Ken Spurgeon, Buffalo Bill Cultural Center

(Frank) Today Around Kansas introduces a Kansan who is a teacher, writer, filmmaker, screenwriter and historian – Ken Spurgeon, the guiding vision for Lone Chimney Films. Then see why a trip to the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center in Oakley is a family favorite! Next enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with a story about Kangaroo Rats, unique residents of western Kansas.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Frank) It’s Wednesday again, I’m Frank. (Deb) And I’m still Deb. [laughs] (Frank) This is Around Kansas. So good morning. Thanks for joining us. (Deb) Last Wednesday in June. (Frank) It looks like– (Deb) I got the memo. (Frank) She got the memo. (Deb) I got the memo. That’s right. (Frank) It’s blue day. (Deb) It’s sky blue or turquoise blue, or tail blue, or—I guess it’s not– (Frank) It’s close. (Deb) It’s close. (Frank) Well, and we need a little is red and white too because, can you believe it, 4th of July weekend is coming up? (Deb) No. No. I can’t. The year has gone, and I just can’t believe it. Just can’t believe it. (Frank) Well, when you’re having fun and traveling around Kansas, time just goes away. (Deb) Time just flies when you’re having fun. It does. I get to go– everywhere I go people are like, “Man, I love following you on Facebook. I love seeing all the cool stuff you get to do.” I love doing all the cool stuff I get to do, too. I really do. I enjoy every minute of it. Meeting different people all over the state and I’m constantly, this was so funny, I had a conversation with my friend Caroline the other day. Caroline grew up in Chicago. She is a city girl. Born and bred through and through. She is a city girl. Now I grew up in the country, so I’m a country girl. I don’t care where you plant me. I’m still a country girl. Now that Oakley is my new hometown, coming back and telling Carol, I might as well be talking to her about Mongolia because the life is so foreign to her. And I’m talking about all these people doing creative things and cool things. And she’s like, “You would just think the people sit out there and just sit on their tractor and do nothing” and I’m like, “That divide between the city mouse and the country mouse is just huge.” I don’t know why city people see country people as dull or as not creative when they’re just the most creative people in the world. Because you’ve got to be, living on a farm, you’ve got to be creative. (Frank) Well, years ago when I was in the sales staff at Wren radio, we had a media buyer in Atlanta that really believed that Matt Dillon and all of them were out there in Dodge City, and we’d say, “Yes, Matt Dillon was at the capital here last week when we went to buy, and said, ‘Hi’.” It’s like it was real to them. (Deb) Exactly. Exactly. But I love constantly meeting those creative people, and seeing how people express their creativity. Again, you might be what some people consider out in the middle of nowhere, but you’ve got all these wonderful resources and inspiration. I love seeing what comes from that, the art, or the crafts or just the life that people make in the midst of that. It’s wonderful. It’s really wonderful. (Frank) Yes, but where you grew up, didn’t you see Andy every day? (Deb) Yes. (Frank) Talking Andy Griffith of course. (Deb) Yes. Everyday. Everyday. And Barney was everywhere, let me tell you. And Goober and Gomer. I called home one day, and my sister’s passing around the phone, “Hey. Hey Debbie. Yes, and Barney says, ‘Hey’.” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh. Really?” (Frank) We actually do have some serious stories today folks. (Deb) Oh do we? Darn. That always gets in the way of having fun, doesn’t it. But we’ll be back with some really great stories, serious or not, in just a minute. Stay with us.

