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Garfield University

By John I. Blair

When it was built
Only twenty years had passed
Since board and canvas shacks
Had popped up on a prairie
Whose only other features
Were a pair of shallow rivers
Sprawled across the soil
Of central Kansas.

When it was built
The bricks by thousands, lumber,
Granite blocks and roofing slates,
Were hauled in on the railroad
As were the teams of German masons
And Swedish carpenters who piled them up
Out there against the blank horizon
Three miles west of Wichita.

When it was built
And named for Garfield,
Martyred president of 1881,
It was the largest college building
West of the Mississippi
According to the local boast.

But the speculation bubble burst,
Leaving shells of all the gaudy structures,
Factories, fraternal temples, mansions,
Littering the landscape.
Pigeons roosted in the classrooms,
Winds moaned in the empty tower,
And this monument to pride
Stood hollow on the cold sod

Until some prudent Quakers, also Kansans,
Bought it cheap, boarded up the holes,
And made it work.

2006 John I. Blair


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