Groundhog, Gary Paxton

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas let’s get to know the Groundhog – sometimes called a woodchuck, whistle pig or a ground pig. Next, on a more serious note, we share the life story of Gary Paxton, a singer/songwriter from Coffeyville who passed away last summer. Then enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with the history of the teacup.

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(Frank Chaffin) Good morning, I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. This is the show where we talk about people, places and things that make Kansas a great place to live and visit. (Deb) So you’re welcome. We’re waiting for you. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Well one month down in 2017. (Frank) February already. (Deb) And it’s February already and of course tomorrow, February 2nd is Groundhog Day and we’ve got a Groundhog story coming up for you here in a few minutes, but I was thinking about Groundhog Day and some of the stories that we’ve got coming up. We’ve got one on Gary Paxton coming up and his life as you said was kind of sad, but there’s a lot of triumph in it too. And so the whole thing made me think about the movie Groundhog Day- (Frank) [Laughs] Groundhog Day, yes. (Deb) -which is one of my all-time favorite movies. If it’s ever on, I watch it. On Groundhog Day, I watch it all day long if I can. What a wonderful movie and this idea that you just keep repeating this day until you find meaning. It’s just a wonderful movie. I love it. I just love it. (Frank) It’s become –I guess you call it a cult movie. (Deb) I guess it is. (Frank) It has become a classic. It’s kind of a Groundhog Day, everybody shows the movie Groundhog Day and on Christmas it’s Christmas Story – (Deb) Right. (Frank) – for life and Groundhog Day is Groundhog Day. (Deb) And it’s just such a wonderful story and so I was thinking about the New Year and it’s still pretty new and these second chances. That’s what the Gary Paxton story reminded me of, and it’s what Groundhog Day reminded me of, it’s just second chances. No matter who you are and what’s happened in your life that, you know the sun comes up the next day and you got another brand new day to start with. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Or not, maybe it’s the same day you’ve got to start with and you just got to figure it out. So, that was my waxing philosophically for today. (Frank) When is spring- (Deb) Brain freeze, yes brain- (Frank) When is spring going to get here and thaw our brains? (Deb) Yes brain freeze. All right, that’s what I have when suffering from brain freeze. (Frank) Oh well. (Deb) Of course, if you were living out on the high plains and- (Frank) That’s right, you live way out there. (Deb) Way out there where it’s really- (Frank) 3,600 feet above. Well no, let’s say 896 is the elevation of Topeka and you’re at 3,650? (Deb) Actually where our house is, is 3200, but it’s like –I don’t know, a few yards away, it’s up at 36. And then you get them up to Mount Sunflower, which is even higher. So yes, very close. (Frank) And then pretty soon you’re in Denver and you’re a mile up there. (Deb) Yes, pretty soon you’re in the ozone, that’s right. Yes. (Frank) Okay, that’s geography for the day. (Deb) You’re breathing the ozone, Frank. That’s what you, drinking the Kool-Aid and breathing the ozone. That’s what we’re doing out there. (Frank) Okay. Anyway I think we have some stories today other than- (Deb) We got a fun show today. (Frank) -just babbling away. (Deb) We got a fun show today. And it’s a good time to remind people go to our Facebook page. I’d share photos, our cover photo on Facebook page. I try to change that pretty often and fortunately we have some amazing photographers. We’ve mentioned a few of those, but send us one of your photos or share it on our Facebook page. We’d love to see your work, and winter, whatever you say about how hard the winter is, the photo ops are pretty spectacular. So you get some pretty cool –you know the frost, the snow, the ice, there’s the tree limbs. You just get a lot of opportunities with photos in winter that you don’t get in the other seasons. So it does make for pretty time. (Frank) We’ll be back.

