(Frank) Today on Around Kansas we start with a look at the jackrabbit, a pesky resident of the prairies of western Kansas. Then enjoy a story about the Smithsonian’s task of restoring and preserving relics from the movie The Wizard of Oz. Next is a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with one Kansan’s story of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.
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(Frank Chaffin) Good morning, I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas and also, it is the day that lives in infamy. (Deb) It certainly is. (Frank) December 7th. (Deb) This is a very significant anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day and we have a really compelling story later on about a Kansan who was at Pearl Harbor that day. I’ve been privileged to meet and interview a few people involved in that. I want to refer you back to another story that we did on Neale Narramore from Elmdale, Kansas. I’ll share that link again on our Facebook page in case you missed that story, but his brother was actually at Pearl Harbor. They were two boys who were serving in the war at the same time from Elmdale and his Pearl Harbor story will just rip your heart out like all of them will. I want to give a shout out to my good friend Danny Martinez, who is the Chief Historian at the USS Arizona. Danny has been working for a long time on getting the names right on the memorial there, the Arizona. He didn’t have any idea as he approached that project how emotional it would be, because in going through the files in those records he’s found letters and personal items and it’s just been overwhelming to go through that. I give a shout out to Danny and all the amazing hard work that Danny does. He’s just one of the best people, one of the nicest folks in the world and such a serious historian and a great guy. We just appreciate what he does so much. For those of you who have not yet been to the USS Arizona, that’s on my bucket list because I have not been, but a lot of my friends have. I know a lot of veterans make that pilgrimage and there may be a couple of veterans yet left who were at Pearl Harbor. Of course, we’re losing our World War II veterans everyday, so if you come across one of those guys by all means give them your thanks and let them know how much you appreciate their service. That was a dark time in the world history. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) A very dark time. It’s good to remember, it’s appropriate to remember and try to learn something from history. We’re blessed in Kansas to have so many veterans. We’ve always in Kansas had a disproportionately high number of veterans in the state, people who served. And at Pearl Harbor, we’re going to be talking about today; we have so many Navy veterans. People think that’s funny because we’re landlocked, but so many of these boys thought it was the only way they’ll ever see the ocean. I’ve heard that the whole fifth fleet were boys from Kansas and Nebraska, just from the Midwest because they wanted to see the ocean. We’ve got a lot of ties today. (Frank) Anyway, December 7th. Never forget.
(Frank) Here we are again. (Deb) Well, living out in western Kansas of course, we’ve got jackrabbits. I started looking into facts about jackrabbits and George Paris, you know George; you knew George and his late wife Alma. George has a wonderful recording. I think it’s called Back When I was Alive. It’s his stories of growing up during the Dust Bowl. One of them is about the jackrabbit hunts that they used to have which are really brutal. There’s some footage online at Kansas State Historical Society if you want to go see. Then they would give, jackrabbits were eating so much of the crops, they could destroy $10 worth of crops a day and in 1930 something figures, that was a lot. Millions and millions of jackrabbits, it was insane. It was absolutely insane, so they would round them up and they would beat them to death. It’s just like an episode of The Twilight Zone. We still have jackrabbits in western Kansas though they’re not as- (Frank) Well, they’re not as numerous and therefore not as destructive. (Deb) -they’re not as numerous and therefore not as destructive but there’s still an issue. I know that one of my friends was talking about her husband riding the combine with his 22, picking off the jackrabbits as they went. It’s open season on them too, Frank. We were talking about that on another show, weren’t we? There’s open season all the time. But they’re interesting little critters. I mean they really are, just like those little kangaroo rats. You just never know until you to start looking at them. (Frank) Well, in the neighborhood I live in, we have a lot of rabbits too. (Deb) But they’re not jackrabbits, are they? (Frank) No, they’re not jackrabbits but they’re- (Deb) They’re just nice little guys. (Frank) – they’re little cottontails. (Deb) Just nice little cottontails- (Frank) Yes. (Deb) – not nearly as destructive? And they can eat a lot too. Let’s take a look at our friend the jackrabbit. The black-tailed jackrabbit, although referred to as a rabbit, actually is a hare based on its long ears and feet and precocial young, meaning they are born pretty mature and mobile. In addition to long ears and feet, this jackrabbit has especially long legs. Gray or beige, it will have a dark stripe down its rump and tail. This hare thrives throughout the western United States and Mexico from Washington and South Dakota south through central Mexico. In Kansas, the black-tailed jackrabbit occurs statewide but is more common on the prairies of the West. Kansas rangelands near wheat fields are preferred habitat because jackrabbit commonly feed on green wheat during winter. Throughout most of Kansas, the breeding period of the black-tailed jackrabbit is from late winter to late summer. After a gestation period of from 41 to 47 days, one to eight, usually four, short-eared young are born fully furred with eyes open. They are able to move almost immediately, and because the young are so well developed at birth, there is no need for an elaborate nest to house them. Birth generally takes place in a grass- and fur-lined burrow among the grass or under low shrubs, but can take place even on the bare ground. The female nurses the young for three or four weeks although the weaning process begins at about ten days, and at about one month of age the young become independent. They grow rapidly and in two months are nearly adult size. Both sexes reach sexual maturity in the breeding season following their birth. Predators include coyotes, eagles, large hawks, large owls, domestic dogs and swift foxes. The greatest source of mortality is humans, but fires, hail storms, automobiles, cold weather and parasites take a toll, as does a condition known as shock disease. Black-tailed jackrabbits eat whatever vegetation is available, a fact that became tragically evident during the dustbowl when the critters’ appetites so devastated farms and ranches that great rabbit hunts were organized.
