Billingers and Marvel
Today we'll hear the story of a modern marvel. When I say Marvel, I mean that literally - a horse named Marvel and her journey to rural Kansas. It's a heartwarming story, and it's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Randy and Kristi Billinger of Wellsville, Kansas. Wellsville is a town of 1,678 people. Now, that's rural. This rural setting is home to Marvel the horse. Marvel's story is relayed to us by Patrice Scott of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at Kansas State University.
A few years ago, Randy and Kristi Billinger became interested in a breed of horses called Kiger Mustangs. Randy and Kristi bought two Kiger Mustangs, including a mare named Eleana, and brought them to their place near Wellsville.
By spring 2004, there was new excitement surrounding these horses. Eleana was due to give birth to her third foal. In order to keep close tabs on the pregnant mare, Randy moved her into the barn and installed a camera to watch her.
But on April 21, 2004, at 2 a.m., disaster struck. Randy heard a loud commotion and checked the TV monitor. What he saw made his heart drop: The mare was pinned down in the stall.
Randy rushed to the barn and, to his horror, found the mare's leg was somehow pinned beneath the heavy-duty stall door. Eventually he freed the leg with a shovel, but the damage was done. A local veterinarian splinted the leg and advised them to take Eleana to the K-State Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital immediately.
At K-State, the x-rays showed what was called "catastrophic damage." Essentially, the knee was crushed, and Eleana was very heavy with foal.
The options were not good. One alternative, of course, was to destroy the horse. A second was to cast the leg long enough for the colt to be born, and then put the mare down. The third option was reconstructive surgery. The Billingers chose the surgery.
But this was no ordinary operation. Not only was the knee crushed, the mare was under extreme stress and close to foaling. Fortunately, the three-hour surgery was successful. The next question was, would the mare be able to have her baby – and would it survive?
The veterinarians monitored the mare closely. On May 3, Eleana gave birth to a healthy female foal. The little colt was named Eleana's Marvel, or Marvel for short.
Marvel was a beautiful colt, but too weak to nurse. The veterinarians fed her through a tube for days and eventually taught Marvel to drink by filling pails with milk. But as the colt gained strength, her mother was losing it.
One doctor said of the older mare, "She would not take her concentration off Marvel - not even to eat. She had a fierce maternal instinct. She was going to do everything she could to get her foal through this crisis."
Marvel recovered, but Eleana the mare's condition was deteriorating fast. Nothing more could be done. On May 13, Randy and Kristi said their tearful goodbyes to the mare. They buried Eleana on their place near Wellsville.
But along with death comes new life. Marvel was continuing to grow. On May 20 – one week to the day after laying Eleana to rest – they brought Marvel home to Wellsville also.
Still more work remained. The 17-day old colt needed feedings through the night, just like a human baby. Randy and Kristi camped out in their truck in the barn so as to make the feedings easier. Neighbors helped by feeding during the day while the Billingers went to work. By the late summer of 2004, Marvel was a typical frisky foal, frolicking in her rural home.
It's time to end this story of a modern marvel. Indeed, the horse is named Marvel, and its entry into this world is something of a miracle in itself. We salute Randy and Kristi Billinger and all the staff and doctors of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital for making a difference by using their skills and caring to help this horse. The result is truly marvelous.
The airplane is coming in for a landing, and the world is watching. It's the record-breaking non-stop flight around the world by pilot Steve Fossett. Thousands of people are on hand and millions are watching on television to see the plane come in for a landing after circumnavigating the globe. How wonderful that this history-making flight took place from Salina, with help from some young men and women from rural Kansas. It's an airborne edition of Kansas Profile.
By now, most people know the story of Steve Fossett and GlobalFlyer. Fossett is a Chicago-based businessman, pilot and adventurer, who has a passion for setting records and expanding the boundaries of human achievement. His latest goal was to set a new record for the first solo, non-stop, non-refuelled circumnavigation of the globe.
To do so, he partnered with a company known as Virgin Atlantic Airways based in London. Virgin Atlantic designed a specially engineered aircraft known as the GlobalFlyer for Fossett's flight. The GlobalFlyer was built by a company in Mojave, California.
So you had California, Chicago, and London among the locations of the key players in this process. Yet where did this international team choose to originate its flight? The answer, of course, was Salina, Kansas.
Why Salina? According to the company, there were several reasons, including Salina's location near the geographic center of the United States, the excellent facilities available at the airport itself and especially its brand new runway which is more than 12,000 feet long - one of the longest in North America.
Beyond that, they cited the proximity of K-State-Salina's College of Technology and Aviation and the positive attitude of the Salina Chamber of Commerce. The Mission Control director commented, "Coupled with the Mission Control facility at Kansas State University, I can't think of a better place to start and finish this amazing flight."
Speaking of Mission Control, this was housed in a special facility constructed in the campus conference center at K-State-Salina. The Mission Control director was assisted by a set of technicians, including four K-State-Salina students who were specially selected for the occasion. Another seven K-State-Salina students directly assisted, and others helped in other ways.
On February 28 at 6:47 p.m., the plane took off. The flight had its nervous moments, beginning when the plane dipped on take-off. Fortunately, the pilot was able to bring it up. Later, his GPS system failed briefly before resuming.
Then a significant fuel leak occurred early in the flight. Emotions in Mission Control were described as ranging from concern to sheer panic. But fortunate tailwinds in the Pacific helped the flight, and the plane came in for a successful landing at Salina on March 3 at 1:52 p.m.
So what does all this have to do with rural Kansas? First of all, it is exciting to have the eyes of the world focused on Salina. An estimated 130 million people followed the flight on the Internet, and 93 million saw the landing on television.
Second, this is a classic case of Kansas utilizing its strengths. All too often, rural people think about our deficits: We don't have this or we don't have that. Instead, we should focus on our assets. Okay, we don't have big cities, but it is an asset that we have wide open spaces. That asset, and a spacious airport, were big factors in the selection of Salina for this flight.
And finally, our greatest asset is our people. Take, for example, the four rural Kansas students at K-State-Salina who were a vital part of the core flight crew. One came from Salina. The other three came from the towns of Burrton, population 858; Linwood, population 409; and Glade, population 114 people. Now, that's rural.
The airplane has landed and been certified by Guinness World Records as a record-setting flight. How exciting to see it happen in the heart of Kansas. We salute all those involved, and especially those students at K-State-Salina, who made a difference by being part of making aviation history. It's enough to leave rural Kansas flying high.
Today let's meet a builder in a Kansas community. But don't look for a hard hat and tape measure, this is a different type of builder. He's not dealing in bricks and mortar, but maybe something more important. He's helping build the relationships which can help a community move forward together. So grab your toolbox for today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Terry Woodbury, this community builder. His specialty isn't construction science, it's people science.
Terry represents a fascinating blend of rural and urban. For example, he grew up in Wichita – no, not the city of Wichita, but in Wichita County. That's a county in southwest Kansas with a total population of 2,725 people. Now, that's rural.
So what about his urban experience? Terry lives in the inner city of Kansas City, where he was President of the United Way of Wyandotte County. Talk about a blend of urban and rural – the first half of each month, he and his wife spend out on the family ranch near Leoti, and the second half at their home in inner Kansas City.
In March 2004, Terry left the United Way to pursue another passion: restoring community spirit in our state. Terry says, "We are attempting to revitalize the spirit and practice of community, one community at a time." Terry's project is called Building and Rebuilding Community across Kansas.
Terry says, "A lot of forces are pulling apart our sense of community. My effort is to connect leaders in our communities and build partnerships and a spirit of collaboration. That's basic to the survival of those communities."
He says, "The school board can't do it alone. The city council can't do it alone. The county commission can't do it alone, and the same with others. All sectors need to come together."
The process starts when someone agrees to host such an effort in their community, and seed money is committed to support it.
Then Terry implements a four-step process in that community. First of all, he does extensive interviews with citizens of that community, and asks them to identify good people with good ideas that are future-oriented.
The second stage is a community conversation. This is a three-hour evening gathering, open to the community at large. Terry facilitates a discussion of the community's assets, liabilities, and ideas for improvement. Then participants are asked to nominate people to participate in a vision retreat.
That vision retreat is step three. This is an eight-hour session where leaders look at the community in four sectors: Business, education, health and human services, and government. They work on a ten-year vision and translate that to immediate goals in terms of how those in each sector can collaborate. The fourth and final step is the implementation of those plans through action teams.
This initiative is new, but is already working in Tribune and Chanute. For example, the community conversation was held recently in Tribune. 166 people came, which represents one-tenth of the total population of the county! That's impressive participation, and they generated 155 specific ideas. A month later at their Vision Retreat, 31 community leaders produced a 10-year vision and 7 goals to implement in the next 2 years.
Terry's sponsors have included everyone from chambers of commerce to school boards to city councils to county commissions to the Kansas Health Foundation to banks to county Farm Bureaus. In fall 2005, Terry hopes to convene a hundred people from six to eight communities to have another conversation and share their successes.
Terry says, "I believe that two people having a deep conversation to understand each other can change the world." If you would like to learn more, call Terry at 620-214-0002. That number again is 620-214-0002.
It's time to say goodbye to our Kansas builder. He's not building structures, he's building synergy. He's not building rooms, he's building relationships. He's not building construction, he's building collaboration. We salute Terry Woodbury for making a difference by rekindling community spirit across the state. While he doesn't have a hard hat, he does have a happy heart.
Lise Streit Kansas Horse Council
Today I have a tale to tell. This particular tale is attached to a horse. No, I'm not talking about the hair on a horses' tail end, I'm talking about the story of an organization which relates to the equine industry in Kansas. It's exciting to see how this organization has grown and expanded and promoted the equine industry. So I hope you're feeling your oats – stay tuned for today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Lise Streit, Executive Director of the Kansas Horse Council. She explains that the Council was founded with impetus from the late Bud Newell. Bud was an entrepreneur and avid horseman, who served on a K-State task force that was exploring an equine organization for Kansas in the early 1990s.
In 1992, the Kansas Horse Council was formed. A Board of Directors was created and Bud Newell became its first President. The first office was located in Bud's basement. Lise Streit came onto the board in 1994 and became Executive Director of the Kansas Horse Council in 1998. The office has not only moved up from the basement, it has relocated to Manhattan.
Lise says that the main function of the Kansas Horse Council is education in various forms. She receives all kinds of horse questions, from researchers needing statistics to entrepreneurs wanting to start horse-related businesses.
According to a 1996 survey by Kansas Agricultural Statistics, which was supported by the Kansas Horse Council, there were 103,000 horses in Kansas valued at $183,000. There were 28,000 equine operations and the value of equine-related assets was estimated to be more than one million dollars. Wow.
So the horse industry is a significant business in Kansas. The Kansas Horse Council seeks to effectively represent that industry and provide benefits for its members.
For example, the Kansas Horse Council has a lobbyist in Topeka to monitor issues affecting horse owners. It has an official member magazine called Horse Tales and Sales. Other member benefits include a purchasing package under which members can receive discounts from participating businesses. I like that one cause I know first-hand how horse people spend money.
A huge issue has to do with legal liability issues. Most horse owners are probably like me: We enjoy our horses and we like sharing them with others. But even the best horses can be unpredictable on occasion. When this involves a 1,600 pound animal, accidents do happen.
So the Kansas Horse Council successfully lead the effort to amend Kansas law, as many other states have done, to protect horse owners from unnecessary liability in such cases.
Furthermore, by joining the Kansas Horse Council, each member automatically receives one-million-dollars in equine liability insurance which protects the owner from damages caused by his or her horses to persons or property. The insurance covers all the member's horses, wherever they are located, and pays for legal counsel as well.
This is a significant protection. Lise tells of one horse owner who called her, saying that a neighbor's horses had gotten out and caused an accident, and the neighbor was being sued for all he had. The caller said, sign me up for that insurance right now.
The Board of the Kansas Horse Council represents various regions of the state, both rural and urban, and various sectors of the horse industry. Current board members come from such cities as Wichita and Topeka, but also places like Lecompton, population 625; Olsburg, 187; Paxico, 182; and Fontana, population 152 people. Now, that's rural.
On January 29, 2005, Bud Newell passed away. How fitting that he lived to see the Kansas Horse Council grow to achieve his vision.
So that's the tale I have to tell. Not just a horse's tail, but the story of an organization which promotes the equine industry. We salute Bud Newell, Lise Streit, and all who are part of the Kansas Horse Council for making a difference with their initiative and leadership.
And there's more: A little horse fair in Wichita with a multi-million dollar impact. We'll learn about that on our next program.
Cheryl Zumbrunn - Harvest Lark Wheat
Today I want to weave together a fascinating story for you, about an artisan in rural Kansas. We’re talking weaving – not weaving story lines or fabric, but weaving wheat. An innovative farmer’s wife is practicing this historic art in rural Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Cheryl Zumbrunn, owner of the Harvest Lark Company which specializes in wheat weaving and related products.
Cheryl was born and raised near Chapman, Kansas. After college, she married Dennis Zumbrunn who is also from near Chapman. They came back to the farm, where they are producing crops and livestock today. In fact, they are the third generation on the farm. The historic home they have restored is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cheryl is always looking for ways to add value to their operation. She found there were couples who were interested in getting bags of wheat to throw at their wedding. Of course, we used to throw rice at weddings, but after all, this is wheat country. So Cheryl began cleaning, bagging, and selling wheat to throw at weddings.
Then she became exposed to another use for that wheat, and it wasn’t the grain: It was wheat weaving, where the stems of the wheat plant are woven into beautiful designs. Cheryl has a real appreciation for the history of wheat weaving.
Cheryl explains that wheat weaving was one of the oldest folk arts. She says, "Weaving has been around ever since grass has been grown."
In ancient society, the wheat weavings were an offering to thank the earth and spirits for a prosperous harvest and to ensure another harvest to come. In ancient England, it was the men who did the weaving, because it was considered so important. Women got into wheat weaving in later years for more practical reasons, when straw hats became popular.
But another element of the wheat weaving was the beautiful and intricate designs which could be crafted by a skilled weaver. In the 1950s, a huge wheat weaving was displayed at an exhibition in England. This spurred a resurgence of interest in the craft.
Cheryl learned about wheat weaving from some skilled artisans in Kansas. When she attended a business opportunity session with an ag economics specialist from K-State Research and Extension, she realized this could become a business.
In 2001, Cheryl formed Harvest Lark Company. Harvest Lark features wheat weavings made by another Kansas artist and natural wheat and native grass bouquets developed by Cheryl, plus more. Their website is www.harvestlark.com.
These beautiful designs are perfect as gifts or decorations for weddings or other special occasions. The website offers wheat arrangements, potpourri, bouquets, recipes, and more.
There is a special section for those interested in doing wheat weaving. Here they can purchase fine Kansas wheat straw for their weaving projects. Cheryl says, "People who weave with our Kansas wheat think they make the most beautiful pieces." The wheat varieties offered by Harvest Lark include Scout, Larned, and the historic Turkey Red, which Cheryl says makes long, soft silky strands – perfect for wheat weaving.
Is there demand for such a product? Yes. Cheryl’s products have gone from California to Florida to Pennsylvania and more – all the way from her family farm near Chapman, Kansas, population 1,352 people. Now, that’s rural.
How exciting that this young farm wife and entrepreneur has found a way to utilize her family’s agricultural products and her natural talent, and connect with a world marketplace through the Internet. And Cheryl is working on other ideas for adding value to grain. Be listening for more on that later.
Today we’ve been weaving together this story for you, about a young farm wife who is adding value to their wheat crop by utilizing it in new ways. She is marketing beautiful works of art, such as wheat weavings and native grass bouquets, and the wheat straw to make them. We salute Cheryl Zumbrunn, her co-workers, and family for making a difference by being entrepreneurs and artists. She has managed to weave the family farm, art, history and business all together.
There’s a convention coming to town. We need to get ready. Get all the stalls cleaned out, and make sure there’s plenty of hay and feed on hand. Hm, this doesn’t sound like just another convention. No, this is a special kind of event which centers on a four-legged kind of convention-goer: It’s about horses and the people who love and ride them. This event is EquiFest of Kansas. So pull up a hay bale for today’s Kansas Profile.
On our last program, we learned about the Kansas Horse Council. In addition to the council’s many other activities, it carries out EquiFest of Kansas, a special exposition about horses held annually on the last weekend of February.
Lise Streit is Executive Director of the Kansas Horse Council. In 1994, she joined the Kansas Horse Council board along with Ann White, who has an equine center near Wamego.
Ann and Lise heard the council president talk about the need for a horse fair in Kansas. Ann and Lise volunteered to research the idea, by visiting other equine events around the country and seeing what they could learn.
They traveled to a large event for horse-owners in Ohio called Equine Affair, did some research, and that night over a margarita at a Mexican restaurant, they toasted each other and said, "We’re going to do this!"
They returned home, reported to the board, and got the green light to try to organize a horse event for Kansas. Ann and Lise went to work and in six months time, put together the first EquiFest of Kansas. It was held at the Kansas Coliseum north of Wichita, and 8,000 people attended.
This was great, because attendance of 8,000 indicated that there was a lot of demand. So the Council decided to make it an annual event. Hold on to your hat, because the next year the attendance doubled. Wow. EquiFest has since been named one of the top six equine events in the nation.
2005 marked the eighth annual EquiFest of Kansas, and more than 17,500 people attended. The three day event includes some 135 vendors with all kinds of equine related products and services. Many vendors are turned away due to lack of space.
In addition to all the people, some 300 horses are part of the events. These include the horses which are brought in for the Breed Showcases, which highlight some of the best of the various horse breeds. Horses are also brought in for the stallion review, which is a kind of equine dating service, as well as the various drill teams and entertainment.
Then there are the clinicians. These are highly skilled, nationally-known trainers who put on educational clinics relating to various elements of working with horses. These have proven to be very popular with horse owners, who are always looking for tips on better ways of handling their horses. Clinicians in 2005 came from as far away as Florida, Arizona, Ohio and Oregon and attracted standing room only crowds.
EquiFest is an impressive event, because of the number of participants and the diverse content of the program. It attracts attendance from all across Kansas and as far away as Montana and North Carolina.
Rural Kansas is well-represented among the vendors, who come from such Kansas places as Coats, population 132; Belvue, population 222; and Cassoday, population 99 people. Now, that’s rural.
How wonderful to see this event bringing together thousands of people, urban and rural, with a common interest in the horse. The economic impact of this event is estimated to be two million dollars. Wow.
And on Saturday night at EquiFest, as they have done every year, Lise and Ann still get together and toast each other with a margarita. They deserve it.
It’s time to close up this convention. Clean out the stalls and pack up the feed, because this is no ordinary convention. It is EquiFest of Kansas. We salute Lise Streit, Ann White, the Kansas Horse Council and all those involved with EquiFest for making a difference with a tremendous equine event.
There’s got to be a better way. Have you ever said that? I have – usually after some disaster. Today, we’ll meet a Flint Hills rancher who had that thought, and it launched him on a road to an invaluable discovery. It led him to a special breed of working cattle dog, and now he’s become one of the nation’s leading breeders and trainers of this breed. It’s a canine edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Charlie Trayer, a rancher from Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. Charlie has been managing the Cottonwood Ranch for some 37 years. He says, "I’ve always had cattle dogs, but I never had really good ones." A lot of us can relate to that. A good dog can help gather cattle, but they’re all too rare.
For Charlie Trayer, the turning point came when intensive grazing programs were implemented in the Flint Hills. Those programs require frequently moving large numbers of cattle. That’s good for the pastures, but hard on the ranch managers.
Charlie Trayer was having trouble getting the cattle gathered so frequently, and he thought to himself: There’s got to be a better way. He wondered if some cowdogs could help gather the cattle more quickly and efficiently.
Then Charlie came across a new breed called Hangin’ Tree Cowdogs. The breed took its name from the Hangin’ Tree Ranch in Idaho, where they were first developed by a guy named Gary Ericsson.
Gary Ericsson was seeking a better herding dog, so he started crossbreeding. He wanted the herding instinct of the border collie and Australian Shepherd, the endurance of the Australian Kelpie, and the toughness of a Louisiana breed called the Catahoula leopard dog.
When he bred these together, he developed a kind of dog that was exceptional as a working cattle dog: Hangin’ Tree Cowdogs. Charlie says, "When I found the Hangin’ Tree Cowdogs, I knew I had found what I needed."
Charlie says, "The object of the breed is an all-around dog that brings the most desirable traits of each." These dogs are shorthaired, which is best when working in heat or mud and to shed burrs. They are retrieving-type dogs, whose natural instinct is gather cattle and herd them. They are medium-sized but big-boned, agile and tough, with the guts to stand up to a cow and make it mind.
