By MIKE CORN
WaKEENEY -- Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the wildflowers. WaKeeney's downtown park is a good spot to do just that.
To be sure, the park, built with money from a transportation enhancement grant, is more than just flowers. Indeed, there's a small park, complete with parking area. There's a limestone-colored fence surrounding the Trego County road department yard, and a welcome-to-WaKeeney sign.
But there's three areas of flowers, of every color in the rainbow.
No one knows them better than Mary Hendricks -- also known as Wildflower Mary.
For a while this summer, she worked part time for the city of WaKeeney, weeding the flowers.
She has since stepped down from that position. As well, she and husband, Dave, are closing the 1906 Cottage Garden Bed and Breakfast they operate.
Flowers most certainly will figure into her future plans, just as they have in the past.
The Hendricks have been strong supporters of the wildflower movement, physically gathering up seeds to help with the planting of the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway that runs south of WaKeeney.
Mary Hendricks is delighted with the look of the wildflower gardens in WaKeeney this year.
"Last year we had so much rain," she said.
As a result, the weeds took off and hid many of the flowers.
"It's better this year," Hendricks said.
It is a virtual blanket of flowers, although she's quick to point out that they're not all native wildflowers.
Some, including Indian blanket flower, are.
"All of the landscaping ... was done by a professional landscaper with all that stuff behind his name," Hendricks said. "It was professionally planted. It had to be because it was a grant."
And it was a long time coming, as it took several years for the city to negotiate a lease agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the property where the park is located.
It's also an indicator of the Kansas Department of Transportation's interest in wildflowers.
"KDOT is getting interested in this wildflower thing, which makes me happy," she said. "And they're not mowing as much (on highways) and finding out its not as awful as they thought it might be."
With the bloom of flowers, Hendricks said she's happy, and is hopeful that something will be blooming throughout the summer.
And as for the Hendricks?
"I just want to do other things," she said of the reason behind closing the bed and breakfast they operate.
She has no immediate plans.
"Probably just goof off," she said. "At this point, I don't have any plans. I might get bored. Then who knows what I might do."
In the meantime, however, she's going to "goof off and try to spend time with my friends, go place with my husband, and I may go out to my garden once a day rather than once a week."