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Today's cutesy, gingham-pinafore image of KANSAS , associated
with Little House on the Prairie and The Wizard of Oz , is a
far cry indeed from the troubled history that made it known
as "bleeding Kansas." It took three hundred years
after Coronado came in search of gold in 1541 before pioneers
established trails across the region, and Kansas's bid for statehood
in 1861 is often cited as the catalyst for the Civil War. The
1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, which gave both territories the right
to self-determination over slavery, led to fierce clashes between
Free Staters and pro-slavery forces. Runaway slaves from the
South were given passage through the area, aided by abolitionist
John Brown, and Kansas eventually joined the Union as a free
After the war, the mighty cattle drives from Texas made towns
like Abilene, Wichita and Dodge City centers of the " Wild
West ." The debauched, male image of the West, spawning
such "heroes" as Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok,
is, however, challenged in Kansas, which as well as being the
first state to give women the vote in municipal elections, boasts
the nation's first female mayor and senator, as well as aviator
Amelia Earhart and the battling Prohibitionist Carry Nation.
In 1874, Russian Mennonites brought the grain that was to transform
the state into the bountiful "bread basket" that now
harvests most of the nation's wheat. However, only in the west
do miles of golden corn sway in Kansas's infamous gusty wind.
The green and hilly northeast, patterned with woods and lakes,
is home to the unattractive industrial city of Topeka, liberal
college town Lawrence , and the dull suburbs of Kansas City
(though downtown lies across the state line in Missouri). The
wild and sparse northwest is pioneer country, while the once-wicked
cowtown Dodge City is in the southwest. Wichita , the state's
largest city, lies in the south central area.
Greyhound buses run to all Kansas's main cities, supplemented
by erratic smaller companies; services to the west and southwest
are especially poor. The most frequent routes run from Kansas
City to Albuquerque via Wichita (about 3 daily; 20-23hr), with
one or two buses per day along I-70 to Denver. Amtrak trains
head east-west between LA and Chicago through the center of
the state, calling, usually in the middle of the night, at Lawrence,
Topeka, Emporia, Newton (for Wichita, but without a connecting
service), Dodge City and Garden City. Wichita has the state's
biggest airport .
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