(Frank) Okay, we’re back and we’ve straightened up somewhat. (Deb) Good. This is good as we get, people. (Frank) It’s Wednesday. (Deb) That’s right. Time to start the fun. Plan for the weekend. July 4th is upon us. Let’s start the party. (Frank) So, anyway. I know the next story coming up is about Home on the Range. I don’t want to give away the story; it’s really an interesting story about how it got written and the whole thing. But still nobody can figure out the antelope because there weren’t any and also the skies are not cloudy all day. So I’m not sure that he was even in Kansas when he wrote the thing. (Deb) You know, he did take a drink every now and then. I don’t know if that’s the deal, or what. We did pass antelope the other day. Elk, antelope, all in one day. It was just like being on safari, I swear. Elk, antelope, deer; skunk carrying its baby across the road. There were jackalopes or jack rabbits. Maybe not jackalopes. (Frank) I was going to say, “Jackalopes?” (Deb) There was just jack rabbits. (Frank) She’s from the east. (Deb) There were jack rabbits and you just name it. Every little creature you could think of was out there. I don’t know what Brewster Higley saw. Anyway, my good friend Ken Spurgeon of Lone Chimney Films is working on the documentary. I was with them a week ago or so at Smith Center, and they’re working on the documentary telling the story of Home on the Range and how it was written and how it came to be internationally known. I wanted to pay tribute to Ken too and his buddies at Lone Chimney because Ken is just a master story teller. He’s such a good guy and cares so much about Kansas and the history of the West. I’m just so proud to have anything to do with Ken. I’ve been involved in the last three films, the last three documentaries he made on the Border War in Kansas, and then so thrilled to be involved with this one- Home on the Range. So there is no end of the good work he does. We know some cool people, Frank. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Don’t we, though? We do. We know some people doing wonderful things and Ken Spurgeon’s one of them. So if you haven’t met Ken, I want to introduce you to him. He is a teacher, a writer, a philosopher, filmmaker, screenwriter, and an historian. Most of all, he is a storyteller who mines the fertile fields of history for his subjects. And Ken Spurgeon is the guiding vision for Lone Chimney Films. Lone Chimney Films was founded in 2003 by Ken and Jon Goering. The company completed its first documentary, Touched by Fire: Bleeding Kansas, 1854-1861, in the spring of 2005. Its second documentary, Bloody Dawn: The Lawrence Massacre, was completed in late 2007 and both films have aired over twenty times on PBS regional stations across Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Nebraska. Both films have also been used in over 200 classrooms. Lone Chimney’s most recent documentary, The Road to Valhalla, detailing the story of the Kansas-Missouri border war, won the Best Documentary Award at the National Cowboy Museum, the Wrangler, in Oklahoma City. Ken and co-producers Shawn Bell and Neil Bontrager are in the midst of another incredible project — the story of the authorship, preservation and legacy of the song Home on the Range and the location where this “unofficial anthem” to the west was written, in Smith County, Kansas. Prominent performers like Buck Taylor and Michael Martin Murphey have lent their names and talent to this project and it promises to be a remarkable film. Whatever Ken tackles, whether he is coaching, teaching, directing, or filming, he is always at heart, a Kansan. He is quiet, strong, visionary, persistent, honest, and artistic. Kansas could not ask for anyone better to tell our story.

(Frank) And we’re back again. You know, it is interesting, the next story is about Buffalo Bill. It’s also interesting how he got the name. That’s in the story, so I really won’t give it away, but it is interesting that in the West, as it was being built, all of these characters got nicknames and what have you. So anyway, that’s what this story can be about. (Deb) Speaking of nicknames, of course the guy that he met was Medicine Bill Cornstalk. Medicine meaning superstitious, not like Doctor. Medicine as in– (Frank) Big medicine? (Deb) Yes, right. So it’s more like superstition. My favorite nickname in the West though is Buffalo Chips White. And one time Phil Sheridan, I can’t stand Phil Sheridan, but anyway, he was interviewing scouts, and Buffalo Bill was out of town. He was back in Rochester, wherever, doing a big show. So he was out of town, and so Charlie White was like Bill’s shadow. He dressed like Bill, he wore his hair like Bill, everything. So he goes in to see Phil Sheridan and Sheridan in his usual diplomatic ways, said, “Who the devil are you?” And he said, “When Buffalo Bill is not here, I am Buffalo Bill.” And Sheridan takes one look and says, “Buffalo Chips more likely”, except he didn’t say, ”Chips.” When the press reported it, they used the word “Chips” to make it politically correct for families to read. But that nickname stuck with him for the rest of his life. Buffalo Chips is probably on his tombstone. I don’t know. (Frank) What we need to do too, of course, Bill Cody, his name was William Cody. But so many of these guys, for some reason, took on the name Bill. It was something Bill– (Deb) Wild Bill. (Frank) Wild Bill. (Deb) Whose name was James. (Frank) Anyway, we’ll look into that. (Deb) We’ll look into that. Thanks, Bill (Frank) That’s okay, Billie. Stop for the legend. From 1867-1868 the Kansas Pacific Railroad was being built in the heart of buffalo country. From points west of Hays, hostile Indians were a challenge to providing fresh meat to the railroad workers. The railroad employed experienced hunters to supply the meat. William F. Cody was one of those hunters. Riding his favorite buffalo horse “Brigham,” and with the aid of his1866 Springfield rifle, named Lucretia Borgia, a 50-70 caliber gun, Buffalo Bill fulfilled his contract with the railroad as far west as Sheridan. This was the inspiration for the Buffalo Bill bronze sculpture, located just west of 2nd St. on US Hwy 83. The twice life-size bronze sculpture, by Charlie and Pat Norton of Leoti, was voted one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art. It commemorates the 1868 contest between Cody and William “Medicine Bill” Comstock where the winner earned the name Buffalo Bill. At the Visitor’s Center, The Wild West Historical Foundation tells Cody’s story and that of the legendary hunt. Read the story boards, listen to the radio story recounting the historical contest, and take pictures in the Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull cut out figures. When visiting the sculpture, be sure to stop inside the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center. There are exhibits, an extensive gift shop, and facilities to host your own historic events. So whether you stop in Oakley for a day or for a lifetime, you’ll be glad you did. Stop for the Legend…Stay for the Day.

