Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kansas 150 - The Kickoff!

Friday Morning, January 28th ~
On the Steps of the Capitol Building

This celebration of Kansas statehood was far more subdued than that first one 150 years ago. Although times are difficult, life in Kansas is far easier than on that turbulent day in 1861 when James Buchanan scratched his name on a document making Kansas a state. A state free of slavery. The bloody battles previously limited to the border between Missouri and Kansas Territory would soon engulf the entire nation.  

I imagine the first statehood celebration to have been a wild, raucous affair, - shouting in the streets, guns fired into the air, lusty singing, and perhaps a jug or two of whiskey - in stark contrast to this day.  Kansas Day 2011 is a day for the politicians and dignitaries. A day for pomp and ceremony - marches by a military band, a 19-gun salute, and as one wag in period costume snorted, "much speechifyin'". The rest of the year is set aside for the grassroots celebrations, the peoples' parties. From here on out, it will be town bands in  gazebos, fiddles and banjos in the park, and barbershop quartets in the civic auditoriums. I'm looking forward to this year's rodeos, parades, tractor pulls and watermelon feeds with gusto. Let the festivities commence!

Eugene Williams, general manager of KTWU, the public television station in Topeka, served as Master of Ceremonies.

The colors were posted by the Wa-Ta-Se American Legion Post of Mayetta, Kansas, located near the reservation of the Potawatomi Nation.

Governor Sam Brownback. He reminded those present of the difficult times of the past 150 years, how the struggles of our ancestral settlers were overcome by their strength, courage and steadfastness - traits we will need to show as we wrestle with our own difficult times.

Dr. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Poet Laureate of Kansas, read Celebrate This Kansas depicting what it means to “live where the earth and stars converge.” Read the poem in its entirety at:

The highlight? Easy. Rep. Barbara Ballard led those assembled in a singing of our state song, Home on the Range, accompanied by the 35th Infantry Division Band, followed by Ruffles and Flourishes* and the firing of a 19-gun salute. I believe the Ruffles and (two) Flourishes was played because there was a two-star general in attendance, but why 19 guns? If any of my readers know the answer to that question, I'd like to hear from them. My understanding is that 19 is usually reserved for vice-presidents, five star generals, cabinet members, and the like. 

A video of the singing:

Governor Brownback spoke at some length with a number of the seventh grade students from a Topeka middle school who were in attendance. He appeared to be genuinely enjoying himself.

Friday Afternoon ~
At the Kansas Museum of History

Kansas 150 - the sesquicentennial - promises to be a busy year for the state's history museum. A special exhibit, 150 Things I Love About Kansas, is on display through the end of the year. I went to the museum to view the exhibit, but seeing the numbers of school children visiting that day, and the activities planned for them, decided it might be more fun to watch that, as I could came back another day for the "150 Things" showing.

Dorothy and her friends from that wonderful world over the rainbow were there, and the youngsters loved it!

This witch doesn't look so wicked to me, and these little cuties are anything but frightened.

From the 150 Things I Love exhibit, a display dedicated to - wheat of course!

Movie posters from an earlier time - advertising the horse operas of my childhood and before.

These children are learning about quilt making. I wondered how many of them had even seen a sewing machine before.

Still lookin' for a brain, scarecrow?

A classy and handsome couple show off the finery of another era:

Saturday Morning ~
At the Shawnee Indian Mission, Fairway

It was January 29 - Kansas Day. There was a granddaughter's birthday party at noon and a KU-K-State basketball game to be viewed at six. But that still left time to visit this important state historical site in the morning.

Operated by the Methodist Episcopal Church, this mission gave manual training and schooling to Indian children, mostly Shawnees and Delawares, from 1839 to 1862. The building also served briefly as a state capitol, as claimed by one pro-slavery contingent intent on founding a state government.

A pro-slavery group known as the Bogus Legislature drafted a constitution** (The Bogus Constitution) here. The document was based on that of Missouri, the state from which most of them had immigrated. The room pictured below now houses historic artifacts, but was the site of the penning of the constitution.

