Roving with Clay Wirestone

Radio City Music Hall

Flashes of a sad, beautiful, broken nation on my voyages to New York City and the Deep South

BY: - August 13, 2023

Last month, while walking with my 12-year-old son in New York City’s Chinatown, we saw a Ryder truck with its roof shredded. A week later, as we drove back to Kansas from a trip to Alabama, we saw a burned-out truck parked beside the highway, still smoldering. These two damaged vehicles, one of them in […]

Marchers in the Lawrence pride parade hold signs reading "No SB 180 in LKS" and "We are fed up with your silence."

In these four Kansas towns, Pride Month means more than just parades and rainbows

BY: - June 12, 2023

True confessions time, gang: I didn’t care for Pride Month as a young gay man. Rainbow iconography left me cold. I didn’t much enjoy parades. Drag queens could put on a good show, but I would rather read a book. Making change, I told myself and others, would come from political organizing and activism rather […]


New Amelia Earhart museum gleams with the energy, innovation and bravery of its Kansas-born subject

BY: - April 13, 2023

The sparkling new Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum at Atchison’s airport doesn’t just pay tribute to its namesake’s life and career. It represents a sequence of events so unlikely and fortuitous that you couldn’t have invented them. From the sole surviving Lockheed Electra 10-E plane — the same kind that went missing in Earhart’s attempt to […]


Ruined beauty of Kansas: Ghost towns and buildings splinter under weight of time

BY: - March 26, 2023

As a week of spring break wound down, my son told me that he wanted to explore an abandoned place. Like most ideas generated by his 11-year-old noggin, this one likely came from YouTube. The video sharing site serves up videos aplenty of urban exploration in places like Detroit. Twenty something vloggers excitedly chatter as […]

The Japanese Friendship Garden in downtown Lawrence.

Kansas elections were approaching fast. I sought peace in this tranquil hideaway.

BY: - November 7, 2022

Next to the Watkins Museum of History in downtown Lawrence sits a tiny park, a mere 90 by 92 feet. If you don’t keep your eyes open when strolling along the Massachusetts Street sidewalk, you could easily miss it. Walk up the concrete path and behind the cast iron fence, however, and you’ll find an […]

Council Grove downtown streetscape

Searching for the future of Kansas’ Council Grove in three trees, three places and three people

BY: - October 20, 2022

Downtown Council Grove practically floats off the pavement. The 19th century buildings levitate, careful gingerbread constructions of brick and mortar and stone, bringing the past to life while nudging the community into the future. I visited the city, about an hour south of Manhattan, last month. Council Grove isn’t a former industrial town tucked in […]

Christy Davis answers questions for podcast

‘It means community’: Kansas rural development director evangelizes small-town life

BY: - October 10, 2022

When I began driving around the state for the Kansas Reflector last year, I didn’t know what to expect. I was raised and educated in Kansas, yes, but I had spent nearly 15 years away. When I returned, I worked in Topeka and Lawrence. The rural areas of my youth weren’t just distant in memory […]


Kansas doesn’t have a brand while New York does? Fuhgeddaboudit!

BY: - October 3, 2022

Here’s a three-word response to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ claim last week that Kansas doesn’t have a brand. Sunflowers, tornadoes and abolitionists. Here are a few more, for the sake of completeness. Bison, chili with cinnamon rolls, and the “Wizard of Oz.” With that out of the way, it’s worth asking why the […]

Kansas Reflector editor Clay Wirestone eats his Burnt Ends Fries at the Kansas State Fair on Sept. 10, 2022, in Hutchinson. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

These five Kansas State Fair foods sustained and entertained Reflector staff this weekend

BY: - September 12, 2022

When I arrived at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson on Saturday morning with the Kansas Reflector crew, I moved backward and forward in time. Backward because every summer my mother would drag my unenthusiastic preteen and teenage self to county fairs. I remembered the pungent smell of sheds overflowing with goats and sheep, cows […]

The well called Norman No. 1 was drilled on Nov. 28, 1892, in Neodesha and opened an new era of oil exploration. The site was reconstructed in 1961 and later moved closer to Main Street. (Clay Wirestone/Kansas Reflector)

Once a Kansas petroleum powerhouse, Neodesha now drills down on education and investments

BY: - August 22, 2022

When I was a child, Neodesha was the big city. My family and I lived in nearby, even smaller Altoona. The city of Neodesha — population 2,275 — boasted a grocery store, library and a red caboose behind that library. This month, I drove back to Neodesha with my 11-year-old, on a mission to look […]

Whimsical carvings decorate trees in Orr Park in Montevallo, Alabama. Opinion editor Clay Wirestone walked the park on his recent visit to the state. (Clay Wirestone/Kansas Reflector)

From spine-tingling tales to faces in the trees, Alabama trip puts Kansas in perspective

BY: - August 10, 2022

I was driving along an Alabama backroad with my mother-in-law, hearing about various Southern Gothic deaths that had befallen residents of her neighborhood, when I realized something simple yet important: This country is vast. The contiguous United States stretches more than 2,500 miles from coast to coast. Our 50 states go from sapphire blue to […]

Just after a marker commemorating the lynching of Dana Adams was unveiled at Caldwell Plaza in Salina, those in the crowd drew near to read its historical account. (Clay Wirestone/Kansas Reflector)

A Kansas community confronts generations of trauma by marking 129-year-old lynching

BY: - June 20, 2022

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Some wounds fester and spread, inflaming and weakening surrounding tissues. Over time, some of these wounds prove fatal. On Saturday afternoon in Salina, under a sweltering sun, more than 100 community members gathered to bind and disinfect a very old wound. On April 20, 1893, a Black man named Dana […]