Badly in need of a road trip, we set out to discover Johnson County.

Cruisin' the 'Calf 

Badly in need of a road trip, we set out to discover Johnson County.

Page 2 of 9

Pettit has lived next to the Aubrey Township cemetery since 1962, when Metcalf was U.S. Highway 69 and 191st Street was a gravel track known as Tibbetts Road.

Plots that were $40 apiece in 1962 now cost $100. Pettit owns four spaces near his yard -- one each for him and his wife and two for any of their six children who might need them. When his time comes, Pettit says, "All they have to do is throw me over the fence."

The Pettits will join more than 100 years' worth of dead Johnson Countians in the 2-acre cemetery, final resting places marked by new, red-granite blocks and old, white monuments -- Tuggles and Branches, Moons and Zimmermans, Baumgardners, Harrisons and Morgans.

"Dead people, at midnight, they come across the yard to go fishing in the pond," Pettit says. "When they go back, the only thing you can see are the skeletons of the fish they've eaten."

Pettit's round body stretches the clean, white cotton of his T-shirt, which tallies various things God is like: Coke, because "it's the real thing"; General Electric, because God "lights our path." He's also like Pan Am, Alka-Seltzer and Hallmark.

Now retired, Pettit spent most of his working life atop heavy equipment for Reno Construction, refilling an old quarry at 167th and Metcalf. It was 100 feet deep when he started. Rock carved from the giant hole was thrown into a hopper with sand, lime and asphalt oil and heated to 460 degrees to become the pavement for cul-de-sacs, circle driveways, major and minor arterials, a new 69 Highway and even for Tibbetts Road when it became 191st Street.

"When we came out here, I could run around half-barenaked outside," Pettit says. "But the city come out this way."

Giant homes have replicated themselves down old Metcalf; their ponds are called water features. They are priced at a million dollars and more.

The Pettits' property cost them $1,000 and a lot of hard work. They cleared brush by hand; played hardball with the power company to get electric lines; built the three-bedroom house, garages and sheds; and dug a cistern to truck in water.

"We was both raised in the country," Pettit explains. "We wanted country."

Overland Park groped to within eight blocks when it annexed Stillwell a few years ago. No farther, Pettit insists. "They ain't going to annex this," he says. "They'll have a fight." -- Kendrick Blackwood

11 a.m.
Cigar and Tabac Ltd.
Metcalf 103 Shopping Center

Metcalf 103 is where you want to be if something's wrong with you. There's a fitness-equipment shop, a physical-therapy joint, a pain-management center, a Jazzercise studio, a nutrition center, a low-carb grocery store and deli.

Then there's Cigar and Tabac Ltd. Old Don, whose shiny white hair shows where he dragged a comb through it this morning, sits at a round table in the corner, puffing on an antique Stanwell briar. He's been smoking for 60 years.

Don worked at Cigar and Tabac's first location at the Metcalf South mall. Now, he says, he just hangs out and drinks the coffee. Six pipes are handy in his suit jacket. At home, he has 4,000 -- pared down from 9,000. He uses them on a rotating basis. He always has a clean one ready to go.

Regulars shoot the breeze and play backgammon, chess or bridge. One denizen, who works at Sprint, comes in with his laptop between meetings. Lawyers stop here between clients. Workers take breaks from installing swimming pools. The ashtray on the table fills quickly as they talk about their personal lives and hobbies -- hunting and golf and fountain pens. They never discuss politics or religion. "That can cause enemies," Don explains.

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