(Frank) Today Around Kansas starts by exploring the connection between a Civil War novel set on the Kansas/Missouri border and Star Wars movies. Then we take a peek at the beautiful newly remodeled Kansas State Capitol, our state’s greatest architectural treasure. Next enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with the story of Fort Zarah.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.
(Frank) So, here it is Wednesday again. (Deb) First Wednesday of the new year. (Frank) First Wednesday of the new year, good grief 2016. But you know how many minutes now the sun sets later so we’re on our way to spring. (Deb) That’a a great way to think about it Frank, yea. Here in the dead of winter. Yea, the shortest days are over. (Frank) They are. (Deb) And that’s good. So, did you make any New Year’s resolutions? (Frank) Yea, to see 2017. (Deb) That’s, I never believed I’d see 2016, so yea this is 2016. It sounds like Star Wars, which we’ll talk about later. You know and all those science fiction things we watched as kids. You know what the world would be like in 50 years, or whatever. (Frank) Oh yea. (Deb) And here we are and you know, we’re not…we don’t quite have hoover craft but we do have laser beams… (Frank) Yea. (Deb) You know. (Frank) And Dick Tracy’s wrist radios. (Deb) Exactly. (Frank) I mean it’s a reality now. (Deb) It’s a reality now, yea. Isn’t that funny? (Frank) Well and you know, not Star Wars, in Star Trek you know the communicators, think about it…(Deb) The flip phone. (Frank) The flip phone, yes. I mean the ideas, so many ideas actually start with science fiction, but the thing is a lot of the science fiction writers are scientists and so they dream a little bit and put it in the story. (Deb) And just the imagination. You know, the whole concept of writing fiction is what if? You know every story starts with what if? What if? What if we could be teleported? What if we could just speak to a device and talk to somebody on the other side of the world, you know. And it all starts with that what if? And if you can imagine it, what is it, Napoleon Hill is that the motivational speaker? If you can think it, you can conceive it, you can make it happen. I guess that’s true. (Frank) Well you know even in Star Trek they had that little insignia, and they would touch it and speak. (Deb) Yea. (Frank) Well blue tooth, same thing. (Deb) Isn’t that amazing? (Frank) It is amazing. (Deb) Cause when we were watching that like when Star Trek first came out when I was a kid and you would see those things and you’re like “Wow! That’s incredible, that’s incredible.” And now we’ve got it. And the scans. Remember when Bones would do the scan? (Frank) Yea. (Deb) Over the body. That was so far fetched it was just, and what do we have now? We have CT scans, we’ve got you know, we’ve got all that stuff too. But teleporting is we haven’t quite gotten that. (Frank) Well, there is a group of scientists, I can’t remember what they sent from one place to another, but I mean it’s very minuscule right now… (Deb) Really? (Frank) But everything held together, so yea, we’re not too far away from that. (Deb) Wow. See now that’s my dream. You know, to just, take me to the beach now! Beam me up Scotty! (Frank) Now, we’ll see things like telephone booths again. So, you can jump… (Deb) Teleport. (Frank) Yea, tele-a-port. (Deb) Oh. (Frank) Oh here we go. Kind of like in, what’s the other thing where they pick up the phone, Matrix. (Deb) Oh yea. (Frank) Get me out of here. And so anyway…(Deb) Boom, there you have it. (Frank) OK, we’ve had enough fun. We need to do some stories I think today. (Deb) Oh but we’re going to have some fun stories for you. So, a great way to start the new year. We’ll be right back.