(Frank) Back again. Well, Kansas, if you’re anywhere else outside of Kansas and you say Kansas, usually they’ll say something that relates to the Wizard of Oz. How’s Dorothy and her dog Toto? (Deb) How’s Dorothy? How many times have I heard that? We’re not in Kansas anymore which is exactly what I thought when I was out in Southern California. Yes, we’re not in Kansas anymore; and your little dog too and there’s the flying monkeys. There’s just so many references to the Wizard of Oz. (Frank) And in the casinos one of the most popular slot machines, believe it or not are the Wizard of Oz machines. (Deb) Really? I didn’t know that. (Frank) Yes, they are. I know a lot of this because they use a lot of the graphics from the movie and all that and so that’s one of the more popular slot machines. It’s what made Kansas famous. We don’t want to say infamous because it is a wonderful story. (Deb) It’s a wonderful story. It’s a wonderful movie, wonderful story. (Frank) Yes. The thing is then, and you and I both know this, but the movie changed something in the original story and that had to do with Dorothy’s slippers. In the original story, they were not ruby slippers. (Deb) They were silver. (Frank) That’s right. (Deb) They were silver because our friend Paul Miles Schneider wrote the book Silver Shoes. Is that right, Paul? And it’s all about his mother finding a silver shoe. It’s a great book. Highly recommend it. But yes, they were silver and if I remember right Frank, they thought that the ruby slippers would show up better. (Frank) They would show up better because this movie was going to be in this brand new technology of color. Because you remember, we went from black-and-white into this wonderful- (Deb) The wonderful world of color. (Frank) –yes, the wonderful world of color and so they used ruby slippers. She had more than one pair too but that’s all part of the story that I get to do about the restoration of Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Now that the Smithsonian has reached its crowd-funding goal to preserve the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz,” the museum is asking for more money to conserve another relic from the beloved movie, according to the Associated Press. The National Museum of American History extended the Kickstarter campaign that brought in $300,000 in one week to maintain the ruby slippers. The museum will seek another $85,000 to care for and display a Scarecrow costume worn by actor Ray Bolger and donated to the museum by his widow, Gwendolyn Bolger, in 1987. If the campaign is successful, the museum will place the Scarecrow’s hat alongside the slippers in a new pop-culture exhibit that’s scheduled to open in 2018. The entire costume would be shown temporarily but is too delicate to go on permanent display. The slippers, one of four pairs made for the 1939 movie that are known to exist, are among the most popular items in the museum’s collection. They were sold at auction in 1970, donated to the museum in 1979 and have been on near-permanent display ever since. Not built to last, the sequin-covered shoes have deteriorated from exposure to light and moisture, and most of the $300,000 will go toward scientific research on how best to construct a new display case that will better protect them.
