Archive for March, 2016

March 28, 2016

My College, My Church and My Cafes

My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum


First Watch

It’s too close and too small to be our breakfast place, otherwise we may have stopped at Nelle Belle’s Diner years ago and never have made it to First Watch. Even so, we had had to violate a cardinal rule of ours never to breakfast in a chain restaurant in order ever to visit First Watch.

Under six miles from our bike shop, Nelle Belle’s had not honed our appetite, and with no more room than the kitchen in my house, we paid it little notice as we passed it and tripled our distance to First Watch, settling on this place only after first visiting City Diner a couple of miles farther, just over the Missouri River in the Farmer’s Market community. For a reason I never could fathom, City Diner, though a long time local favorite, didn’t fit us.

First Watch did. Sometimes at two big round tables near the glass wall looking out on the street. Most times at the long tables in the private back room. Kai always, in either place, there to greet us, and often our waitress.

A few years back yellow police tape went up around the building housing First Watch and notices on the door said closed for repair. Nothing much then happened for months. Asbestos in the ceiling was rumored. The building came down. We removed First Watch from our ride to breakfast schedule. After more than two years a new one emerged. And we are back.

Prospect of ice here and there on the roads and temperature in the low 20’s prompted me a few days back to send an email caution to our 669 riders. Two show up to ride. And Greg in his pickup. And me in my car. Allowing for the two I’m guessing might drive from home, I say to Kai when she answers the phone, “We’ll have six there in an hour for breakfast.”

Kai greets us as we enter. Scott McConnell waves me over to his table and introduces his son, Andy. Scott is a Jewell alum, as is Sara, his wife. We all go to the same church.

The hostess ushers us past all diners to the far wall where a table for six awaits in an area partially cordoned off by what appear to be two giant barn doors fixed firmly in place, designed for aesthetics and not meant ever to close.

Wesley again is our waiter. “Two of our folks couldn’t make it,” I say when he asks if we prefer to wait on them before we order. Around the table as we wait and for long after we’ve eaten we tell stories: growing up in Texas, tropical hurricanes and their affect on frogs, automatic shifters on bicycles, weaving patterns and textures, large animal vets, brands of bicycles, being talked into biking, Christmases just past, perils of marriage, how we all came to live where we do. And more.

We all sign in. And exchange phone numbers. Present this morning: Ed Piepergerdes, Paul Klawinski, Greg Snodgrass, Ed Chasteen.

Nelle Belle’s Diner won’t tempt us again. This morning as I drove past, the parking lot was empty of the usual cars and pickups. Except for the lonesome FOR SALE sign out front, everything was bare.


March 26, 2016

My College, My Church and My Cafes

My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum



Leading to Greater Liberty

For more than a century and a half William Jewell College has sat atop a hill on the east side of our town, a place called Liberty, in our state called Missouri.

Kansas, Franklin and Mississippi Streets all end at the college, Kansas being a one-way street into the college on its south side; Franklin, one-way from the college on the north side, leaving Mississippi the only two-way street in and out. All three streets run parallel to one another, each one block from the other, all lined with homes dating from long ago.

From the college one block down Franklin comes Lightburne Street, and on the corner of Lightburne and Franklin stands Second Baptist Church, having been there since 1849, even before the college came in 1859. Early classes at the college were held at the church, a practice made easy since both were Baptist.

Second Baptist Church occupies the entire block between Lightburne on the east, Leonard on the west, Kansas on the south and Franklin on the north. Being close in both distance and doctrine, Second Baptist became the unofficial college church, attended by faculty and students, sharing program and personnel.

Both the church and the college were affected by the turmoil in the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980’s and 90’s. Both withdrew from the SBC.

When Dub Stiencross was pastor of Second Baptist in the 1980’s, he often described the church as “this little piece of God’s good earth”. As a faculty member at the college and a member of the church, I grabbed hold of that notion and expanded it two blocks east to include both church and college. Both now, in my mind, became this little piece of God’s good earth.

When in 1987 I rode my bicycle alone and without money from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim, I would ride 125 miles on my longest days. So when I had been back a while, I drew a map with my college, my church and my community at its center and going out in all directions for 125 miles. Greater Liberty, I dubbed this little piece of God’s good earth.

