Denmark, Kansas, Nebraska’s 150th birthday

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas we start with a story about the small town of Denmark, Kansas, founded in Lincoln County by Danish Lutherans in 1869. Next it’s Birthday Time! Please join our neighbors to the north in celebrating Nebraska’s 150th birthday. Then enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with an ode to the March wind. Stay with us!

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(Frank Chaffin) Good morning. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) This is Around Kansas. Today [Laughs] we’re- (Deb) -the happy farm. [Laughter] (Frank) There is a lot of hot air in here, but it is pretty cool. (Deb) [Laughs] If this were a less substantial structure without the hot air, we might just blow it off into the skies. There are lots of good folks here working very hard during session and a lot’s going on at the Dillon House. We left the Dillon House today and for the next couple of weeks to come over and visit the State Capitol. Keep tabs. Yes, we’re spying on the government. We’re spying on the government. (Frank) Well, the last time we’re here, there was a Christmas tree behind this way. We have people now, so. (Deb) A lot happened since the Christmas tree came down, hasn’t it, Frank? A lot is going on. (Frank) Anyway, if you’re in Topeka, you really need to come and see your State Capitol because this is an absolutely gorgeous place. It really is. (Deb) Spy on the government while you’re here, just go in and let your legislators know that you are interested, that you’re following what they are doing. Accountability is what makes this government right; so let them hear your voice. I want to give a shout-out real quick to Dr. Dan Thomson. Dr. Dan, of course, is the host of DocTalk every Monday morning. With all the fires that have occurred in Kansas this March, I mean, March truly has been a devastating one for many areas of Kansas. Dr. Dan is always one of the first people to jump in and spearhead the relief efforts, working in coordination with other veterinarians around the state because they’re a lot of times the first on the scene. They are aware of the livestock loss, the loss of hay and feed and fence, and just all the other things that are going on. Shout-out to Dr. Dan and bless your heart for all the hard work you do, Dr. Dan. (Frank) Yes. Well, just now it is spring, but boy did we get started early with tornado warnings and fiery fires and wow. (Deb) Really, Mother Nature has unleashed her vengeance, hasn’t she? She has come on with the fury. (Frank) Along about July, it will only be 150 degrees. (Deb) What do we say about loving the seasons? People are going to move away and say, “Oh, I can’t. I will miss the seasons.” I say that too, but I might not miss all of the seasons. I might not miss the extreme seasons. (Frank) Well, but didn’t it just snow once this year? (Deb) Our winter was ridiculous. I mean we just had the winter really. (Frank) Well, in Chicago, no snow for the first time in 176 years. (Deb) Yes, and then some folks up in Montana and other places, they’re digging out under incredible snows. I heard them talking in California, the runoff this year. They’re concerned about flooding like nine feet of snow in the Sierras that’s going to be melting. (Frank) I know. (Deb) It’s crazy. It’s crazy. We got a crazy show for you. Stay with us.