(Ron Wilson) Cowboys like to eat and we also complain about the food. In the days of the old cattle drives of course, there were chuck wagons that went with the cattle herds. The guy who was chosen as chuck wagon cook, sometimes his only qualification was that he was too stove-up to drive cattle, which didn’t make for much of a culinary resume. This poem is entitled This grub is out of this world. Now I hate to be someone to complain because people who gripe can be quite a pain. But us cowboys are really stuck on the hook, because of our awful chuck wagon cook. On this trail drive he’s the only food that we’ve got, but his grub tastes like your belly will rot. Old Cookie makes coffee as bitter as tar. His beans have a flavor that seems quite bizarre. His beef is so tough you have to saw on it first, but its Old Cookie’s biscuits that are really the worst. Biting his biscuits will give you a shock; they land in your belly like they were a rock. Whatever his recipe is, he ought to adjust because they taste like a mix of gunpowder and sawdust. We’d give anything for a meal in town because his biscuits are the toughest things around. But instead of giving our stomachs abuse, I think I’ve come up with the perfect use. That fella Jules Verne wrote of going to Mars on some magic ship that could fly to the stars. A ship like that would have to be strong to make a journey so far and so long. So when they go to make that trip, they should use Cookie’s biscuits to build the ship. Happy Trails.
(Frank) And again, here we are. This is Around Kansas. I’m Frank, she’s Deb and we’re here every Wednesday at this time. So hopefully you will continue to tune in. If you do miss it, you can find this online. (Deb) You sure can. You can find this online. You can find this on Facebook. You can go to our website and watch old segments of the whole show. Love to have you join us. And this is a good time Frank, I’m glad you mentioned that to plug advertising with us because you can be one of our sponsors, one of the really nice people who sponsor our show we’re a very effective way to get around the state of Kansas. (Frank) Yes. We’re seen in every county- (Deb) In every county all over the state. (Frank) -and in Kansas City. (Deb) And we might even creep in over in to Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado just a little bit. But yes, no more cost effective way to reach your neighbors around the state. So just let us know if you’d like to look into that. Now this next story came to me through my friend, Jim Hatzell. Jim is an amazing actor, historian, costumer, and writer. He is involved with our good friend Robert Culbertson up at American Frontier Productions and doing the photo shoots that they do for artists every year. Jake and I have been involved in a couple of those and so Jim came to me with a story and said, “I think this would…it’s something for your show”. This man was his uncle I believe. The first American to shoot down an enemy plane during the attack on Pearl Harbor was from Kansas and it was Jim’s uncle. It’s like, Frank, you know how it is, this stuff just comes to you and you’re like, “wow, wow” and this was one of those wow moments. He sent me the article so I’ve got Jim to thank for all the research on this story and really appreciate his sharing it with us. I know this is one you’re going to go, wow. (Frank) Leslie Vernon Short was born in Plains, Kansas, Meade County, in 1921. His father was a veteran of the Great War, and as he watched events unfold around the globe, he could see the signs of another great war to come. He encouraged his son to join the Navy, because the conditions were better than the other branches. When the prairie boy went to Washington state and boarded a ferry, it was the largest boat he had ever seen until he stepped aboard the battleship, the USS Maryland. Leslie passed away in 1998 in Wichita. He donated much of his time to school groups, addressing students about the history, and the most importantly, the context of that day. He used “special effects,” firecrackers in a trashcan at just the right moment to get their attention, to illustrate the shock and surprise of the attack of December 7, 1941. Leslie shared these stories with Wichita Eagle reporter, Bud Norman, in 1991. He told Bud “I want them to think about how it all came about. Why did the so-called civilizations go to such drastic means to solve their problems? We’ve still got the same things going on now. The world hasn’t changed.” Sadly, the words Leslie spoke 25 years ago ring true as the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is marked. In that remembrance, Leslie holds a special place of honor, as the first American to shoot down a Japanese plane in defense of the Naval base. Leslie was at his duty station, in a gun tub. He was going to write a letter to a shipmate who was stateside. It was an ordinary morning, until he realized the planes on the horizon were not Army, but Japanese. The personnel had been ordered to take cover, and Leslie was halfway down the stairs when he turned and clambered back to his gun post. Torpedo planes were coming from the south. “I couldn’t see them,” Leslie told the reporter, “because of the superstructure of the USS Oklahoma, but when they turned belly up to swing left of the port bow, well, there was a big old red ‘meatball’ showing. That’s what we called torpedoes. Meatballs. That’s when I opened fire.” When the ship’s captain filed his report, Leslie was credited with “Distinguished Conduct of Personnel.” Leslie received letters of commendation from the Secretary of War, the Battleship Fleet Commander and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. According to his friend, Jerry Lee, Leslie served over 30 years of continual active duty participating in two subsequent wars, Korea and Vietnam. He retired as a Chief Mineman in 1971. He was a member of the Air Capitol Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association in Wichita Kansas, and was elected to four consecutive terms as chapter President. God bless his memory.
(Frank) And so it goes, we’re out of time. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere- (Frank and Deb) -Around Kansas.
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