My final day in Missouri, we went to the City Market and the Arabia Museum in Kansas City. I drooled over the large produce stands selling one-pound containers of strawberries for a dollar, as well as jewel-like cherries, peppers and lettuces. At least two vendors carried bulk spices, their luscious aromas perfuming the air. Fresh flowers, homemade fudge and fresh-baked breads tempted me, too, and it was a delicate form of torture to wander through the stands and not be able to buy anything because I was flying home the next day. (I consoled myself with a triple chocolate gelato from an Italian deli.)
Garden art--so cute!
In addition to the produce and food stands, the City Market has shops, restaurants and the Arabia Steamboat Museum, an attraction my aunt, who is an archaeologist, had been dying to visit. A little history: in 1856, the Arabia steamed up the Missouri River, laden with more than 200 tons of merchandise bound for pioneer settlements and general stores. When she hit a “snag,” or submerged tree, she sank in mere minutes, taking her cargo with her. All 130 human passengers survived; the only fatality was a mule, who has now been nicknamed Lawrence (of Arabia—get it?). Museum visitors are encouraged to pay their respects to Lawrence as they leave the exhibits.
A fraction of the Arabia's cargo.
But back to the Arabia (see how easily I’m distracted by anything equine?). Over time the Missouri River changed its course, leaving the Arabia buried 45 feet beneath a Kansas corn field, half a mile from the river’s edge. Arabia was excavated in 1988-1989. Her amazingly well-preserved cargo is the largest pre-Civil war artifact collection in the world—everything from dishware, clothing, tools, guns, foodstuffs, medicine, trade beads and buttons. They’re still restoring what was excavated, and expect to have at least 15 more years of work ahead of them! At the preservation lab in the museum, we watched a restorer work on a pair of boots, and sniffed a sample of perfume recovered from the Arabia. To learn more about the Arabia, visit http://www.1856.com/, or read Treasure in a Cornfield, by Greg Hawley.
And that concludes our trip through Missouri. Thanks for traveling with me—I’ve enjoyed reliving it all!
Rest in peace, Lawrence.