Cottonwood Trees, Picnic, 1905 train derailment

(Frank) Today Around Kansas has some great stories for you, starting with one about Cottonwood Trees, the state tree of Kansas, and their importance to early settlers. Then we take another look at some more fun trivia from the production of the movie Picnic and learn about the impact of a major 1905 train derailment near Emporia. We’ll end with a poem from Ron Wilson.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Frank) Well, good morning. Here we are at the Dillon House again, our studio, in the shadow of the State Capitol in Topeka. I’m Frank Chaffin. (Deb) I’m Deb Goodrich and we actually have a shadow today cause we’ve got sunshine, isn’t that wonderful? (Frank) Hey, at last. (Deb) Can you remember a rainier spring then we’ve had this year? (Frank) I know. Well, 177 years. I saw a report somewhere. (Deb) Yea, I was gonna say, did you remember that? (Frank) We haven’t had it in 177 years… I remember back… So, anyway. So, what’s up with you these days? (Deb) Oh gosh, it’s summer’s here. There’s so much going on. You know, I’m headed out to western Kansas. I just can’t wait. I’m going to be in Oberlin and Fort Wallace. And then on
the 14th of June, Michael Martin Murphy is doing a benefit concert for the Home on the Range Cabin. And you know they’ve got the highway there designated as the Home on the Range Highway. So, they have to pay for signage. So, this concert is to raise money for the signage for the Home on the Range Cabin. And Michael has been so generous to fund raising for the
Home on the Range. And you know, we did some great interviews out there when they did the rededication, so that’s a really… it’s just an awesome place, awesome folks and it will be a great event. (Frank) Hey, I’m gonna go see a rock. No, there’s a place called Teter Rock. It’s down near Chanute. And actually it’s on a friend of mine’s land. But it is an historic landmark, so I’m gonna go visit Teter Rock. (Deb) OK, I’ve never been to Teter Rock. And I’ve seen pictures, because a lot of my friends on Facebook you know with photography groups, paste photos of that and it’s really interesting. (Frank) It is. It is. It’s out in the middle of nowhere
but… (Deb) Out in the middle of nowhere. (Frank) It has some historical significance, which you will find out about. (Deb) Oh, that’s great. That’s really cool. (Frank) So, anyway, and then what else is happening? Oh you have, you have something, your camera… (Deb) My calendar This is my calendar. I’ve got this smart phone but obviously I’m not smart enough to use it. But my calendar, is like a real calendar you know, I pick up at the grocery store or whatever. And on my calendar says, that on the 20th Territorial Days at Lecompton, which is a great time. And Wheatstock. And my alter ego, because one just ain’t enough, is the MC of Wheatstock. So, Dixie Lee Jackson, MC’s Wheatstock in Old Prairie Town. (Frank) Dixie Lee?
(Deb) Dixie Lee. (Frank) Dixie Lee! (Deb) That’s right. (Frank) OK. (Deb) You all come see me. (Frank) Also, I’m gonna pay another visit to the Jayhawk Theatre, some very exciting things have been happening there. (Deb) Right. (Frank) And I mean it’s really on the fast track on its restoration, so we’re gonna talk some more about that. (Deb) Awesome. I tell you what if
you’re bored in Kansas right now, there’s just something wrong with you, isn’t there? (Frank) That’s right. (Deb) We’ll be right back.

