BY CJ GIBSON
Located half an hour down Highway 56 from Great Bend lies a far smaller town: Larned.
While to some—particularly psychology students like myself—Larned may seem like merely a stop surrounding one of Kansas’s primary mental health rehabilitation facilities, as with any small town described in this series and beyond, where there are people, there are interesting features to see.
A frequent field trip stop for nearby schools, Fort Larned holds a host of historical military buildings and fixtures, teaching visitors about life in frontier times.
When I lived in Larned as a preschooler, one of my favorite afternoon activities was to trek down to the park and simply walk around. For an easily entertained kid in a time just before overdependence on screens, the park had many enthralling qualities: a playground, a miniature train, and, my favorite, ducks!
Larned’s short list of restaurants has waxed and waned over the years, with locals in need of outside-the-home eats braving the drive to the slightly denser town of Great Bend. But one place has remained since I lived there years ago: the Peking Garden.
After my family’s Sunday church service, we’d almost always hit the Chinese restaurant’s buffet. As a kid I’d rub the big Budai statue’s belly and as soon as drinks were served, heads straight for the lo mein.
It’s true that Larned does hold sentimental value for me, as I lived there in the years when everything in life was fresh and exciting. But seeing small towns with the eyes of a child can be grounding; in a world filled with so many nearly identical choices, sometimes finding a way to reframe what is interesting takes only a little time to see a “boring” small town with the eyes of a child: finding delight in the smallest of afternoon adventures.