Charlie says, "They have the instinct to trail cattle and can follow a scent through rough country. They are intelligent, very trainable, and have a good disposition." And from what I’ve seen, they have an amazing instinct to herd and a desire to work. With a voice command or whistle from Charlie, they will follow his commands perfectly and help gather or load cattle.
Charlie put those dogs to use on his ranch in the Flint Hills, and was so impressed he started breeding and training the dogs himself. Now this has turned into a rural-based business, as he is demonstrating Hangin’ Tree dogs skills and selling dogs all over the country. He sells an instructional book and video and has a website, www.trayerscowdogs.com. That’s t-r-a-y-e-r-s-cowdogs.com.
Charlie contracts with Purina Mills to have his dogs do herding demonstrations, and has done them from Sacramento to Missouri. He turned down an invitation from Boston because it was too impractical to ship his horse there.
Charlie says, "I’ve sold dogs to just about every state," from New York to California. In fact, some of his dogs will soon be going to Brazil. Wow. All this from the ranch near Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, population 846 people. Now, that’s rural. How exciting to find this talent in rural Kansas.
There’s got to be a better way. That thought years ago from Charlie Trayer would lead him to find a better way of gathering and herding cattle, using this very special composite breed of dog. We salute Charlie Trayer, Gary Ericsson, and all those involved with Hangin’ Tree Cowdogs for making a difference with their innovation and training ability. For ranchers all across the nation, they have helped find a better way.
Karen Everhart - Horse Calls
Does your doctor make horse calls? No, not house calls, I said Horse calls. Today we’ll meet a Kansas entrepreneur who has turned her love of horses into a business serving people who need assistance with equine issues. We’ll get the story on today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Karen Everhart, owner and operator of Horse Calls LLC. Here is the story.
Karen grew up in Haysville south of Wichita, but her parents came from rural Kansas: Specifically, the Flint Hills community of Grenola, population 266 people. Now, that’s rural. She spent many weekends at her grandparent’s place near Grenola, riding and working with horses on the farm.
Karen says, "I always had an innate sense with horses."
Karen went into a career in the health care industry and received advanced degrees from Wichita State University. She became a health care administrator but always maintained her love of horses. She bought her own first horse some 24 years ago and has studied under many nationally known horse trainers.
She would help out a friend with horse problems, and found she had great success at it. Her medical and personal background gave her an understanding of the psychology, as well as the physiology, of the horse. In 2000, she organized her own business: Horse Calls LLC.
Karen says, "Coming from the health care industry, I remember those days when the doctors made house calls. Since my new business usually takes me to the horse, at someone’s home or a boarding facility, I decided to name the business Horse Calls."
The company slogan is Your Horse, Your Home. Karen says, "Horse Calls is committed to providing effective and reliable equine management services, and gentle, effective training. Consideration of the horse will be the highest priority at all times."
So how does this work? One day, Karen got a call from a lady with a panicked voice who said, "What do you charge to evaluate a horse?" Karen could sense the panic in her voice and calmed her down with some questions. It turned out the lady had never owned a horse before, but had bought a thoroughbred racehorse. She didn’t even know how to saddle it. This woman’s 83-year-old friend had tried to ride it, been thrown and sent to the hospital.
Karen analyzed the situation and helped the woman work through it. In this case, she helped the woman trade for a more appropriate horse. Now that lady owns three horses and is successful and knowledgeable in her handling of horses.
Another of Karen’s clients already had some years of experience, but had been thrown several times and was scared to death of riding. Karen worked with her and helped her with tack and training. That same woman went on to win numerous awards in regional competitions of the North American Trail Riding Congress.
Karen is a Centered Riding Instructor and a very successful competitor herself in the trail riding congress and the Arabian Horse Association. She has been based in Wichita but, in order to get more room for her horses, she is in the process of relocating to Sedan, Kansas.
Many of Karen’s customers are women in their mid-40s who have time and money to reenter the horse world, or who have never had a horse but never gave up the dream of wanting one. Karen helps them train, handle, and work with their horse so it is a pleasurable experience for both horse and rider.
Karen’s business website is www.horsecalls.net. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The website describes several categories of the assistance she provides, from Horse Sense and Horse Starting to Horse Hospice and Horse Heaven. I’d say that pretty well covers it from beginning to end. How exciting to find this equine entrepreneur in rural Kansas.
Does your doctor make Horse Calls? No, and not house calls either. But today we’ve met a remarkable woman who does make Horse Calls. We salute Karen Everhart for making a difference by helping people realize their dream of successfully having and handling a horse.
Commanding Generals Mounted Color Guard
Let’s go to the President’s inaugural parade in Washington DC. Here comes some soldiers, looking sharp with their flags flying. But they aren’t marching, they are riding horseback. It’s the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard from Fort Riley, Kansas, which is helping people to connect with this fort’s historic legacy. So stand up and salute for today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Captain Cayla Slusher, commanding officer of Fort Riley’s Mounted Color Guard. She tells us the story.
Fort Riley began as a U.S. Cavalry post back in 1853. It has a rich history, which extends into the missions of today.
In 1992, the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard was established at the post to reconnect with the fort’s historic past. Troopers and horses in this unit are outfitted with the uniforms and equipment of the 1860s, such as sabers and McClellan saddles. Their mission is to represent Fort Riley and the U.S. Army in a highly professional display of cavalry horsemanship and military tradition. They perform at various community events, doing such things as precision riding and drills using their sabers and pistols.
There are 17 soldiers, 17 horses and two mules in the unit, plus an 1871 army escort wagon and more. The unit cares for five historic native limestone buildings on the post, including a stable with the original cobblestone floor. Captain Slusher’s pride in the unit is obvious. She says, "These soldiers’ dedication is just incredible."
Those who serve in the color guard are assigned from other active duty units at the fort, which means some are occasionally called to deploy. Captain Slusher herself served in Iraq.
The captain is an outstanding horsewoman herself, but you don’t have to be a cowboy to serve here. In fact, Sergeant First Class Jim Blecha says, "Many are midwestern farm kids who have been around horses, but a couple didn’t know which end of a horse did what." All of them go through careful training once they are chosen.
To be selected, volunteers must be recommended from their units and then interviewed by Captain Slusher. After that is what they call the "interview with the horse." This means that the soldier mounts one of the horses bareback. Captain Slusher and others observe how the soldier reacts and interacts with the horse, and vice versa. If the rider and horse are comfortable with each other, and the rider shows natural athletic ability, coordination and balance, he or she is a strong candidate for selection.
I wonder how that horse marks the interview form. I suppose the top score would be five horseshoes out of five...
Speaking of horses, it is neat to see the care and handling which these horses are given by the soldiers. The horses are carefully selected too. Typically they are bay geldings with good disposition, good conformation, and minimal white markings so as to be less visible to the enemy.
Rural Kansas can be a source for such horses. Horses currently in the unit came from various places, including one from near Alta Vista, Kansas, population 463. Now, that’s rural.
Each horse is given an appropriate name, such as Ike, Ranger, and Stonewall. The two mules, interestingly, are named Captain and Lieutenant. Captain Slusher says with a smile, "I didn’t want the mules to outrank me."
Together, these soldiers and horses make a stirring and patriotic display, like a page from living history. They’ve performed at events from the Riley County Rodeo in Manhattan, Kansas to the Professional Bull Riders finals in Las Vegas. They are outstanding ambassadors for Fort Riley and the Army itself.
It’s time to leave Washington D.C., where Fort Riley’s Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard is representing Kansas in the President’s inaugural parade. We salute Captain Slusher, Sergeant First Class Blecha, and all those who are part of this unit for making a difference by connecting us to the proud and historic legacy of the U.S. Cavalry in Kansas.
Rural Kansas is also a source of their historic equipment. We’ll learn about that on our next program.
Lee Spence - Vaults and Storage
What do Gone with the Wind, several large oil companies and law firms, Steven Spielberg, the Wizard of Oz, numerous medical firms, Star Wars, Days of our Lives, some big food and beverage companies, and Woody Woodpecker all have in common? Hmm, that’s a tough one. The answer is, they are all represented in a unique storage facility out in the middle of Kansas. To visit this remarkable facility, you really need to get down – about 650 feet down. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Lee Spence, the President of Underground Vaults and Storage, Inc. This remarkable company with rural roots provides storage for all those entities I listed at the beginning. Here is the story.
Back in 1923, a man named Emerson Carey dug a salt mine shaft near Hutchinson, Kansas. Hutchinson was a rural community at that time, with a population of around 23,298 people. Now, that’s rural. The company he founded continues to mine salt there today.
That salt mine took on special significance in the 1950s. It was the time of the Cold War, and who knew if we would get nuked by the Russians. Business owners were looking for a very secure place to store their important documents. One man who had been overseas during World War II had seen how Hitler stored documents in the salt mines there. He thought of the salt mines near Hutchinson, and he got in contact with the Carey Salt Company.
Sure enough, the vacated space within the salt mine turned into a natural storage facility. In 1959, the storage facility opened there, as Underground Vaults and Storage.
Salt is mined there through a dry mining technique, also known as the room and pillar method. This means salt is mined on a single layer and pillars are left to support the structure.
As I visualize what’s in my salt shaker, it doesn’t inspire confidence that it could hold up very much. But these are 50 foot thick pillars of crystallized salt, and they are plenty strong. In fact, Lee Spence says this is one of the 10 safest mines in the world because of the layout of the mine and how it was mined out through the years.
What’s more, the rooms that are left behind are perfect for storage. Talk about climate control: The facility naturally has a temperature of 68 degrees and a relative humidity of 40 percent. Lee Spence says, "We do not heat it or cool it."
All this, plus its natural security and protection, makes this very attractive for those wanting to store valuable supplies or documents. Hollywood has been a huge customer. The original copies of Gone with the Wind and the Wizard of Oz are stored here, along with the original Tonight show. Soap operas such as Days of our Lives, Guiding Light, and the Young and the Restless are here, along with the complete TV series of MASH, Star Wars, old cartoons like Tom and Jerry and Woody Woodpecker, and the list goes on.
Of course, there are also more prosaic items stored here, such as legal and medical records, oil and gas company information, food and beverage company recipes, and more.
All the business and people traffic in and out of the facility - or technically, up and down to it - come through the original shaft, which is now concrete lined. A 650 foot hoist carries people down and up for work, and hoists over 400,000 tons of salt each year.
Underground Vaults and Storage employs some 80 people in Hutchinson and owns other storage facilities around the country. How exciting to see this unique facility in the heart of Kansas.
So that’s what Steven Spielberg, oil companies, Gone with the Wind, and all the rest have in common: They utilize this wonderful storage facility in the heart of Kansas. We salute Lee Spence and all the people of Underground Vaults and Storage for making a difference by utilizing this unique resource.
And there’s more. We’ll hear about a salt mine museum on our next program.
Johns Shoe and Saddle Repair
On our last program, we visited the President's Inaugural Parade, which featured, among many other components, the Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard from Fort Riley, Kansas. This is a unit of Army soldiers who perform on horseback wearing 1860s uniforms and equipment to represent the history of Fort Riley. Those soldiers must have felt a special feeling of pride as they rode in the inaugural parade in Washington D.C. Someone else might have had a special feeling of pride too, for he was the man who prepared the saddles which those soldiers rode. Today we'll meet that man on Kansas Profile.
Meet John Lyon, the craftsman who rebuilt the saddles which those soldiers are using. John is the owner of John's Shoe and Saddle Repair in Wamego, Kansas.
John is quite skilled in leather work and repair. He comes by his knowledge of saddles and tack first-hand. He learned about them from the ground up in rural Kansas.
John grew up in the community of Louisville, near Wamego in northeast Kansas. Louisville is a town of 246 people. Now, that's rural.
His grandparents had a farm, and he rode horses for fun. He also had a bicycle, and he remembers going down Lincoln Avenue in Wamego to a secondhand shop on the south end of the block where a Mr. Kirkpatrick repaired his bike.
As mentioned, John loved to ride horses too. Of course, that requires saddles and tack, and sometimes those things break from wear. Money was tight, and John says, "Our philosophy was, if you wanted it fixed, you'd better get out the equipment and fix it yourself."
So John made those repairs, and he found that he liked to work with leather and was good at it. After graduating from school at Wamego, he served a four-year stint in the Navy and then worked in construction. All the while his hobby was to rope and ride horses. His skills in leatherwork came in handy.
In 1980, he came back to Wamego and decided to open his own business and to do leather work full-time. He found a building that was available: It was the very same building on Lincoln Avenue where Mr. Kirkpatrick had fixed his bike years before. I love it when things come full circle.
So John set up shop in that building, and John's Shoe and Saddle Repair was born. Today, John continues to repair shoes and to build saddles and tack. As someone said, If it's made out of leather, he can fix it. John does everything from odd jobs and minor repairs which come in the door, to saddles and tack which have gone coast to coast. For example, he sent a custom made saddle to New York and recently sent breast collars to a customer in California. He also sells tack and contest ropes.
John says, "I like people and enjoy talking to them. You can always learn something." His shop is a popular hangout for cowboys, ranchers, and other local folks.
John is also an avid reader. He enjoys history, and is now in the process of copying a civil war diary which has been handed down in his family. In fact, his great-great-grandfather was a Civil War veteran.
So it's especially fitting that the Mounted Color Guard at Fort Riley would come to John Lyon when repairs were needed on their saddles and tack. Then when that unit needed McClellan saddles rebuilt, John was the logical man for the job. He is rebuilding these saddles to maintain their authentic design while making them fit modern day horses and soldiers.
When the Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard came riding down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the President of the United States, John Lyon had to have a bit of special pride, for those were his saddles which those soldiers were riding. We commend John Lyon for making a difference by using his skills in service to his community and his country. That's an important responsibility to be saddled with.
Neil Johnson - Kansas Underground Salt Museum
Back to the old salt mines, the saying goes. Today, we’ll go back to a salt mine for real. We’re going to visit the only underground museum in a working salt mine anywhere in the western hemisphere. It’s a salty edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Neil Johnson, project director for the Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas. He tells us the story.
It begins in prehistoric times, when an inland sea covered much of what is now North America. As those waters receded, a huge layer of salt was created and deposited, in what is now hundreds of feet below the earth’s surface.
Salt was historically a very valuable commodity. It was an early preservative and was so valuable that the Romans paid their soldiers in salt. In fact, our modern word Salary comes from the latin word salarium, meaning salt.
Salt was discovered near Hutchinson in 1887. This resulted in a salt mining boom. Some 26 salt processing plants were built at Hutch. These were brine mines, where water was forced into the ground to dissolve the salt which was then evaporated out on the surface.
In 1923, the Carey Salt Company took another step: Sinking a shaft 650 feet down to physically remove the salt, rather than dissolve it. Today, the Hutchinson Salt Company continues to mine salt from this facility. As we learned on our last program, it is also a wonderful facility for underground storage.
But the rich history of the industry and the remarkable setting in which it operates have not been available to the public for years – until now. The Reno County Historical Society, Underground Vaults and Storage, and the Hutchinson Salt Company have teamed to create the multimillion dollar Kansas Underground Salt Museum, to open in spring 2006. Neil Johnson says, "The purpose of the museum will be to recognize the history of the salt industry in Kansas and around the world."
Neil says, "People will be amazed by the fascinating story of salt, from the geological formation of this precious mineral to the 14,000 different uses of salt in contemporary society." After all, salt is an essential mineral. It is literally a building block of life.
The museum will include a visitors center with an introductory gallery and an orientation theater, where visitors get background information and receive safety training. Then they will enter the Ready Room and receive a hard hat, before riding the hoist 650 feet down into the ground. That’s as deep as the St. Louis Arch is tall.
At the bottom, visitors will take an electric tram on what is called a dark ride through a 1500 foot tunnel. Motion sensors will activate lights on displays of mining equipment and scenes from mining past and present, with live interpreters as miners. At the end of the tram ride will be the spacious galleries.
Museum galleries will address such topics as health science, geology, mining techniques, history, film preservation, ecology and culture. The museum will include a convention hall, food court, classrooms and educational programs. Altogether, there is 100,000 square feet of museum space underground.
This is a tremendous resource, and truly a hidden treasure for rural Kansas. Hutchinson is located near the east end of this huge deposit of underground salt, which is several hundred feet thick and goes from central Kansas down to southern New Mexico. Neil estimates that the northern edge of the salt vein is approximately around Kanopolis, Kansas, population 601 people. Now, that’s rural.
How exciting that this underground natural resource in rural Kansas benefits our state economically, and now will be open for the public to enjoy as well. See www.undergroundmuseum.org for more information.
Back to the old salt mines, the saying goes. Today, we have literally gone back to the salt mines, to view a phenomenal coming attraction in the heart of Kansas. We salute Neil Johnson and all those involved with the Kansas Underground Salt Museum for making a difference by sharing this amazing story with the public. It is definitely worth its salt.
Mark Strange - Pancake Day Festival
The race is on, and the competitors are giving it all they’ve got. There are big cheers as they charge from the starting line and then flip their pancakes in their skillets. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like NASCAR. No, this is a pancake race, a unique race which honors history and makes an international connection. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Mark Strange, foundation board chairman for International Pancake Day in Liberal, Kansas. Talk about history -- this race history goes back 500 years to 1445.
In those days the Church of England forbid the use of animal fats during Lent. On Shrove Tuesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, a woman was frying pancakes to use up her cooking oils. She got engrossed in her cooking and lost track of time, and suddenly heard the church bells announcing the service. She didn’t want to be late to church, so she grabbed a scarf and ran down the street with her apron on and skillet in hand, complete with pancakes.
Her neighbors did the same in future years and it became an annual race. This has now been going on for centuries at St. Peter and St. Paul’s church in Olney, England.
In 1950, a picture of this race appeared in a U.S. magazine. It was noticed by R.J. Leete, president of the Jaycees in Liberal, Kansas. Mr. Leete thought it would be fun to challenge those English women and have the same type of race out in Kansas. He contacted the vicar in Olney who agreed to the race. They made some rules and the race was on.
Every Shrove Tuesday since, women have run this race in Liberal, Kansas and Olney, England. As of 2004, the overall score is 28 wins for Liberal and 24 wins for Olney. In 2005, the race is February 8.
Under the rules, the women run the 415 yard course in the specified clothing, including a scarf and apron. They must carry a skillet complete with pancake, flipping it at the starting line and again at the end.
This event is said to be the only one like it on the planet. It attracts press coverage from the major networks plus Fox and CNN, and even Paul Harvey.
Liberal has built on this attraction to conduct a four day festival of related events. These include a recipe contest using the pancake batter as the primary ingredient, a flipping and eating contest and the Miss Liberal pageant – and that’s only Saturday.
On Sunday there is an English tea and usually a Christian music concert. Monday includes an extensive talent show, and then comes Shrove Tuesday -- race day. Events begin with a breakfast that some two thousand people attend, including the Governor. Then a series of races are held, beginning with a children’s race and a men’s pacer race. At 11:55 a.m. the international pancake race is held. To the winner goes the syrup -- I mean, the spoils. In reality, the ultimate prize for the winner is the "Kiss of Peace" given by a representative of Olney England. A parade and interdenominational Shrove Tuesday service complete the festivities.
This is a big event for rural Kansas. Mark Strange estimates that 4 to 500 volunteers are involved in putting it on. The contestants must all come from Liberal. One year the winner was a student in Liberal, but she was originally from the town of Plains, Kansas, population 988. Now, that’s rural.
Mark Strange is leading the effort to restore a 100-year-old home which is located at the finish line. It will become the Pancake Day Hall of Fame and the permanent headquarters for the organization.
Our race is about to end, and now the winner dashes across the finish line. How exciting to find this unique international institution taking place out in Kansas. We salute Mark Strange, R. J. Leete, and all those involved for making a difference by honoring our heritage and faith, with skill and skillets.
And there’s more. We’ll learn about another attraction in Liberal on our next program.
Steve Pinkman - MGP Ingredients
A change of heart. Sometimes a changed opinion like that can make all the difference in the world. Today, we’ll learn the story of an amazing Kansas company and the change of heart which made it possible. Stay tuned – it’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Our story today begins in September 1941. An investment banker from Detroit named Cloud Cray Sr. came to Atchison, Kansas.
His purpose is to inspect a non-operational fuel alcohol plant in Atchison, with the intention of dismantling the equipment and reconstructing it in Michigan. But after inspecting the plant, recognizing its central location in the grain belt, and interacting with the leaders of the Atchison community, Mr. Cray had a change of heart. He decided not to move the plant to Michigan, but rather to purchase and revive the plant at its present site to produce industrial alcohol for Allied war efforts during World War II.