(Frank) And we’re back. Happy New Year. (Deb) Happy New Year again. I’m still in recovery. (Frank) So, we’re having a lot of fun today because the holidays kind of carry over for a few days anyway. And you know there were a lot of great movies that came out this year too. Of course, I won’t see ’em until they’re on DVD but…(Deb) Yea, the dollar movie theatre, which by the way is now the two dollar movie theatre. But anyway, that’s, yea I see them on the big screen, but it’s usually the cheap screen because number one, I hate to fight the crowds. I really hate that. And number two, it’s just, I hate to say it, but it’s expensive to go to the movies. And you’ve got your $20 dollar bucket of popcorn and you know…(Frank) But you don’t have to get one. (Deb) Yes, you do Frank. (Frank) Oh, OK. (Deb) Yes, you do. (Frank) You can eat before you go. (Deb) You still gotta get a $20 dollar bag of popcorn, but it’s that smell you know and they blow that across the theatre and all that stuff and yes, I’ve tried doing the, I’ve tried the movie without the popcorn, it’s just not as good, it’s just not as good. (Frank) Of course, one of the big, big movies of course, is Star Wars. And the thing is in ’77 when the first one came about, I was at the radio station in Lawrence and of course, it opened in July and so we bought out the theatre the night before it actually opened and then had a big promotion with a hot air balloon… (Deb) Really? Fun. (Frank) …down in South Park. And we called it the UFO and we threw out pie pans with coupons underneath and the whole thing. (Deb) What fun. (Frank) And the theatre sat 737, and we actually seated 737 people in 14 minutes and of course as they were going in we were saying, “Don’t leave a seat in between. It’s all got, don’t leave a seat.” And the thing is, is that movie it was the first time in a long time, it was kind of like going back to the western movies on Saturday, people were actually cheering for the hero. Yeah! (Deb) Yes, yes. (Frank) And the whole thing. (Deb) That’s exactly right. I remember that in the theatre when I saw it. Yea, people were actually cheering. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) And that’s a phenomenon. It really is. And of course George Lucas expected it to be a flop. Everybody did and it’s just taken on a whole life of its own. And Star Wars has a really bizarre, there’s your bizarre again, bizarre carrying over…yea B-I…carrying over from 2015, it’s got a really bizarre Kansas connection, so I think you’re really going to enjoy this. What do a Civil War novel set on the Kansas/Missouri border and Star Wars have in common? More than you might think. Cinematographer Tom Smith was working on location with the Civil War drama Gods and Generals as visual effects producer. He was mostly unaware of his own family’s background until a phone conversation with a relative spurred his curiosity.Massacre at Baxter Springs chronicles the true-life adventures of Billy Clark, Tom’s great grandfather and an 18-year-old Wisconsin cavalry trooper. Clark is quickly caught in the crossfire between William Quantrill’s notorious guerrillas and James Blunt, an outnumbered Union general who unwittingly leads his cavalry into a deadly ambush. The narrative describing the battle is based on previously unpublished Wisconsin archival material. For Tom, this foray into writing fiction was a real departure from the outer space settings of much of his work in the film industry. Working with George Lucas at Industrial Light and Magic, he had overseen the visual effects for a couple of the Star Trek movies, ET, Indiana Jones, and Poltergeist. He also worked on Star Wars II: The Return of the Jedi. Hailing from Illinois, Smith was a 1960 graduate from the Northwestern University and upon graduation went to Europe to study film in Paris before a three-year stint in the United States Air Force. In 1965, following his service the U.S. Air Force, Smith joined Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational as a writer/director, making educational films. By the time he joined ILM he had already made sixty of these, one of his last ones during that period, Solar System, catching the eye of George Lucas. Tom lives in Hollywood but has visited Kansas many times, researching, speaking to Civil War Roundtables, and attending the 150th anniversary of the Baxter Springs battle. Perhaps we should re-examine our history. Maybe the Force was with General Blunt that day in 1863 when Quantrill attacked and he managed to escape.
