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Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Lucky Tree

People call it The Lucky Tree.  It stands outside of Wichita headed Northwest on K-96 in the big curve in the road just a little bit past Maize and not quite to the Bentley exit.  It is an easily recognizable landmark along the highway and people honk as they drive by for good luck and safe travel on their way to many destinations.  This cottonwood has been a Kansas tradition for a long time. 
Some folks have told me that their grandparents honked at this tree or that it was a family tradition growing up.  High school teams traveling by in busses are careful to never risk their fate by not paying homage as they pass.  School colors are often seen tied to the tree as well as yellow ribbons for the troops.  And after September 11, this tree proudly wore the American flag.
While everyone agrees that they must pay their respects to the tree, correct protocol seems to be a matter of individual taste.  Some say its a honk and a wave or a tip of your hat.  Others say you honk once for each person in the car or once for each year of your age.  Did you remember to hold your feet off the floor as we passed?  Or close your eyes and shout?  Just make sure you don't forget the next time you drive by.
Once, in the 1990s, KDOT thought about cutting down the tree to reroute the highway.  This did not set well with the local community and so Hutchinson Rep. Jan Pauls worked in Topeka to get a Safe Tree Order into the highway plans so the tree would be protected.  Much of Kansas breathed a sigh of relief.  The truth is, this tree has become so popular, it now even has its own Facebook group "We always honk at the lucky tree outside of Wichita!" with over 3000 members.  (A group I just joined, by the way!) 

I may not be a Kansas by birth but I have lived here many years and this is a tradition I have embraced wth great enthusiasm.  Perhaps my grandchildren will someday go on Facebook and say, "My grandmother honked at this tree!"   I hope so.

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