This name I chose only in part because our town is called Liberty. By Greater Liberty I mean to describe not only a place but also a principle; in fact, primarily a principle. The principle is this: We all have Greater Liberty than we know to live above and beyond all the limitations other people expect of us and we too easily assume. Limitations of race, religion, nation, income, education, gender, age.

Greater Liberty the place extends north from our town of Liberty to Creston, Iowa and south to Carthage, Missouri; west to Manhattan, Kansas and east to Columbia, Missouri, including 104 counties in parts of four states, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. This little piece of God’s good earth is Greater Liberty the place.

Greater Liberty the principle grants those who embrace it the opportunity to become World Class Persons, able to go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. This little peace in God’s good earth is Greater Liberty, the principle.

Second Baptist Church in 1985 appointed me “Ambassador to Other Communities of Faith,” giving me permission and authority to take our folks to visit other faith communities and to invite others to visit us, understanding that we did not come to join them or change them, only to build bridges over troubled waters that might in the future come between us.

When a Klansman in Louisiana was elected to their State Legislature in 1988, my students and I at William Jewell formed an organization we called HateBusters, and, by invitation of the governor, we went to Baton Rouge to help the state redeem itself. Word got out, and we began to be invited all over the country by governors, mayors, ministers, rabbis, imams, schools, colleges, civic clubs, prisons, police departments.

So in demand did HateBusters become that in 1995 I left William Jewell to devote all my time to HateBusters. I wrote a book, How to Like People Who Are not Like You, that we used at WJC and 2BC.

I sent word by email to newspapers in all 104 Greater Liberty county seat towns that HateBusters would come, free of charge, to help anyone hurt by hate in their little piece of God’s good earth.

My vision for WJC and 2BC and the surrounding 125 miles in all directions, the place I call Greater Liberty, is fueled by my lifetime in the church and by Don Quixote’s response to his well-meaning friends who think he is crazy, want him to abandon his quest, and advise him that “wickedness wears thick armor.”

“And for that you would have me surrender?” He asks. “Nay, the enchanter may confuse the outcome ten thousand times, still must a man arise and again do battle, for the effort is sublime.”

WJC and 2BC have entrusted me, on their behalf and in their name, to go forth in this little piece of God’s good earth we call Greater Liberty to seek greater liberty for those who might thereby be encouraged and inspired to become World Class Persons. And when some who live in Greater Liberty can go anywhere at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe, all who live in Greater Liberty will find their days more peaceful and their lives more productive.

So in my fire engine red PT Cruiser, license # H8BSTR, I will by invitation, drive to each county seat town and park on the town square. I will open the hatchback and take out my red bicycle: “Ed Chasteen” written on either side of the top tube; “HATEBUSTERS” on both sides of the seat post; “The Pedalin’ Prof” on the right side of the down tube “from William Jewell College”on the left.

I will ride around town, greeting everyone I see, asking where folks who live there like to eat. There I will meet the one who has invited me to come. We will get acquainted as we eat. My host will have planned a 90 minute activity following our meal so I can talk to folks and listen to what they would tell me.



March 25, 2016

My College, My Church and My Cafes

My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum


After Weeks in a Hospital

After Weeks in a Hospital

Monday, November 19, 2007

No matter how winding the road, that wicked wind will not abandon its assault. At every turn a cross or headwind tries mightily to stop me or blow me over. Never does it fall in behind to assist. After four involuntary months off my bike, I’m in desperate need of assistance. The late November chill of Mid-America does not help bones and muscles de-conditioned by months in a hospital. Everything hurts and nothing works as it did.

But I’m out and about on my bike. Weeks went by as I lay in a hospital bed when ever being on a bike again looked impossible. I had to use a walker, and even a few steps exhausted me. My balance deserted me. I developed infections and blood clots. They inserted a filter to keep clots from going to my lungs or brain. I was put on blood thinner. I was so constipated they had to more than once dig it out. Even to use the urinal beside the bed, I had to push a call button and wait for the nurse to come. My urine and feces had to be measured and recorded. My legs swelled. A doctor mistakenly told me that I had a history of high blood pressure and put me on monitors and medicine I didn’t need. A nurse mistakenly told me I had congestive heart failure. Young women gave me sponge baths. Practitioners of various medical skills came with their instruments to poke and prod and stick and call me Honey and Sweetie. I was diagnosed as “situationally depressed” and put on a daily dose of a powerful antidepressant. Hospital staff talked to me about nursing homes. They sent me to skilled nursing.

