This just in from central Kansas — a stark, stoic place where feelings aren’t easily ruffled.

“Before Christmas, three friends and I were to take a ‘girls’ day to go shopping in a town about 80 miles from Great Bend. The night before, snow and ice struck, and we decided not to try going.”

Was it the weather? Not exactly. Four years ago, my correspondent explains, they’d set out in even worse conditions on an even longer trip — to Wichita, 120 miles away. “Off we went, not a worry in the world.” No, it wasn’t fear of an accident that kept them in Great Bend this time. Not per se. But if an accident should happen — it  was fear of what they knew would happen next,

The correspondent explains.

“About 10 years ago, four women were killed just outside of town. All the headlines talked about the ‘ELDERLY women— some in town wanted to know what they were doing on a highway. They were going on a ‘girls’ day out, and an oncoming truck crossed the center line and hit them head on!”

The truck driver was obviously at fault; but the town cast its judgment instead on those poor, dear elderly women who should never have been on the highway in the first place.

“I have to tell you,” my correspondent continues, “those women were our age now. I was telling this tale to the clerk at Dillard’s as I was waiting for my friend Jody to try on clothes (she can take 30 minutes to try on slacks and a sweater). She started laughing. Last winter she left Dillard’s at 9 and was scraping ice off of her windshield when she was mugged. Not hurt in any way, just a purse job. Of course the next morning’s headline –‘ELDERLY woman mugged in parking lot.’ She said that was not the worst of it — all of her friends called and said, ‘We just knew it had to be you.’ What kind of friends are those?”

My correspondent and her friends knew that if they didn’t make it back to Great Bend in one piece the headlines and the TV reporters on the scene would all say the same thing: “4 ELDERLY women killed in accident.” So they stayed home.

“Who the hell decided we were elderly?” she wants to know.