(Frank) Here we are again. My cohost you may or may not know, is an accomplished author. And she also has a CD now. So, I’m gonna let her talk about that. (Deb) I’ve got a CD somebody gave me. I didn’t like, make a CD! But yes, I don’t know how they missed the fact that I was an accomplished author, cause we tell ’em every chance we get. People just give me stuff Frank. They just come up and give me stuff. So, when we were at the Sampler Festival, Kirk Drager came up and gave me this CD. And this is brand new from Kirk and Jim Campbell and they are Bluegrass Folk musicians, I guess would be the appropriate word. So, they have been singing all these Bluegrass songs that were you know, basically based back in the hills where I come from. And they decided there needed to be some new standards that reflect Kansas. So, they’ve got these songs on there like Flint Hills Girl and Waltz in the Tall Grass and so it’s just some wonderful Kansas tunes in that Bluegrass style. So, the most beautiful thing on here is one We Share a Heart that Kirk wrote for Becky, Becky Drager. And if you recall we
interviewed Becky who is a phenomenal artist, when we were at the Mountain Plains Art Fair. That’s what it was. So, if you go back you can catch that interview with Becky. But some great new standards and folks are gonna love. And so much of what they write about is like, nature. And when I first came to Kansas, I don’t know if I had seen a Cottonwood tree before I came to Kansas. And that first spring in Kansas when that cotton is glowing all over the place, I’m like, what is this? Has the milkweed just gone crazy? (Frank) Summer snow. (Deb) Summer snow, exactly. And so the Cottonwood was so important to the to Native Americans who were here, to pioneers, to you know still an important piece of Kansas, and of course our state tree. (Frank) What’s nice, is we used to have a cabin over at Council Grove. And you could go out into a grove of Cottonwood trees that were 100 feet tall. And all you could hear is the wind in the leaves. And it was very, very peaceful. So, it’s a nice part of Kansas. (Deb) It sure is.
Let’s take a look. They have been firewood, meeting places, food, forage, and medicine. They have been refuge from the blazing sun and canoes to float down the Smoky or Republican Rivers. They were important to Kansans, Native and pioneer alike, that they became our state’s leafy symbol-the cottonwood. While Kansas is noted for its absence of trees, the cottonwood
grows mostly along the rivers and tributaries to great dimensions, one of the largest hardwoods in North America. A variety of poplar, it grows quickly, as much as six feet in a season, which also makes the wood particularly weak. They are also quite tolerant of flood, drought, erosion, and layers of mud being washed upon their trunks. Like Kansans, they can survive almost anything. The seeds are borne in the wind on cottony tufts which allow them to travel great distances. Perhaps the greatest allure of this tree is the way the leaves move in the wind, like chimes designed to catch even the faintest movement. Native tribes considered them sacred, and some said the whispering among the leaves was the path of the sacred spirits. Libbie Custer, wife of the famed cavalry officer, George Armstrong Custer, wrote about the value of the bark of the young trees in sustaining the soldiers: In almost any other area of the country, the cottonwood would be the least desirable of trees. But to the Indian, and in many instances our troops, the tree has performed a service for which no other tree has been found its equal, and that is forage for the horses and mules during the winter season, when the snow prevents even the dried grass from being obtainable. The mighty cottonwood was designated the Kansas state tree in 1937.

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas and Frank’s got his picnic shirt on today, so I guess we’re talking about Picnic again, aren’t we Frank? (Frank) Yes we are. And I hope you’re enjoying these stories about Picnic of course, it was filmed in Kansas 60 years ago in six different Kansas communities, basically in south central Kansas-Hutchinson, Salina, Halstead. And anyway, of course, it also the movie won two Academy Awards. It got six nominations. Anyway, I decided it would be fun to go behind the scenes and tell some stories about what happened during the filming like them getting eaten up by mosquitos, and it taking until the middle of night to do a love scene. And all of the people on site would just say, OK, I’ve had enough and go home. But anyway, there are all kinds of things that went on during the filming of that, so we’re gonna kinda take a look at one more thing. I hope you’re enjoying this trivia about the movie Picnic. It was a big, big movie that was filmed 60 years ago here in the state of Kansas. Of course, written by William Inge, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and author. Here’s an interesting thing-in 1957, marketing investigator Gene Vicory announced that for six weeks he had included subliminal messages in showing of this movie. The message supposedly said, Eat popcorn, drink Coca Cola. According to Vicory the sales of these products increased from 18 to 57 percent, even though his experiment led him to fame, Vicory never gave details of how he came to his conclusions. Here’s the deal, he admitted it later in an interview that everything was just a trick; it was a hoax. So the subliminal messages weren’t there in the movie Picnic or any other movies if you ever heard about that. Again, the play Picnic takes place entirely on Mrs. Potts and the Owens front porches and front lawns. No action at the picnic or anywhere else is seen. There is a famous scene though… now the picnic celebrates Neewollah, which is Halloween backwards. And anyway, we’ll talk more about that in another edition of Picnic 60 years ago in the great state of Kansas.