For several nights running, the best I can manage is a groggy near-sleep that brings no rest, renders me mute but aware of noises from the hall and occasional intruders who come to perform their prescribed procedures on my inert body. Sounds are muffled beyond comprehension, giving them a chilling and disquieting aura at odds with a place of healing. To my depressed mind comes the thought that I have entered eternity and this is hell. I am destined forever to lie in this bed, visited by paid strangers in the dark, aware that my family is heartbroken and financially ruined by my long-time habitation of a place where I live but have no life. The day shift comes bringing a breakfast I have no appetite for and pills I hate to take. I’m exhausted to face another day.

A friend from church comes. I tell her these things. She comes back with a big sign she has made. She puts it on the wall:



I had come to this hospital in my hometown because I do business locally. Here I know and am known. I support my town. My town supports me. Out-patient surgery it was to be. I had an old man’s prostate. No cancer. Just big! Things went wrong. I was in and out of the hospital for two months, three times by ambulance.

When finally I went home, nurses and therapists made regular visits for eleven days, followed by three weeks of outpatient therapy. I was forbidden to ride on the road. Our local bike shop brought a state-of-the art stationary bike to my house.

Home now almost two months, I am at last on the road again. Into a stiff north wind and over rolling hills, I have come to one of the five Greater Liberty small town cafes. Years now I’ve been coming. Alone on weekdays. With anywhere from half-a-dozen to 25 or 30 on Saturdays.

Mill Inn today has beckoned me. I love them all. I never in print or in conversation compare one to another. Each in its own way is superb, and I will do nothing to cause anyone to think otherwise. By name the others in alphabetical order are: Catrick’s, Fubbler’s Cove, JJ’s and Sarah’s Table.

Kay is behind the cash register and greets me as I enter. I speak to Milton, and draw up a chair at a nearby table. Kayla waits on the both of us. Charles comes from where he lives across the street and takes a chair beside me. One Saturday, he brought his homemade blackberry cobbler to share with the guys who always sit together at the round table in the middle of the room. When I came with my Saturday Riders, he brought me a bowl brimming full.

A grilled cheese sandwich and homemade vegetable soup is today’s lunch special. Together with a cup of coffee, good conversation and at-home ambiance, I am for most of an hour nearer to heaven than I get on a typical day. When I go to pay my bill, Kay says, “I took care of it.”

I choose to return by another route. The rolling hills I came by, I decide, are more than my swollen legs can endure. My doctor thinks my legs will return to near their former condition if I work my leg muscles to force the blood to find alternate routes where clots have blocked the flow. He looks pensive when I ask how long that might take. “Hard to say,” he says. “Six months,” he ventures when I press him.

My doctor is a good man. When my long-time doctor retired some 10 years ago and I met with the new guy for the first time, I said, “Dan, here’s the deal. I called Dick by his first name. He called me Ed. I told him my symptoms. He told me what he thought I should do. If I disagreed, I told him so. And we talked until we both agreed. Can we work like that?” When Dan said yes, I added, “Your job is to keep me on my bike.” He already knew that bike riding is the only medicine I take to keep my MS at bay. “I’ll do my best,” he said.

During my hospital stay, Dan shepherded me through a maze of doctors and esoteric procedures. He came every morning to listen and explain and encourage. He was the only one who understood me as more than a particular diagnosis. I caught a fleeting glimpse of some hospital record about me. “Elderly Male,” was written across the top. That was the only image my other 10 doctors had of me. But Dan knew. He knew me as a long-distance bike rider with the heart of an athlete and the will of a winner. Many mornings as he left my room, he would say, “I have to get you back on your bike.”

I went yesterday at my wife’s urging to ask Dan about blood vessels that I could see on my chest. He explained that these were some of the new routes my blood was finding and told me their prominence would be temporary. I told Dan that in the past couple of days I had ridden a few miles on the road and was planning more. He smiled. “Delighted!” he beamed. And shook my hand.

