Cherryvale, Mitch Holthus

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas we start with the mystery of a murderous clan from Cherryvale, the Bloody Benders. Next “meet” Mitch Holthus, the Voice of the Kansas City Chiefs and a Kansan who has earned many accolades during his lifelong career in sports reporting. Then enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with news about Little Jerusalem, the iconic chalk formation southwest of Oakley.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Frank Chaffin) It’s Wednesday morning, I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. Thanks for joining us today. (Deb) Here we are in the middle of November. (Frank) I know, already. (Deb) Already and getting ready for Thanksgiving. Starving myself so I can hold it all when Thanksgiving comes around. People are sharing recipes like crazy all over Facebook, your favorite pie recipe and all the pumpkin pies. Of course, back home sweet potato pie was more popular than pumpkin pie and my sister Denise makes the best sweet potato pie. Mama, granny and my aunts make sweet potato pie, my sister can do it just as good if not better and I can’t. I, for whatever reason I didn’t get it. I was telling somebody the other day, we raised white sweet potatoes. You don’t get those around here and I have ordered them a few times so I could make things we grew up with, sweet potato sonker and sweet potato pie. They order them, if you go to Hy-Vee or Dillons or whatever, they order them from Mississippi. I kid you not you get this big box of white sweet potatoes and there’s this little tag inside, “These have been inspected and are certified to have been grown in a weevil-free zone of Mississippi.” It’s signed by the veterinarian who was like the state Ag guy or something and it’s just hilarious. I saved the tag. It’s just so funny. (Frank) I’ve never seen white sweet potatoes so remember here several weeks ago when you brought all those gourds and all that? (Deb) Yeah. Have I heard about that? (Frank) Okay, well bring some sweet — we got to see these because I’m sure a lot of people watching are saying, “What?” (Deb) And I’ll share the recipe for sweet potato sonker because sonker is like a mountain dish that’s not made everywhere. It’s kind of a deep-dish pie. It’s similar to a cobbler but not exactly the same. But my former alter ego Dixie Lee Jackson made sweet potato sonker at the library a few years ago and it was very well received. It’s good. (Frank) Okay, we’re going to see white sweet potatoes one of these days. One of these days! (Deb) You can’t pay for this kind of education. Really, where else are you going to get this? Public TV doesn’t even do all the educational programming we do on Around Kansas, do they Frank? (Frank) No, but I think the monitor us and probably next week there will be a story on white sweet potatoes discovered in Kansas. (Deb) Yeah. They’re probably scooping us as we speak, are they? Yeah, really. (Frank) No, that wasn’t nice to say. (Deb) It’s okay, they’re all friends. It’s all right. We’re all in the same business, float in the same boat. I watch them, they watch us. In fact, the guys from Smoky Hill TV follow me around. We’re always running into each other and they’re like, “Yes we follow you to see what you do.” (Frank) They’re going to do a story on white sweet potatoes. (Deb) They probably will. They’re great guys. (Frank) We’ve got a story coming up so we’ll back.

