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Cuba, Kansas On Assignment

Cuba, Kansas On Assignment

Cuba, Kansas
Step into the world of writers and photographers as they tell you about the best, worst, and quirkiest places and adventures they encountered in the field.

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Text and photographs by Jim Richardson



Native son Jim Richardson has been creating an intimate portrait of this Great Plains town for 30 years—and counting.



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Time can take a toll on small, out-of-the-way towns like Cuba. Long ago trim, freshly painted houses lined the streets. Farmers had money in their pockets and spent it in the town's stores. Two railroads brought trains to town, and on Saturday night the place was hopping. Even Lawrence Welk and his band came here. Today hardly anybody finds his way to Cuba. The trains are gone, many of the old houses are vacant, and farmers are scarce, victims of drought and low prices.

Most casual visitors will swear time has stopped dead, that the only thing growing faster than the wheat is boredom. They're wrong, just as I was when I first came barreling into town. One summer day I found Betty Klaumann taking delight in her geese (they shouldn't have trusted her; she ate them every year). The sight of a farmwife waltzing with her geese reset my mental clock to another era. Since that moment I have relished the rhythms of Cuba. When a baseball game was rained out, people stayed and watched the storm. When the weather turned bad, farmers crowded into the Lazy B Bar. When business was slow, barber Charles "Andy" Andrews talked on his ham radio till the next haircut showed up. Yes, there is a sameness to many days, but that sameness becomes ritual, which makes each day part of a satisfying whole.

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More to Explore

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
Cuba, Kansas, moved not once but twice before settling into its present location. Homesteaders first came to the area in 1866; others quickly followed. They built a school—a log cabin with a dirt floor and sod roof—and picked the name Cuba, chosen—it's said—after a visitor who had traveled to the Caribbean shared stories of the islanders' fight for freedom from Spain. In the early 1870s town leaders decided that Cuba needed a new school and a better location. They built the second school near the first but moved the town two miles (three kilometers) west. To their dismay, in 1884 the Burlington and Missouri Railroad ran a line a few miles south of Cuba. So the town moved again. Today the trains are gone, but the town remains.
 
–Kathy B. Maher
Did You Know?

Related Links
Kansas State Historical Society
www.kshs.org/places/chr
Explore the rich history of Kansas. First stop: The Center for Historical Research, with collections that include more than five miles (eight kilometers) of printed materials, 25,000 maps, 500,000 photographs, and more than 50,000 reels of microfilm. 

Homesteading in Kansas
www.kancoll.org/articles/erictaylor/erictays.htm
Follow the real-life experiences of Joseph Dvorak and Francis Zvolanek, who emigrated from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in the 1870s and eventually settled in Kansas. 
 
Republic County, Kansas
skyways.lib.ks.us/kansas/counties/RP/
Visit this site for information about Republic County, Kansas (population 5,835), and a link to the website of the Republic County Historical Society.  

U.S. Census Bureau
factfinder.census.gov
Get community profiles of Cuba, Kansas, and of your hometown by checking out the Fact Sheet on the U.S. Census Bureau site.

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Bibliography
Cutler, William G. History of the State of Kansas. A. T. Andreas, 1883. Available online at kancoll.org/books/cutler/.  
 
Miner, H. Craig. Kansas: The History of the Sunflower State, 1854-2000. University Press of Kansas, 2002.

Richmond, Robert W. Kansas: A Land of Contrasts. Forum Press, 1989.

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NGS Resources
Glasscock, Sarah. Communities Across America Today. National Geographic Books, 2002.
 
Thompson, Gare. A Homesteading Community of the 1880s. National Geographic Books, 2002.
 
Whipple, Dan. National Geographic's Driving Guide to America: The Heartland. National Geographic Books, 1997.
 
O'Gara, Geoffrey. "Singular Vision." National Geographic Traveler (September/October 1994), 103.
 
O'Gara, Geoffrey. "A Harvest of History." National Geographic Traveler (July/August 1991), 102.

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