Dan did his job. And today for the first time in over four months, I ride to Mill Inn. That cold stiff wind and those hills to climb are tonic for my mind and soul. Tethered to machines and confined to bed in a series of sterile (hopefully) hospital rooms, I longed for the wind in my face and the feel and sounds of the road. And the small town café filled with friends and food that comes always where the road ends.

Today it’s Mill Inn.

March 24, 2016

My College, My Church and My Cafes

My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum


Country Crockery Inn


Dolly Parton is singing. I can’t make out all the words above the conversation going on about me. Three young guys in the corner are talking about how O.J. got off. Three older diners eat quietly, now and then exchanging hushed remarks.

The room is an eclectic collection of memorabilia from half a century ago. The cafe sits beside a busy state highway and was in the 1950’s a Texaco station and diner. Harry Truman and Jack Dempsey are said to have eaten here.

Opposite the table where I sit and on the far side of the room is a photograph of Babe Ruth hung beneath a color collage called “Gone With The Stars”. Clark Gable stands in the center, in top hat and tails, one arm around Marilyn Monroe in a long red dress. John Wayne flanks Gable on the left, backed by Fonda, Cagney, Tracy, Gene Kelly and others I can’t identify.

Early October it is. Halloween pennants hang at either end of the room. Pumpkin faces, spider webs, witches, and ghosts decorate the walls. Christmas tinsel and blinking lights are strung around the room, giving it an all-seasons ambiance.

Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion sit just in front of E.T. and Jurassic Park. Gene Autry and Dick Tracy point guns at unseen bad guys. Giant saws and assorted implements and feed signs occupy the wall my table sits against.

From the watch on my wrist to the scores of incarnations in these five rooms, the overpowering presence in this Old Crockery Antique Restaurant is Mickey Mouse. Owner, Ron Prewitt, here displays his life-long affection for this endearing rodent.

I have come here many times by bicycle to sit for an hour or so. “Country Cooking At Its Best” is the claim in bold letters on the front of this building. Passersby who see this message from their cars and stop to taste then vouch the truth of this claim far and wide. Word of mouth has made it necessary for Ron and Brenda to expand their hours and their space several times in the five years they have been in business.

Now seating 85 “(and always room for one more)”, this is a non-alcoholic, plain food done well place. And the marquee that sits out front in the graveled parking lot announces:

This Isn’t Our Business

It’s God’s Business

Please Join Us

This Saturday night, Ron and Brenda have hired a country band and invited their friends to join them as they celebrate their fifth anniversary as a rural ambrosia outpost here in the Mosby flats on the bank of Fishing River, just off highway 69 to the north of Pour Boy.

Norman Rockwell America! A place I extol with mixed feelings. This place and these people deserve to be known. But if too many come, can I continue to sit here, taking in the good feelings and good food I find in such generous helpings.?

I hope so.

March 23, 2016

My College, My Church and My Cafes

My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum


Life In The Footnotes

© 1996 by Ed Chasteen

Headline life is exciting. And exhausting. Footnote life is routine. And reassuring. Some names have been changed.

We were at church last night in our little town, our first Wednesday night dinner since our summer recess. We sat around some 20 small tables and caught up on one another’s lives as we ate. After we had eaten, our pastor called several grade school children forward to tell us what special thing they had done earlier in the week. On cue and in unison, they beamed: “We shook hands with the president.” Wearing red, white and blue, they had been with their teachers to the airport when Air Force One landed. The preacher asked the children if the president was taller than they thought he would be. They were all grinning so big they couldn’t answer.

The preacher announced the names of our half-dozen sick and asked that we call them. Each table parceled out names. I took Danny Drum and Dan Banks. Danny was in an accident; Dan was home again from the hospital after another treatment for chronic lung disease. As soon as I got home, I called them both. Jill said her dad was home but didn’t feel like talking. Martha said tomorrow would be a good time to visit her husband. When I call about 8:45 this morning, Martha says Dan is just getting up “It’s a little early,” she says. “It takes Dan a little while to get going.”