(Frank) We’re back. (Deb) Frank, I love it when folks contact me with ideas and I don’t have to come up with my own. This next story is one of those examples. Debra Parmenter sent me a message on Facebook. Look at her Facebook page. Share your pictures, share your news. She wanted us to do a segment on Denmark. It’s just an amazing little town. I have been to Denmark. Another example of one of those European countries or folks, European refugees came, and colonized just a little piece of Kansas. (Frank) We’re talking about Denmark, Kansas? (Deb) We’re talking about Denmark, Kansas. (Frank) All right. (Deb) When you visit their Facebook page, make sure you’re like Denmark, Kansas in parenthesis. Yes, make sure you check out the right one. It’s just a lovely little town on Highway 18 in Lincoln County. What they’re doing out there like so many little towns around Kansas is absolutely amazing. We are very proud of your work. The passion expressed by Debra Parmenter for Denmark, Kansas, would lead one to believe that she must have grown up there even though San Diego is her home. But, no, she didn’t spend her childhood in Denmark, yet her roots in this small Kansas town go back five generations. Danish Lutherans established Denmark in Lincoln County in 1869, one of the first permanent settlements in the county while the Plains Tribes were still trying to keep white settlers away. The Danes were fleeing their own troubled homeland in the south of Denmark where Germans lay claim to the land. For these Danes, like thousands of other Europeans, America was the Promised Land. It seems to have become that for Debra as well. Explaining that the original town location, or “upper Denmark” was going to be bypassed by the Railroad’s coming through so the town folk began building “lower Denmark,” a mile or so away, in 1917. A hotel, post office, bank, and commercial building — the Andreason Building — were constructed. As its heyday came and went, the structures began to crumble. Debra bought the hotel ten years ago and remodeled it for a residence, where she divides her time between Denmark and San Diego. But across the street, her own family story, in the stones and mortar of the Andreason building, was falling down. Debra spearheaded the creation of the Denmark Preservation Foundation, which is dedicated to saving this and other structures. It has asked Greg Rud to be its official photographer, documenting the transformation. Denmark is one of those places with only a few dozen folks remaining. There is no post office, no school; Denmark is not even officially any longer a town. Yet, the Lutheran Church thrives, as does the community center beside it. The annual Pheasant Day Lunch and the Festival of the Nativities are two events that bring visitors to the town. There are two Facebook pages to follow the success of the project or to learn how to become involved: Get Denmark (Kansas) and the Denmark Preservation Foundation. Better yet, just head out Highway 18 and drop in. Tell them Around Kansas sent you!

(Frank) Here we are again. This is Around Kansas and it’s the show that talks about people, places, and things that make Kansas a great place to live and work. If you’re going to travel this way, stop and see some great stuff. (Deb) We’ve got lots of great stuff, starting with the Statehouse right here in Topeka. Come and see this incredible Statehouse, sit up in the balconies, and watch them at work. While you’re here, make your voice heard. Let them know that you’re holding them accountable. I’m a big believer in that. Lots of good folks working here today, though I ran into a lot of old friends already today and some of them are legislators. Some of them are lobbyists. Some of them work for other state agencies, but there are a lot of good people. As much as we tease, there are a lot of good folks here. Of course, we want to give a shout-out to our neighbor to the north, Nebraska. (Frank) Yes, why not? (Deb) Why not? We can be generous, can’t we, Frank? We can be kind, though Nebraska is marking its 150th anniversary of statehood this year. In fact, March 1st, I think, was the official date, but they’re celebrating all year long. (Frank) All year, yes, so anyway it’s an interesting story. A little bit of history about Nebraska and then how they got their sesquicentennial celebration together. (Deb) We’re just a little bit older than Nebraska. Our history is just a little more interesting than Nebraska’s. Our scenery is just a little better than Nebraska’s. But while we’re feeling generous, Happy Birthday, Nebraska. (Frank) Yes, so this is Around Kansas and we’re going to talk about Nebraska. Kansas and Nebraska have shared a unique relationship for at least 160 years, since the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed in 1854. As Kansas marks its third most significant anniversary in 2017, our neighbor to the north is marking the anniversary of statehood. Nebraska entered the Union on March 1, 1867. Nebraska kicked off a year-long celebration on January 1, a year of hosting a variety of programs and projects across the state. Planning for the Nebraska 150 Celebration began in 2012 when a group of active citizens from across the state formed the Friends of the Nebraska 150 Foundation. In 2014, the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission was established by the state Legislature and 17 members from across the state were appointed by the Governor to lead the initiative. In 2015, the Celebrating Nebraska Statehood Foundation was established to help coordinate efforts and direct everyone toward collective success. Nebraska’s 150th birthday presents a unique opportunity in time to honor its heritage, celebrate its growth, and plan for the future. The celebration will serve as a catalyst for a movement that goes beyond 2017 – a strategic initiative that promotes a spirit of pride, growth, engagement and connection within Nebraska by: Bridging Nebraskans across different communities, perspectives and cultures. Building a connection with every Nebraskan to the celebration and the state. And instilling in every citizen an even greater sense of pride. We would like to add another goal: that of creating a greater connection between Nebraskans and Kansans. Our fates — geographically, financially, politically, and socially– have been linked for more than a century and that will never change. Let’s help our northern neighbors celebrate and while you are visiting, invite them back to Kansas. While we may shun the household with the “Go, Huskers!” sign in the yard, we can find many other ways to make our Nebraska neighbors feel welcome. Happy Birthday, Nebraska!