(Frank) Hello. Yes, we were just joking around while you were gone or we were gone or whatever. And part of it was how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Did I get it right? (Deb) You sure did, Frank. And that’s the eternal question, like why did the chicken cross the road, how much wood would a woodchuck chuck. It’s being in radio, people used to sit around and say those tongue twisters to loosen up your vocal chords and your jawbone a little bit to get ready to go on. Did you have other things like that, little vocal things you do? (Frank) Well, yes and no but. (Deb) Any you can repeat here? (Frank) Yes. Well, but one of the unique ones that I heard years ago when I was at KTOP, a man named Allen Franklin who had been with NBC and was a war correspondent was also responsible for getting Paul Harvey started. They were very good friends. Anyway, he was in Topeka because he was at VA and so he worked at KTOP and he did the news. Of course I was a disc jockey and you could listen to the queue and before, I’m going to kind of blow ears here and now, you heard this, “one, one, one, one, one, one, one, this is Allen Franklin and this is the news. Okay I’m ready.” [Laughs] It’s like, I guess Allen’s here. So anyway, one, one, one, one, one, one, one. That’s Allen Franklin, God rest his soul. (Deb) Well I was working at WSYD radio in Mount Airy and Bobby Cochran was the morning DJ and WKRP in Cincinnati, this was like a docudrama. This wasn’t even like fiction. This was like every radio station in the country was like WKRP. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) So he was like the Johnny Fever character and he would come in at four or five AM and put the radio on the air, put the station on the air, and probably hungover. He was not –I’d love working with Bobby C., but he would come in and he would growl; I mean you didn’t even speak to him before like 11 or 12 o’clock, and he flip on that mic and he was Mr. Sunshine and hello everybody, and he flip that back and “rararararaw” and fight. Oh man, you just didn’t go close to him, but yes, the tales we could tell; if only we could tell, “how much wood would a woodchuck chuck,” let’s take a look and see. Sometimes called a woodchuck, a whistle pig or a ground pig, the groundhog is the largest of the ground squirrels, and is found in roughly half the United States and parts of Canada. In Kansas, they are found in shrub lands, woodlands and uncultivated croplands. It ranges in size from 16 to 26 inches long and can weigh four to nine pounds, though much larger ones have been found. Groundhogs are well adapted for digging with short, powerful limbs and curved, thick claws. Unlike its clawing cousins, the groundhog’s spine is curved, more like that of a mole, and he has a short tail. Groundhogs are covered with two coats of fur; a dense grey undercoat and a longer coat of banded guard hairs. Their gnawing activity wears down their constantly growing incisor teeth. They live in underground dens, where they hibernate in winter. While hibernating, their heart rate, breathing and body temperatures are greatly reduced for 4-6 months. They may lose up to half their body weight during this period. Woodchucks feed primarily on wild flowers, but also eat alfalfa, grain crops, bark and buds. And the word woodchuck? Well, it apparently has nothing to do with how much wood he can chuck, but originates with the Algonquins who called the little creature a wuchak, which the Europeans corrupted to wood chuck.

(Frank) Back again, this is Around Kansas. I’m Frank, she’s Deb, and you’re not. (Deb) Still. (Frank) Old joke, but hey you know. (Deb) Hey aren’t you great, especially today. (Frank) You know Kansas has – we’ve done a lot of stories about musicians in and from Kansas and – (Deb) There’s no end in sight. (Frank) – yes, you’re right, the numbers are huge. (Deb): Yes. (Frank) Anyway the next story is about someone that I really didn’t know that much about. But doing the story, I got to learn about him more. (Deb) That’s a great thing about being a journalist, seriously. I remember when I was in high school and I was taking journalism and the teacher was passing out assignments and I don’t remember what the story was, but I raised my hand and I said, “I want that story. I don’t know anything about it.” And she said when I said that she knew she had a reporter because it’s just that curiosity that you want to know. That’s the great thing, and meeting people like Gary Paxton, I got to admit I knew the name because I grew up in North Carolina, Virginia, and I remember when he and Tammy Faye Bakker were friends and that made the news, you know all back home. But I didn’t know much about him personally and this story, I think is a really very poignant story. Again, what an amazing talent. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Good grief. (Frank) But yes, even though his life was filled with adversity, he was very proficient as a writer. (Deb) Amazing story, really is and one worth knowing. (Frank: Yes, so let’s take a look. Rarely does a talent like Gary Paxton come along. Rarely, does a story as painful and triumphant as Gary’s come along either. He was born in Coffeyville and raised on a farm – no electricity, no plumbing, no water. His challenges were more than poverty, however. Gary was molested by a neighbor when he was 7. He started writing songs when he was 10. He had spinal meningitis at 11. He moved to Arizona when he was 12 and had his own rock-and-roll band by the time he was 14. At 16, he wrote his first million-selling song and recorded it a year later. When he was 18, the song was released by Gary and his band mates performing as Skip and Flip. One day, he was sitting in a restaurant when a strange woman approached him and told Gary she was his mother. He had no idea he was adopted. His birth parents were young teenagers when he came along, and they placed him with someone else to raise. He had phenomenal success with songs like “Monster Mash” and “Cherry Pie” but it came too fast for a boy who had been poor too long. He turned to drugs and alcohol, but eventually he turned to God, and he wrote gospel music. His shows in Branson, Missouri, were a combination of testimony and inspiring songs. He shared his life’s story with Cross Rhythms from the United Kingdom who allowed us to share it with you. From Gary himself: Throughout my career, I have written more than 2,000 songs and had over 600 recorded. About 150 of them have become “hits” in one way or another. “He Was There All The Time” has been recorded over 100 times in 5 languages. I’ve been privileged to write many songs with Bill and Gloria Gaither. If I am asked what is my favorite song of all time, I will answer: “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” I’m not a performer. I’m a writer.” Gary passed away in the summer of 2016. What an amazing legacy he leaves behind!