“That’s good. I’m gonna ride my bike, so it’ll be about 30 minutes before I get there.”

“Great, come on over.”

Just three blocks from home, I pass the Coleman’s house. The truck is in the driveway. The last two times I’ve been by, it’s been gone. I prop my bike against a tree in the front yard and ring the bell. Dan, Sr. opens the door.

“Hello, Ed.”

“How’s Danny?” I ask.

“He’s sittin’ up. Able to drink some tea. Come in.”

We both take a seat on the couch. Dan holds an unlighted cigarette in his left hand; he’s barefoot and without a shirt.

“I’m so sorry, Dan. I was just a few minutes behind Danny. I didn’t see it happen. When I rode up, a bunch of riders were off their bikes, standing in the road. ‘What happened?’ I asked. ‘A bicycle hit by a motorcycle. The biker’s hurt bad.’ About 50 yards ahead I saw a police car and an ambulance. Several people were in the ditch, bent over the downed cyclist.

“We were held up for about an hour. A helicopter landed on the road and took the injured rider away. I didn’t know it was Danny until Connie called Monday morning. Is he gonna be okay?”

“The doctors say they’ve never seen anyone’s head crushed so bad and him still be alive. He’ll probably lose his left eye. His pelvis is broken. He can move his hands and feet. They thought they would have to do plastic surgery, but now they think his face may heal so they don’t have to. But it will take a long time.”

“What about his job?”

“He works at Ford. His job will be there when he’s able to go back.”

“Will insurance take care of this?”

“It should.”

Danny and his brother Roger had been two of the 2,700 riders in the MS 150. Roger had just turned to say something to Danny when he saw the collision about to happen.

“Danny was out to help somebody, and this is what happened. But that’s life,” says his dad as I get up to leave.

“Let me know if I can help,” I say.

Several years have passed since I was last at the Banks. I turn onto the wrong street and wander around their neighborhood for a while. When finally I am there and Martha comes to the door, I say, “Now I know why some people carry maps and ask directions. Sorry I’m late.”

“That’s okay. Dan is just getting up. Sit here in the kitchen. He’ll be in in a minute.” Martha had been talking to someone on the phone when I rang the bell. She returns to finish the conversation. A short time later she rolls Dan’s breathing machine into the kitchen.

“Can I help?”

“No, thanks. This is all routine by now. Dan will be right in.”

How ya doin’?” Dan booms as he enters.

“Better than you, it looks like.”

“I hope so.”

“Dan, I came because I know how easy it is to feel deserted when you’re sick. I want you to know you’re not. We can’t make you well, but we can be here for you. I promise you we will be.”

“I haven’t cried much in my life,” Dan says, “but I’ve been crying alot recently. It helps. I get so depressed. When I’m at the hospital with other guys who have the same problem, we try to make each other laugh. When one of us dies, we say, ‘Now he has new lungs.’ Then we just sit. We don’t know what to say to one another.

“When I come home, all I can do is sit in a chair. Martha and I have been invited back to the place we lived when our twins were born. The church is a hundred years old this weekend, and they want us to come. I hope I can make it.”

“Dan, when I heard Bruce had cancer, I had to go see him. I had to talk to him about things that matter. George Brett was chasing .400 that fall, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about. When I got to his hospital room, I asked everyone else to leave. I took Bruce’s hand. ‘Bruce, if I had just been told I have cancer, I’d be scared to death. I don’t know what to say, but I’m here to listen’.”

Bruce began to cry. He told me he was afraid. He squeezed my hand. We visited often when he left the hospital. We talked of dying. It was never a depressing conversation. I felt somehow liberated. For the first time in my life I was able to talk to another person about the thing we most feared. I think our talking lessened the fear for both of us.”

“When that doctor told me years ago, Dan, that I have MS, I complained so much that Bobbie finally told me I had to find someone to talk to. That’s why I volunteered to direct our Sunday School department. And for three years all of you let me pour out my fears and doubts to you. I thought after a time all of you would get tired and ask me to stop. But you didn’t. You couldn’t make me well, but you helped me find joy. And now I want to do that for you. The same way you did it for me. By being here to listen.”