(Frank) Back again. This next story we maybe should have done it around Halloween because these people are really creepy. (Deb) They were creepy. The bloody Benders, as they became known, the Bender family, sort of one of those Kansas mysteries, and mysteries of the American West sort of disappeared serial killers who disappeared. But that story is just among the annals of the west and it’s been told and retold. There was an article in True West magazine, I think. True West or Wild West, I’m sorry I read them both and I can’t remember which one, that the Benders may have fled Kansas after they were caught up with and found out they were killing people and moved to Colorado and not even change their names. Because what better way to hide than in plain sight? There was an article not too long ago, last year I think, that was that proposition that maybe they didn’t even change their name and honestly, they were so nuts that may be true. They would rival any story in modern America, wouldn’t they, sadly? (Frank) I mean, if you’ve ever seen the Broadway show Sweeney Todd, this is just about that bad. (Deb) It is. It really is. (Frank) I mean wonk on the head! (Deb) But what a great movie idea, just like Sweeney Todd. What a great movie idea and somebody’s done gone and done it? Let’s take a look. The Bloody Benders of Cherryvale have been a staple of western lore since they disappeared into the night, leaving behind the bodies of their victims. The murderous clan offered travelers a meal, then murdered and robbed them. When they realized the law was closing in, they simply vanished. The subject of many documentaries and the plot for several western TV shows, the Benders have stirred the imagination for more than a hundred years. The latest telling of the saga is the feature film, BENDER. Directed by John Alexander and written by John Alexander and JC Guest, this is the true story of the Bloody Benders, America’s first serial killing family. The year is 1873, and travelers are mysteriously vanishing on the Kansas frontier. The troubled Dr. York goes searching for answers and stumbles upon the Benders, a homesteading family with an unnatural way of living off the land. As the elders of the family vie for dominance, their daughter Kate draws upon her supposed supernatural powers to will a better future, and a peculiar young boy is reared in the family trade – but unexpected visitors could threaten their seemingly quiet homestead. Director John Alexander is a filmmaker from the USA and BENDER is his first feature film. He edited Running Wild (2015) starring Alden Ehrenreich and interned with director Sam Raimi on Drag Me To Hell (Cannes 2009). He graduated from Harvard University and is currently in production on a feature music documentary about unsung soul legend Rudy Love. The cast includes Jon Monastero, Bruce Davison, Linda Purl, Nicole Jellen, Grace McKeaney, Buck Taylor, Chance Caeden, Leslie Woodies, and James Karen. The film has had screenings in Kansas and is making the circuit of film festivals to critical acclaim.

(Frank) Are we back? Sorry, I dozed off a moment. (Deb) Wake up, grandpa. (Frank) Senior moment. Anyway, there have been a lot of great sportscasters through the years. One of my favorite of course was “Dizzy” Dean because he would always lead the crowd in Take Me Out to the Ballgame for the seventh-inning stretch and of course his home run call was well renowned. Then Jack Buck for the St. Louis Cardinals and all that. (Deb) Those were before my time but I’ve watched them on the history channel Frank. (Frank) Okay. I worked at WREN many years ago and they carried the Cardinals so I worked at night so I could study because I was in college at the time. Of course, we carried the Cardinals and so I got to listen to a lot of Jack Buck calling the Cardinal games. (Deb) I actually grew up listening and became a Cardinals fan. (Frank) I was running the Cardinal game the night that it went to like 24 innings, something like that. It was two o’clock in the morning and I thought, “Who is still listening to this? I have to go to class in the morning.” Where were we going with this? (Deb) We were going to Mitch Holthus and speaking of great announcers, I don’t want to steal the thunder from your segment so I messaged Eldean, his dad, who is a good friend of mine and told him we were doing this segment on Mitch. Eldean never at a loss for words said, he is a strong practicing Christian and almost always includes a witness in his presentations, has a tremendous memory and prides himself in knowing the mascots of all the high schools in Kansas. He has tremendous empathy and a deep sense of caring. We requested no flowers for Kathy’s funeral, this is Mitch’s mother who just passed away recently, yet received 32 sprays, 29 from working associates of his or his wife Tami. He has shown great love to me and Kathy, especially at this time in spite of the fact that I worked my boys so hard here at home. His wife Tami is an angel and I can vouch for that and he will take Eldean’s place on the Home on the Range board when Eldean leaves the board, he will take his place. And he also has a part in the movie Home on the Range. Let’s take a look at the amazing Mitch Holthus. (Frank) Mitch Holthus is the Voice of the Kansas City Chiefs and is the longest tenured and most decorated play-by-play “Voice” in franchise history. Following the NFL season, Mitch is a television play-by-play announcer for college basketball. His work has been featured on the ESPN family of networks, FOX Sports and other national outlets. He primarily covers the Big 12 and the Missouri Valley Conferences, as well as the SEC. Holthus is a past recipient of the John Sanders “Spirit of the Valley” Award. Listeners throughout the Chiefs Kingdom join in with Holthus when he makes his signature call “Touchdown Kan – zzzz City”. Mitch also hosts the Hy-Vee “Chiefs Insider” television show and various Chiefs website programming and emcees many Chiefs functions throughout the year. As an entrepreneur, Mitch writes, produces, and sells the “Minute With Mitch” radio and television shows that air in-season throughout the Chiefs Kingdom. Mitch is also a member of the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and this January will be inducted into the Kansas State University Athletics Hall of Fame. In September of 2012, Holthus was awarded an Emmy for his video and on-line work by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In addition, Mitch was named the Kansas City Sports Journalist of the Year in 2010. He has served on the Board of Directors of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and is a past President of the organization. Mitch has two degrees from Kansas State University, one in Journalism and another in Business Administration. Folks from Smith Center, Mitch’s hometown, know that he came by his gift of gab honestly. His dad, Eldean is a well-known and much-loved personality himself. Eldean and his wife Kathy raised their sons with a work ethic that has continued to serve them well. Mitch and his wife, Tami, have two children.

