Posts tagged with Citizen Journalism Academy

Morning Glory Love/Hate Relationship

We watched the sun rise from our east deck this morning. What a gentle, inspiring beginning to a day. In front of us, a Morning Glory vine was also welcoming the day with these bright blue flowers. It was beautiful.

But then, our eyes backed off from the individual flowers and focused on the total scene

A week ago, we moved the two chairs out to the edge of the deck to make room for grilling. Then we camped at Clinton for a couple days. In that short time, this is the result. The vines are invasive and probably deadly to some plants they choose as hosts. Last night I cut Morning Glory vines out of our grapes. They had wrapped themselves around stems and leaves.

One thing about this plant, it is resilient. And, at times beautiful. That can’t be all bad


Making an Explanation Point

Write the excitement. That was the message in a book purchased nearly six years ago when I started blogging. I wanted to brush up on basic grammar and writing skills. Much to my dismay, it discouraged the overuse of explanation points. I have a habit of using the little mark and the book made it seem rude and crude.

I can't help myself, though. I type, “See you soon” and it just feels like dread whereas if I write, “See you soon!,” it means something. Or, Thank you vs Thank you! The ultimate, “OMG” vs OMG!!!--because if one is good, three ought to be better. I automatically know right where it is on my keyboard and I don't care if I am committing a punctuation sin.

Then, I came across an article referring to David Shipley and Will Schwalbe's “The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home.” They endorse explanation points. Hallelujah!

According to an article for Slate online magazine, “So Many Exclamation Points!” by Jacob Rubin, part of the reason for modern acceptance of explanation points is the opposite of my years of typed letters always with carbon copies. So much of what we say now is not intended to be permanent. We email and text messages that just a few years ago would have been vocal rather than written. Or not even communicated at all. For example, when I say, “Nice pics!” as a comment on Facebook or “Looking forward to seeing you!!” to an email about a friend stopping by says exactly what I want to say without a wordy paragraph that most don't want to take time to read and will only be deleted.

Still, the fact that we (or I) depend so heavily on a little mark to communicate excitement, love or joy is rather sad. Because even with the poorly constructed sentences in my past letters, there were few explanation points. Parents, family, friends and even my husband-to-be 44 years ago would want more than a couple words and a tiny mark to communicate feelings in the letters I sent.

Don't get me wrong, I think modern communication is wonderful. It many ways, we communicate more now than ever. Blogs, Facebook Twitter. Who isn't to say getting a message saying, I Love You! isn't as good as a two page letter trying to say the same thing. Well, a love letter, maybe....


Next Winter Memories Some summer days are good enough for a next winter memory. Monday was such a day.

Six months from now the Holidays are over with family and friends hunkered down., not venturing out because of snow or ice or cold wind.

I will be contemplating summer, thinking about this day. Here’s why.

Warm, not hot. A little humid but a beautiful day with a slight northerly breeze. A perfect summer day in my book.

A windows-down-car-driving day.

7:45 pm and sun is still only thinking about setting.

Walk out any door and see a flower bloom with possible butterflies or honey bees hanging around

Ditto hummingbirds at the window feeder.

Thinking Barn Swallow poop on vehicles beats ice any day

And, the number one reason I’ll be thinking about this day six months from now:

Fresh green beans and corn on the cob picked within the hour together with two ripe red tomatoes for our evening meal.


Hybrid Bluegrass

Bluegrass with a bit of soul.

Our evening listening to Stephanie Bettman with Luke Halpin at the Lawrence Public Library Monday, June 21, 2010, transcended descriptive labels of their type of music. It was about two musicians with amazing individual talent, combined to perfection. It was about original songs with both tender and upbeat lyrics. And, finally it was about Stephanie and Luke as they bantered between each other and those of us gathered in the library auditorium.

Stephanie began their concert on a positive note by admitting despite wind, hail and heat, they love Kansas, especially the friendly people. That is from a native Californian. Perhaps their love for the region shows in their song list which contains traditional Midwest values in the lyrics. “Stiff Upper Lip.” “It All Comes Back to Love” with the words, “But the seeds of love are planted, and I know they will grow.” Songs performed last night and on their latest CD, “Beautiful Place” and “After the Storm” spoke to more than city lights and urban noise.

Also noteworthy, I feel it displays talent and confidence in playing and singing ability to not overload the audience with loud sound.. What a treat to quietly hear the ending mandolin chord.

Check Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin web site as well as their Facebook page. There are links to songs and appearance dates. Perhaps they will be near a vacation destination and would definitely be worth a stop. They are a part of a new trend in Home Concerts and as independent musicians, they are open for bookings.

