‘Tis spring when a young man’s fancy turns to love. For the rest of us, it’s just a reminder that tornado season is here.
Most of my readers are familiar with the story of Dorothy Gale of Kansas and her tornado-driven visit to the Land of Oz. Many of you, however, are not familiar with the rest of the story. Given that the Clown spent his formative years in Kansas, just down the road from Auntie Em and Uncle Henry’s farm, I am able to provide some background on what happened after Dorothy came back from Oz. I had wanted to tell this story only after both Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli had passed but Liza is close enough now that she probably won’t care that the details are revealed.
While rural Kansas, which makes up roughly 98% of the state, is a fascinating place, it certainly isn’t in the same league with Oz. First of all, it’s entirely black and white. And, if you have ever traversed the state east to west, or vice versa, via Interstate 70, you likely had periods where you thought to yourself, “Help me, Lord, help me, I’m on a highway that never ends”. Traveling through Oz was an unparalleled adventure for Dorothy and Toto. Compared to Oz, Kansas was about as exciting as a field trip to the Soybean Museum.
Upon Dorothy’s return to Kansas there were no talking scarecrows, ambulatory tin men or New Jersey-sounding wimpy lions, just Zeke, Hickory and Hunk, with pig manure under their fingernails. Neither were there tiny Munchkins who gathered in large groups, dancing and singing in harmony. There were, and still are, little people in Kansas but they are thinly scattered throughout the population where, in spite of rumors, they do not volunteer for Dwarf Bowling.
Kansas also lacked a ruling Wizard. Then, as now, the best Kansas could claim was a semi-competent governor, Payne Ratner who was, and this may come as a shock to many readers, a Republican. Today’s Kansas governor is also a Republican, Sam Brownback. The Governor’s name is of American Indian derivation and roughly translates to “One who still believes in trickle-down economics in spite of crippling budget shortfalls”. It seems that plains Indians were Milton Friedman fans. But, I digress.
Further, Dorothy had to confront the fact that there were no flying witches in bubbles or on brooms, good, wicked or even mildly mischievous. In Kansas there was just grouchy old Miss Gulch on her bicycle but she wasn’t green, well, except for her teeth.
After a few days back on the farm, Dorothy sank into a deep depression. Then, about ten days after she and Toto returned, Toto became a grease spot on Highway 50 where, chasing Miss Gulch’s Pomeranian, she was hit by a gravel truck. (Yes, folks, Toto was a “she”.) Dorothy’s mood really soured then. Before the month was out, she had slipped away, thumbed a ride with a lady’s underwear salesman from Wichita and headed to Kansas City, Missouri. She decided to go to the Missouri side of the river because it sounded more exotic than Kansas City, Kansas which was, after all, still Kansas. Besides, the Missouri side is where the blues music scene was happening.
Dorothy craved excitement, stimulation and flying monkeys. With her farm-girl good looks and singing voice, she easily fell in with some musicians who were busy turning KC “Mo” into a blues town of some fame. Some of these musicians were local but most were transplants from Memphis and New Orleans, on the lam from law enforcement and creditors. Suffice it to say, she had taken up with an unseemly crowd; not only that but they weren’t well-regarded.
Playing, singing and partying late into the nights, Dorothy soon became a victim of too much gin and too many drugs. Certain magic mushrooms, however, did provide some Technicolor™ visions that nearly matched those of Oz. After awhile, however, the visions became grotesque and she would scream and tear at her hair until the visions faded. She started sleeping with a saxophone player named Tremblin’ Eddie Morris, whose palsy was the result of a bad batch of heroin. They were evicted from his small apartment and moved in with Tremblin’ Eddie’s common-law wife and her kids. Clearly that wasn’t going to work long-term and within days Dorothy and Eddie were back on the street.
After that, Dorothy’s trail goes cold. Some say that she turned to hooking and moved to Chicago. Others say she married a University of Kansas sociology professor whom she met when he was doing research on homeless people. The most likely version is that she hitched down to Oklahoma and became a volunteer storm chaser at OSU, hoping to find another ride to Oz on a twister.
As for Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, they became Mormons, moved to Mexico and Henry took four additional wives, Auntie En, Auntie Oh, Auntie Pee and Auntie Consuela.
Observoid of the Day: They should put diet books in the fiction department.