(Frank) Dum-dum-da-da-da-do-do! (Laughs) Oh yea. (Deb) Oh ya, Darth Howell, how do you like that one Darth? (Frank) Hey interesting story, very interesting. (Deb) We’re going to have to do another segment sometime about when Frank dressed up as Darth Vader for the second Star Wars premiere. Is there film of that or just photos? (Frank) No, just at least one photo exists. Yes. (Deb) Oh man, that was a Kodak moment. I’m sure it was. Yea, so transition from Star Wars to the Statehouse. I’m sure there’s some kind of connection here. Maybe that’s where the aliens are going to pick people up or something. (Frank) Yea, you can go to the top and they’ll come and get you. (Deb) I don’t doubt it. You know when I first moved to Topeka 20 some years ago, there was a book store on Kansas Avenue and I was going to school and so I’m in the psychology section. Well, paranormal was right next to it. And this guy is standing next to me in the paranormal section and he strikes up a conversation. Have you read this? No. Have you read this? No. And it’s all about being abducted and everything so he begins to tell me his personal story of abduction by aliens. And then he pulls up his pant leg to show me the probe marks on his leg where they actually performed tests on him and he was on his way to a convention of fellow abductees up in Nebraska and he was meeting some gals from out at Auburn or somewhere who had been abducted and they were all going to ride up together. So, I don’t know what that’s got to do with the Statehouse, but surely there should be a law against such things. (Frank) We don’t make political comments here. (Deb) Shouldn’t there be a law? (Frank) There could be a lot of aliens under that dome. (Deb) Shouldn’t there be a law against abduction by aliens, now why can’t the Legislature take up something like that, instead of all the things, you know when we’re talking about immigration and all this stuff and nobody’s addressed the problem of alien abduction. I can’t believe Kobach’s not on that one, you know. (Frank) OK, so…speaking of the Statehouse…(Deb) Which is gorgeous, you know no matter who’s occupying it, not matter what party is in control. You know, it’s still the people’s house. And it is spectacular. And when you come to Topeka, you have to see the newly restored Statehouse. (Frank) It took a lot, a lot of years to built it, to begin with. And then it, I mean nothing was really done, I mean you know they swept the halls and all that for a lot of years. But here several years ago we spent several million dollars renovating the Capitol. And if you come and see it, you will say, it was worth every bit of it. (Deb) It was well worth it. It was. I know there was a lot of controversy about it, but that is the people’s house. It really is. It’s not a monument to big government, it’s a monument to self government, which Kansas is all about. And the people having a voice and that Statehouse just manifests that. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) It’s spectacular. (Frank) So, I will tell you bit about the Kansas Capitol. The Kansas State Capitol is considered the state’s greatest architectural treasure. The founders undertook what many thought an impossible task: to create a grand classical structure on the frontier that would symbolize their pride in Kansas’ tumultuous path to statehood and their grand hopes for its future. The undertaking was immense and impressive. Under construction for more than 37 years from 1866 to 1903, the statehouse was planned to be the place for the daily business of state government. A major renovation was completed in 2014, which returned the Capitol to its original glory. Before the renovation, the basement was more like a dungeon. Now it is beautifully adapted to serving as the Visitor Center. This is the main entrance, the gateway to the Capitol. Located to the north side on ground level, the Visitor Center includes the Capitol Store, the tour desk, a classroom and auditorium, as well as exhibits on the history of state government and the building. The State of Kansas has 105 counties that are depicted in stone on the lobby floor. The map is placed to accurately reflect the correct cardinal directions. Images on the wall of the lobby are reproduced from early 20th century postcards. There are exhibits throughout the lower level, including the Hall of Notable Kansans. For the state’s 150th anniversary, historians selected 25 Kansans who made a significant impact on the state and the nation, including Dwight D. Eisenhower who was ranked first on the list. Another hallway honors the Native tribes who were here. The Wichita, Kansa, Osage, Pawnee, and Plains Apache descended from the earliest peoples who once lived on this land we call Kansas. Today Kansas is home to the Iowa, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Sac & Fox nations. Remember, the capitol belongs to you. Come see it!