That fateful change of heart would have a huge impact on the Atchison economy.
After World War II, the production and marketing emphasis of the company shifted to beverage alcohol. The company served large suppliers and bottlers, and later on met the needs of smaller firms around the country as well. In later years, the company diversified its products tremendously.
Yet in a sense, this is still a family business. During the 1950s, Mr. Cray’s son Cloud Junior, known as Bud, became increasingly involved in the company’s management. Bud Cray eventually served as President of the Company and currently is Chairman of the Board of Directors. His son-in-law Ladd Seaberg is company president.
Today, this company is known as MGP Ingredients. Vice President Steve Pickman shared with me a profile of the company today.
MGP Ingredients has evolved to become a premier producer of highly functional specialty proteins and starches for use in a wide range of food, personal care, pet and bio-based applications. The company also continues to be a leading U.S. producer of alcohol products, including food grade alcohol for beverage and industrial applications and fuel grade alcohol, commonly known as ethanol.
In recent years the company has developed multiple lines of specialty products from wheat. These include wheat protein isolates and concentrates, textured and hydrolyzed proteins, and instant, cook-up and resistant starches that provide substantial benefits to customers and ultimately to the consumer.
For example, a line of protein isolates called Arise improves the quality, appearance, texture and shelf life of white and whole grain breads and other bakery products as well as dough production efficiencies. The company’s starches enhance the fiber content of bakery goods, pasta and cereal products, crackers and other snack items, and have applications in products as diverse as pastries, soups, sauces, gravies and salad dressings.
Using the company’s textured wheat proteins, customers can create better-tasting, more satisfying vegetarian and other health-related products.
For the pet industry, MGP Ingredients has created a unique line of protein- and starch-based resins for producing nutritious pet chews and treats, as well as a line of textured proteins for use in pet foods.
The company even has a line of hydrolyzed proteins for hair and skin care products, including hair reparative shampoos and conditioners, styling gels, skin creams and anti-wrinkle treatments. The company has also developed natural, plant-based bio-polymers as an alternative to petroleum-based plastics in items such as golf tees, plastic silverware and credit cards. These hold promise as environmentally-friendly bio-based and biodegradable products.
Laura Strange - Baker Arts Center
Today let’s visit an art show. We’ll find 73 striking works of art, created by 50 artists from 20 states, from Washington to New York. Where would you expect to find such an impressive art show? Today, we’ll find it in Liberal, Kansas at the Baker Arts Center -- a hidden gem in our state. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
On our last program, we met Mark Strange who is foundation board chair for Liberal’s Pancake Day. Today, we’ll meet Mark’s wife Laura, who is executive director of the Baker Arts Center.
Laura Strange explains that the Baker Arts Center fulfills the dream of a local artist, Irene Baker. Mrs. Baker dabbled in various forms of art, from photography to collages to oil painting. She had a passion for the arts, and worked to enhance them in her community of Liberal.
Mrs. Baker and her husband built a home in Liberal in 1954. Liberal was really a rural community at that time. In the 1950 Census, Liberal had a population of 7,134 people. Now, that’s rural.
The home built by the Bakers was a 5,000 square foot building, which was the biggest house in that area at the time. It was built large enough to accommodate artists in residence, who could come and rent space in the house to live and work. That part did not materialize, so Mrs. Baker instead promoted the arts through classes and her own studies.
The Bakers had no children. After Mr. Baker passed away, the Baker Arts Foundation was established in 1979. Mrs. Baker continued to add to her collection of artwork, and the house and her collection were donated to the Baker Arts Foundation upon her death in 1984.
A volunteer board of directors and a small staff have continued her work of promoting the arts in Liberal and the southwest Kansas region. Laura Strange started working with the Foundation when she came in to clean the house when the Baker home was undergoing renovation. Then she started helping answer phones and worked her way up through the ranks of the organization to become Executive Director in 1998.
Laura says with a smile that she is also a landlord. The Baker Arts Foundation owns six other houses on their block. Laura says, "This helps secure funding as well as secures the property. The revenues help support the arts foundation, and our tenants know that we want the houses to be very well maintained."
The Foundation is not supported by city or county taxpayer funding. Instead, it relies on memberships, grants, donations, and private support. The Foundation puts on several fundraisers during the year, including two big events in December. This includes a Christmas gift shopping event and meal, followed by a Festival of Trees and live auction the following weekend.
Currently, the Baker Arts Center hosts a national juried art show each year, offers four galleries with rotating exhibits, hosts recitals including the symphony, and provides art classes on topics from ceramics to painting to photography. Every second grader gets a workshop and tour of the center.
The foundation folks are probably thankful for each one of those 5,000 square feet that the Bakers built back in 1954! Each year the center attracts more than 6,000 visitors, from places as far away as California, Florida, and Germany. Wow.
In addition, Laura says, "We do a lot more work outside of this building," in terms of outreach in the community. The foundation hires artists to teach art in the elementary schools. The foundation also helps with music, theatre, and other after school programs. To reach out to the growing Hispanic population, the foundation is working with Cinco de Mayo to bring a music group in from Mexico.
It’s time to leave our art show, which we are pleased to find is located in Liberal, Kansas. We commend Laura Strange, the Board of Directors, and all others involved with the Baker Arts Center. They are making a difference by realizing Mrs. Baker’s dream and enhancing the arts in rural Kansas.
Kurt Morrow - Acoustic Soul String Shop
Today, we’ll cover all the bases. No, I’m not talking ball games or politics. I¿m talking about the stringed musical instrument known as the bass. Today we’ll visit a music shop with a specialty in the bass and other stringed instruments. This shop even has Alembic basses from California and Fodera basses from Brooklyn, New York. There is no other shop like this in our state, and it’s found in rural Kansas. This is today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Kurt Morrow, owner of Acoustic Soul String Shop. Kurt was born in Chicago but his family moved to Topeka in a job relocation. While in the fourth grade, he had the opportunity to play in the band. The instrument he chose, like me, was the trombone. But a funny thing happened after he convinced his mother that this was the one, and she should rent him a trombone: He found he didn’t want to play it.
So in the fifth grade, he tried something different. He decided to play the snare drum, and convinced his mother to make that change. But guess what: A funny thing happened – he decided that wasn’t for him either.
Kurt says, "One day in the seventh grade - it was a day I will never, ever forget - I walked into the stage band room and saw a kid playing an electric bass. I saw it and I knew it – that is what I want to do." Fortunately, Mom could be convinced one more time, and Kurt began playing the bass. He had found his niche. A lifelong career in music, and specifically the bass, had begun.
Kurt went on to get a degree in the double bass from Washburn and later graduated from the Musicians Institute in LA. He also met and married Julie Patterson of Topeka, and they have a daughter named Kylie Vivien after Kurt’s mother Vivien. Then Kurt enlisted in the U.S. Air Force to play in the Air Force band. He was stationed in Georgia and had the opportunity to travel the nation performing patriotic music and promoting the Air Force. He even served three months in Japan. During this time he also took special courses in violin construction and restoration.
But the travel became too much, and the Morrows considered what to do next. Kurt wanted to teach music, repair and trade instruments. They were thinking of moving to Chicago when Kylie wanted to visit an old school friend who had moved from Topeka to Wamego. Kurt says, "We didn’t know where Wamego was." But after visiting Wamego, the Morrows decided to move there.
In May 2002, Kurt opened the Acoustic Soul String Shop in downtown Wamego. Kurt’s shop has violins, viola, cello, acoustic and electric guitar, and of course, the bass. As planned, Kurt teaches private lessons on guitar, piano, upright bass, and electric bass. He repairs instruments and sells and rents band equipment. He also teaches at K-State and performs in several bands himself, as well as free-lancing. And he continues to buy, sell, and trade instruments, particularly the bass.
Acoustic Soul String Shop is the only place in Kansas where a person can find the type of quality and origin of basses which Kurt offers. He says, "Bass players will come into my shop and be amazed at the things I have." There are vintage basses, special makes, and high quality equipment that a true bass player can appreciate.
Kurt is now teaching some 50 students and has sold equipment as far away as California and Louisiana. Wow. Yet this business is found in Wamego, Kansas, population 4,220 people. Now, that’s rural. How exciting that rural Kansas can be home to such a wonderful, specialty enterprise.
We’ve been covering all the bases. No, not in a ballgame, but the stringed basses which Kurt Morrow plays and sells and teaches. We salute Kurt Morrow and Acoustic Soul String Shop for making a difference by using his God-given talents and operating this business in small-town Kansas. It helps rural Kansas to have a strong base.
Hofman Farm Supply
Heart and soul. When you visit a community, you can sometimes identify those components which represent that community’s heart and soul. Today we’ll learn about the heart and soul of a truly rural community in northeast Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Elaine Hofman. Elaine and her husband Larry run Hofman Farm Supply in Blaine, Kansas, northeast of Manhattan. When I say Blaine is rural, I mean it. Blaine is an unincorporated town of approximately 40 residents. Now, that’s rural.
A town that size faces several challenges. There’s not much business here. In fact, the only business in town is Hofman Farm Supply. So when I talk about the heart and soul of the community, it makes sense that I’m referring to this business.
Larry Hofman grew up on a farm north of Blaine. His dad would ship cattle to the old stockyards in St. Joe, Missouri. After dropping off the cattle, for the return trip he would pick up feed which he could sell to his neighbors besides what he used himself. This worked so well that he started picking up farm supplies at a hardware supply store and brought those back also.
In 1951, he opened a store in Blaine to sell these supplies. It became Hofman Farm Supply. In 1973, Larry took over the business from his father. In 1975, they built a building in the current location and added on through the years. Larry’s wife Elaine is from Frankfort originally, and she is a vital part of the business. They have a grown son and daughter at Wamego.
So Hofman Farm Supply is definitely the heart of any business activity in Blaine. You can stop for a coke or a snack, or a sandwich at lunch time. Besides livestock feed, you can get dog food, auto parts, oil, batteries, hardware, tools, work gloves, carports, and metal siding, for example. You can even get your tires fixed or your chain saw or weedeater repaired.
I asked, "How do you compete with Wal-Mart?" The answer I got was, "We don’t. We offer certain things, we’re handier to the people up here and we offer the personal touch."
That personal touch is definitely true. There is a pot of free coffee on, plus some local newspapers and even a deck of cards. In the summer there are home grown tomatoes, fresh picked off the vines next door. Some old farmers were visiting in the shop when I stopped by.
Elaine says they know most of their customers by name. In fact, she says, "We have some of the same customers that Larry’s dad had."
There is also the role of the community volunteer. Elaine says, "I like to participate and I want to get in and help. If somebody’s been sick and somebody needs a salad or a cake, they know they can call on me."
That takes a lot of heart. Now, as to the soul part, you have to go across the street for that. What I mean is, across the street from Hofman Farm Supply is a big, beautiful Catholic church. It is a red brick, Gothic style building constructed back in 1908. That replaced the original frame church which was built back in 1881. Wow.
Mass is still held at the church each Sunday, with a priest who comes from Onaga. When this church celebrated its centennial, more than a thousand people attended. And when I looked at the guest register, there were people who had visited from Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Nigeria.
Elaine is very active in the church too. She says, "Church is not just a Sunday morning thing. It’s something you have to live." She says, "Everybody has to do their part to make the world a better place."
Heart and soul. Yes, I think Elaine Hofman is part of the heart and soul of this rural community, and not just because of Hofman Farm Supply. She has made a difference because she cares about the people of her community with a lot of heart and soul.
William Allen White - Emporia
One day the dog didn’t come home. But this wasn’t just anyone’s dog. This dog belonged to the famed editor of the Emporia Gazette, William Allen White. White was so influential that his words were printed in newspapers all over the U.S. So when William Allen White wrote in his newspaper about his dog that hadn’t come home, hundreds of letters began pouring into the Gazette office from all over the country, reporting sightings or offering a puppy. Such was the fame of the editor from Emporia. Now the public can learn more about this historic Kansan and even visit his home. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Roger Heineken of Emporia. Roger told us the story of the missing dog and provided much of the following information about this famous Kansas editor.
William Allen White was born in Emporia in 1868. He grew up at El Dorado and attended KU, where the school of journalism bears his name today. He worked as a printer and then a reporter in Lawrence and Kansas City. In 1895, he borrowed $3,000 to purchase the Emporia Gazette back in his rural hometown. Emporia was then a town of 8,223 people. Now, that’s rural.
From this rural setting, William Allen White would have national influence. His 1896 editorial, What’s the Matter with Kansas, was recognized from coast to coast. White served as editor for an amazing 49 years, and was succeeded by his son. The paper is still family-owned.
White could and did write on all subjects, from homey advice on preparing some favorite recipe, to a sarcastic assault on the Ku Klux Klan in Kansas, to suggesting that the "women’s clubs of America raise more hell and fewer dahlias". His way with words made him the voice from the heartland. It brought him in contact with presidents, politicos, writers and leading thinkers of the first half of the 20th century, from Teddy Roosevelt to Albert Einstein.
Many of these movers and shakers of American culture visited White at his beloved Emporia home named "Red Rocks." The main-line of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe made Emporia an easy stop-off for a visit with the "Sage of Emporia," as he came to be known. Edna Ferber, the most successful female novelist in the first half of the twentieth century, wrote: "…there is no ocean trip, no month in the country, no known drug equal to the reviving quality of twenty-four hours spent on the front porch or in the sitting room of the Whites’ house in Emporia..."
Sixty years after he died on Kansas Day, White is still considered to be one of the most influential men in Kansas history. His statue is one of four gracing the second floor rotunda of the Statehouse in Topeka, along with Dwight Eisenhower, Amelia Earhart, and Arthur Capper.
Now William Allen White’s historic home, Red Rocks, is opening to the public. After 100 years of family ownership, White’s granddaughter, Barbara White Walker, gave the home and contents to the citizens of Kansas. Thanks to the William Allen White Community Partnership, Inc. and the Kansas State Historical Society, Red Rocks has been adapted and restored with federal grants.
As of mid-May, the William Allen White House State Historic Site at 927 Exchange Street in Emporia is open for public viewing. More information can be found at www.kshs.org/places/white.
So what about that dog that didn’t come home? It turns out that the dog was an old fox terrier named Teddy, in honor of Teddy Roosevelt. It was eventually found east of Emporia where it had gone away to die. The dog was returned to the Whites but did die two weeks later. Yet while the dog died, the fame of William Allen White lives on. We’re thankful that William Allen White made a difference with the national impact of his words, and we salute Roger Heineken and all those who are helping people in modern times experience the legacy of this historic Kansan. We know his restored home won’t go to the dogs.
Back to TopSDAQ. Last year the company generated net sales of 270 million dollars, yet it’s found in Atchison, Kansas, population 10,168 people. Now, that’s rural. How great to see this remarkable company flourish and grow in Kansas.
A change of heart. Yes, a change of heart by investment banker Cloud Cray led to the creation of MGP Ingredients and a huge difference in the economy of Atchison. We salute Cloud Cray, Bud Cray, Ladd Seaberg, Steve Pickman, and all the people of MGP Ingredients for making a difference through innovation and entrepreneurship. They’ve been through a lot of change and showed a lot of heart.
Bird City Bird Seed
This story is for the birds – and I do mean that literally. Today we’ll meet a remarkable Kansas company which is creating products for birds and selling them coast to coast. But you might say that this business started on a wing and a prayer in rural Kansas. I’ll explain on today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Tabetha Ketzner, owner and manager of this remarkable business. The primary component of this company’s product is birdseed. And where do you suppose this company is located? Oh, it’s too good to be true, but it is true nonetheless: This company is found in Bird City, Kansas.
Bird City is located in the very northwest corner of Kansas, in Cheyenne County. It is 26 miles from Colorado and seventeen miles from Nebraska.
Tabetha’s husband Noel Ketzner is from Bird City originally. She grew up just over the line in Colorado. The two met in 4-H and showed sheep against each other. They married and came back to the farm after college.
When Tabetha was expecting their second child, she took time off to stay at home but was still interested in business opportunities. Then her husband mentioned an interesting idea: Since the name of the town was Bird City, people wondered if a person could build a business around birdseed.
That intrigued Tabetha so she decided to give it a look. Her first thought was to sell gift bags of birdseed for a specialty market. Then a friend showed her a bell-shaped birdseed ornament in a catalog, so Tabetha decided to give that a try. She started blending and shaping birdseed ornaments in her basement. A key factor is the formula of the solution which holds those seeds together in a given shape.
Tabetha says, "I played with that recipe for a long time. I’ve now found a recipe which makes this a heat and water resistant product."
The company is named Bird City Bird Seed. It produces what you might call "instant bird feeders." These are clusters of seeds formed in various shapes, with a string on which to hang them. Even the string is biodegradable, so a person can hang them outside and forget them, except to watch the birds enjoy them. Essentially, these instant bird feeders are tree ornaments made of birdseed.
The company sells the ornaments in eight different shapes. You can get these birdseed clusters in the shape of stars, hearts, mini-wreaths, large wreaths, birdhouses, trees, crosses or crescent moons.
Primary components of the birdseed are sunflowers and millet, which are grown locally. Safflower comes from Utah, but 99 percent of the other ingredients are purchased within 60 miles. Noel started out raising birdseed on the farm, but has now left farming to work on the birdseed business fulltime.
Marketing is very important to Tabetha, and she works hard to present the products in the best possible way. She goes to gift shows in such places as New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Seattle. She even has a website at www.birdcitybirdseed.com. She sells to such companies as the Saks corporation, Hallmark, Yankee Candle Company, and 1-800-flowers.
And what are the results? Sales increased by five times from year two to year three. She is now working out of a 4,000 square foot production and distribution facility. It is located on Bird Avenue, by the way. And Tabetha has sold products to every state in the Union but Hawaii and even up to Canada. You might find her products in a gift shop in Disneyland or a ski resort in the mountains. Her products are literally going coast-to-coast from their rural setting in Bird City, Kansas, population 464 people. Now, that’s rural. How exciting to find this wonderful entrepreneur succeeding in rural Kansas.
Yes, this story is for the birds, because Tabetha and Noel Ketzner are producing birdseed ornaments which are selling nationwide. We commend them for making a difference with their entrepreneurship and commitment to quality. I’m so glad this idea took flight, and the benefits are coming home to roost.
Jean Mettlen - Amazing 100 Miles
How would you like to see live camels, rhinos, aardvarks and orangutans one day, and the next day be face to face with a tyrannosaurus rex? Wow, that would be amazing – especially if you found such experiences in the middle of Kansas. Today, we’ll learn that those amazing opportunities are indeed available in Kansas, and we’ll learn about the grass roots initiative which is promoting them together. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet J. Jean Mettlen, a retired farmer near Lucas in north central Kansas. Jean has been active in tourism and conservation issues. He served six years as a tour guide at the Garden of Eden in Lucas.
As a tour guide, Jean says that he had the chance to meet people from all over the United States as well as overseas. He would ask them what they really want as visitors. Jean says, "They told me that they wanted a simple map showing the attractions in the area, and they didn’t want to be lead to some tourist trap."
Jean reflected on that and thought about the many attractions in that region of the state. He noted that it was 100 miles from Salina to Hays, which essentially defined their trade area. He also realized that there was an amazing number of attractions in that territory, so the idea was born: What if those attractions could work together to promote the entire region to visitors? The region consists of an area 20 miles on either side of Interstate 70 along the 100 miles from Salina to Hays. Jean called this region the Amazing 100 Miles.
Jean took the concept to a retired school administrator friend of his and they drew up the first map. Then he went out and talked about the idea to service clubs.
Jean called a meeting and invited people in to talk about it. Nobody came. So he tried again. Nobody came. That might get a little discouraging, but fortunately he tried one more time. This time he got some attendance, and the idea began to grow.
One day Jean made a presentation on the Amazing 100 Miles Tourism Coalition at the Russell Rotary Club. Wayne Grabbe, the local radio station manager, came up afterward and said that this idea was exactly what Kansas should be doing. He wrote a check on the spot, and the idea continued to gain momentum.
In 1998, a regional board of directors for the coalition was organized. An inventory found that there are 52 cities and some 200 attractions within those 4,000 square miles.
The anchor attractions are those I described at the beginning of our program. On the east end, visitors can see 85 species of wildlife at the Rolling Hills Zoo and Wildlife Refuge in Salina. On the west end of that 100 miles, visitors can go to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History and its fascinating displays about dinosaurs located in Hays.
In between is a remarkable array of other attractions, gift shops, and restaurants. These include bed and breakfasts, lakes, specialty shops, cafes, historic churches, and much more.