(Ron Wilson) Today the American Angus Association is the largest breed association in the United States and people may not know that that breed originated in the British Isles, but then was brought all the way to Kansas. This poem is entitled Birth of a Breed. It was on the 17th of May way back in 1873, that Kansas welcomed in some cattle that would change beef history. Near the town of Victoria out on the Kansas plains a man named George Grant wanted to boost his cattle gains. To improve the native bloodlines and reduce the needed culls, on that day George Grant brought in four Aberdeen Angus bulls. Can you imagine the sight when those beefy cattle arrived, where nothing but Shorthorns or rangy Longhorns had survived? It must have been a funny scene that the neighbors thought contrary, when those black-headed cattle arrived out on the Kansas prairie. But when those calves were born then the farmers’ opinion moved, because the influence of those bulls made the cattle much improved. The Angus breed developed and grew for all to see. The Angus Breed Association was formed in 1883. The American Angus Auxiliary was formed in 1952, supporting youth showing and scholarship and all the good they do. Like when George Grant brought those bulls here in that way, Angus bulls still bring improvement in cattle herds today. (Ron) And since the hungry people of the world have protein as a need, we’re thankful for this immigration of the Angus breed. Happy Trails.

(Frank) And here we are again. People in the east in the big cities and all of that are amazed when they come west. When they come to Kansas, when they go to Montana, when they go to Wyoming and they see the vastness, the wide-open spaces. I have a good friend who lives in New York and we worked together in Iowa and he said, “I was really freaked out when I first came out here because,” he said, “I’d never seen such vastness.” (Deb) When I was in, I’ve been in Europe a couple of times, and the wonderful thing about Europe, and England especially, and Germany, but lots of pockets of Europe, is the intimacy. It’s the intimacy of the landscape and just the towns. The wonderful thing about America is its vastness, and we’re at the center of that vastness. (Frank) That was where I was going with that. We really do have a lot of state parks, national parks, and in fact, our next story is going to be about one that’s going to be happening. (Deb) The Nature Conservancy, which of course is a national organization, has purchased some land just in my neighborhood. It’s just a few miles from the house and I am blessed to live in an incredible landscape in western Kansas. Let’s take a look at the amazing landscape of Little Jerusalem. (Matt Bain) I’m Matt Bain, the Smoky Valley Ranch Project coordinator and I went to work for the Nature Conservancy about four years ago. It was really because I just love this place.

These places, for me, have always been wild Kansas. This is, these big open grasslands are really the last wild places in Kansas. There’s always been, for me, a sense of wonder about getting out onto those places and exploring them. The Nature Conservancy really seems to get that. And at the heart of what they’re trying to do is try to conserve these places for future generations so that someday my great grandchildren’s great grandchildren can go and experience what a wild place is, right here in western Kansas.Little Jerusalem is really unique landscape in Kansas, its really one of a kind. It’s the largest Niobrara Chalk formation in the state of Kansas. It includes really important habitat for a number of species like ferruginous hawks, cliff swallows, say’s Phoebe and interestingly Little Jerusalem has the single largest population of an endemic plant, Great Plains Wild Buckwheat. In cooperation with the seller, the Conservancy is able to take ownership of this incredible property and conserve it forever. The seller felt that the Conservancy was best suited to achieve their long-term visions for the property, which included public access and also just conservation of the unique resources at this place.

(Frank) Well, we’re out of time again, so, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere- (Frank and Deb) -Around Kansas.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

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