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Benni Harper

Kansas Troubles Tour

Kansas Troubles is the only book in the Benni Harper series where I used actual place names.  I did invent the names of restaurants to fit the story, though I also used a few real ones.  Keep in mind that I wrote this book in 1995 with research from 1994 to 1995 (two separate trips) so some of the real places I wrote about might not be there anymore.  My husband, Allen, has family in Derby and he used to spend a portion of every summer there.  The first love letter he ever wrote me was when he was fifteen and on vacation in Derby with his family.  It was written inside Derby Bowl.  I'd love to print it here on the website but he threatened to find evil ways to get back at me if I did!  I have to tell you though, it was a very sweet and wonderful letter.

The town of Miller in Kansas Troubles is actually the town of Yoder, which many people figured out.  The reason I didn't use the real town's name was because of the Amish who live in the area. Since they have so few family surnames I knew no matter what name I gave my Amish characters there could possibly be people in Yoder with those exact names.  My Amish characters are totally fictional and not based on any real people. 

And, yes, I know I spelled Sedgwick County wrong in the book.  It was my error and, unfortunately, once something gets in print it's very difficult to get it corrected.  Hey, I'm only human!

San Celina Airport - San Luis Obispo airport on Broad Street (Hwy 227)

Shepler's Western Wear - A huge store right near Wichita International Airport--it was my first stop in Kansas!  Like, Benni, I've often ordered from their cool catalogs.

Road to Derby - was exactly how I described it and I made the same comment to my husband, Allen, as Benni did to Gabe--"There are trees!"  Like Benni, I'd never been to Kansas and assumed the whole state was dead flat. 

Special note: Allen's father, Clarence, was actually pulled over on this road by a police officer just like Gabe was.  Except this police officer was on a motorcycle and he was Allen's cousin, Delbert Fowler.  Delbert served as Derby's chief of police for quite a few years, including the years I did my research there.

Taco Bell coming into Derby - Allen's uncle, Tom Fowler, (Delbert's father and Clarence's younger brother) once owned a Mobil station that was on this spot.  Allen used to hang out there when he was a kid and visiting his relatives.

Hardee's and Braum's Ice Cream - They were both actual eating places when I was there.  A lot of senior citizens like to meet at Hardee's. 

Derby Police Department - On your right as you're coming into Derby.  It's exactly how I described it.  I did get a personal tour of the buildings since I was related by marriage to the police chief!

El Paso Water Company building - An actual building in Derby.  The story about Derby being named El Paso was true.

The Daily Reporter building - On the right, past the police department - Derby's real newspaper

Gabe's childhood home - A combination of many of the homes I saw in Derby.  The town has some very pretty neighborhoods.

Daphne, the Boston terrier with an attitude - I never have actually known a Boston terrier, but I'm told they have very sweet, gentle temperaments.  That's what made it even funnier to invent cranky, snarling Daphne who loved everyone but Benni.  Daphne's personality was actually based on a miniature poodle my mother-in-law owned named Howie.  Howie hated me until the day he died at 16 years old (actually, he hated everyone who wasn't a blood Fowler). This is my revenge.

Deadman's Curve - I can't tell you the exact location (though maybe folks in Derby could), but there was a curve outside of town that was called by that name. 

Christmas Tree Farm - Allen's cousin, Delbert, actually owned a Christmas tree farm outside of Derby a few miles.  I don't know the exact location but locals could probably tell you.

Miller, Kansas - Actually Yoder, Kansas.  See explanation in introduction.  I invented all the businesses in town though there is a bakery there and it was wonderful! 

Miller Cafe (outside of the town of Miller) - There was a cafe I ate in outside of Yoder on the highway but I don't remember the name of it.  It's not the new Amish restaurant that is in the area now, but a real, old-fashioned highway cafe.  Amish girls did work there and there was country/western music playing which verified that Tyler, my Amish character, could have heard that kind of music played.

Amish farm - I did visit an Amish farm around Yoder.  It was one that has a small department store on it which sold basic necessities to the Amish.  I don't remember exactly where it was, but I found the address in a travel books.  The woman behind the counter was very kind and answered a few of my questions.  She was dressed in a dark brown dress, white Amish cap and was barefoot (this was in July).  She was quite amused, she told me after we'd talked a while, to watch me when I parked in front of the store.  Being a native Southern Californian, I very carefully locked my car door before coming into the store.  "Who did you think was going to steal it?" she asked, laughing.  I had to laugh at that myself.  I bought an Amish Hymn book that I keep in my reference books in my office.

Derby Bowl - An actual bowling alley in Derby.  Allen used to hang out there a lot when his family visited Kansas every summer.  It was great fun to go see the place where he wrote me his first love letter.

Prairie City Nights - A country/western nightclub in Wichita - I made up the name but it was based on an actual nightclub in Wichita in 1995.  Not sure if it's still there but I remember it had a huge dance floor that reminded me of a jogging track!

Pretty Prairie and Pretty Prairie Rodeo - I didn't make these up!
I was sitting in a hotel in Wichita, reading The Wichita Eagle, when I saw an advertisement for the biggest night time rodeo in Kansas.  Something in me said to go check it out.  Everything I describe in Pretty Prairie is how it was in 1995, including Darrell and Joyce Albright, the couple who owned the general store (the store has since closed).  They were very kind to me and even invited me to their house for dinner right before the rodeo even though I'd just met them! (Allen wasn't with me on this trip)  I sat with them and their lovely children at the rodeo and they were a tremendous help to me in writing that part of the book.  The joke the rodeo clown told was actually the one he told that night.  It was the first time I realized that there was a competition between Kansas and Nebraska! The rodeo is a bunch of fun and I highly recommend it.

Pretty Prairie Civic Theater - This does exist and is still being used as a theater.  Darrell and Joyce are very involved with the preservation of the buildings and the showing of vintage movies there.  I was treated to a Little Rascals movie there when Allen and I visited them while I was promoting Kansas Troubles (I did a signing in the Pretty Prairie library).  Allen was up in the projection booth with Darrell and I had the whole theater to myself!  What a special treat that was.  I'll never forget my time in Pretty Prairie or the friends I've made there. 

El Paso Cemetery - This is where Gabe's father was buried.

Douglas Street in Wichita - A real street in Wichita.  Many years ago Allen's great-aunt, Ruth Smith, lived on this street.  She was a 5th grade school teacher for many, many years.  He remembers taking baths in her claw-foot bathtub.  Gabe's mother was somewhat based on Aunt Ruth except Aunt Ruth really liked me!

VFW Picnic grounds - Place where Gabe and Benni neck at the end of the book.  This place does exist outside of Derby somewhere though I couldn't tell you exactly where.  I was on a ride-along with one of Derby's police officers and I asked him where the kids in Derby went to make out.  He showed me this spot and I knew it would be the perfect ending to my book!

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