Of course, this promotes much of rural Kansas. Included are towns such as Natoma, population 354, and Lorraine, population 144 people. Now, that’s rural.
The promotion has grown remarkably. The coalition produced a beautiful full color brochure and printed and distributed more than a hundred thousand copies. It includes a nice, simple map and lots of information. They also have a website: www.amazing100miles.com.
Jean Mettlen says, "We’re trying to break the image of Kansas as hot, dry, flat, and nothing to see." In tourism, he says, "Kansas is a sleeping giant."
So now you can see a wonderful zoo with wild animals one day and the next day visit a terrific dinosaur museum, while finding lots of local color in between. We salute Jean Mettlen, Wayne Grabbe, and all those who are making a difference as part of the Amazing 100 Miles Tourism Coalition. The fact that there are so many wonderful attractions working together in rural Kansas is, well, amazing.
Full service. Remember when you got that at a service station – along with gas for a quarter a gallon? Those times may be long gone, but there are still people who believe in service. There are many local organizations which believe in service to the community. Today we will celebrate the volunteer members of those many service organizations which serve their communities in countless ways across Kansas. For example, there are the members of the Rotary organization, which celebrates its centennial year in 2005. Stay tuned for a service club edition of Kansas Profile.
Service clubs are a fixture in communities all across Kansas, starting with such groups as Rotary, Lions Club, Kiwanis and Certoma. These are typically composed of civic-minded local citizens who enjoy fellowship and want to make their communities better.
Rotary, as mentioned, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding during 2005. In fact, it was on February 23, 1905, that the first Rotary meeting was held in Chicago, Illinois. The story of the founding of Rotary is an interesting one.
It involved a young lawyer named Paul Harris, who had grown up in a small town in Vermont and graduated from the University of Iowa law school. When he set up law practice in the big city of Chicago, it was said that he missed the small town fellowship and camaraderie that he remembered from Vermont.
So he considered the idea of a club of business persons which might meet and share fellowship on a regular basis. These would include one representative of each of several professions. That first gathering was the beginning of what would become the world’s first non-profit service organization. Members agreed that they would rotate the meeting place among the workplaces of the members, and so the organization became known as Rotary.
The service projects of Rotary had rather humble beginnings. The first service project involved a local circuit riding minister whose horse had died, so the club bought him another horse to replace it. I think some Rotarians are still horsing around...
The first public service project was rather humble as well. That one involved the construction of a public restroom in downtown Chicago.
Since that time, Rotary has genuinely put into practice its motto of Service Above Self. Rotary has grown into more than a million members worldwide, which are supporting countless humanitarian projects locally and around the world.
The foundation of Rotary and other service organizations is the local club which members join. Those clubs may enter into all types of local service projects, from refurbishing houses to cleaning up a park to supporting the local baseball teams. These clubs are found in both urban and rural settings. The current district governor for the northeast district of Rotary in Kansas is John Templeton, who comes from the town of Blue Rapids, population 1,122 people. Now, that’s rural.
Rotary does various service projects that assist youth, help the needy, and promote health, literacy, education, peace, and goodwill. Rotary has supported more than 35,000 ambassadorial scholars and 46,000 international group study exchange members to help build world peace and understanding.
In 1985, Rotary set out to eradicate the disease of polio from the face of the earth. That disease is real to me – we had family members and friends who were touched by it, and I remember getting the vaccine as a kid. While polio has been gone from the U.S. in recent years, it is still crippling children in other parts of the world. Rotary spearheaded the effort to eradicate polio and spent some 600 million dollars to help immunize some two billion children against this dread disease. Since 1998, polio cases have dropped by 99 percent.
Full service. No, it’s not found at your gas station, but it is found among those community-minded people who are part of your local service clubs and organizations. We salute members of Rotary on their centennial anniversary and commend all service club members for making a difference through community service. Thank you for placing service above self.
PRIDE Roosters - Burns
Many Kansas towns have boosters. Today, we’ll meet a Kansas town which has roosters – the most interesting and colorful roosters you’ve ever seen. So roost for a minute to listen to today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Sandy Heyman. Sandy and friends told us the remarkable story of Burns, Kansas and its rooster parade, which comes from the town’s rural roots.
Sandy is active with the Burns PRIDE committee, which is always looking for ways to promote and improve the Burns community.
Sandy and Barbara Anderson, partners in planting the seed for this project, were talking about the fact that several big cities have done public art projects involving painted versions of animals. For example, Kansas City and Chicago had painted cows and painted hogs, and New Mexico had painted horses.
Sandy says, "We thought roosters would fit our prairie town." After all, in the old days farmers and their wives would bring their eggs to town to exchange for groceries. Now the people of Burns decided to bring roosters to town.
But they needed to find a way to make models of roosters. They found it in a rural business at Yoder Concrete in Burrton, Kansas. Burrton is a town of 858 people. Now, that’s rural.
Yoder Concrete could provide two-foot tall models of a rooster, suitable for painting. The PRIDE committee agreed to the idea of using roosters to promote the town, and Mayor Mary Glenn said, "Let’s take this to a city meeting next week."
The people agreed to the idea and so the project was launched.
Once the rooster is sold, it is up to the buyer to design and decorate the rooster creatively. And boy, have these roosters been decorated creatively!
More than 60 of these roosters have been sold and decorated. In May 2004, Burns hosted a Rooster Parade where the roosters were lined up on the main street corner and the people were invited to parade by. Now the roosters have returned to their original homes, which in many cases meant in front of the businesses which sponsored them.
So let’s visit some of these roosters and their tongue-in-cheek titles. There’s a beautiful gazebo downtown where we find a patriotic red-white-and-blue rooster named Cockadoodle Dandy. Next to him is a K-State rooster, complete with Powercat, and a KU rooster is also around. The bank had a rooster named Rich Rooster decorated in money, and the Burns Café and Bakery has one named Chicken Pie. Around town you might find Roy Rooster or the Jeff Gordon Racer Rooster.
Here are three of my favorites. One is called Barnyard Makeover. It is owned by a local beauty shop, Country Cut and Curl, and is a rooster absolutely covered with hair. Another favorite is a rooster sporting big black sideburns and an undersized sequin jumpsuit, a la Elvis. Thank ya very much. This one is entitled Blue Suede Shoe-ster. And then there is the one by the Prairie Arts Center. That one is named Vincent Van Crow.
As you can tell, a lot of fun went into this project. Sandy Heyman, an accomplished artist herself, painted many of these roosters. Visitors to Burns can get a brochure which shows a map of the town with rooster locations marked. Once the visitor gets five roosters punched on their brochure, they can turn it in for a free rooster keyring.
The project has gone so well that the local Lions Club has purchased a four-foot rooster to display by the highway as a welcome sign. This project has served to unify and promote the community in a special way. More information can be found at www.burnskansas.com.
Many towns have boosters. This town has roosters. We commend Sandy Heyman, Mayor Mary Glenn, and all those who are making a difference by being involved with PRIDE and the rooster project. It is clear that Burns has a lot to crow about.
And there’s more. We’ll learn of some of the remarkable businesses which Burns can crow about on our next program.
Business and Arts Craft Community - Burns
The Little Town that Can. That’s the slogan of Burns, Kansas. Today we’ll meet some of the remarkable people in Burns who are making that slogan reality. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
On a previous program, we learned how the Burns community is promoting itself with roosters. Today, I say: Come for the roosters – you’ll find a lot more.
Burns is a rural community - population 274, with a greater community of some 400 people. Now, that’s rural. But this community has an amazing amount to offer.
Here we find Carolyn Koehn, who spearheaded the effort to build a new community center. She worked with the Kansas Department of Commerce to receive a Kan-Step grant, where the state buys materials and the citizens provide labor to do a community project.
Here we find a local group of artists and craftsmen who put together the Prairie Arts store, a cooperative arts and crafts mall that has attracted visitors from Pennsylvania to California. It is a showplace of the expert craftsmanship of local people, including everything from intricate wheat weavings and beautiful quilts to handcrafted native wood dulcimers.
Here we find Rachel and Steve Koehn, owners of the Burns Café and Bakery. They have remodeled and expanded the restaurant, and it is attracting overflow crowds.
Here we find Roger and Geneva Koehn, who have a store called Cabinets and More. This is a woodworking business which features wonderful handcrafted furniture.
Here we find Flint Hills Junction, a bulk foods store and gift shop.
Here we find the Buffalo Gulch Ranch House restaurant, with a wonderful mural on the side of its building.
Here we find Barb Stuhlsatz, who is working to restore the historic old post office building to become a new city hall and library. Barb says, "With grant support for computers, we can have a state-of-the-art library and one of the best computer centers anywhere around here."
Here in Burns was the first consolidated grade school and high school in Kansas, and the list of historic elements in Burns goes on and on.
Then there is the new community center. As mentioned, it was built through Kan-Step, which provides funds for building materials while local citizens provide labor and equipment.
Ground was broken for the building in October 2002. Burns Mayor Mary Glenn says, "Everybody came together every day." Crews of men came in to work on the building. Every day the crews got a hot meal at the Burns Café. That would be a pretty good incentive to work right there!
Roger Koehn of Cabinets and More put in 320 hours of volunteer labor to build and install the cabinets. The Burns school alumni donated $18,000 for window blinds. One out-of-state source provided 20 tables and 200 chairs at cost, saving some $7,000.
The building was completed in March 2003. It is a beautiful facility, complete with a wellness room, a place for the seniors to quilt, a youth room, and a wonderful kitchen. The community center is booked almost every weekend.
Then came January 4, 2005. A devastating ice storm swept through Burns. Mayor Glenn says, "It was the worst I’ve ever seen in my lifetime." Trees were damaged and many homes lost electricity – some for as many as five days.
The need was great, and the conditions so bad that the Red Cross couldn’t travel to Burns. Can a small town rise to such a challenge? Remember, this is the Little Town that Can. The community came together again. Neighbor helped neighbor. Citizens were invited to stay at the community center. The Coleman company donated twenty cots and sleeping bags, and brought in a generator from Florida. Citizens were able to take shelter in their new community center until conditions improved.
The Little Town that Can. It’s a fitting slogan for Burns. We salute Mayor Glenn and all those who are making a difference in their community with creativity and entrepreneurship.
And there’s more. We’ll learn about the international dimension of Burns on our next program.
International Student Hosting - Burns
Sometimes the spark of an idea can grow into something wonderful. That’s the case we’ll learn about today, of how a small rural town extends its hospitality around the globe. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
On two previous programs, we’ve learned about the town of Burns, Kansas. Today, in the third and final program in this series, we will learn about an international dimension.
Meet Tom Grimwood. Tom’s mother Betty was the originator of a remarkable international project back in the 1950s.
Betty Grimwood was waiting in a doctor’s office and reading a magazine to pass the time. She read about a town where international students were invited into local people’s homes for Thanksgiving. This is a wonderful idea. It gives foreign students a chance to experience American culture and hospitality and to have a home-cooked meal, and it gives the American family a chance to share with others and help build international understanding.
Betty was intrigued by this idea. She mentioned it to her friend Bonnie Lohrentz. They wondered if they could attempt such a thing in their rural hometown of Burns. They talked to their husbands and then took the idea to the women of the Methodist Church who agreed to sponsor it.
In 1954, the Grimwood and Lohrentz families invited ten international students from the University of Kansas to come to Burns for Thanksgiving break with local families. It was a great success.
In fact, the experiment proved so successful that they decided to make this an annual event. The Methodist women provide transportation for the students. As I said, sometimes the spark of an idea can grow into something wonderful.
In1959, the community of Burns received a Distinguished Service Award from the Institute of International Education in Washington DC.
The person presenting the award was none other than Richard Nixon, who was Vice President at the time. He quoted a foreign student from Switzerland, who said "Burns is the smallest U.S. community with the largest foreign diplomatic service in the world."
Wow, that’s quite a compliment. I do believe this is the best way to build world peace, one citizen at a time. When we can share our homes, our food, and our stories, we can find mutual understanding. And what better way than to spend the holidays sharing with new friends from around the world.
Others recognized the value of such a project as well. In 1959, the Saturday Evening Post featured Burns in an article entitled "International Country Town."
Fast forward to more current times. By January 1999, more than 60 families representing all the churches of Burns had served as hosts. A world map in the Grimwood home shows pins for people who have come from Shanghai to Santiago. More than 500 visitors representing 110 countries have been to Burns, plus officials from the UN and the U.S. State Department.
This is amazing, particularly for such a rural town. After all, Burns is a community of 274 people. Now, that’s rural. But this rural community has extended its country hospitality around the world.
One never knows where the ripple effect of such outreach will end. For example, after having grown up in this environment, Tom Grimwood traveled overseas and is now teaching Spanish classes for Kansas companies.
Gloria Freeland also grew up in Burns and was exposed to this international element as well. She went on to join the Peace Corps. Gloria is now the director of the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media at K-State. She still has a love for small-town Kansas, and a heart for those around the world.
Sometimes the spark of an idea can grow into something wonderful. That is certainly the case in Burns, Kansas, where Betty Grimwood’s idea of providing holiday hospitality for international students has grown remarkably. We salute the late Betty Grimwood and Bonnie Lohrentz , Tom Grimwood, and all those who are making a difference by opening their homes and hearts to international visitors for the holidays. That spark of an idea has grown into something that burns brightly.
Linda Katz - Prairie Tumbleweed Farm
Let’s go to the Langley Research Center in Maryland, where NASA scientists are testing an innovative space probe. The research team is using a wind tunnel to test a new type of interplanetary rover which would be carried by the wind on Mars. Their research includes testing of an actual tumbleweed in simulated Martian wind conditions. And where do you suppose these scientists got their tumbleweed? They ordered it over the Internet from an entrepreneur in Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Linda Katz of Prairie Tumbleweed Farms in Garden City, Kansas. We did a profile about Prairie Tumbleweed Farm back in 1999, and it is perhaps our most talked about story. Now this company’s reach has gone beyond worldwide – it is interplanetary. Believe it or not, it all began as a lark.
The story begins in 1994, when Linda wanted to do a website featuring her family, who come from rural Kansas. For example, her nieces come from nearby Meade, population 1,540 people. Now, that’s rural.
Linda wanted to do a website with them, but, she says, "I’d seen too many boring websites." She wanted a website that was fun and unusual, so she decided to make up a story to go with pictures of her family.
Linda gathered her nieces and nephews and had them pose with tractors, hardhats, and tumbleweeds out in a field. Then she made up a script to go with those pictures and posted them on the web.
With tongue in cheek, she wrote about an imaginary Prairie Tumbleweed Farm. She told of how her family had raised tumbleweeds in western Kansas for generations, and how they were now selling those tumbleweeds over the Internet. She gave the company motto – If they don’t tumble, we don’t sell them – and described how tumbleweeds could be used. The pictures were supposedly photos of the company’s officers, but they were actually Linda’s nieces and nephews.
Of course, this was all in fun. But after this had been posted on the web, Linda got a call. It was from a lady who was designing a western theme wedding back east. She was looking for decorations, did an Internet search, and hit on Prairie Tumbleweed Farm. She wanted to order a tumbleweed. Linda said, "You want a what??"
The lady needed a tumbleweed, so Linda went out and grabbed one, stuck it in a box, and shipped it. Linda thought, "I’ve had my first and last order." But the phone rang again, with yet another order.
The business continued to grow, and then the press picked up on it. It has been covered in Business Week, National Enquirer, USA Today, Modern Bride, Paul Harvey, and People Magazine. Linda has had orders from all over the country and overseas. There is a Japanese language translation of her website, www.prairietumbleweedfarm.com. She recently sent tumbleweeds to England to be part of a movie set, and sent tumbleweeds to Ralph Lauren design stores in the U.S. and overseas.
So where does NASA come in? In 1998, the Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars. Scientists noted that the probe traveled further while bouncing on its airbags than the Sojourner rover traveled during its 90 day mission. So the idea was borne: What if a Mars probe could be built to be carried on the wind of the Martian atmosphere? This would save having a ground propulsion system.
Scientists and students set out to design such a system, and to do so ended up ordering tumbleweeds from Linda Katz out in the middle of Kansas. The tumbleweed probe concept has been designed and is awaiting further review at NASA.
It is time to say goodbye to the Langley Research Center, where NASA is testing a new space probe based on tumbleweeds from Kansas. We salute Linda Katz for making a difference with entrepreneurship and creativity, and for recognizing this opportunity when it, um, came by.
So where do we find ideas for Internet entrepreneurs? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
Judy Hill - Jamestown
Fire! Fire can be devastating to people and homes and property. Today, we’ll visit a remarkable community which has responded to such a devastating fire. Rather than being consumed by that fire, we might say that the people of this community chose to JUMP over it. I’ll explain on today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Judy Hill, mayor of Jamestown, Kansas. Jamestown is a rural community ten miles west of Concordia. For 25 years, Judy has lived at Jamestown and taught social science at Concordia High School. She became mayor on a write-in vote and has since been re-elected four times.
Unfortunately, her community of Jamestown has been challenged by several things, including fire. Back in 1911, the entire downtown was destroyed by a fire, but the citizens rebuilt.
In later years, long-term population loss took its toll. The town lost its high school in 1980 and its elementary school some years later. Several businesses closed downtown and the school building was in disrepair. Citizens were wondering what could be done to revitalize the community.
Then came the night of January 28, 2000. Again, there was a devastating fire in Jamestown. It consumed several buildings on main street and spread to city hall. The fire chief and volunteers worked nearly 24 hours without sleep, but it was a big loss.
Judy says, "A fire like that can destroy a small town, but instead it ignited a community spirit here." In a few days, Jamestown was having town meetings to make plans for the future.
Judy found help from John Cyr of the North Central Regional Planning Commission and Kirk Lowell of Cloud Corp, the county economic development organization.
The funeral home in Jamestown was selected as the temporary city office and meeting place. Judy says, "Think about strategically planning for the future in a funeral home! City meetings had to stop whenever there was a funeral."
But more than 50 people came to town meetings there, and the citizens were organized into several committees which began to work.
Earlier I mentioned that this community had to jump over obstacles. In fact, JUMP became the name of the project. At an early meeting, the community decided to call this effort Jamestown Unites Many Projects, or JUMP for short. This did indeed unite many projects, because it brought together the efforts to save the school building, to redo city hall, and to clean up the town.
The first step was to take a field trip to neighboring towns. Some 25 people took the bus trip to other towns which had received grant money for similar projects, and gathered ideas along the way.
The town applied to the Kansas Department of Commerce for a community development block grant, which gave Judy pause when she saw the paperwork, but she moved forward. In January 2004, the town received a check for $1.8 million, with Congressman Jerry Moran a surprise guest at the presentation. Funds were used to remodel an old building into city hall and to construct a multi-use facility with a library, several businesses, day care, and more.
As mentioned, this united many projects. Another project was to demolish or refurbish dilapidated buildings. Ten old, unsafe homes and downtown buildings were taken out. Buildings and water lines were redone.
Judy says, "I was really proud of our community. We have knowledgeable people on our city council, and the majority of the people of Jamestown contributed in some way. We had a lot of teamwork."
Now this rural community has new buildings and a new spirit – all this in Jamestown, population 307 people. Now, that’s rural. How exciting to see a rural community not only rebuild, but as Judy Hill says, to rediscover itself.
Fire. It can be devastating to a rural community, but this community found a way to jump above those obstacles. It created JUMP - Jamestown Unites Many Projects. We salute Judy Hill and all those of the Jamestown community who made a difference by rebuilding their community and community spirit. It makes me want to jump for joy.
Connie Werner - Wagon Works
Today let’s go around the globe to the city of Higashimurayama, Japan. Here in Higashimurayama we find an old western style wagon wheel, handcrafted by a craftsman back in Kansas. How did a wagon wheel from rural Kansas make it to Japan? It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Don and Connie Werner of Horton, Kansas. The Werners are the source of this classic wagon wheel – in fact, they build and restore horsedrawn wagons and related equipment. Here is the story.
Don Werner grew up on a farm near Horton in northeast Kansas. Don’s father farmed with horses and wagons in the old days. Don remembers lying down in the wagon while they were picking corn, and hearing the sound of ears of corn hitting the bang board as they were thrown into the wagon. The memory of that sound never left him.
Don married Connie and they raised a family at Horton, and he worked as a commercial electrician in Kansas City.
On a trip to Branson, the Werners saw a blacksmith working on an old wagon like the one from Don’s youth, and it rekindled Don’s memories. Don said he always wanted one of those old wagons. The smith advised him to spend time with the Amish learning how to build them.