(Ron) There is a group called the Kansas Barn Alliance, which promotes and preserves barns as a vital part of the rural lifestyle of Kansas. This poem is entitled “Barns are Beautiful”. I think a barn is a beautiful thing, surrounded by grass in the early spring. It’s a place of shade to store some hay, with stanchions for milking cows along the way. Or perhaps a tack room or stalls of course, where you can stable a cow or a horse. Or maybe its converted to some modern use, which a rural landowner will come to choose. It may have a gable or gambrel roof to maintain, topped off by a cupola or a weather vane. It may be built of stone or old wood, but it brings back memories of when times were good. It’s a symbol of our nation’s rural legacy. A part of our landscape for all to see. And when you’ve worked hard on the range and you’re all in, just waitin’ for the work day to come to an end, it’s sweet to hear those words when the boss says, “Oh, darn. I guess it’s quittin’ time. Let’s go to the barn.” Happy Trails.

(Deb) Frank, the other day, I don’t know if you got to see it, but I posted on Facebook a video with just the sound turned up of the wind- (Frank) Oh, yes. (Deb) -and our door out on the high plains. I swear, it was all Dr. Jake and I could do to hear each other above the wind and it was like vibrating the door and the sound was like aliens. It was just coming from the right angle. There’s a storm door and this is a 1910-16 farmhouse, so this is a 19 something door, a substantial door. This is not just some flimsy door and it was just trembling like this in the wind, so that inspired this next segment. (Frank) [Chuckles] Well, March, that’s when you get out the kites and fly ‘em and all that, except in a gale-force winds. (Deb) I’m telling you, Jake was talking about that kite weather and I’m like, “Man, you’d be at Nebraska by now or somewhere, St. Louis or someplace, if you tried to fly a kite in some of the winds we’ve had this spring.” (Frank) Well, the first part of the month. Because I’m on WREN radio, Anyway, the forecast day after day after day was Red Flag Warning and we’d have wind gusts to 45 miles an hour. (Deb) 70 miles an hour in western Kansas. (Frank) Well, there’s nothing to stop it out there. (Deb) Really. Like one of the legislators used to tell me, “Nothing between us and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence and that’s down half the time,” so, yes, that’s been crazy. (Frank) That’s pretty good, so anyway let’s hear about the wind. (Deb) The March wind screams around us like a keening banshee. It wails through the night and shoves the sun toward the horizon in the morning. It seemingly scatters the stars. The dust in the barnyard obscures the horses and even the cats scurry to hide. It is obvious why March was named for the Roman God of War; nature is at war with itself. Heating, cooling, air, earth, and water–none is yet in sync as spring is wrested from the grasp of winter. The March wind blows rain, snow, and petals of flowers brave enough to burst through one of the warm spells. Nothing is spared the wind’s wrath. On the High Plains, roads are closed. It is safer than risking a semi’s flipping over. Even hardened ranchers, accustomed to the extremes of weather, put off chores to another day in the face of the March wind. Horses become nervous. Their nostrils flare, their ears are pointed; they become jumpy. The cows simply hunker down, clinging to the pasture to keep from blowing into the fence, they dig in their hooves. The red tail hawk is suspended, trying as he might to fly to another field; he eventually gives up, turns, and is swept away. March wind is like the stern schoolmaster, hovering above your desk, “You will change!!! You will! I will make you change!!!” Yes, the March wind changes everything in its path. It rearranges the landscape. Bent, broken, rearranged — it is an endurance test, challenging us to prove we deserve to see spring. It is the ultimate spring cleaning –sweeping every loose thing from sight. If your house is not pulled from its foundation, I promise the world will look very different in the morning.

(Deb) We’ll be back from the Statehouse next week. In the meantime, I’m Deb. (Frank) I’m Frank and we’ll see you somewhere. (Deb and Frank) Around Kansas.

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