(Frank) We’re back again. Good morning. You know Kansas really, a lot of people traveled through the state of Kansas to get to California. That was a lot of it. But a lot of people also just stayed because it was such a beautiful place to be and of course, great cropland. But one of the other big heritages of the state are the railroads. (Deb) Railroads, it was everything. In the 19th Century you know we’re sitting here in Topeka, that Cyrus K. Holliday founded and he also founded the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. And the same night that Cyrus K. Holliday was standing down here beside the Kaw River announcing that this would be a town, you know they were just standing in the sticks basically, the Senator from Missouri was back in Maryland making a speech about Kansas and how Kansas was perfect for the railroad. And he was encouraging people to come out here and settle and Kansas has the most perfect cropland. Everything you just said. The Senator was saying that in Maryland and encouraging people to come. But the railroad was going to be literally, the vehicle for all of that. The railroad was everything about America in the 19th Century. And just as we are the heart of America. So, the crossroads, literally it all came to bear on Kansas. And of course shaped our state, it shaped our economy, it shaped everything. You know Bill Cody, my favorite American, Bill Cody was going to capitalize on that and right outside of Hays, Bill and a couple of his buddies were going to build the town, they were going to build Rome. That’s what they called their town. They were going to build Rome. And they had inside information that the railroad was going to come
through there. Well, it didn’t. So, their plans just kind of fell by the wayside. Yea, you can’t say enough about the impact the railroads have on Kansas history. (Frank) Part of that is you know I’m doing stories on the opera houses and that did spur the development of a lot of the opera houses across the state. In fact, the railroads owned a lot of those opera houses and the theatre companies that toured them as well. So, the railroads had a great deal to do with what, the heritage of Kansas as far as theatre goes too. (Deb) Isn’t that amazing? (Frank) As we know there are a lot of people from Kansas that have gone on to great things in music and theatre and dance and the whole thing. (Deb) Well my friend J.R. Sanders found this really interesting story from Kansas railroad history. Railroads have played a major role in the history of Kansas, and continue to shape our economy and landscape. Historian J. R. Sanders offers this glimpse into a train derailment that occurred more than a hundred years ago: On May 14, 1905, unknown persons derailed an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe train near Emporia, Kansas. Several people were badly injured, two seriously (no deaths resulted, despite early news reports). Emporia’s city marshal quickly arrested two vagrants on suspicion, and the following day the Emporia Gazette reported that the suspects were being sweated out by the marshal and the three AT&SF detectives assigned to the case – H.H. Germaine, Joe, and Frank Calhoun. A former Galena, Kansas, city marshal, Calhoun was a veteran lawman with a sharp eye and a keen instinct for crime. Unfortunately, this case was destined to go unsolved. Two months
later, while still assigned to the case, Calhoun visited Cedar Vale, about a hundred miles south. While there he spotted a couple of suspicious characters in the railroad yard. William Chadburn, a self-styled bad man who called himself “Billy the Kid,” and his jailhouse pal Ed Madigan, were lying low after robbing a poker game in nearby Winfield two days earlier. Learning the men he saw fit the description of the Winfield robbers, Calhoun alerted the Cedar Vale marshal and offered his assistance. When the lawmen confronted the bandits a fierce gunfight erupted, and Chadburn shot and killed Frank Calhoun. Chadburn and Madigan fled on stolen horses to
nearby Hewins, where a citizens’ posse made short work of them. Madigan was shot from his saddle and hit the ground dead; Chadburn died of his wounds days later. The opposite careers of outlaw Will Chadburn and law dog Frank Calhoun are detailed in J. R.’s book, Some Gave All: Forgotten Old West Lawmen Who Died With Their Boots On, available wherever you purchase books.

(Ron) When the open range era came to an end the homesteader and settlers moved into Kansas and started building something that would change the life of the cowboys forever. I’m referring to fences. And this poem is based on the true story of the invention of barbed wire. It’s called, The Death of Open Range. Let me tell you of a time, when open range was in its prime. Cowboys rode their horses forth, and drove the huge herds of cattle north. We could ride all over this great land, unfettered by the human hand. Then a farmer over Illinois way, invented something that’s used to this day. His name was Mr. Joseph Glidden, he was doing the homesteaders biddin. He took a pair of heavy pliers, and wrapped barb around a long piece of wire. The barbs sharp points kept stock in or out, it could be used for fencing all about. For the open range it was a turn of events, because barb wire made it easy to string a fence. Barbed wire succeeded more than Glidden had planned, soon fences criss-crossed the open land. The old west changed with Glidden’s invention and it caused the cowboys apprehension. No more could we ride over free open range, and the cowboys role would be forever changed. Homesteaders and nesters scarred this land and changed the role of the old cowhand. The cowboy’s work continues on, but the days of the open range are gone. That open range would have no more hope. That’s why cowboys called barbed wire the devil’s rope. Happy Trails.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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