Don did learn how to build a wagon and built his own. He built some more, and by word of mouth other people learned of his wagons.
One day they were contacted by a developer in Idaho who wanted seven wagons. Don took the job and began his full-time work in the business.
Today Don is a wheelwright and wainwright, one of an estimated five non-Amish in the country. He builds buckboards, chuckwagons, conestogas, prairie schooners, stagecoaches and more. He recently restored box wagons going to Alaska and sent a new 1770 colonial wagon to Virginia.
Each vehicle is built with quality. Close attention is paid to authenticity and historical usage. For his beautiful Concord Coaches, Don uses patterns from an 1846 original built by Abbott and Downing, the builders of the Wells Fargo Coaches. Don uses premium, authentic woods such as hickory, oak and ash for the wheels and yellow poplar, oak, fir and other hard woods for the boxes.
One day a friend named John McCoy was on a wagon train with the Werner's where the wagon had to be jacked up every 30 miles to grease the wheels. Being a machinist, Mr. McCoy said, "Maybe I could make something to save us having to do this every time." He devised an insert with taper bearings that goes inside the wheel hub. This reduces maintenance while retaining the historic appearance of the wheel. The name of this invention, offered exclusively through Werner Wagon Works, is the "Real McCoy hub insert."
The Werners also hold a wagon and carriage consignment sale each June in Horton. Besides wagons and tack, the sale features antiques, collectables, country items, and old-time tractors. Contact the Werners at 785-486-3758.
Connie Werner also loves history, having had a great-grandmother who had seen Abraham Lincoln. Connie says, "I’ve had some great storytellers in my family."
Connie is continuing that tradition by doing reenactments of the 1840s. She does presentations using her covered wagon and gear, demonstrating what women wore and did in those pioneer days.
Werner Wagon Works has been building and restoring wagons for some 17 years. One of Don’s wheels was a gift from Independence, Missouri to its sister city in Japan. Don has products in 33 states as well as Japan and Canada. Yet the business operates in Horton, Kansas, population 1,852 people. In fact, Don went to school in nearby Powhattan, population 110 people. Now, that’s rural. How exciting to see such success come from rural roots.
It’s time to say goodbye to Higashimurayama, Japan, where a wheel from Werner Wagon Works has made its way around the globe. We salute Don and Connie Werner for making a difference with their love of history and their skill in building a success on wagon wheels.
Let’s go see the new movie, Cinderella Man. It stars Russell Crowe as a down-on-his-luck ex-boxer who returns to the boxing ring in desperation during the Great Depression. There are scenes in the movie showing the star as he gets himself back into shape by working out on old-time exercise equipment. Where do you suppose this authentic antique equipment came from? Would you believe, a landmark bed and breakfast in rural Kansas? It’s true – I’ll explain on today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Gary Anderson of the LandMark Inn in Oberlin, Kansas. The LandMark Inn was the source for the vintage exercise equipment used in this new movie. Here is the background.
Gary Anderson grew up at Oberlin. After graduating from K-State, he returned to his hometown and joined a local bank. He then had the chance to invest in a key property downtown – a beautiful, historic Victorian building. This building had originally housed one of the first financial institutions in town, called the Bank of Oberlin, but had been closed for a number of years. Now this restored building houses the LandMark Inn.
Gary explains that the name comes from two significant events in Oberlin. One was the opening of the U.S. Land Office, which I’m sure was doing a land office business in town, and the other was the arrival of Mr. R.A. Marks who founded the bank. So the name LandMark Inn includes both the land office and Mr. Marks – and of course, reflects the fact that it is a landmark in itself.
This historic building was constructed in 1886. The local newspaper at that time was called the Oberlin Eye. In the writing style of that era, here is what the Oberlin Eye had to say about the bank building: "...It is the prettiest building in the city and elicits words of praise from the many who see the city. Such buildings, beautiful, permanent, and durable are of incalculable value to Oberlin...And strengthen the onward march of the Queen City of Northwest Kansas."
Gary restored this classic building, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He opened it in 1996, 110 years after it first opened, and has had guests from Brazil to Russia. The LandMark Inn is a bed and breakfast, and much more. There are seven guest suites, which come with a full breakfast, but there is also a full service Restaurant & Coffee Bar called the Teller Room, a sauna, a unique gift shop called The Oberlin Mercantile Company, and a vintage exercise room with turn of the century equipment.
That equipment became part of the new movie, Cinderella Man. In the 1990s, Gary Anderson bought this equipment from a gift shop in Illinois which was closing its doors. Gary was buying other fixtures but the owner insisted that Gary take everything – including the old exercise equipment. This included two old wooden rowing machines and a cast iron stationary bicycle. Gary realized these would be a nice addition to the LandMark Inn, and so he brought them back to Kansas.
In January 2004, a lady called Gary asking about the equipment, which she had apparently learned about through an Internet search. She asked a lot of questions and then called back the same day to explain that she was working on gathering authentic props for this movie set in Great Depression times.
Gary ended up lending this equipment to the movie company for use in the movie. After the filming, that equipment was returned to the exercise room at the LandMark Inn in Oberlin, Kansas, population 1,898 people. Now, that’s rural. How exciting to see such a historic venue in rural Kansas connecting with modern culture.
It’s time to leave the new movie, which includes historic exercise equipment from rural Kansas. We salute Gary Anderson for making a difference with his entrepreneurship and creativity in creating the LandMark Inn, whose elements have even reached the silver screen. Revitalizing this downtown building, honoring this history, and offering this service to the community is a landmark achievement.
Jason Larson - Ag Teacher in Holton
Today let’s go to DisneyHand. No, I didn’t say Disneyland, I said Disney Hand. I’m not talking about your favorite theme park, but rather a special awards program sponsored by the Disney company to recognize teachers. DisneyHand is the term for the Walt Disney company’s service outreach worldwide, and it includes the DisneyHand Teacher Awards, which honor outstanding teachers in various disciplines all across the country. One of those select honorees we can find right here in rural Kansas. Stay tuned for today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Jason Larison, the agricultural education teacher in Holton, Kansas. Jason was one of those honored with a DisneyHand teacher award in 2004. Here is the story.
Jason Larison comes from rural Kansas roots. He grew up in the southeast Kansas town of Riverton, which has a population of maybe 300 people. Now, that’s rural.
Jason was very active in FFA, serving as a local, district and state FFA officer. He received his bachelors and masters degrees at K-State and went on to become the ag teacher at Holton, where he lives with his wife Sarah.
Jason’s principal described the ag ed program in Holton as all but dead at the time, and Jason set out to revive it. Now, that principal says, "He has turned the program around and established it as not only a state recognized program, but also a national one."
For example, the Holton FFA has won the Kansas FFA’s prestigious Triple Crown award not once, not twice, not three times, but four times in a row. Jason’s list of honors is extremely impressive. They begin with being named Kansas Vocational New Teacher of the Year, National Association for Agriculture Educators regional Outstanding Young Member, and the
Association for Career and Technical Education New Teacher of the Year National Finalist.
From that beginning, he went on to more achievements. He won two Ideas Unlimited awards from the National Association for Agriculture Educators, was elected President of the Kansas Association of Agricultural Educators in 2003, and was one of the top four National FFA Agriscience Teacher of the Year winners.
Then in 2004, he was selected for the DisneyHand Teacher Awards. Jason was one of only two Kansans, and the only ag teacher in the nation, to be selected for this award. In 2005, the honorees were selected from some 50,000 teachers nominated nationwide. Wow.
So what has Jason done to earn all these honors? One element is innovation. Jason says, "The students I teach today are much different than the students of 1952 when my high school Ag Teacher began his career. I feel a duty and an honor to be ready for them when they enter my room in the year 2004 and beyond."
So Jason set out to upgrade and redesign his classroom to reflect these changing times. He received a USDA grant to create a paperless and wireless agriculture classroom. This is amazing stuff.
In Jason's classroom, every student has a laptop computer. Instead of using an out of date textbook, each student uses their laptop to navigate on the web to resources that supplement the classroom lessons. Students can submit assignments over email.
All testing for class is done online, and students receive a test score and the correct answers just seconds after they press submit. No longer do students wait a day or two to get their tests graded, but they receive instant feedback on incorrect answers while the subject is still fresh in their minds. As Jason says, using this technology, the only limitation to teaching is one's imagination.
More importantly, the person who contacted me about Jason wrote: "His efforts in the classroom have changed and impacted the lives of hundreds of students in the past ten years that he has been teaching at HHS."
It’s time to leave DisneyHand – no, not a crowded theme park, an awards program for teachers. We commend Jason Larison for making a difference by using innovation and creativity while caring for his students. It’s enough to make Walt Disney proud.
Today we’re at the Denver airport. Look, there’s an eye-catching poster about Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming. That’s a beautiful poster featuring an artist’s depiction of a wonderful western scene. And where would we find that artist? We find him in the heartland – specifically, in rural Kansas. We’ll meet this wonderful heartland artist and complete the family circle on today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Earl Kuhn, a premiere western watercolor artist. He can depict cowboys and western scenes very effectively because he knows them first hand. Here is the story.
Earl and Kaye Kuhn live at Medicine Lodge in south central Kansas. It is said that his watercolors tell a story about a way of life; specifically, our ranching heritage in the great plains. Earl’s favorite subjects are the cowboy, his livestock and the landscapes surrounding them. Earl Kuhn's studio is located at The Sagebrush Gallery of Western Art in Medicine Lodge, where he and his wife Kaye, have owned and operated the gallery since 1979.
Earlier I mentioned completing the family circle. Here is what I meant by that. Several years ago this program featured Earl’s wife Kaye in a story about the triennial Peace Treaty Pageant of which she is director there in Medicine Lodge. Then recently, this program featured their son Kerry Kuhn, who is an outstanding horse trainer. But until now, we had never talked indepth about the husband and father of this family, Earl Kuhn.
Earl is an outstanding painter. His works of art depict horses, cattle, landscapes and people in way that touch the heart. One of his new paintings is titled Preschool. Talk about completing the family circle! This painting shows his grandson Kauy, a little bitty boy in long jeans and a cowboy hat, standing in front of a great big horse and pulling on its reins. The big horse is patiently looking down at this little boy and you can just imagine what is going on in their minds. It is a priceless scene, and every detail is captured perfectly.
That is just one example of Earl Kuhn’s work. His watercolors have won numerous awards, including gold, silver and bronze medals at the National Western Artists' Annual Shows.
At the beginning, I talked about one his paintings being featured on the Cheyenne Frontier Days poster, as seen in the Denver airport. His works have also been featured on the World Paint Horse Show program and the Working Ranch Cowboys World Finals Ranch Rodeo program and membership print.
Earl Kuhn's paintings have been featured on the cover of Cowboy Magazine and the cover of America's Horse, published by the American Quarter Horse Association. His list of awards and magazines which have highlighted his work go on and on.
This is no abstract art. Instead, each one is a beautiful, true to life depiction of traditional cowboy, ranch, and rural life in the heartland. Earl knows this work first-hand. He is a founder and director of the Working Ranch Cowboys Association and helps run the Kansas Ranch Rodeo finals.
Earl sells original watercolors as well as signed and numbered limited edition prints. He does commissioned work and travels to various art shows and private showings, while maintaining his studio at the gallery in Medicine Lodge. He even has his own website at www.earlkuhn.com. That’s w-w-w.e-a-r-l-k-u-h-n.com.
Many of his artworks include as a backdrop the landscape of the Gyp Hills, where he and Kaye live near Medicine Lodge. It’s a beautiful setting in rural Kansas. After all, Medicine Lodge is a town of 2,126 people. Now, that’s rural. How wonderful to find this premiere artist in such a rural setting.
It’s time to leave the Denver airport, where we saw a Cheyenne Frontier Days poster featuring the artwork of heartland Kansas artist Earl Kuhn. We salute Earl, Kaye, Kerry and all the family for the contributions each is making. We commend Earl in particular for making a difference by using his creativity to celebrate the images of rural Kansas. It is truly art from the heart.
Today let’s go to the capitol of Kansas. Don’t worry, you won’t need to wear a suit. This is a different type of capitol. Instead of a dome for politicians, this one has a home for fishin.’ I’m talking about Milford Lake near Junction City, the fishing capitol of Kansas. So grab your fishin’ pole for an outdoor recreation edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Rick Dykstra of the Junction City Convention and Visitors Bureau. Rick shared with us the remarkable growth in outdoor recreation, and especially fishing, around Milford Lake. I call it the Milford Lake phenomenon.
Rick Dykstra himself is an outdoorsman. In fact, he hosted his own outdoor TV show for several years. But in recent years, he worked in community policing and then with the CVB.
When Rick joined the convention and visitors bureau, he evaluated the assets of the Junction City area. One big asset was Milford Lake. When I say big, I mean it literally. Milford Lake is the biggest lake in Kansas, and it has been advertised that way for years.
Rick says, "I did some research when I got here and found that the typical fisherman doesn’t go to a lake because it’s big, he goes to a lake because it has great fishing." So instead of advertising Milford as the biggest lake in Kansas, they are promoting Milford as the fishing capitol of Kansas.
After all, Milford is known for big walleye, wipers, drag-pulling channel and blue catfish, hard fighting bass and crappie and bluegill. Other lakes may have more of an individual species, but taken altogether, Milford can claim being the fishing capitol of the state.
This promotion has paid off, and Milford Lake is gaining national attention. Rick Dykstra points to a team of people who have helped spur this phenomenon.
One is Brad Myers of the Corps of Engineers at Milford Lake. Brad explains that Milford Lake was built for flood reduction purposes, as well as other benefits. Since it began, the lake has prevented more than $940 million in flood damages. Of course, recreation and fish and wildlife management are among the other purposes of the lake. Some 23,000 acres are managed for wildlife and hunting opportunities.
Brad explains that the Corps of Engineers as an agency is making new efforts to partner with their communities and other entities. Brad himself has been a leader in that effort. He organized a Milford Lake Planning Committee which involves the Milford Lake Association, Kansas Wildlife and Parks, city and county officials, private resorts, marinas and campgrounds, natural resource officers, Extension service, and more.
Cooperation is producing good results. For example, recently the Corps adopted an interim management plan for its RV area. Instead of the Corps dictating the results, the Corps listened to visitors and other stakeholders, including law enforcement and public health. The result is a more broadly supported plan due to their involvement.
Most recently the family fishing project involved some 15 partners, including the school district. Then there is the Milford Lake Wetlands restoration project, which was done under Section 1135 of the federal law. The Kansas Wildscape Foundation raised funds in partnership with this project to make it a reality. The wetland takes in some 2,300 acres of water and wildlife habitat, one of the largest wetlands in the state. Now this 5 million dollar project is the largest Section 1135 project in the nation.
That is a remarkable achievement, given the rural nature of the area. After all, the lake takes its name from the nearby community of Milford, population 483 people. Now, that’s rural. How wonderful to find this tremendous resource in rural Kansas.
It’s time to leave the capitol of Kansas – the fishing capitol, that is. We commend Rick Dykstra and Brad Myers for making a difference through vision and partnerships for outdoor recreation in Kansas.
And there’s more. What if we could attend the Super Bowl, right here in Kansas? If that sounds fishy, it’s because it is. I’ll explain on our next program.
Milford Lake Fishing National Championship
How would you like go to the Super Bowl without ever leaving Kansas? Sounds fishy, doesn’t it? Sure enough, today we’ll learn about an event which has been called the Super Bowl of walleye fishing, and it is coming to rural Kansas. This is the conclusion of our two-part series on the Milford Lake phenomenon. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
On our previous program, we met Rick Dykstra of the Junction City Convention and Visitors Bureau. Rick has spearheaded efforts to promote outdoor recreation and specifically fishing around Milford Lake. Rick points out that this takes several partners, such as Mike Harris of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks at Milford Lake.
Mike is another outdoorsman with rural Kansas roots. He grew up at Minneapolis, Kansas, where his family enjoyed boating, fishing, and camping. Minneapolis is a town of 2,061 people. Now, that’s rural. Mike is now the managing ranger at Milford State Lake.
Altogether, Milford has eleven parks which offer camping, picnicking, swimming, boat ramps, and fishing access points. Four years ago, approximately 400,000 visitors came to Milford Lake. The current year, Milford will bring in nearly 800,000 visitors. Wow. That’s why I call it the Milford Lake phenomenon.
A big part of this boom comes from the national attention which has been generated for Milford. Many lakes have fishing tournaments, but Rick Dykstra has helped take Milford’s up to a whole new level. When the Cabela’s outdoor outfitting store opened in Kansas City, Junction City contacted the company immediately to express interest in partnering. That work paid off in 2003, when Milford hosted the Cabela’s national amateur team fishing championship. This event brought in 227 boats and nearly 500 participants from all over the U.S. and Canada.
The event went so well that Rick set his sights on an even higher goal: Hosting the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail Mercury National Championship. This prestigious national championship has been called the Super Bowl of walleye fishing, as mentioned at the beginning. In past years, it has been held at outstanding lakes near urban areas in Michigan and Minnesota.
Rick went about recruiting this event to Milford Lake, but his efforts caught a snag, so to speak. The sponsors explained that they had to have a coliseum where they could film and broadcast the daily weigh-in, which is a big production. They said, "Where’s your coliseum?" Rick, with his typical can-do attitude, said, "I don’t have any, but we will build you one."
In summer 2004, the site of the next year’s Professional Walleye Trail national championship was announced: Milford Lake, near Junction City. Yes, the Super Bowl was awarded to Kansas. For the coliseum, Junction City will erect the largest temporary structure ever built for an event in Kansas. A company will come in and build a 23,000 square foot structure. This event in September 2005 will bring in national media and the top professional fisherman in the country.
It is hosted at Milford State Park. Mike Harris says with pride, "We get comments like, I can’t believe Kansas has a lake like this, and This is the cleanest, nicest, best maintained state park we’ve ever seen."
Brad Myers of the Corps of Engineers says, "Probably half the people who came to that amateur tournament were saying, Why are we goin’ to Kansas to fish? But they had a great experience by the time they were done."
Of course, Milford Lake has many other features. There are new cabins and equestrian trails under construction. Below the dam is a wonderful nature center with outstanding displays. It is adjacent to the hatchery, which produces 500,000 channel catfish and 50 million walleye fry each year.
Would you like to go the Super Bowl without ever leaving Kansas? For the Super Bowl of walleye fishing, now you can. We salute Rick Dykstra, Mike Harris, and Brad Myers for making a difference with a vision of what is possible for outdoor recreation in rural Kansas. It may sound fishy, but I think it’s super.
Sometimes the solutions to our problems are right under our feet. Today, we’ll meet a remarkable family which is using a resource under our feet, alright, but a few layers down. The resource is limestone – the beautiful native stone which underlies much of north central Kansas. We’ll meet an entrepreneurial farm family which is putting this resource to use on today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Duane Vonada of the Vonada Stone Company. Duane’s ancestors homesteaded in Kansas in the 1870s.
In the 1930s, the Vonadas moved to a farm at their current location north of Sylvan Grove, a town of 283. Now, that’s rural. Duane’s father quarried out some rocks to build a barn there, but the naysayers were critical of this location. They ridiculed the Vonadas for trying to farm out on those old rock hills.
Indeed, there are rocks in these hills. This is Post Rock Country, so named for the old stone posts that pioneers hewed out of the hills and used for fenceposts. There weren’t a lot of trees in that part of the country, and the old stone posts worked well. There are many posts and stone buildings in this part of the country.
As the town of Sylvan Grove was celebrating its centennial and the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, Duane Vonada volunteered to help by demonstrating how the first settlers used the tools of 100 years ago to split out stone and prepare it for buildings and fenceposts. As he carved designs into some of the stone posts, people saw it and asked if their names could be carved into the posts. The designs became increasingly popular.
A minister from Topeka who served there encouraged them, saying, "You’ve got all this wonderful resource right around you." The Kansas Conservation Commission came for a visit, saw the Vonadas do a carving demonstration, and encouraged them as well.
In 1986, the Vonada Stone Company was organized. A shop on the family farm is utilized for production of the finished products. The stone is quarried from a place nearby.
The craftmanship of this work is amazing. The Vonadas can carefully drill out the stone, split it with the feather and wedge method, and carve beautiful designs into the stone. A high speed carbon router is used for carving, and the stone is treated with silicone to preserve the color.
The Vonadas offer custom made limestone signs and markers of all types, such as single posts, hitching posts, hanging signs, memorials, benches, birdbaths, and more. They can include statuary such as the Rhine Maiden and Harvest Maiden miniature statues.
These are used to mark businesses, family homes, and farm locations. Their products have been used in many gardens and landscaping projects. The Vonadas can custom design, ship or deliver and set the stone too.