Maria Butler of the Lawrence Public Library once again landed an excellent program often heard on a much larger stage. Check the Events Calendar on their web site for future similar bookings. I have never been disappointed.


Ghost Rider on the Range

It was a dark and stormy night...

Snoopy, right? Only, this time it is a dark and stormy night when we drive out of the parking lot at the 2010 Symphony in the Flint Hills—rain, lightening, a real Kansas storm. How did the day end this way? It wasn't planned. Here's the story...

The planners of the day provide entertainment after the concert. There is a cowboy band and dancing, star gazing through telescopes and, our choice, a Story Circle. All of which are activities encouraging people to not all leave for the parking lot at once.

Annie Wilson, Jeff Davidson and Geff Dawson are on hand to sing as well as tell stories and poems in the Story Circle. They never light the fire, so it is dark when Geff Dawson tells the perfect campfire story. It seems a bolt of lightening kills a cowboy while he is working cattle on his ranch. He loves the prairie so much that he strikes a deal which allows him to forever remain in his beloved hills. Many see him on his horse during flashes of lightening in the mist of thunderstorms. A ghost rider on the range.

No sooner is the story complete than this announcement, “Due to storms moving in, everyone is urged to go to their vehicle.” Even though “severe” is not mentioned, many perceive the message as an emergency. We all take off in force. The parking lot is a gridlock. Since we drove our pickup pop up camper with the intention of staying in Cottonwood Falls after the concert, getting in the back and killing a little time with food and drink seems like a good idea. Well, maybe we'll just lean back and rest while the lot clears out.

Waking with a start, I check my watch. It is 2:30 am. The huge parking lot is dark and deserted. Every car gone and lights turned off. Worst of all, it is raining, with wind and...lightening! I admit I am a bit scared. Perhaps it is the story. Quickly the top is down. The rain is making the grass slippery, we need the four-wheel drive. The cowboy ghost opens the gate for us, I know it is him.

Eight miles on gravel and then north to the overlook along Hwy 177. By then, the storm has blown itself out. We stop for the rest of the night.

Finally waking around 9:30 am, I throw open the door and there I am, looking eye to eye with yearling heifers in a row with noses touching the fence. They look like they are thinking, “This is a strange truck and why are there no cubes for us.”

After a hearty breakfast, we travel back to Bazaar and take a backroad alternative route to Cottonwood Falls then home.

The Symphony day was perfect in every respect. However, when I think back to highlights, I might most remember the cowboy ghost who holds back the rain until the day is over and then taps our shoulder to get out of his prairie.

All but the parking lot picture were taken between Bazaar and Emporia, Kansas, on Sunday June 13th.


Symphony in the Flint Hills— A Kansas weekend Over 6,000 in attendance at the Fifth Anniversary of the Symphony in the Flint Hills on Saturday, June 12, 2010, were cheering right from the beginning. The first standing ovation was to Governor Mark Parkinson who loves Kansas and Kansans.

In a departure from the usual formal greeting, Governor Parkinson enthusiastically extolled State of Kansas as beautiful, productive and passionate. It's universities take second place to no others. The farmers and ranchers who take care of its fertile soils are the Nation's best. We may not have mountains, but we have majestic rolling green hills of grass such as those surrounding us.

Whether stung by the recent events surrounding university sports or caught up in the atmosphere didn't matter. It was a rousing welcome to an even more rousing concert, the beauty of which put an explanation mark to the day and evening. As the 2010 Symphony Field Journal States, “...we all come to greet our acknowledge how fortunate we are to be alive in our take our place in the midst of beauty.” Beauty of land and music. A perfect marriage.

My intention to Tweet the Symphony meant writing about a day involving all my senses in less than 140 characters at a time. It was challenging and not too embarrassing--other than misspelling “Phog.” (A lady who sat beside me riding to the site worked with Mr. Allen while attending KU). My first entry sitting on a bale overlooking the concert area, “other than far off electric poles, all in sight is green hills” pretty much describes the openness of this year's site. My last post, “no sunset, yet dusk settled over the hills like a soft blanket” did cover the beauty of the day and how the low hanging clouds seemed to drop in over the hills. Typical of me, there were food (smoked pork), beverage and weather tweets. And one about Johnnie and his line.

