A Summer Lesson in Kansas

Photo: Genessa Gutzait • The Sentry

This summer my husband and I decided to go on a cross country road trip. Through the nothingness that is Kansas we realized that we were nearly out of gas. The only nearby station looked as though it hadn’t been updated since at least the 1950s and the pumps couldn’t signal when the tank had been filled so you had to reference your fuel gauge inside the car, or else it could spill over.

I get out of the car to fill the tank, my husband monitoring the fuel gauge inside, when we hear a monstrous truck come soaring into the station, pulling into the pump next to us. The smallest man I’ve ever seen wearing an all-white cowboy outfit hops out. He is so short that he can’t see the fuel gauge while topping off the tank.

He gets onto his tippy toes to reach the tank and begins filling. He’s filling and filling and filling, all the while looking at everything except for the fuel gauge. 

As I’m removing the nozzle from my car, I hear yelling coming from the small cowboy. The tank had been overfilled, covering his whole right arm in gasoline. He’s pissed. He looks at my husband and I and yells, “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?!” when he pulls out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.

Before we could stop him, he flicks the lighter and his whole arm immediately goes up in flames. Now we’re all screaming. He’s running around the station, waving his arm. Then, a cop car comes barreling into the station. The cop gets out of his cruiser, charging the cowboy while drawing his gun.

“Stop or I’ll shoot!” he yells. Cowboy does not stop, and the cop shoots the guy in the leg. He falls, and the cop throws a fire-retardant blanket over him, extinguishing the fire.

Being witnesses to the whole ordeal, we’re forced to stay. We tell the officer our account of events, and as we’re cleared to leave, my husband asks, “Why did you shoot the guy? Why couldn’t you have just put the fire out?” This cop smugly takes off his aviators, smiling at us from underneath the world’s largest mustache.

“You ain’t from around these parts, huh?” We shake our heads. “You see, it’s illegal to wave a fire arm in Kansas.” 

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