No. 381

The English poet Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) once said, Duty is to serve society; and after we have done that, we may attend wholly to the salvation of our own souls. While some people may disagree with this quotation, most of us can agree that duty to ones fellow human beings does rank somewhere near the top of the list. There is a large group of men and women all across this great nation who deserve our appreciation and thanks, sometimes much more than we give them. Im talking about the men and women who give their time, talent and resources as Volunteers who improve the quality of life and who make our communities a better place to live. Have you ever thought about where your community would be, were it not for the countless individuals who volunteer their services to help others? If you have never been on the giving end, you are missing one of the greatest blessings that life has to offer you.
I was reminded of this truth in a very special way back on November 16th of this past year when I was the featured speaker for the Annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner in Baxter Springs, Kansas. This annual event is sponsored the local Lions Club and features men and women who serve as Volunteer Firefighters, Fire Auxiliary, Police and EMS Volunteers. It is a special evening when community leaders, the mayor, state officials, ministers and members of the Lions Club pause to say Thank You for a job well done. The people in this community of 4500 located in the corner of Southeast Kansas really know what it means to serve. There were over 60 names of non-paid volunteers listed in the program and most of them were there. My purpose in sharing this is to highlight the great job these people do. If your community does not have such and event, it might be worth thinking about doing something along these lines.
My appearance was underwritten in part, by Larry & Sharon Hiatt, who publish the Baxter Springs News. These are very fine people and are very supportive of various activities in their community. My column has run for several years in this fine newspaper, but before going over there I did not know much about Baxter Springs. This is a very unique small town with a lot of rich history and I thought that you might be interested in learning something new about Baxter Springs, Kansas. You know there are thousands of small towns all across the United States of America and I wish it were possible to visit each one. To me, the people who live in these communities are very special and most of our national leaders and heroes have come from places like this. Baxter Springs has more than its share of these people and I will tell you about a few of them in a moment.
Here are some of the things I learned about Baxter Springs. As the original Western railhead for the railroad, Baxter Springs was the first place cattle drovers from Texas met the train with their cattle herds. Thus the town celebrates their moniker as the First Cow-Town In Kansas with Cow-Town Days. Baxter Springs was the kind of town you see in the movies before Abilene and Dodge City. Unfortunately, some cattle disease and the dangers of driving cattle through the Indian Territory sent the trail further west to other towns that became more widely known. The town is named for the first storeowner, John Baxter and some mineral springs which flowed freely and thought by Indians and settlers alike to have healing powers. A hotel was built to house visitors, thus Baxter Springs.
Baxter Springs is located on the famous Route 66. There are only 13 miles of the famous Mother Road in Kansas and passes through only two of its towns. As a side note, Larry had reserved me a room in a great bed and breakfast called, The Little Brick Inn with adjoining restaurant called Caf On The Route. From my second story room I could look out on Military Street and see the historic area of downtown Baxter Springs. It felt kind of eerie when I leaned that Jesse James and his gang had robbed the First National Bank of Baxter Springs which was located nearby, back in 1876.. Baseball legend Mickey Mantle played Little League here on a team known as the Whiz Kids. The town lays claim to having one of the best Little League Parks in the nation. In addition to Mantle, golfer Hale Irwin, Wal-Mart President Lee Scott, Mr. Clean inventor Hubert Byrd also claims Baxter Springs as their hometown. It was a wonderful experience to be able to also express my appreciation to the many volunteers in Baxter Springs, Kansas, is something I will never forget. To me, this is very important and I would like to pay tribute to all of you men and women who do volunteer work in your local community. It is true, When Duty Calls, Volunteers Respond. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)