No tweeting during the concert, but I did wonder to myself who would have thought Lyle Lovett and the Kansas City Symphony would blend so beautifully. The Orange Blossom Special violin solo by Marvin Gruenbaum certainly had mass toe tapping appeal. And, even untrained listeners like me get the musical symbolism in "Buckaroo Holiday" from Rodeo by Copland

The fun, excitement and adventure did not end with the last note of the concert though. Click here to read about Cowboy music, poems and a middle of the night escape.


John Brown, Black Jack and the Border War

Birds chirping, butterflies flitting about with a slight breeze rustling the tall grass. You would think the terrain, with its ditches and ravines, and morning atmosphere is June 2, 1856, when John Brown, anti-slavery opponent, is set to lead his militia against a pro slavery force from Missouri.

Actually, it is Saturday, June 5, 2010 and men from Kansas and Missouri dressed in period costumes are set to recreate the Battle of Black Jack at its original location east of Baldwin on Hwy 56.

Obviously, the authenticity of the day was a priority. The booths were selling period items and the people selling them dressed in appropriate attire. The blacksmith was using equipment of that time. Ladies were hand piecing quilts in addition to a basket and broom maker selling their wares. All the while, soldiers were milling around the area as if preparing for a confrontation.

Soon the guns start firing.

John Brown, set apart from the others dressed in what appeared to be preacher attire, carried his gun as if daring a man to disagree with his antislavery stand. His militia looked to be farmers gathered from the area.

The Missouri contingent, dressed similarly was led by Capt. H. C. Pate, commander of a company of sharp shooters looking for John Brown.

There was a lot of shooting, yelling, groups of armed men advancing then dropping back. It appeared several were wounded. Finally, the Missourians waved the white flag and with plenty of guns aimed at each other, talks began with Pate eventually, seeing he was outnumbered, surrendering. Check here for a written account of the battle.

After the battle, I walked to both encampments. John Brown's men were traveling light. They gathered down a ravine for bread, cheese, apples and water. The Missourians had tents but ate similar food. The pro slavery bunch was ready to talk. It took them a while to load up their pipes and settle back. It seems there was bad blood on both sides. The skirmishes back and forth between the Kansas territory and Missouri during the early days of the Civil War were small but bloody, likened to gang wars of today. Missourians came into Lawrence and burned the hotel and newspaper office including the printing press, but killing no one—that time. John Brown had blood on his hands with his alleged involvement with executing five proslavery men at Pottawatomie Creek.

Truthfully, as I stood off to the side listening and watching, I somehow felt, even yet, some tension between the visiting Missouri bushwhackers who stalked like tigers and the group gathered listening with their Jayhawk caps and shirts.


Roadtrip Alert! Kansas Frontier Military Scenic Byway

Parents of a close friend no longer take long vacations. Instead, they leave early in the morning and drive a loop, returning home in the evening, always in Kansas. I thought of them when we turned out of our driveway at 8:00 am recently. Our destination is Riverton, Kansas, about as far as the Kansas Frontier Military Scenic Byway will take us before entering Oklahoma. We have an appointment to pick up a hay trailer and we need to move along with few stops to get back by late afternoon.

At Globe we turn east on Hwy 56, also a historic route that roughly follows the Santa Fe trail. We briefly stop at the site of John Brown's Black Jack Battlefield near Baldwin City. A battlefield reenactment will take place there on June 5th. We'll be there. I am sure excitement will ensue for me to report.

To connect with KS Hwy 68 which will take us east to the Scenic Byway, we travel south through Wellsville, population 1,600. Although born in Kansas City, Chely Wright, award winning country artist, calls this small burg her hometown. We know because there is a sign and a street named for her. It is good they continue to be proud and supportive of their talented native.

Now on Hwy 68, we pass the Somerset Ridge Winery. Free tasting. Welcome. We seldom pass one of these signs without stopping. We will come back to try Kansas Buffalo Red and Aphrodite among many others.

Next is the Louisburg Cider Mill and their delicious cider and cider doughnuts. No way will we go by without stopping here.

The Kansas Scenic Hwy 69 runs north and south along the east side of the state. It follows the route used by the military to transport troops and supplies to forts. This route was more than a supply transportation route. Before Kansas became a state, it was Indian territory and the military outposts and trail were used to keep outsiders from encroaching the Indian Nation land. When Kansas opened up for settlement, the route served as a battle line between the slave state of Missouri and the free state of Kansas. The largest cavalry battle in the Civil War and the only major battle fought in Kansas was at The Mine Creek Battlefield in 1864.

We have previously visited both the Mine Creek Battlefield site, museum and Fort Scott, both right along Hwy 69. Very interesting and highly recommended. Be sure and take the tour and hear the Ranger's talk at Fort Scott’s beautifully renovated post.