The Vonadas produce stone signs with company logos as well as popular mascots such as Powercats and Jayhawks. I’ve even seen a few Nebraska Cornhuskers on these stones.
The limestone at the Vonadas is particularly attractive. It has a layer of iron oxide which provides a streak of golden brown within the tan stone. A person can sometimes find fossils of prehistoric shells in the stone as well.
This is truly a family business. Duane and his son Damon do the farmwork, equipment, and carving, and friend Dan does much of the stone carving too. Duane’s wife Donna and Damon’s wife Janet do the painting, bookwork and customer service. The Vonadas host occasional tours and they have a website at www.vonadastone.com. That’s v-o-n-a-d-a-s-t-o-n-e, all one word,.com.
Now Vonada Stone products have gone to some 40 states, from Boston to Alaska. Wow.
Sometimes the solutions to our problems can be found right under our feet. The Vonadas have found they can use the resource of underground limestone to diversify their farm business and provide an attraction for the community. We salute the Vonada family for making a difference with their craftsmanship and entrepreneurship. Perhaps each of us can look for ways to better use the resources we have all around us.
Kansas scenery. That might sound like an oxymoron to an east coast or Rocky Mountain snob, but Kansas does indeed have some beautiful scenery. The first scene of today’s program will take us to a scenic and little known part of Kansas, best enjoyed on horseback. We’ll learn about the genuine Kansas character and the innovative park manager who supports him on today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Walt Gove of the Goverland Stage Stop at Kanopolis State Park in central Kansas. We met Walt previously in Gove County. In 2003, Walt and his wife Dorothy Jean – also known as DoJe – relocated to the state park at Kanopolis. Park manager Rick Martin brought him in.
Kanopolis became the first state park in Kansas with a concessionaire for horseback riding. In other words, a businessman is offering horseback riding and outfitting for trail rides in the park. That businessman is Walt Gove.
Walt built stables and a campfire area at Kanopolis and put up an authentic replica of a Native American teepee. He offers horse and pony rides, horseback riding lessons, and even stagecoach and covered wagon rides. The stagecoach and wagon are available for rides in the park as well as special occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, reunions, or anniversaries. The stagecoach is authentic to its period in every detail, except one: it offers padded seats. Thank goodness for some progress.
Walt is a farrier and still shoes horses. He also is a storyteller and poet. He has a deep appreciation for the western lifestyle and the Kansas scenery.
As mentioned, the term Kansas scenery sounds like a stretch to some people. But there is some amazing scenery in Kanopolis State Park. Walt showcases that scenery as part of his trail rides.
One of Walt’s trail rides takes approximately an hour, and it winds through the knolls and valleys of the park. Wildlife such as deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, hawks, blue birds, orioles, cranes and even bald eagles might be seen on this ride. Another route takes two hours, and it skirts through areas called Horsethief Canyon and Red Rock Canyon. This trail offers rocky bluffs and other beautiful scenery unlike that found anywhere else in Kansas.
Walt calls this the Little Yellowstone of Kansas, and one can see why. One canyon has a 150 foot drop. Legend has it that the Indians stampeded buffalo over this cliff to their death in order to get winter meat and hides for their tribes. Walt says with a smile that this act created the very first buffalo wings feast...
This is a site of genuine history. Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull, and Wild Bill Hickock rode through here. So did General Custer, who was the commanding officer at nearby Fort Harker. You can even find Indian caves with pictographs and hieroglyphics.
The rides begin on the eastern side of scenic Kanopolis State Park, but the rides also can go into the adjoining 5,000 acre wildlife area. Kanopolis was one of the first, if not the very first, to have horse trails for public use. Now they are the first to have trail rides offered through Walt and DoJe as a concessionaire.
Manager Rick Martin says that there was a public need for this type of recreational opportunity, to complement the traditional boating, fishing, and skiing that goes on at the lake. Some 26 miles of trails have been built and marked through the 22,000 acre area.
Kanopolis State Park is in a rural area just 30 miles southwest of Salina. The town of Kanopolis has a population of 541 people. Now, that’s rural. But Walt Gove has done rides for people from Maryland to California and as far away as Sweden and Germany. Wow.
For more information, go to www.goverlandstagestop.com.
Kansas scenery. You haven’t seen it all unless you’ve been to Horsethief Canyon, Red Rock Canyon and beyond! I’m thankful that Walt Gove is helping make it possible. We commend Walt and DoJe Gove and Rick Martin for making a difference by showcasing this remarkable Kansas scenery.
It is Saturday night. All across America television sets are tuning in to watch what would become the longest running television show in the nation’s history: Gunsmoke. When I was a kid, we faithfully watched Gunsmoke every Saturday night. Believe it or not, it has been 50 years since the first TV episode of Gunsmoke was broadcast. Of course, this classic western was set in the town of Dodge City, Kansas. Now modernday Dodge City is celebrating this milestone while continuing to build on its western heritage. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Jim Johnson, President of Dodge City Trail of Fame, which is putting on a special celebration in honor of Gunsmoke’s 50th anniversary.
Jim Johnson explains that, back in 2001, a group of Dodge City citizens got together to preserve the city’s wonderful history. He says, "We decided that if it is going to be saved, we’re going to have to do it."
With that self-help attitude, and after watching the Depot Theater Co. renovate the big Santa Fe railroad depot located in downtown Dodge, they set to work. Nearly 10 years earlier, one of the group had an idea: A walking trail to honor the heritage of Dodge City, both in history and in Hollywood. With the depot project nearly complete, it was time to bring that idea to fruition.
So the Dodge City Trail of Fame was created as a walking tour of the Old Dodge City historic district. The trail is marked with statues and 24-inch brass sidewalk medallions to commemorate the many famous and infamous denizens of historic Dodge City. These include such famous names as Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Big Nose Kate Elder, Luke Short, Chief Satanta, Jedediah Smith, General George Armstrong Custer, and Doc Holliday.
Medallions are also dedicated to those who have portrayed famous Dodge Citians in movies or television, such as stars Hugh O’Brien, Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Henry Fonda, and Errol Flynn. Another is Dennis Hopper, a Dodge City native.
And then there was Gunsmoke, which chronicled western adventures in and around Dodge City. Oh, I practically grew up on that show. There was a radio version before the tv show.
Then on September 10, 1955, the first Gunsmoke episode was shown on CBS television. It featured a tall, brave Marshall named Matt Dillon, played by James Arness. The other key characters were Milburn Stone who played Doc, Amanda Blake who played Miss Kitty from the Long Branch saloon, Dennis Weaver who played the marshall’s deputy Chester, and later Ken Curtis who played Festus Haggen. Then there was Newly, played by Buck Taylor, and Quint the blacksmith, played by a young Burt Reynolds.
On September 11, 2005, a half-century after this icon of television began, sidewalk medallions will be dedicated for Gunsmoke stars James Arness, Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, and Ken Curtis. James Arness is the only living member of the four, and due to his health, he will participate by telephone.
Milburn Stone, by the way, was the only Gunsmoke cast member to have actual roots in rural Kansas. He came from the town of Burrton, population 939 people. Now, that’s rural.
Dodge City has planned a three-day symposium around this dedication. The theme is "Gunsmoke; 50 Years! Reliving the Legend." Oscar nominee writers, directors, and guest stars from Gunsmoke are scheduled to attend the event. Ben Costello, who wrote the book "Gunsmoke: An American Institution" will be a featured speaker. A Western Dress Banquet will cap off Saturday night, and the medallions will be dedicated on Sunday morning. How exciting to see this self-help effort to honor our western history in Kansas.
It is Saturday night, and families all across America are tuning in to watch Gunsmoke. This show would be broadcast for a record-setting twenty seasons and would entertain generations, earning worldwide fame for Dodge City, Kansas. We salute Jim Johnson, the Board of Directors and other volunteers for the Trail of Fame for making a difference by promoting and honoring this heritage. Now, excuse me – Gunsmoke’s on.
When we go hunting, sometimes we find something different than what we had set out to find. Today we’ll meet a man who set out to go pheasant hunting, but instead he found the beginning of a new business. That sounds like quite a switch, but it may have been lucky - for both him and the pheasants! This man’s new, rural-based business would grow to send products from coast to coast and all the way to the White House. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Chuck Campbell, owner of a small business called Caps and Jackets. His specialty is monogramming caps and jackets with lettering and custommade designs. The origin of this business is a huntin’ story.
Chuck was preparing to go pheasant huntin’ with his two sons and his brother-in-law and his two sons – Six persons total. So Chuck went out and bought six new bright orange hunting caps for them to use.
He brought those back to the house at the time his wife happened to be sewing a blouse. Chuck said to her, "I’ve got these new caps and they all look the same. Would you mark mine so I can keep it straight from the others?"
His wife got the cap, took it to her sewing machine, and proceeded to sew his name onto the cap. It looked great, so she sewed the names of the other five hunters onto their caps.
Their personalized caps were seen by the next door neighbor, who happened to have a construction company. He asked if he could have a cap made for him too, and could she put his company name on it?
History does not record if any pheasants were bagged on that hunting trip, but we do know that Chuck Campbell found something else that day: The beginning of a business. Chuck and his wife began producing and selling embroidered, monogrammed caps and jackets.
Chuck says, "The whole family helped." These caps and jackets were done at home, by hand, on a household sewing machine. Eventually he upgraded to an industrial machine. Now he has five of those.
At the beginning, Chuck needed some plain caps to put the monograms on, but he didn’t know where to find a supplier. So he went down to a hat outlet store, bought 36 Caterpillar caps and cut off the labels so he could monogram them with something else.
Chuck has come a long way since those days. During that period, he would buy two to three caps per week to monogram. Today, he is buying three to four thousand caps per year. Wow.
Chuck says that in the old days, he could do one line of monogramming by hand on the household machine in 45 minutes. It would take his wife 20 minutes. Now he types the text on an electronic device, selects the size and font, inserts a disk and has it automatically done in 10 minutes or less.
He also says with a smile, "When I started, I didn’t have grandkids. Now I have seventeen grandchildren and one on the way."
Chuck’s business is based in the unincorporated town of Hillsdale, south of Kansas City. When he moved to Hillsdale, it had a population of maybe 240 people. Now, that’s rural. But with the spillover growth of Kansas City, Chuck says it has doubled in size in the last six years.
Chuck Campbell has sent caps from Florida to California. His caps appeared in the ringside scene from the movie Rocky V, for example. In 1992, George W. Bush was in Kansas City campaigning for his father’s re-election. Chuck gave the future president a cap which he conveyed to his father, the sitting president.
When we go hunting, we find something different than what we had set out to find. In this case, Chuck may have started after pheasants but he discovered the monogramming business. We salute Chuck Campbell and his family for making a difference by recognizing that new opportunity when the doors opened. The result has been happy hunting.
When I went to kindergarten, we took naps. Today, we’re going to learn about an educational system which also has naps, but not the kind that you do on a mat on the floor. In this case, NAPs is an acronym for Network Access Points. These are part of an innovative partnership which is helping provide access to technology for education and hospitals. So wake up from your nap and boot up your computer. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Hal Gardner, executive director of Kan-ed. Kan-ed is a program created by the Kansas Legislature and administered through the Kansas Board of Regents to help Kansans access the information age. The system does indeed use NAPs, as in Network Access Points. Specifically, the program expands the technological capabilities of the members of Kan-ed, which are Kansas public and private schools, higher education, libraries and hospitals.
The Legislature approved Kan-ed in 2001. Revenue for Kan-ed comes from the Kansas Universal Service Fund which is assessed on telephone users.
Kan-ed established a Users Advisory Council, regional chairs, and a grass-roots Delegate Assembly to involve its members. For example, Mel Chastain of K-State just completed his term as advisory council chair.
Kan-ed has three objectives. One is to build a high speed, private, secure broadband network to which its members can connect. Second, Kan-ed provides funds to help members reduce the cost of Internet access. Third, Kan-ed seeks quality content and services that enhance the private network and that Kan-ed members can use through their commercial or private Internet connection.
Hal emphasizes that Kan-ed is not an Internet service provider and does not compete with local companies which are. In fact, Kan-ed has created this network by partnering with private companies to extend the service. This type of public-private partnership is unique in the nation.
Hal describes Kan-ed as a network of networks. Here is where those NAPs come in. There are 19 Network Access Points around Kansas which connect to many more sites. There are some 180 interactive distance learning sites around the state. An increasing number of hospitals are being connected also. Member libraries range from Abilene to Zenda.
I’m especially pleased to see the network access which has been extended to the rural parts of the state. Of course, there are access points in cities such as Topeka and Wichita, but also in places like Brewster, population 280, and Allen, population 209. Now, that’s rural.
Kan-ed reports that some $770,000 was provided to 338 members in 2004 for bandwidth acquisition. Another 3 million dollars was provided to 137 members under the enhancing technology grant program. This allowed these schools to upgrade their interactive and videoconferencing systems to state-of-the-art standards.
Another positive development is that Kan-ed has identified a common Internet protocol among the learning networks in the state. This will enable those networks to cross their borders and communicate with one another.
What does all this mean to the citizens of Kansas? It means better access to technology which can help educate our youth and care for our people. For example, a student in a rural school who wants to study Russian but can’t get it locally might use this technology to take a class from a Russian teacher in an urban school. A person in a library can search educational and research databases which would otherwise cost thousands of dollars. A specialist in Kansas City can use teleradiology to almost instantly review an X-ray from a patient in western Kansas. A chronically ill child at the KU Medical Center can stay connected and current with his hometown school, and there are many, many more potential examples.
When I went to kindergarten, we took naps. Now this innovative technological network is using a different kind of NAP - network access points - to help Kansans access the information age. We salute Hal Gardner, Mel Chastain, and all those who are making a difference by using this technology to reach out to all of Kansas. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to my computer – it’s naptime.
Have you seen any wolf-packs running around Kansas lately? Me neither - maybe an isolated coyote or two, but no wolves. Today, we’ll learn about a special group of people which at one point called themselves a wolf-pack. They weren’t boy scouts or animals out hunting prey, but they were hunting for a better future for their community. Little did they know how much positive impact they would have later on, when disaster struck from the skies. I’ll explain on today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Carolyn Kennett. Carolyn is Economic Development Director for the City of Parsons, Kansas. Her family has deep roots in rural Kansas. In fact, her great-grandparents homesteaded in the Caney-Tyro area. Tyro is a town of 224 people. Now, that’s rural.
Carolyn went to college in Colorado and then worked in Tulsa. She came back to Kansas to work for the Parsons Sun, attracted by the thought of raising her children in a good small town environment. After 8 ½ years, she was recruited by the city of Parsons and became Economic Development Director.
Carolyn was attending an economic development conference in Colorado when she went to a session on strategic planning. She brought those ideas and a publication on strategic planning back to Parsons. She sat down with the booklet, started to write a strategic plan and then said to herself, "This is ridiculous. A strategic plan shouldn’t be written by one person, it needs the involvement of the people of the community."
So Carolyn started contacting citizens about a planning process. A number of people joined the effort, which became named the Parsons Action Council or PAC for short. No, not a Political Action Committee, the Parsons Action Council.
After the PAC had been meeting for a while, one of the members jokingly referred to it as Carolyn’s Wolf-Pac. But the real purpose of the group was to think strategically about the future of the community, especially downtown. The group was quite productive. A design team was working on a new look for downtown buildings.
Then came April 19, 2000. A tornado raked through the center of Parsons, causing an estimated 38 million dollars in damages. Carolyn says, "Fortunately, no one was seriously injured." She has a map showing the path of the tornado, and it is almost a miracle that no one was killed. The tornado’s path was like an arc, right through the heart of the city.
An estimated 114 businesses were damaged along with some 803 homes. Several buildings in downtown Parsons were destroyed.
The city was down, but not out. Carolyn says, "The amount of people who came out to help their neighbors was incredible. The help from surrounding communities was tremendous."
Eventually, people’s thoughts turned to what could be done about the downtown. Fortunately, Carolyn’s Wolf-Pac had been working on possibilities. That group quickly transitioned into a downtown redevelopment task force, and their plans were put into action.
Today, downtown Parsons has been revitalized. State grants provided more than two million dollars, and were matched with private investment of more than seven million dollars. Homes were replaced and buildings were rebuilt and rehabilitated.
Another strategy was to encourage the growth of existing businesses downtown and to attract entrepreneurs. This strategy is working. A variety of new and expanded businesses are operating in downtown.
In fact, Carolyn can point to more than 100 new startup businesses in the community. Keep in mind that the national statistics report a 75 percent failure rate among new businesses. Carolyn is pleased to report an 85 percent success rate among those businesses in Parsons.
Have you seen any wolf-packs running around Kansas? I haven’t – but I have seen the good things that can happen when a group of citizens will pack themselves together for the common good. We salute Carolyn Kennett and the Parsons Action Council for making a difference by planning for the future, and we commend the citizens of Parsons for helping their neighbors and responding so heroically when the tornado struck. Now Parsons is packed with good results.
Honey and high tech. Does that sound like an unusual combination? Today we’ll meet an entrepreneurial family which is combining an interest in beekeeping and baking with skills in electrical technology. They are making this combination work from a rural setting, because the rural lifestyle is important to them. They also recently started their own business. I guess you could say that makes for a beehive of activity. Stay tuned for today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Tom and Jennifer Lane, who are truly entrepreneurs who are close to the land. Here is the story.
Tom Lane grew up at Lawrence. He got a degree at K-State in Agricultural Education and did graduate work in agricultural economics. He also married Jennifer and started a family, which has since grown to six wonderful children.
Tom had some job possibilities in Chicago, New York and Washington DC, but with a young family, those were not necessarily the locations he wanted. Tom says, "We didn’t know where God wanted us to be, but we knew we wanted to be in a rural setting for our family where we could teach them good values."
Tom and Jennifer moved to a place in Pottawatomie County they called Honey Lamb Farm. Tom took a short-term position as an electrician but the job kept going, and Tom became a licensed master electrician. He diversified his experience into other related fields, such as security systems, and went to national training centers in New Jersey and Tennessee.
Meanwhile, Jennifer started some entrepreneurial projects from home. She set up a commercial kitchen and started baking breads and pies for farmers’ markets.
The name Honey Lamb Farm combines two of their prime interests: Honeybees and lambs. Tom says, "Honeybees and lambs are something we always wanted to do."
They already had a sheep flock. Then in 1998, the Extension service offered an educational program on beekeeping. It went through an entire year and taught what beekeepers would need to do each month of the year. The Lanes took the training, bought beehives and stocked them with bees.
Now the Lanes have some 50 beehives located around the county, and they are harvesting and selling the honey. Keep in mind that each hive holds maybe 60,000 bees. That means the Lanes have some 3 million bees. Wow.
They gather the honey in summer and fall and clean, bottle and sell it. There is so much demand for the honey that when Jennifer needs honey for baking, they sometimes have to purchase extra honey from other producers.
Their honey, baked goods and other products are sold at the Farmer’s Market in Manhattan and Natural Foods coop in Topeka. They offer all natural honey, home-baked pies, and whole grain breads from flour that they have ground themselves. Besides wheat, they use sunflower, flax, and rye. They use the honey in other creative ways as well. Jennifer makes a honey barbecue sauce and natural hand cream, lip balm, and beeswax candles. Tom says, "Everything is as natural as we can get it."
Meanwhile, Tom’s career also advanced. In fall 2004, Tom launched his own business named HLF Enterprises. That’s H-L-F as in Honey Lamb Farms. But this business utilizes his electrical and related skills. HLF offers all kinds of electrical and related service, from security systems to fire alarms, access control systems, telephone and TV distribution networks, home and business wiring, and more. The company’s primary service area is northeast Kansas, but Tom has gone as far as St. Louis to install a security system for a major retail company. That’s impressive for this entrepreneur who lives in a rural setting 15 miles south of Onaga, which has a population of 697 people. Now, that’s rural.
Honey and high tech – an unusual combination, but one that works for Tom and Jennifer Lane. We salute the Lane family for making a difference by finding creative ways to utilize their beekeeping and electrical skills while raising their family in a rural setting. I think it’s the place where they were meant to be.
Power Point. That’s what they call those computer-generated slide shows which are so common these days. Today we’ll learn about a power point presentation in a different sense: We’ll learn about a rural minister who is using Power Point with his congregation, but more than that, he is helping point people toward a role as lay ministers in rural churches. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Carl Ellis, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Gypsum, Kansas. He is also founder of the Kansas Academy of Lay Training and Preaching.
