you will, but if giant statues are any measure of fame, Paul Bunyan still stands the tallest in American folklore. You may recall my post Northern Minnesota is Paul Bunyan Country. If not, check it out.
Finding statues of obscure folk heroes wasn’t the primary purpose of my trip to Kansas. As regular readers surely know, I was here to visit more county seats and mail postcards home documenting my stops. Along with Kansas, I covered a bit of territory in northwestern Missouri and southeastern Nebraska. While it’s not fair to say all these rural county seats look similar, sometimes there isn’t all that much that differentiates them. In most, the county courthouse sits on a square with shops and business on all four sides. In some, half the storefronts are empty, while in others the town square is a buzz of activity.

Occasionally a town has a claim to fame which may be known beyond the borders of the county or even outside the state. Marysville, Kansas is one such place which claims to be “Black Squirrel City.”
The city also has roughly three dozen, 5-foot tall, black squirrel statues, each uniquely decorated by local artists. I noticed several as I drove through town including “Sister Teresa” on the grounds of the Church of St. Gregory the Great.
For what it’s worth, Marysville is not the only town with black squirrel statues. Much close to home (for me), the village of Glendale, OH just north of Cincinnati has similarly decorated (though slightly smaller) black squirrel statues. By the way, Marysville claims the black squirrels arrived in town in 1912 when the critters escaped from a traveling carnival. They thrived and in 1972 become the town mascot. City law even grants the black squirrels “the freedom to trespass on all city property, immunity from traffic regulations, and the right of first choice to all black walnuts growing within the city.” Interesting? Maybe, maybe not. You decide.

Beyond the oversized wheat farmer and the Squirrels on Parade (as they are known), I didn’t stumble upon too much else worthy of discussion, though I found a few more of the 8½ foot tall Statue of Liberty replicas. I’ve come across these fairly often over the last five years. On this trip, I noticed one in front City Hall in Leavenworth, KS and this one outside the county courthouse in Falls City, NE.
Over the course of my four day trip, I logged about 2,000 miles while visiting 42 counties, 28 in Kansas, 9 in Missouri, and 5 in Nebraska. As usual, here are the before and after maps.
While there is a little more travel ahead for me in December, none of it will involve collecting any counties. That means the next entry will be my annual “Year in Review” wrap up. Look for that in the coming weeks.

Until then…
Happy Travels

Posted by countycollector 22:34 Archived in USA Tagged missouri nebraska kansas county_collecting

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