(Ron Wilson) Nowadays farmers have modern tractors with all the technology and all the features. But the tractor that I grew up driving was an old Super H Farmall. This poem is entitled, Revenge of the Farmall. My dad bought a tractor used way back in 1958. It was a Farmall Super H, which he thought was great. It wasn’t big or fancy, had no roll bar, cab or radio, no three-point hitch or power steering to turn it just so. He had more modern bigger tractors in the ensuing years, but he always kept the old Farmall around the old place here. Decades later, when we moved back to the place; I drove the Farmall, but felt it should be replaced. We went to the dealer and bought a brand new tractor with all the tools and features, which you would think would be a factor. It had a front-end loader and a great hydraulic system with so many wonderful features that I had never missed them. When there was work to do, I’d pick the new tractor instead and leave the old Farmall parked out back in the shed. One wintry day, I had to take a load across the meadow, I fired up the brand new tractor and moved across the snow when suddenly the tractor’s front-end went down with a whack into a snow filled ditch. I couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go back. My new tractor had front wheel assist, but it was in too deep, tires spinning on the slippery slope where the angle was so steep. I tried to rock it but there was no such luck, thanks to my bad judgment, the new tractor had gotten stuck. I considered my options, I trudged back with sinking heart and decided to see if that old ignored Farmall would even start. To my surprise, the engine caught with a growl and then a shout. We drove across the meadow and pulled that brand new tractor out. It must have been a funny sight to see this curious trip like watching the Model T help out a new spaceship. Now things are back to normal, when there’s a tractor to be used, I choose the brand new tractor because of all that it can do, but dad was right, and just because his thinking was so sound, I’ll embrace the new technology, but I’ll keep the old Farmall around. Happy Trails.

(Deb) Okay Frank, once again, you know our gift show on Christmas got all kinds of views. People actually listen to us Frank and they take our advice, is that scary or what? Anyway, I rescued this, is that not gorgeous from a garage sale the other day, and it started me thinking about teacups. I was actually researching online, Google that, you can Google everything, to learn more about it and that this is actually lusterware I have learned. Welcome to Antiques Roadshow today, Leslie what would you say about this teacup? You can be the Leslie character, is he cute or what. I got to researching teacups and the photos, and you will see and the story, the images, it’s infinitesimal. There’s a bunch of them and the variety is just incredible, the creativity, these are hand-painted of course, the workmanship, the craftsmanship, and just the tradition around the teacups I thought was really fascinating. (Frank) Well, but did you know that before Tupperware parties and all that, I mean way back when because my grandmother and the ladies would get together, and they would get teacups, but they were bone china, in fact I inherited my grandmother’s old set of bone china. What they would do is they would get together and then they would guild them and paint them and all of that and then that’s what they use when they had guests over for dinner or whatever. It was quite a thing. (Deb) Quite a beautiful thing to inherit. There’s all this tradition around teacups, I think you’ll like this story. Let’s see if we can put the history of teacups in a cup. We all know that tea came from the Far East, where they drank their tea from a cup without handles, sometimes even brewing the tea in the same cup from which they drank it. For some reason, Europeans burned their fingers, unaccustomed as they were to drinking piping hot beverages. Ale, after all, is fine at room temps. The Chinese, being brilliant marketers and packagers, sent their beautiful porcelain teapots and cups with their tea to Europe. In fact, the tea was used to protect the porcelains, the blue and white classic designs that became standard in the homes of affluent Europeans. Eventually though, they grew tired of importing pots and cups and thought, hmmmmm…. we can make this. But their creations just couldn’t take the heat, literally. Until, in 1707, a German alchemist mixed kaolin clay into his porcelain and a whole new industry was born. And in the process, cups got handles. While high tea and formal teas may seem a thing of the past, and the fancy tea service of our grandmother’s era and before, seems passé; there are still few pleasures as comforting as the beautiful brewed tea in a lovely porcelain cup. And as you are sipping, whisper a word of thanks for the guy who put handles on the cups so that you don’t burn your dainty fingers!

(Frank) Guys, we’re done already again. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) We’ll see you somewhere Around Kansas.

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