Carl grew up in California. He says with a smile, "My aunt had a large farm north of San Francisco." It turns out the farm was 27 acres. But for city kids in California, maybe it felt like a large farm. It was enough for Carl to realize that he liked rural life. He said, "I want to be part of rural America."
After graduating from seminary, he took a position with the Kansas East Conference of the United Methodist Church. He served in the rural areas of southeast Kansas, in such places as Redfield, Hiattville, Yates Center, Eureka, Neodesha, Garnett, and Uniontown. He moved to a larger church in Russell, but says he felt called to serve a more rural area so he moved to his current church in Gypsum. Gypsum is a town of 325 people. Now, that’s rural.
Carl has done innovative things with the church since coming to Gypsum. He has involved youth in church operations, started a community garden, had the congregation adopt a college student from Zimbabwe, and more. He even started using Power Point in church services, for projecting the words to hymns and sermon outlines up on screen.
Carl was concerned about how the older church members would react to having something high-tech like Power Point in the church. To his surprise, they loved it. The large lettering on screen made it easier for them to read and they didn’t have to hold up a hymnal. Maybe Power Point is one of God’s creations after all...
Carl’s experience in rural churches makes him want to help others. While he was in Eureka, he was part of a cooperative parish that served some of the smaller towns around.
As he saw the many needs in the smaller towns, he came to believe that many of those needs could be met by lay persons who would not have to be seminary-trained ministers. So he launched what he called a Lay Academy for laypersons who were interested in helping churches. His first class was in 1997.
The academy is not in some big building. In fact, just the reverse: Carl takes his classes to wherever the students are. That means he has held classes in such places as Topeka, Fredonia, and Great Bend.
He says, "My goal is to develop a training program that, one, does not cost a lot, and two, focuses on the essentials without taking a lot of time." This is not a replacement for seminary, in fact, it does not include much theory. Instead, it focuses on the basics: Preaching and calling on people. Carl says that the basic teaching is to love and care for the people in the church. You don’t have to hold a fancy degree to do that.
The Kansas West Conference of the Methodist Church is now a sponsor of the Lay Academy. Through the years, Carl has trained some 120 students who are serving all over Kansas. He continues to feel passionately about rural Kansas. Carl says, "God calls us to help our communities."
Power Point. Yes, that’s what they call those computer-generated slide shows. Not only has Carl Ellis enlisted youth to develop Power Point presentations for his church, he is teaching lay people about other ways to serve in rural churches. We salute Carl Ellis and others involved with the Academy for Lay Training and Preaching for making a difference with their concern for rural Kansas. Carl makes some great Points, as he taps into a higher Power.
There is a time for every purpose under heaven, says the Book of Ecclesiastes: A time to be born, and a time to die. Today is a time to speak about someone who demonstrated community leadership, entrepreneurship, and a commitment to rural Kansas. But it is also a time when I am sad, because this program is a tribute to a rural community leader who was taken from us all too soon. This is a special memorial edition of Kansas Profile.
Today we share the story of Gary Gore, most recently the President and CEO of the Great Bend Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Director for Great Bend. Gary was an Oklahoma native, but most of his professional career was spent in Kansas. He had lived in Great Bend for some 14 years before working in Topeka and then returning to Great Bend as the Chamber CEO in 2000.
As someone said, Gary had a gift for lighting up a room. He had a ready smile and a quick wit which made him a pleasure to be around.
Gary was a great promoter of Great Bend and the region. He became part of the Kansas Community Leadership Initiative. He moved quickly up through the ranks of his professional organizations, becoming President of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce Executives and President of the western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance, or wKREDA.
When Gary was President of wKREDA, that organization was celebrating the tenth anniversary of its founding and was featured on Kansas Profile. For his achievements, he was selected as one of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development’s Leaders of the Year.
We were also going to honor Gary for a profile we had done about Cheyenne Bottoms, an important wildlife area near Great Bend, but Gary insisted that the credit should go to a coworker of his who works for the convention and visitors bureau.
Gary was very committed to the betterment of rural Kansas. As President of wKREDA, for example, he promoted all of western Kansas. WKREDA is an alliance of economic development organizations in the western part of the state. The wKREDA territory runs from Elkhart up to Narka, population 91 people. Now, that’s rural. Gary recognized that rural areas need to partner together, and Gary facilitated the process of working together through wKREDA.
Fred Jones, director of Logan County Economic Development, succeeded Gary as President of wKREDA. Fred says, "Gary, to me, wasn't so much the chamber president in Great Bend as he was an ambassador for all western Kansas. Gary was passionate about rural Kansas and I believe he helped many people see Kansas with new eyes. He understood that we must come together as a region and build on our strengths and encourage our neighbors to succeed."
But as the Book of Ecclesiastes says, "There is a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die."
That time came all too early for Gary Gore. On July 3, 2005, while out with family on Wilson Lake, Gary was killed in a tragic jet ski collision.
Janet Siebert is vice president of the Chamber in Great Bend. She says, "The community has been dealt a great loss." But Janet also says that the outpouring of help and support from friends, neighbors, and other communities has been awesome.
So Janet and the Chamber have had to move on. And on July 8, 2005, on what would have been his 55th birthday, Gary’s daughter gave birth to a baby girl.
There is a time for every purpose under heaven, says the Book of Ecclesiastes: A time to die, and a time to be born. For this program isn’t just about memorial, it’s about renewal. It isn’t just about loss, it’s about life. We mourn Gary Gore, but we are also thankful for all that he gave us, and for how he made a difference by helping and empowering others whose lives he touched. So thanks, Gary, for your living legacy.
The town square. Many of us can visualize the town square of a thriving Kansas small town from yesteryear. It might include a stately courthouse on a square block, surrounded by four streets filled with people meeting others on their way to shops, offices, and eating places. That public square has become a powerful symbol for a new effort in community renewal which is being built in rural Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Terry Woodbury, President and founder of Kansas Communities LLC. Terry uses Rebuilding the Public Square as a symbol of the type of community renewal which he is working on across the state.
As you may recall from an earlier program, Terry grew up in rural Kansas. He has a passion for people in those communities and a desire to help them succeed. Kansas Communities LLC is his new enterprise which leads communities through a conversation to action plans for their future.
Rebuilding the Public Square is one of his themes. Just as we can visualize the four sides of a thriving town square, he uses the four sides of the square to symbolize the sectors which need to come together if those communities are to make progress.
For example, one side of the square would be the business community. A second side of the square is education. A third is health and human services, and the fourth is government. When all four sectors or sides of the square are working together, good things can happen.
Terry says, "The school board can’t do it alone. The city council can’t do it alone. The bank can’t do it alone, and the same with others. All sectors need to come together."
Terry is now working with six Kansas places on his process of community conversations.
Some are working at the city level and some are at the county level. Currently, he is working with Greeley County, Wallace County, Hodgeman County, Chanute, Girard, and Fort Scott. That includes both eastern and western Kansas, plus rural and midsize communities.
Wallace and Greeley are truly rural counties, each with a population of less than 1,800 people. Now, that’s rural.
In each case, he leads the community through a four-step process. First is individual interviews which Terry does one-on-one with people in the community. That leads to step two, an evening meeting with a community-wide conversation about the community’s assets, liabilities, and ideas for improvement. Step three is a daylong vision retreat for the community, involving leaders from all four sides of that public square to identify visionary goals and plans. The fourth and final step is the implementation of those plans through action teams. The Kansas Health Foundation has helped sponsor the local communities which have chosen to participate.
Now Terry is taking this up to another level. In November 2005 at Great Bend, he will be convening a Kansas Communities Conference. This will include representatives of the six communities which are currently participating in his process plus more. Participants will have cross-community conversations to encourage each other and share ideas.
Terry says, "We will have farmers and bankers and ministers and mayors and teachers and social workers." That truly brings together a lot of sectors.
The Finnup Foundation of Garden City is a sponsor of this event, along with the Kansas Departments of Commerce and Agriculture and Frontier Farm Credit of Manhattan.
More information about the conference can be found on-line at www.kscomm.net. That’s www.k-s-c-o-m-m.net.
The town square. We visualize the town square of yesteryear as the heart of the town, where people are doing business and meeting each other on the four sides of this square. It is a great place to connect with others. Terry Woodbury says, "The original square served as a connectivity for our communities. What we’ve lost is our connection." The Kansas Communities conference will help to reconnect people from those diverse sectors from all over Kansas. Terry Woodbury is using this process to make a difference, and to help rural Kansas get a square deal.
Let’s pop into a pumpkin patch and pick a pumpkin. Today, we’ll meet a young entrepreneur who has developed a pumpkin patch where family is truly fundamental. You see, she developed this pumpkin patch in honor of her grandmother, and now it is helping thousands of people enjoy fall with their families. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Tonya Buehler, creator of Granny Mae’s Pumpkin Patch, a truly rural enterprise. Tonya grew up on the family farm east of Russell near Dorrance, which has a population of 199 people. Now, that’s rural.
Tonya has good memories of raising pumpkins with her grandmother. Together, they would plant and cultivate and water and harvest those pumpkins. In later years, Tonya would bring pumpkins to sell at her place in Russell.
Tonya’s grandmother was named Sara Mae Herber, but she was known to folks around Dorrance as Granny Mae, spelled m-a-e.
Granny Mae lived to be 90 years old. She passed away in 1998. Tonya Buehler treasured those memories of raising pumpkins with her grandmother, so she decided to open up a pumpkin patch to share with others.
She leased land from her grandmother’s estate and in 1999, opened Granny Mae’s Pumpkin Patch where families could come pick out pumpkins for the fall. When she opened, there were only a couple such enterprises in the state.
Tonya wanted to make the experience really fun. Every year, she has added something new such as a building or attraction.
Today, Granny Mae’s Pumpkin Patch offers an old-fashioned fall festival atmosphere complete with hayrack rides, bonfires, marshmallow roasts, and live music. Displays around the grounds feature mums, cornstalks, wheat sheaves and Indian corn. Tonya and family have remodeled an old dairy barn to include the Cottonwood Creek Gift Shoppe, featuring candles, fountains, and lots of fall decorating ideas.
The Cider House concession stand offers fun fall foods, such as a S’Mores packet which includes all a person needs to make a S’More at the campfire. Kids will also enjoy the living maze, which this year is grown from grain sorghum. Tokens found along the way in the maze are redeemable for prizes. Then there’s the "Belly Acres" Old Time Candy Store, "Kernal's" carnival games, Haunted Forest, and a children's train ride down Pumpkin Lane.
There’s also an area called Baley Park – not named for the Bailey family, but because much of the park is made of big round bales. Kids can climb a bale and slide down a slide and go to the straw jump. Tonya says this was based on the idea of a needle in a haystack, but without the sharp needles. It is a fenced in area packed with straw, where kids can jump and dig for prizes to take home.
And then there are the scarecrows. You will see scarecrows riding bicycles, scarecrows leaning on fences, families of scarecrows out for a picnic - on the hayrack ride, you would even see scarecrows playing baseball. Tonya says that last year, she had a scarecrow that was hitchhiker, but somebody stole it. Or maybe it finally caught a ride.
Oh yeah, one other thing: Pumpkins. There are 4 acres of pumpkins which include alll kinds, sizes, and even colors. A family can pick their pumpkin directly from the vine or wander through the woods where hundreds of pumpkins are tucked among scarecrows and straw bales.
There is now a website for this place: www.grannymaes.com. That’s g-r-a-n-n-y-m-a-e-s.com.
Admission is free, although there are prices for some rides. Granny Mae’s is open every weekend from the last weekend in September through October. Tonya hosts lots of school tours and birthday parties.
In the first year, Tonya says she had maybe 500 people come to the place. But listen to this: Now, Granny Mae’s Pumpkin Patch will host an estimated 8,000 visitors. Wow.
It’s time to pick up our pumpkins and pop out of the pumpkin patch. We commend Tonya Buehler for making a difference by celebrating and sharing her family heritage with others. It all makes Tonya a proud pumpkin pioneer.
Rural Career Fair
Tip O’Neill was a long-time Congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives. He tells of his first time running for Congress, when after an exhaustive campaign, he came back to his family home and talked to the lady next door. He asked if she had voted for him, and she said no. He was flabbergasted. He said, "You have known me since I was little, you agree with all of my positions, you’ve been a friend of the family for years! Why didn’t you vote for me?" And the lady replied, "Because you didn’t ask me to."
The point of this story is that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. There is no substitute for a direct request. Today, we’ll learn of an innovative effort by a rural Kansas county which is requesting its young people to consider careers back home. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Gary Doane, a farmer-stockman, county commissioner and agricultural leader from Downs, Kansas. Gary was helping put on a steak fry for the county livestock association, and he thought it would be great to add some interaction with youth to the day’s activities. The timing with the steak fry didn’t work out, but the idea persisted of interacting with youth.
Laura McClure, then head of the local Economic Development group, put together a group of individuals from around the county to talk about what they could do. The group decided to hold a career fair for Osborne County students.
This was an intriguing idea. Career fairs are usually held at universities or job centers, where big companies will bring information about their businesses and recruit students to go to work for them all over the world.
One result is brain drain: That is, the most highly educated youth leave the community in an effort to find jobs. Rural communities are losing their youth, as they go off to higher education or jobs in the cities and never return.
Many rural counties complain about this brain drain, but people in Osborne County decided to do something about it. They organized this career fair to show their students about the job opportunities right there in Osborne County.
In fall 2004, the first annual Osborne Career Fair was held, and more than a hundred students participated. In 2005, I had the opportunity to participate in the second annual career fair. It was a terrific event. Some 136 high school juniors and seniors participated, plus more than 30 exhibitors and speakers from health care to government to higher education to agribusiness to telecommunications.
Even some adults said it was eye-opening to see the range of career opportunities available there within the county. Heather Poore is the current Economic Development Director for Osborne. She had the event well-organized and fun. Students could earn play money by visiting various booths and then use that money to bid on donated items in a live auction. It made an exciting and educational experience.
Osborne is truly rural, with less than 5,000 people in the whole county. Students came to this event from Osborne, Downs, Cawker City, Glen Elder, Natoma, Tipton, and even Portis, population 120, and Alton, population 114 people. Now, that’s rural.
These rural youth had an opportunity to visit with prospective employers face-to-face, and learn about their hometown opportunities.
Gary Doane says, "We want to encourage the youth to consider staying home, or to get a good education and come back. We have a great quality of life here in Osborne County."
Tip O’Neill never again made that mistake of not asking for a person’s vote. When running for office, he knew the value of a direct request. It seems to me that Osborne County is applying this same lesson wisely. We shouldn’t sit back and complain that our youth leave town, if we don’t help them realize the opportunities which exist locally. So we salute Gary Doane, Laura McClure, Heather Poore, and those hardworking committee volunteers for making a difference by making youth aware of homegrown opportunities and asking them to come home.
Huck Boyd and Anne Brockhoff
A legacy of leadership. That’s one of the ways to describe the accomplishments of Huck Boyd, who was an outstanding Kansas leader. His legacy of leadership has taken on new meaning, as another generation of his family has stepped into a leadership role. I’ll explain on today’s Kansas Profile.
McDill "Huck" Boyd came from the northwest Kansas town of Phillipsburg. Huck went to K-State and came back into the family newspaper business, where he became editor and publisher of the Phillips County Review. He once said that his mother taught him "every day is a good day, so make the most of it." Huck made the most of his days and his community. With support from his wife Marie, he became deeply involved in his community, working on issues of economic development, rural health care, and more.
Huck got involved. He became county chairman of his political party, and worked his way up the ranks to become national committeeman for Kansas. Senators and presidents would call on him for advice. He was nationally influential from a rural setting. After all, Phillipsburg has 2,602 people. Now, that’s rural.
In the1980s when the Rock Island Railroad took bankruptcy, it proposed to abandon 465 miles of rail line across the heartland -- including Huck's hometown. Loss of the rail line would have been devastating to the region.
I was working in Washington DC at that time, as a flunkie staff member for Senator Nancy Kassebaum. She introduced me to a man who was visiting from Kansas: Huck Boyd. He was in Washington leading the fight to maintain rail service for his region. The experts said it couldn’t be done, but Huck found a way. He led the effort to form a Mid States Port Authority to buy the line and continue service.
Today a private sector shortline railroad is operating on what would have been abandoned track, which significantly benefits the community. A northwest Kansas farmer friend of mine says, "Whenever I hear that train go by, I give thanks for Huck Boyd."
All this is testimony to what can be accomplished beginning with one motivated local leader. Huck had a saying that "Community service is the rent you pay for the privilege of living on this earth."
He had a global vision, but still cared about his hometown. He served as a U.S. delegate to a United Nations' month-long Economic and Social Council in Geneva, Switzerland -- yet he found time to lead the fund drive so that the local high school band could go to a bowl game.
Huck passed away in 1987. The Huck Boyd Foundation was created in his honor. Among other things, the foundation supports the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at K-State, which strives to honor and replicate his legacy of service to rural America in partnership with K-State Research and Extension. I became the Huck Boyd Institute’s first and only director in 1990, and this radio program began soon after.
The Boyd family continues to be very active in Kansas. In fact, Huck’s widow Marie continues to serve on the Huck Boyd Institute Board of Directors. She is a remarkable woman in her own right. Marie remains living in the family home in Phillipsburg. On October 26, 2005, Marie Boyd turns 97 years old. Happy birthday, Marie.
Meanwhile, the legacy of leadership continues. Huck and Marie's late daughter, Marcia Boyd Krauss, served on the Huck Boyd Institute board as well. Their late son-in-law, Tom Krauss, was also involved. And in the summer of 2005, Anne Krauss Brockhoff, who is Tom and Marcia's daughter and Huck and Marie's granddaughter, was elected as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Huck Boyd National Institute. How great to see this legacy of leadership come down through the generations.
A legacy of leadership. That is what Huck and Marie Boyd have given to Kansas. We commend Anne Brockhoff and Marie Boyd for making a difference with their caring and commitment for rural America. Thank goodness it is a lasting legacy.
Ride on up to the hitchin’ post and let me tell you a story. It has to do with horses, but there’s another meaning to the hitchin’ post I’m talking about today. Hitchin’ Post is the name of a restaurant that a rodeo family has opened in their rural community. We’re beginning a series of programs relating to rodeo, and it’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Ken and Susan Studer, owners of the Hitchin’ Post at Matfield Green in Chase County. Ken grew up north of Matfield Green and became interested in rodeo. He started riding bulls at age 15. He went to rodeos all over the region. One day in Burlingame, he rode a bull and won some prize money. Ken says, "I was hooked."
Then Ken met a young woman named Debbie who was an Air Force brat. She didn’t know anything about rodeo. For their first date, he invited her to a bullride. She thought it was some kind of joke - surely people didn’t ride bulls - but she went along and eventually, she too became hooked. Debbie and Ken were married, and their son Derrick would follow in his father’s rodeo footsteps.
Rodeo is a natural sport here in the Flint Hills. From 1992 through 1994, the state high school rodeo champion each year came from Chase County. The first of those was Derrick Studer.
Of course, rodeo can also be a rough sport, and Ken tried to help his son grow up tough and strong. When Derrick would get hurt in some rodeo event, Ken would tell him, "Look, son, this ain’t tennis."
Derrick went to Fort Scott Community College. Ken says, "When Derrick and I rode there the same night, Debbie was so proud." Ken had a successful rodeo career, working as a plant supervisor while riding bulls on weekends from Montana to Oklahoma. He says he rode a thousand bulls and never got seriously hurt - at least by his standards, which are a lot higher than mine...
Then one day Ken went to a bullride at Fort Scott where son Derrick was a student. On that day, Ken got a bad draw and got clobbered. As Ken got to his feet and left the arena, Derrick said to him, "Well, it ain’t tennis."
That’s the life of a rodeo cowboy. But that life took a tragic turn when Debbie passed away from lung cancer. Four years later, Ken met Susan whose husband had also died from cancer, and eventually, these two were married.
Ken and Susan decided to start a new venture. They bought what is now the Hitchin’ Post in Matfield Green and opened the restaurant on Labor Day 2004. The Hitchin’ Post is a down-home place, with old rodeo photos displayed on the wall and an open grill serving up sizzling steaks. The Hitchin’ Post offers entrees such as burgers, chicken strips, mountain oysters, and shrimp. Thursday night is a Mexican buffet. On Mondays the Hitchin’ Post serves beef stew, with the proceeds going to the local churches. The restaurant attracts folks from all over, including motorcycle riders and others who travel Highway 177.
The Hitchin’ Post is now the only business in Matfield Green, which is a truly rural community. It has a population of 60 people. Now, that’s rural.
