Pheasant season begins, Vogts hunts for breakfast and succeeds

Several hunters were spread out across a field this morning north of Utica as they hoped to bag a pheasant. As I took this picture, one hunter wave and stumbled in the field. He almost fell. I felt bad and drove off quickly before he decided to pretend I was a pheasant.

As most guys in Kansas woke up this morning ready to hunt since today was the first day of the opening of the pheasant hunting season. While they put on camouflage gear adorned with orange safety vests, I woke up hungry.

I did put on my trusty camouflage St. Louis Cardinals hat, but I wasn’t interested in killing birds. I wanted to kill the hunger grumbling in my stomach.

During this past week I had talked to one of the Western Plains High School janitors, and he told Utica, Kan., had a café that served a good breakfast buffet.

I was sold as soon as I heard buffet.

Not wanting to go by myself, though, I enlisted the company of Western Plains third and fourth grade teacher Rebecca Windle and her sister, Bonnie Windle, who was visiting for the weekend. My roommate, Travis Schafer, would have gone too, but he had to head to McPherson, Kan., to take test for his teacher license.

We left Ransom, Kan., bright and early, hitting the road by about 9 a.m.

We quickly made the 14-mile drive west to Utica.

If you try to find Utica and are worried about not finding it, don’t fret. There is a water tower that clearly displays the name of the town.

If it wasn’t for this sign, we might not have found it because the café didn’t look anything like I was expecting.

Though Utica is a throbbing metropolis, we found the Utica Community Café with relative ease. It was in the old school facility on the north edge of town.

Walking up to the building, we were welcomed by a friendly note scrawled on a marker board sitting outside.

For a moment I worried we weren’t going to be allowed in because we weren’t hunters and didn’t drive a golf cart, but then I remembered I had my trusty camouflage hat on. It was like having a press pass. They let us right in without question.

Upon entering, a couple people looked at us kind of funny like, so I explained we were first-timers. The ladies working were more than happy to help walk us through the steps to getting fed.

We went to the buffet line and piled our plates high with bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs and fried potatoes. Some of it was a little cold because apparently people just coming in to eat breakfast at almost 10 a.m. isn’t what the Utica Community Café is used to, but the food was still good. Rebecca was worried the biscuits and gravy would be superior to hers, but I assured her they weren’t.

Rebecca and I both had happy plates because we practically licked them clean. Bonnie, on the other hand, wasted a little food because she couldn’t man-up and finish her meal. I was a little embarrassed, but what can you do?

There was also coffee, but it wasn’t as quite up to par as the food. We got there in time for the bottom of the pot, which looked gross.

No. This isn’t motor oil. Scary, right?

One of the ladies helping us navigate the massive café saw the plight of our Styrofoam coffee cups quickly volunteered to bring us fresh java. We were much obliged.

After finishing our grub and reflecting on its tastiness, we got up to pay. We almost made a faux pas by leaving a tip on the table. Then Rebecca notice a tip jar next to the cash register, so Bonnie grabbed the dollar bills off the table and stuffed them in the jar.

We thanked the crew for the wonderful meal and went back outside.

Climbing back into the truck, Rebecca reflected how she had never been to Utica. Bonnie never had been either, and I had been only once to run a bus route.

It was exploring time.

Utica is a quaint town that seemed to have an inordinate number of dogs roaming the streets, which were primarily dirt. There was one almost-paved road near the grain elevator, though.

As we drove, we noticed Utica was having a hard time letting go of Halloween even though it is the middle of November.

Yes, the spider’s web is green. I think an alien spider probably wove that fly deathtrap. Either that or the radioactive spider that gave Peter Parker his incredible Spider Man powers did it.

As we drove we also notice at least two churches in the small town. One church got creative with its propane tank.

Clever play on words, don’t you think?

The main street businesses have all the bases covered. There is a United States Post Office, a hair salon, a photography business and a bar, which no small town would be complete without.

Vic’s Short Branch bar is right on the main drag. You can’t miss it.

Utica truly does think of everything, too. For example, right next to the fire hydrants that all the dogs undoubtedly use as toilets, there are water fountains for the Utica resident to quench their thirsts at while they walk their canine pets.

I was also impressed that the fire hydrant was blue and white. Red or yellow ones are so boring.

Just because it was Saturday and the beginning of the hunting season, not everyone was just relaxing and having fun.

A couple gents were working on an oil well.

For the ride back to Ransom, we took country roads.

We saw some cool lime stone, and a huge buck crossed the road in front of us. We tailed it for a while but got frustrated when it hid behind some trees, and yes, it was hiding. It was peering out at us from behind the leaf-less branches.

Utica was a nice town, and I was impressed with the café. I plan on returning for my morning meal at some point, and I want to check out Vic’s sometime soon as well.

I don’t know if Rebecca or Bonnie will go back with me. Bonnie doesn’t live here in Ransom, and Rebecca complained about having to go so early. In fact, as soon as we got back to my house, she passed out on my couch.

Notice she sleeps with her hand in her pocket. What is that all about?

What a pansy.

Hopefully next weekend I can find another small-town café to try out. I love breakfast!

NOTE: Special thanks to Rebecca for letting me use her camera for this. I left Ransom without mine . . . I know. I couldn’t believe it either.

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About toddvogts 780 Articles
My name is Todd Vogts. I am an assistant professor of media. I like the color green, riding my motorcycle, and being with my family and friends. A good book is a perfect companion for me any time, and I'm a published author and journalist. Visit my website at and follow me on Twitter at

1 Comment

  1. Hey,
    I’m a friend of Bonnie’s that goes to Sterling College. I would just like for you to know that Utica is my hometown, and that I’m glad you like it. I’d have to agree about the inordinate amount of dogs there. I also wanted to let you know that the church with the propane take with lettering on it is no longer an active church. some lady bought it and turned it into a business because the church went under quite a few years back…but there is still 2 other churches in town. I also just wanted to tell you that i liked the article 🙂

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