Just north of Pittsburg is Frontenac. It is there we see signs announcing chicken restaurants ahead. Chicken Annie and Chicken Mary, two somewhat famous fried chicken restaurants, in the area. Some would say if you want good fried chicken, either of these two is the place to go.

Don't miss the new rest stop at the Junction of 69 and Hwy 52. It has an educational exhibit inside and a walking trail outside with informative markers. Just south of the rest stop on an access road is historical town of Trading Post.

We pass a sign that informs us Big Brutus is only 13 miles west. I really do want to see this huge mining implement. But not this time as our trailer is only a few miles on down the road and we have to pull it home.

Unbelievable for us to have passed all these tempting stops and still arrive on time at Riverton. The trailer is the type which “dumps” big round bales off the side. According to the impliment dealer there, the father of the current owner of the manufacturing plant in this very small, unincorporated community in the extreme southeast corner of Kansas was the first to build this popular type of trailer. We hook on and start back the way we came.

Wine, Apple Cider, Civil War reenactments, and an oversized back hoe. An interesting side of Kansas we'll visit again.


Lawrence Public Library Best of the West Book Discussions

Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig is second of the Lawrence Public Library Best of the West four-part book discussion series. The last page turned only yesterday after spending two nights reading until 1:00 am. I am not ready to let go of the story and am glad the discussion is this Thursday evening, April 15.

The book discussion series is considering classics of Western genre writing. The group's first book, The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, was also a compelling read as was the discussion led by Joyce Thierer, Professor at Emporia State University and Flint Hills land owner. The discussion Thursday will be led by Marilyn Klaus, Kansas University.

Dancing at the Rascal Fair is the story of two Scottish friends who immigrate to America in the 1880s and end up in northern Montana Two Medicine country as sheep ranchers. Sheep and the surrounding mountain range are constant story lines throughout . The writing is poetic, beautifully descriptive. So much so that I know if I traveled to the area of Montana where this book is set, I would recognize it immediately.

The book is more than that, though. The first quarter of the book we are on the ship as it crosses the Atlantic and on the trip across the United States—true insights into millions of similar immigrant stories. The narrative is set later than most, and the author somewhat addresses the land settlement from the native Blackfoot tribe's perspective. Other side stories are the setting aside land for the “Yew Ess Forest Service,” the flu epidemic of 1918 and World War I.

Ultimately, though, the book is about two stubborn men who find early love, eventually marry, have children and with the help and friendship of neighbors, their lives intertwine. I will say, the story does not go where I thought it might. But, in that, it is compelling. A wonderful book.

The last two books in the discussion series are Buffalo Girls by Larry McMurtry led by Erin Pouppirt and Shane by Jack Shaefer led by Kevin Rabas. Books and discussion leaders for this series provided by the Kansas Humanities Council. For information about the series, check the library web site.


Blame it on craigslist

Last fall we decided to explore buying a four-wheel drive pickup for use around our acreage, specifically to pull a hay trailer. We knew what we wanted, ¾ ton diesel, and how far we would be willing to drive to pick it up (one day).

Watching craigslist became a obsession. Last October I found the truck we wanted in Bolivar, Tennessee. It pushed the distance a bit, but the 2001 Ford truck was in excellent condition and in our price range. Deal was made and we combined a fall foliage road trip to pick it up.

Trouble is, our beloved 2001 Roadtrek Class B motor home also required tags, taxes and tires. After a few tears and much discussion, in March the Trekker went up for sale—on craigslist, of course.

Turns out, others also search this popular sales site outside their home state. Calls came in from all over the country. Either it was the affordable age of the rig or its own web site but within three weeks, we were meeting an excited new owner in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Part of the deal was to help her out by driving that far because she was from Missoula, Montana.

Now here we were, two “old” no, make that “elder” hippies and no van. What to do, but go to, where else, craigslist, to look for the best alternative road trip machine when driving a truck—a pickup camper.

Wouldn't you know, from delivering the Roadtrek to Wyoming, we were headed to Phoenix, Arizona, to visit long time friends. And, on craigslist, there was a 2004 NorthStar popup pickup camper in Payson, Arizona, right on the way. After calling back and forth to make sure everything was on the up and up (something to watch on craigslist) the deal was made. We are back to trekkn'.

So, what started last fall has made full circle. It seems everything has worked out well. Only one problem, we still need a good hay trailer.

I've been watching craigslist. There is one in Oklahoma...