Matfield Green is also a place with a sense of humor. There are only five streets in town, so a sign north of the city limits announces: Matfield Green - Next five exits. By the way, The Hitchin’ Post is at exit 4....
Ken and Susan Studer are doing their best to stimulate interest in the town. Ken says, "We’ve got to bring this place back to life."
It’s time for us to leave the Hitchin’ Post, but we’re thankful that Ken and Susan Studer are trying to make a difference by rejuvenating the restaurant in this community. And if life ever throws you for a loop, just remember: It ain’t tennis.
And there’s more. On our next program, we’ll learn about a rodeo family which created a chaps business serving customers coast to coast, so stay hitched to this station.
Roberts Rodeo Farm
Roberts and Rodeo. In the history of the sport of rodeo, those names go together. Not only does this involve four generations of Kansans, the Roberts family created a rodeo-related business which is serving customers worldwide. It’s the second in our rodeo series, and it’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Jim Roberts of Roberts Cowboy Outfitters in Abilene. The Roberts family has a remarkable history in rodeo and rural Kansas, beginning with Jim’s grandfather E.C. Roberts. He ranched near Strong City, Kansas, population 585 people. Now, that’s rural. E.C. Roberts raised rodeo stock beginning in the 1920s and `30s. He had a field where they would break buckin’ horses, and friends and neighbors started coming out to watch. That was the beginning of what is now the Flint Hills Rodeo in Strong City.
Three of E.C. Roberts’ children took up rodeo: Margie, Ken, and Gerald. They were all riding horses as little kids. Margie went on to be famous lady saddle bronc rider and trick rider. Ken and Gerald were examples of those tough, old-time rodeo cowboys. For example, Ken learned to ride bulls and horses with either hand, which came in handy in later years. When he would injure his arm or shoulder, like many rodeo cowboys do, he would simply switch to his good hand and keep winning. Ken Roberts was crowned World Champion Bull Rider in 1943, `44, and `45.
Younger brother Gerald Roberts was also a great rodeo rider. He became the World Champion All Around Cowboy in 1942.
In 1946, his foot was almost torn off in a vicious accident with a bull in Madison Square Garden. The doctor said they would have to amputate but Gerald refused. Another doctor happened to be there who had just returned from doing field surgery in World War II, and he said he thought he could use those techniques to save the foot. He did so, but he told Gerald he might never walk again and certainly wouldn’t rodeo. They didn’t reckon with Gerald Roberts’ determination. He benefitted from a new miracle drug, penicillin, and started to rebuild his leg strength and then to ride. In 1948 - to the doctors amazement - Gerald once again became World Champion All Around Cowboy, the only Kansan to ever accomplish such a feat. If the National Finals Rodeo had been in existence then, Gerald would have qualified an incredible 42 times.
After that, Gerald went to Hollywood for a few years and appeared in westerns as a stuntman for such people as Glenn Ford and Jack Lemmon.
In 1946, the Roberts family went into the stock contracting business, providing livestock for use in rodeos. Gerald designed an innovative bullriding rope which other cowboys wanted to use.
By the 1960s, Gerald Roberts was also designing and making chaps, those leather leggings which cowboys wear, in fancy designs as an award for professional riders. More people wanted those chaps, and in 1964 the Roberts family started their own company to produce and sell them. The company is called Chap-Parel, as in apparel you wear. Chap-Parel produces all kinds of beautiful rodeo and working chaps, plus other goods such as children’s chaps, gear and clothing bags, saddle bags, and more.
Gerald’s son Jim is carrying on the family tradition. In 1969, Jim was the Kansas high school bull riding champion. He later opened up a full line western wear, tack, and rustic furnishings store called Roberts Cowboy Outfitters, now located in Abilene along with his wife’s antique store.
Gerald Roberts was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1990. By December 2004, he was 85 years old. He worked until the day before Christmas and passed away on December 31.
As for Chap-Parel, it is the largest chapmaker in the world and sells chaps to western stores all over the U.S. and even as far away as Germany and Australia. Wow.
Roberts and Rodeo. Those names go together in the history of the sport, and we salute Jim Roberts and all the family for making a difference with a remarkable rodeo record.
We’ll learn about the women’s sport of rodeo on our next program.
The flag drops, and the rodeo contestant dashes across the arena and deftly ropes a calf. Dirt flies as the other team members throw the calf and prepare him for branding. And as the team completes the task in a winning time, a hat falls off one team member, revealing a long blonde head of hair.
Hmm, that doesn’t look like your typical rodeo cowboy. The reason is that this cowboy is a cowgirl.
Today is another in our current series about rodeo. Rodeo has been a male bastion in most of its events, but some pioneering women are now bringing women’s ranch rodeo to life. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Cheryl Bailey-Cutsinger, who shared with me the story of this growing interest in women’s rodeo.
Other than barrel-racing, rodeo has historically been a man’s sport. But as Cheryl says, "The men have been showcased for years, but the women are out working on those ranches too."
Cheryl herself grew up learning those skills on her family’s ranch in the Kansas Flint Hills. Her best friend was a girl named Dustin Peterson who also grew up there. Cheryl and Dustin learned to rope and ride with the best of them.
Cheryl’s father had a ranch rodeo team, which she was helping with by the time she was in the seventh grade. When she and two of her male cousins competed in team penning, Cheryl says, "My grandpa was so proud."
So women were starting to make their mark, but rodeo was still overwhelmingly male. Then some of the women started getting together to see if they could put together some competitive teams of their own.
Cheryl had gotten married and was living near Cottonwood Falls when she got a call from her old friend Dustin Peterson. Dustin said, "Do you want to be part of a women’s ranch rodeo?" Cheryl said, "A what?"
Sure enough, a women’s ranch rodeo was being put together, and Cheryl, Dustin and others joined in. Now the competition is attracting teams from as far away as Missouri and New Mexico. A series of women’s ranch rodeos are being held in various communities during summer and fall.
Recently a women’s ranch rodeo association was organized. The women say they have a great time getting together and demonstrating their skills.
Cheryl’s team included herself from Cottonwood Falls, Dustin who grew up at Saffordville, Deb Hoy from Cassoday, and Jenny Buchman from Alta Vista.
Teams of four cowgirls, plus one in reserve, compete under a particular ranch name for top honors. So, the teams represent ranches with such names as Rafter P, Hinchman Ranch, 7-L, Division Ranch, and Hightop Land and Cattle.
The women compete in such real-life related events as cattle trailer-loading, team penning, calf-branding, team doctoring, ribbon roping, and ranch sorting. Those skills come in handy out on the ranch. Most of these are timed events with clear-cut rules.
Perhaps the growing interest in women’s ranch rodeo might be symbolized by the size of communities in which the competitions are held. Just as this sport originated in rural Kansas, the rodeos are held in places like Cedar Vale, population 709, and Latham, population 162. Now, that’s rural. But the interest has grown so much that the women’s ranch rodeo season culminates with the finals at the American Royal in Kansas City.
That truly spans the gamut from rural Kansas to the big city, and it demonstrates the growing interest in women’s ranch rodeos. These events are fun to watch, and it is truly a friendly competition. Cheryl Bailey-Cutsinger says, "It’s a good time to get together and show the men what we can do. It’s a lot of fun, and everybody’s cheering for everybody else."
It’s time to leave the rodeo arena, where teams of women - not men - have demonstrated outstanding skills in working with cattle. We salute Cheryl Bailey-Cutsinger, Dustin Peterson, and all those women who are making a difference as the modern pioneers of women’s ranch rodeo. Ride `em, cowgirl!
And there’s more. We’ll learn about a rodeo cowboy who put his knowledge to use in business on our next program.
A semi-truck loaded with cattle crashed in a ditch. Fortunately, the driver was okay and so were the cattle. But there was a dilemma. The cattle were trapped inside the truck, which was on its side down in the ditch. How could they get the cattle out to where they needed to go? The solution was to use an innovative and flexible portable corral system which enabled the people to set up panels which guided the cattle to safety. Where did this innovative panel system come from? Rural Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Today, in the final program of our series about rodeo, we’ll meet a rodeo cowboy who put his experience to use in business.
Meet John McDonald, owner and manufacturer of the Rawhide Portable Corral System. John always wanted to be a cowboy. He grew up in Abilene, riding his bike around town wearing cowboy hat and boots. Later he progressed onto horses and became a roughstock rider in the rodeo. He competed while attending Dodge City Community College and then K-State. After graduation, he and his wife Mary went to Fort Collins, Colorado. She worked at Colorado State and he trained horses and rodeoed professionally.
John’s experience led a friend to hire him to help set up equipment at rodeo arenas. John worked for 10 years setting up rodeo equipment in sports arenas all over the United States. He observed what worked well and what didn’t in handling the fencing panels and other cattle handling equipment.
That knowledge paid off. John began tinkering with ways to make a portable system for moving and setting up cattle panels. Meanwhile, he and Mary came back to Kansas. First they moved to a ranch near Bennington, population 627 people. Now, that’s rural. Later on they moved back to Abilene.
In 2002, John built a prototype of an innovative system for moving and setting up cattle panels. It is called the Rawhide Portable Corral system.
This system enables one person to set up a set of panels for gathering cattle in an open pasture. The panels can be set up in only ten minutes with no lifting.
The system consists of hinged 20 foot metal panels that fold over racks on a main frame. The main frame is raised and lowered using a self-contained battery-operated hydraulic cylinder. 16 inch transport wheels are taken off the main frame and the entire unit is then lowered to the ground. The panels each have a eurathane tire and unfold off the racks to the position desired.
The system is extremely flexible. More than 20 different configurations of these panels are possible, and they can handle up to 400 head of cattle. Unlike other systems, this one enables a person to drive a truck through the other end of the pens, which is handy for leading cattle. When the cattle are loaded and the work is done, the panels are again folded up and attached to the wheels for the drive home.
The convenience and flexibility of these products are very appealing. John has shipped them all over the midwest and as far away as Washington state and Florida. Wow.
The company’s website is www.rawhideportablecorral.com.
These panels can be adjusted to fit rugged and uneven terrain, which can come in very handy. As I said at the beginning, this system was even used when a semitruck of cattle crashed in a ditch in western Kansas. The driver and the cattle were okay, but the cattle were trapped in the truck which was on its side down in the ditch. The man who bought this system from John was able to adjust the panels to fit the terrain, cut open the top of the truck, and then drive the cattle to safety.
It’s time to leave the crash site where the Rawhide Portable Corral system was used to drive these cattle. It demonstrates the flexibility of this system, which is being recognized by customers across the country. We salute John and Mary McDonald for making a difference with innovation and entrepreneurship. To paraphrase the old cowboy saying: Have corral, will travel.
Let’s go to Iraq, to an American serviceman deployed from the United States. The holidays must seem kind of bleak when you’re that far from home. A package has arrived for this serviceman from the U.S. He finds that package is filled with treats, including some wonderful fudge candy produced in rural Kansas. We’ll learn about the source of this fudge on a special Holiday edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Ed and Margaret Berger of Mom and I’s Candy, which produced this wonderful fudge.
Ed Berger was born at Horton. Margaret came from nearby Everest in Brown County in northeast Kansas. They were married in 1973 and after four years in the Air Force, came back to Everest where they are living now. Ed is an RN at the Veteran’s Hospital in Leavenworth.
Margaret and her mother had a tradition during the holidays: Making candy. They made lots of fudge and other candy to give away as Christmas gifts. Friends would say, "This is so good, you ought to sell it," but Margaret and her mother just passed it off as a compliment.
Ed started taking some candy to the hospital where he works, and the women there really wanted to buy some. In 1997, the Bergers bought the grocery store in Everest. They added a gift shop and deli and started making and selling the candy in the store. The candy business started to take off but the Bergers were too busy to run the store as well, so they finally sold the store and continued to produce and sell candy.
In spring 2005, the Bergers formally organized Mom and I’s Candy LLC. Ed says, "We thought we’d be happy if the candy kept us busy for eight months out of the year, but now Margaret is working full-time year-round."
In fact, the business began with the name Mom and I meaning Margaret and her mother. As business as boomed, it has turned into Margaret plus many other family members. Margaret’s mom still helps at age 82, but son, daughter, son-in-law, niece and both fathers are also involved.
Mom and I’s Candy offers 25 different products plus lots of additional flavors. For example, there are 15 flavors of fudge. This includes such types as hot fudge, turtle, german chocolate, peanut butter, rocky road, maple walnut, and vanilla pecan. Is your mouth watering yet?
There are coconut bonbons, almond, cashew, pecan and peanut clusters, cherry chocolate cups, toffee, and more. There are more unusual treats such as tater turtles, which are potato sticks with caramel bits and chocolate, and pretzel rods covered with caramel, rolled in pecans, and drizzled with chocolate. Okay, now my mouth is watering.
But there’s more. There are fudge pops, fudge-filled cookie cutters, sugar free alternatives, and sampler packages.
Then there is the Sweet Dreams line, which includes candies made from Kansas wheat. These include marshmallow, rice crispies, and white chocolate plus a yogurt and wheat nut cluster.
One hot seller - no pun intended - is the spoon lovin’ fudge which comes in a small jar with a little spoon to make it easy for eating. This fudge can be eaten as is or heated in a microwave to make a sauce or stir into coffee. There are 18 flavors, including amaretto, cappucino, irish cream, black forest, chocolate mint, cookie dough, praline pecan, caramel apple, and candy cane. In 2004, Mom and I’s Candy produced nearly 40,000 of these chocolate-filled jars. Wow.
Mom and I’s does special orders of candy for weddings, parties, and special events. They’ve shipped candy from California to Portland, Maine, plus being included in the Treats for Troops packages which I mentioned at the beginning. Mom and I’s Candy can be reached at 785-548-7550.
It’s time to bid farewell to this American serviceman in Iraq, who is enjoying wonderful fudge which was made back in Everest, Kansas, population 311 people. Now, that’s rural. We salute Ed and Margaret Berger and family for making a difference with their creativity and culinary talent. And let’s remember all of our servicemen and women during the holiday season.
Let’s catch the stage! An old time western stagecoach is coming down the road, and we want to catch it. We used to be able to catch the stage at Old Abilene Town. Now a group of visionary leaders is seeking to revitalize this historic representation of the old west. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Garry Adam, co-founder and executive director of Historic Abilene Inc. Abilene certainly has history. During the 1870s, millions of cattle were driven up the trail with Abilene as their destination. It became the first cowtown of America and the wildest and wickedest town in the west.
In 1958, Old Abilene Town was established when buildings were put up to recreate the look of Abilene in those early days, with a saloon, blacksmith shop, and so forth. There were shops and attractions for kids, as well as actual historic buildings dating back to the 1850s.
My parents took me to Old Abilene Town when I was a kid, and it was great. We had a blast. But ownership changed, and by the year 2000, the Old Abilene Town buildings were becoming rundown.
Then Terry Tietjens, an Abilene entrepreneur, and Garry Adam formed Historic Abilene Inc., a 501-c-3 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Abilene’s western heritage. Garry says, "Our chief goal has always been not only to preserve the brick and mortar of the 1870's, but to revive and revisit the American legacy of Kansas cowboy history here at the end of the famed Chisholm Trail." The non-profit is governed by a Board of Directors; leaders from all over Kansas who are passionate about reviving Abilene’s past and creating an economically sound future for the region.
Impressive plans have been developed for an Old Abilene Town Redevelopment Project. A 16 million dollar capital campaign has already begun in partnership with the Abilene Community Foundation and generous support from donors in Florida, Oklahoma, Utah, Nebraska, and all across Kansas. The campaign co-chairs are two great Kansans, Bob Dole and the emmy-award winning broadcaster, Bill Kurtis.
Old Abilene Town will be expanded from its current six acres to approximately 20 acres, including an 1870s theme park and related facilities.
The Old Abilene Town park site would have more than 50 storefronts and site features in three different districts. One is Old Abilene Town itself, with a city hall, drugstore, saloons, hotel, newspaper office, train depot, and more. Second is Old Abilene Country, with a barnyard setting housing longhorn cattle and horses, haylofts, windmills, and a performance arena. The third district is Old Abilene Heritage, which will showcase the existing historic structures. These include log cabins, the J.G. McCoy home, a schoolhouse, and a church and cemetery. These are genuine historic buildings, such as the Hickok Cabin which dates back to 1871, and the T. C. Henry Barn, built in 1873 and named for Abilene’s first mayor.
Plans call for creative ideas to provide family entertainment. There could be cattle drives, stagecoach rides, gunfights, stuntman shows, and live demonstrations by such craftsmen as wagon wheelwrights, candlemakers, and blacksmiths, plus amusement rides for kids. The new park could open in summer 2007.
This project will provide an estimated six million dollar economic development boost and an international draw for tourism in Kansas. Garry says, "We are striving to develop a destination place here on I-70." It is estimated that the new park could draw more than 200,000 visitors a year to the rural community of Abilene, population 6,468 people. Now, that’s rural.
It’s exciting to think Abilene can once again become the destination for millions - not longhorn cattle, but people with an interest in old west history and family fun.
You too can catch the stage! The Old Abilene Town Redevelopment Project needs your support. Contact Historic Abilene at 785-263-0868. We’ll be able to catch a stage in Old Abilene Town when the efforts of this visionary group come to fruition. We salute Garry Adam, Terry Tietjens, and all those who are making a difference by building on our heritage of the American west. It will be exciting to see this project advance to the next stage.
A family newspaper. That term probably makes us think of a publication with content that is appropriate for all ages. Today, we’ll meet a young man who produces family newspapers, but more than that, he comes from a true newspaper family. In fact, this family can claim five generations in the Kansas newspaper business. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Meet Andy Taylor, Editor of the Montgomery County Chronicle in Caney, Kansas. Andy and his sister Jennifer Dively are the fifth generation of the family to be involved in newspapers.
Our story begins in the mid-1880s, when Andy and Jennifer’s great-great-grandfather started a newspaper in southeast Kansas. This man was a farmer and a member of the Greenback Party. Apparently the newspaper was founded to promote the political aims of the party. In the tradition of the great newspaper names of those times, it was called the People’s Vindicator. Andy says with a laugh, "It sounds kind of sinister, doesn’t it?" I thought it sounded like an old-time superhero.
The People’s Vindicator is no longer published, but subsequent generations of the family would be involved with the newspaper and printing business. In fact, Andy says they were primarily printers in those early days.
They owned newspapers at Altamount and Mound Valley at various times during those years. In 1943, the family bought the Caney Chronicle and moved to Caney.
Andy’s grandfather was Skeet George, who was quite a pioneer himself. His newspaper was one of the first to advance to the new technology of offset printing.
That lead to Mr. George becoming a founder of the Kansas Offset Printing Company which is still active today. If your newspaper comes with a bunch of inserted ads on Sunday, for example, it probably includes an ad supplement that was produced by the Kansas Offset Printing Company.
Mr. George had three daughters and a son. Daughter Kathy married Rudy Taylor and followed Mr. George into the newspaper business. Now Rudy and Kathy’s son Andy is editor of the Chronicle and daughter Jennifer helps with billing and marketing, making them the fifth generation in the business.
The Taylor family has purchased other community newspapers in their rural area of southeast Kansas. Ironically, this includes some papers which their ancestors had been involved with years ago, including some more great newspaper names.
Today, the Taylor newspaper family, as it is called, includes such newspapers as the previously mentioned Montgomery County Chronicle, the Sedan Times-Star, the Oswego Independent, the Altamont Journal, the Chetopa Advance, the Flint Hills Express at Howard, and the Edna Sun. Edna is a town of 418 people. Now, that’s rural.
What a wonderful thing that these small communities still have a newspaper. These are truly family newspapers with local content. They are almost literally mom and pop operations.
Gloria Freeland, Director of the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media, cites the Taylors as excellent examples of community journalists.
Andy Taylor says, "A town still needs a news voice. We’re not a booster, but we can help get people together and spur them to action."
Andy says, "We want to be a 100 percent locally produced newspaper. We cover our small towns, neighbors, friends, churches, and all the things that make our communities tick. That means going to schools and lots of meetings. When I went to Cherryvale to take pictures of kids with Santa, three or four people gave me news tips."
Of course, these papers have changed with time. They have adopted the technology of computer pagination, digital photography and so forth, while maintaining a commitment to community. CNN and Fox may be covering the international news, but Andy says his biggest response comes from columns like the one he wrote about the pumpkin pie at the church supper.
Andy says, "We don’t have a staff, we have a family."
A family newspaper. That’s what you’ll find from the Taylor family and their family of newspapers in southeast Kansas. We salute Andy, Jennifer, Rudy, and Kathy Taylor plus the previous generations of the George family for making a difference in community journalism. I’m sure it makes those previous generations proud.