Those of us assembled listened to the (controversial) Reverend Thomas Johnson, who served for many years as the leader of this mission, and for whom Johnson County is named, and his wife Sarah.

They spoke as if today were January 29, 1861, and they had just learned that President James Buchanan had signed the bill granting statehood to the Free State of Kansas. We heard Sarah talk of their years on the frontier, teaching life skills (white man's life skills, that is) to Indian youngsters, and of the difficulties of surviva in this unsettled land.

When the Reverend Johnson arrived, the talk became more political and more passionate, as we learned of his role in the Bogus Legislature, of his own pro-slavery leanings, that he himself owned slaves. [For many years I have wondered why the county in which I live is named for a member of the pro-slavery faction who seemed to hold Indians in low regard. I now know, but still find it regrettable that we honor this man in such a way.]

Skilled reenactors George and Diane Bernheimer portrayed the Johnsons. The previous day, I had seen them appearing at the statehouse ceremony in roles as Kansas first governor and wife, Charles and Sara Robinson.

Birthday celebrations call for birthday cake and punch. Anita Faddis, Site Administrator at the Shawnee Indian Mission, cut the cake.


*     Ruffles and flourishes: something I remembered from my four-plus years as a musician in the Air Force; a    set of brief fanfares for people of rank. For instance, the President of the United States receives four ruffles and flourishes prior to the playing of Hail to the Chief.

**   It is my understanding that four different factions set up provisional governments, complete with a constitution, prior to Kansas' entry into the Union. In addition to the Bogus Constitution mentioned here, those were at Lecompton (pro-slavery), Lawrence (abolitionist), and Wyandot (abolitionist). The Wyandot version became the state's official constitution.

Helpful  Related Links:

Sesquicentennial Events (an exhaustive listing):
Kansas Museum of History:

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Difficult January Journey

A Little Family History, 
Some Random Thoughts and
Observations While Traveling

Some Background: Nancy's parents have not always been Kansans. They hail from Beaver County in the Oklahoma panhandle - what was once known as "No Man's Land." The government had offered the unwanted territory to the Indians who likewise had no use for it. It was eventually settled by a few hardy risk-takers, including the Glidewell and Staker families. Fred and Edith, Nancy's parents, later moved to California where Fred was a highly-skilled welder in the ship yards. In the late 40s they returned to the family homestead in Beaver County, followed by a move to Seward County, Kansas, in the mid 50s, where Fred farmed near Kismet, and Edith taught elementary school. As an "almost senior" adult, she had earned her degree at Fort Hays State and was able to land a position at the little school in Kismet.  They have lived in Kansas since that time.

Now well into their 90s, Fred 98 and Edith 93, they have been residing in a senior center in Sharon Springs. However, the time has come when they must be moved closer to the home of the their son in the Oklahoma City area, a move complicated by Fred's hospitalization and Edith's dementia. It is a trying trip for all of us assembled in Wallace County to make the arrangements for the move, to divide and dispose of belongings, and to say farewell to those in Sharon Springs who have treated them with such love and respect through the years.

Following is collection of observances and thoughts as we make this particular journey through Kansas.


I had planned to do some reading as we drove across the state from one end to the other, but as usually happens, I became mesmerized by the passing countryside instead. How many times have we made this trip? How many times, and at how many places, have we promised ourselves to get off at "that particular exit" and visit "that particular site" without ever doing so? Like everybody else it seems, we are always, always rushing across I-70, in a hurry to reach our destination. Retired? No matter, we're still in a hurry.

Now it seems that these unvisited places - the Chrysler home at Ellis comes to mind - will be seen only by choice and planning, not on a whim.


Walker: We have frequently left the interstate to view the "Cathedral of the Plains," more properly identified as St. Fidelis Church in Victoria. On this Sunday morning, we instead exited at Walker to check out the stately church we had seen from the highway. Services are not scheduled for Sunday morning, so we were not able to gain entrance, so walked around and took a couple of photos. St. Anne's, like the larger church in nearby Victoria, was built by the German - Russian immigrants who settled the area. The cornerstone was laid in 1904.