(Ron) Years ago we had a bad fire here on the ranch when our daughter was little. We lost an entire machine shed and it was a traumatic experience for her. I wrote this poem about that day and its titled “You have to Cowboy Up”. Daddy what do we do my little girl said as we stared at the burning remains of our shed. The machine shed on our ranch had just gone up in flames, with the tractors and the trailers and wagons it contained. I looked at my daughter as she cradled her scared pup and said at times like these you have to Cowboy Up. You have to be strong. You have to be tough. You can’t let hard times get you down facing this stuff. When you get bucked off pick yourself up off the ground. And get back up on that horse to try another round. And if life gives you lemons you just can’t be afraid. Turn a negative into a positive and make some lemonade. Yes we’ve lost our old machine shed, but that opens up some space and we’ll be able to rebuild something better in its place. But daddy my daughter said with tear-filled eyes, think of all the work you did on the things inside. Yes, I said, as I thought of what we faced, it is a loss and there are things that just can’t be replaced. But things are still just things. They’re not the people that we love. We still have many blessings thanks to the good Lord up above. So I held my daughter close as I drained my coffee cup and said Be brave my little one, you have to Cowboy Up. Happy Trails.
(Deb) Well, didn’t you enjoy seeing the Statehouse? I mean it’s really gorgeous. Really gorgeous, really gorgeous. Good job Frank. (Frank) OK. Thank you. (Deb) Now, I want to go back to, remember the story earlier in the show about my friend Tom Smith and the attack on the soldiers at Baxter Springs by Quantrill’s men? Well this next site, Fort Zarah. Have you ever stopped at Fort Zarah? (Frank) No. (Deb) Well, it’s just a picnic table now. But it’s just outside of Great Bend. But Fort Zarah has a connection to the Massacre at Baxter Springs, which is really interesting. And it just reminds you, I’ve always loved the story of Fort Zarah. My friend Michelle Martin and I wrote the book, “Kansas Forts and Bases.” And we talk about Fort Zarah. We argued about who was going to write about that. And Fort Zarah was only there for a short time. Like I said, there’s nothing but a picnic table there now, so why would that be so fascinating? And we really did. She won, she beat me on that one. We arm wrestled or something you know, and she beat me on who got to write about Fort Zarah. But it’s just got such a rich story. And what makes it so rich I think, like so many things in history is all the connections. You know it’s not just that little place sitting there by itself, it’s all the end roads and all the connections that it takes to get there, literally and figuratively. All the meaning that it takes on. So, I have to say Fort Zarah, the story of Fort Zarah is one of my favorite stories in Kansas history. Let’s take a look. The attack was unexpected and the troopers unprepared. Lulled into a false sense of security by the sight of Union uniforms, General James Blunt and his men never imagined the men that galloped toward them would be their undoing. When the shots rang out, the surprised Union troops scrambled to return fire. With the fog of war settling around them, Major H. Zarah Curtis fought until unhorsed. Taken prisoner, the son of General Samuel R. Curtis, died at the hands of William Clark Quantrill’s men at the Baxter Springs Massacre in October 1863. Newspaper accounts reported it was the largest funeral procession ever seen in his hometown of Keokuk, Iowa. By 1864, General Curtis was in command of Union forces in Kansas. Charged with protecting Kansas from Confederate invasion, Curtis also had to face the threat of Native American attacks in the western regions of the state. To aid in the protection of Western Kansas, a camp was established thirty miles east of Fort Larned along Walnut Creek. Constructed of earthen dugouts and tents on a high creek bank, the post initially received its orders from Fort Larned’s commanding officer. Called Camp Dunlap originally, the general renamed the outpost Fort Zarah in honor of his slain son. It later became an independent post with substantial limestone buildings. As the Civil War was winding down and the Indian Wars were heating up, the Second Colorado Cavalry was stationed at Fort Zarah. By 1869, the post was deemed obsolete. An historic marker and picnic tables offer a wayside retreat near the location. For more information, stop in the Barton County Museum nearby in Great Bend.
(Frank) Well another fun day here on Around Kansas. So, we’ll see you next week. Until then, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere…(Both) Around Kansas.
Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.