Martha is up several times to answer the phone. We talk about our grown children and their lives. We talk about a mutual friend, the former president of our local college. Dan and Martha had gone to college with him in a distant state, then by some twist of fate wound up here with him. I thought he was one of the most elegant and eloquent men I ever met. Serving with him at our little college brought me joy. We all miss him.

Dan has counted out and one by one taken his many pills as we sit talking. “I have a question for you, Ed,” he says, as he looks at the pills. “How do each of these pills know where to go to do their job?” His eyes are twinkling. He doesn’t expect me to know.

After an hour we join hands around the table for prayer. “God, we don’t really know how to pray about this. But you know our hearts. Hear the prayer we don’t know how to say. Please. Amen!”

Emily’s question comes up as we talk. We remind ourselves that we have no past and no future. Only this moment. Dan mentions a writer whose name he has forgotten who said that life is an isthmus connecting the land of was to the land of yet to come. Then, with a promise to return, I am gone.

Through town and to my bank I pedal. Bobbie has been gone now for five weeks to be with her sick mother in another state. We talk nightly by phone. She usually pays all the bills and keeps the checkbook. I’ve managed all that this month. Now I want to make sure that we have enough still in the bank to cover the last withdrawal I need to make before she comes back this Saturday evening. We do.

As I enter the bank, Joan hails me. Joan has sat at the desk just inside the door for years. She speaks to everybody. Today she wants to tell me about her recent weekend trip to Oklahoma, where she and her husband attended a surprise birthday party for a 75 year old Indian chief. When her vacation comes in a couple of weeks, Joan and her husband will drive to Canada so Joan can do genealogical research on her Indian ancestry. Already this summer, Joan has gone to several pow-wows, where she dances and celebrates her heritage.

“They’re going to open the county airport on October 18,” Joan tells me. “What do you hear from Ron and Brenda about their Country Crockery Inn?”

“I haven’t heard. Last time I talked to them, nothing had been decided. The appraiser still hadn’t decided how much the state would offer them.”

I had planned to spend a small part of the fifty dollars I just withdrew at a new restaurant on our town square. Joan’s questions prompts another destination. So past the recently abandoned post office I ride. Beginning about thirty years ago when the interstate cut our time to the city, new streets and houses have popped up all over our town, for the past few years like spring dandelions. Our post office is now in its third location, out near where the new fire station is planned. As I turn down a street that a month ago was a field, workmen are sitting in their trucks having lunch. An hour later I have arrived at the Country Crockery Inn, about a dozen hilly highway miles from town.

My usual table is free. Soon I’m downing my usual: iced tea and the biggest tenderloin sandwich I’ve found anywhere. With a thick slice of tomato, a thick slice of onion, a mound of lettuce, pickles and meat that sticks out of the big bun on all sides and a plateful of potato chips, I busy myself with rural ambrosia.

When I have finished my sandwich and several glasses of tea and everyone else has left, I’m still sitting. Ron or Brenda should stroll through sooner or later and I can ask about the airport and the future of this place. Even before we rented the whole restaurant for our community party last Christmas, Ron had told me that the airport would buy them out. “In the flight pattern,” they were told. They will relocate on the outskirts of a nearby town if all the involved levels of government ever agree on what to do about them.

When I have almost decided to leave, Brenda walks through. The airport will open next month, she says. Still no decision, but she is afraid to be here when the planes are landing over them. They will cut their hours and close after lunch. Maybe by Christmas she thinks they will know something.

By a country road when I leave I make my way back to our town. When I’m a few blocks from home, a small car with a bike on the back passes me. I see a small hand fluttering from the cracked glass on the driver’s side. I return the wave.

For only the second time since Bobbie has been gone I go to check the tomatoes and okra she had planted. The okra should have been picked weeks ago; it’s now over six inches long and too tough to eat. But only three ripe tomatoes do I see. While I’m wondering, I hear Margret’s garage door coming up. She drives up next door and alights from her car. “Hey, Ed, tell Bobbie I got her tomatoes. I canned them. When she comes back, I’ll bring some over.”

Kitty Kallen sang the praises of the footnote life in her 1950’s hit, “Little Things Mean Alot”. Maybe she could have said yes to Emily’s question.