[One of my goals for the year is to return to the area in order to photograph and write about the beautiful churches of Ellis County and vicinity.]

There is little left of Walker, Kansas, but for several years during World War II it was a vibrant community, home to Walker Army Airfield where the Army's Second Air Force trained bomber crews.* After the war, the base with its three 8,800 feet runways was abandoned. It is reported that these runways, ramps, and streets are still intact, though crumbling, because the costs of digging up and disposing of those concrete structures would have been prohibitive.

View from the Motel: We stayed in an inexpensive motel in spite of the available free lodging so I could have access to wi-fi. Below is a view of the surrounding countryside, taken from the east end of the motel while experimenting with the effects of different filters (neutral density and polarizing) on snow scenes. Viewing that snow-covered landscape the day before had inspired a reference to Siberia on my facebook page, a comment which did not sit well with my sister-in-law who has lived in and loved this community for many years. No question about it, this is a nice town with wonderful people. I was considering only the landscape and the harsh conditions at that moment. Here is that view. I rest my case.**


The Diner: Totally bundled against the blast of Canadian air, I slogged crossed the highway to Stephens, one of the two local diners, for a late breakfast, supposing all the "usual suspects" would be in their usual booths, drinking coffee and giving the good-natured waitress a hard time. Not the case today. Apparently -7 degrees keeps even these hardy fellows at home. Those few who were there laughingly ribbed me about my parka, stocking cap, etc. "Whatsa matter, you cold?" Only good natured and friendly folk will jab a stranger like that, so I felt very much at home. 

After downing (just barely) a short stack - two of the lightest, fluffiest pancakes imaginable, plus a side of sausage, I studied the cafe bulletin board. A death notice, an announcement of a baby shower to be held here at the diner, business cards for farriers, custom cutting crews, estate sales. Not one hint of yoga or nutrition classes, pyramidal schemes, rock concerts, or  environmental rallies. I'm not in Johnson County.


Monday afternoon, we drove Nancy's mother to Tribune to visit Fred at the hospital. It was touching to see them reunited after the days apart. Even though cruelly stricken with dementia, Edith recognizes her partner of 72 years... Back in the car, I spent my time reading, but looked up when Nancy commented on the birds flying across the highway. "They're pheasants, dear." I replied. ... No pheasant seen while headed back north, just a small herd of white-tailed deer. 


North of Tribune I again noticed a sign seen on previous trips along this lonely stretch of highway: "White Woman Creek." Curious about the naming of that dry creek bed, I researched the subject online and learned of two accounts, variations on the same theme. Each legend involves an Indian attack on a small traveling party. The version more often quoted tells of a white woman being kidnapped, then making an escape with a stolen rope. With that rope she hanged herself to avoid the anticipated torture. The second, more "romantic" version tells of the white woman escaping, then perishing on the wide open prairie where her spirit my still be seen wandering the creek valley at night.

If you wish to learn more about these legends, here is a good place to start:


This is not related to our just-finished road trip, but worthy of mention. The Kansas Historical Society has introduced, just in time for the state's sesquicentennial, a new webpage which is going to be a great resource as well as an interesting read. I'm loving the panel of rotating photos from the archives. Check it out at:


* In the early sixties, I spent some time in Russell, a few miles east of Walker. North of Russell, dug into a rugged bank of the Saline River, is a cave which was said to be dug by German spies during WWII. Walker AFB, though distant, could be seen from these caves. It was further told that local residents of German descent, many of whom were still speaking German in the 60s, provided food and other supplies for these spies. That's the story, anyway. According to an on-line article at, the cave had been dug long beforehand by a local electrician. Nowhere in the article, however, is a statement that the cave(s) were not used by German spies. I wonder. [cave photo from]

** To be fair, I think many of us may not have a totally accurate picture of Siberia in our minds, or of western Kansas. If you have viewed some of the amazing photos of Boyd Norton or recent videos on the National Geographic Channel, you might be surprised to learn there is far more to Siberia than our stereotyped view of a totally flat wasteland fit only for the condemned . Western Kansas - Ditto!