Home of Beautiful Women, Hot and Cold Water Towers
Far from the interstates in south-central Kansas there is a side-by-side pair of century-old municipal water towers labeled "Hot" and "Cold," first labeled in 1956. We don't advise travelers to embark on too much of a detour just for this mild joke.
But there's more thrills in Pratt! After admiring the water towers, head to downtown to visit the Pratt County Historical Museum, which is full of artifacts of olde timey days and tributes to the beauty queens of Kansas. Our favorites:
The Wheat Doll
Conjuring some pagan harvest festival idol, the doll made of wheat is the size of a real woman -- five feet tall -- actually an old-fashioned dress with wheat stalks for arms and hands. The head is represented by a shock of wheat, appearing to gush up out of the torso. It was created by a local woman over a period of 20 hours in 1990 -- "Dedicated to the wheat farmers of Pratt County."
We surmise that heads and faces are difficult to make out of wheat; still, it probably gives kids the willies.
Miss Kansas Beauty Pageant exhibit
Pratt is where the Miss Kansas Pageant is held each year, and the museum features a display dedicated to Kansas beauty queens. Several mannequins wear actual pageant gowns, and a continuum of photo portraits reveal every Miss Kansas since 1955.
A large, retired road sign proclaims "Kansas: Home Of Beautiful Women." It used to taunt visitors coming from Nebraska. The sign, from the late 1960s, notes that not only did Kansas provide Miss America for 1968, but also 1967's Mrs. America and the Homemaker of Tomorrow.
Pratt calls itself "Tree City." On a drive around town, you might notice former trees that have been rendered into chainsaw sculptures by local artist Clayton Cross. A carved bald eagle clutching a carved and painted American flag stands on the Pratt County Courthouse lawn.
Vandals first painted Pratt's towers in 1956, and may have been the original town with this particular water tower gag (there are other towns with other gags). A handful have since imitated it, like Hubbard, Iowa, Garrison, North Dakota, and Marion, Virginia.
Okemah, Oklahoma has three towers: "Hot," "Cold," and "Woody Guthrie."