The gates to the Garden of Eden
Unless you are an enormous fan of folk art, populism or the bible, I don’t expect you’ll add Lucas, Kansas, to your itinerary anytime soon. However, if you find yourself driving cross-country, the Garden of Eden is a mind-bending and worthwhile side-trip.
Lucas, Kansas is small-town America, just a quick trip north of I-70 in western Kansas. It does, indeed, look like anywhere, USA, until you get close to the intersection of Kansas Avenue and 2nd Street. There, you can’t miss the half-block of concrete sculpture climbing skyward around what would be an otherwise normal Kansas residence.
But this residence was once home to S.P. Dinsmoor, a Civil War Veteran, who needed a creative outlet for his religious and political views. Part biblical storybook, part populist social commentary, his art took over his yard and his life (more on that in a bit).
When we visited several years ago, we paid a small amount for a guided tour. Our guide was a local teenager, who had every word of her script memorized. It was like she was reading. No inflection. No excitement. The poor girl just wanted to get through this as fast as possible and back into the house. I didn’t see this as a bad thing; the stilted presentation seemed perfectly framed by the awkward concrete artwork.
The highlight of the tour – and the reason to pony up seven dollars for the read-a-long – is to see Dinsmoor, himself. Yup, he’s still there. Your seven-dollar donation buys and awkward tour AND a view of a decaying corpse.
No, I’m not kidding.
As if the scene weren’t strange enough, our silence really threw our tour guide off script. She was prepared for an “ew!” or a “gross” or any other exclamation, but our bemused silence was too much to handle.
Her only option was to get back to the script. She couldn’t wait any longer before interrupting our
silence with a dead-pan declaration:
“C’mon guys. Give him a break. He’s over a hundred years old.”
I’ve never laughed so hard in front of a corpse. And with our artistic curiosity sated, we high-tailed it back to the highway.