(Ron) William F. Cody earned the nickname Buffalo Bill and he had roots in Kansas. He lived in northeast Kansas as a boy. He was a Pony Express rider, went on to be an Indian scout. He created a Wild West Show that toured the globe. And out west of Oakley, Kansas, there’s a big, big statue which commemorates how Buffalo Bill got his name. This poem is entitled, The Legend of Buffalo Bill. In the late 1860s as the railroad built west, as part of our nation’s destiny made manifest, all those railroad workers needed to eat and the obvious solution was buffalo meat. William F. Cody hired on with the railroad then, to hunt buffalo to provide meat for the men. His shooting demonstrated such excellent skills, his friends started calling him Buffalo Bill. But then they found another man using that name, you can’t have two men called the same. So they made a bet, as cowboys do, to see who’s claim to the name was true. They had a hunt to see how many buffalo each could shoot. The one who got the most would win the dispute. They rode west of Oakley and started to hunt, the day ended with William F. Cody in front. The other fellow got 46 which was fine, but William F. Cody shot 69. He won that contest and much, much more, and would be Buffalo Bill Cody forever more. He formed a Wild West Show and toured the globe, with wild cowboys and Indians and buffalo rodeos. He had Annie Oakley a sharp shooter like they’d never seen, they performed for the president and even the Queen. Now a monument stands on Oakley’s west side, showing Buffalo Bill on his famous hunting ride. For a history of the west he is riding there still, the legendary showman known as Buffalo Bill. Happy Trails.

(Frank) And again, here we are. (Deb) Do I not bring you the coolest stories, Frank? I mean– (Frank) Yes you do. But this next one though, is really—I mean, it really is. Do they box? (Deb) You’ll find out in the story. We’re talking about kangaroo rats. Pretty much Kansas you can divide it in half. They’re not in the east, but they’re the western half is almost a straight line up and down. They’re the wildest little creatures you’ve ever seen in your life and so as I’m researching this and I find out, you’ll learn in the story, they have their burrows, have specialized rooms. So there’s one for sleeping, one for storing food, and there’s a living room. What do these rats do in their living room? Do they have the other rats over? Do they have boxing matches? Do they– (Frank) That’s what I’m wondering. They’re kangaroo rats, so– (Deb) Is it like this open floor plan where it’s living and dining and eating all in one room, and so they just bring everybody in and have a little feast and kick back and watch TV? I mean, why does a rat need a living room? That is the funniest thing. (Frank) Now, how do they know it’s a living room? (Deb) Well, I guess some scientist somewhere has observed them. I just took that at face value, but maybe we need to look into that a little more. (Frank) A little couch and little lights. (Deb) Really. Exactly. I know. And they’ve got the, who knows what they’re playing, Barry White playing on the stereo or something, I don’t know. I mean, it’s like… (Frank) Do we have your interest up now about the story about kangaroo rats in Kansas? (Deb) They are the coolest little creatures, I’m serious. They do, they look like little bitty kangaroos. They just hop along and run over you and… (Frank) So why don’t they call them ‘hop-along rats’, and ‘hop-along Cassidy’ and– never mind. (Deb) I will speak to them about that, Frank. (Frank) Okay. (Deb) Hop along- hop-along rats. They just need the miniature horses, you know? If they just had the little miniature horses, and you have the whole little world. Like the Hobbit world. (Frank) There we go. (Deb) Like the kangaroo rats and the hobbits. (Frank) Can we go away now can we see the story? [laughs]. They are called kangaroo rats, well, because they look like little kangaroos hopping across the road in your headlights. Yes, they hop. They can, in fact, hop a distance of six feet, 9 feet on a good day. This remarkable rodent can even change direction mid-hop. They are bi-pedal, meaning they use two feet instead of all four. They are four-toed little beasts with big hind legs, small front legs and relatively large heads. The tails of kangaroo rats are longer than both their bodies and their heads. Another notable feature of kangaroo rats are their fur-lined cheek pouches, which are used for storing food. Their coloration varies from cinnamon buff to dark gray, depending on the species. The Ord Kangaroo Rat, found in the western half of Kansas, is cinnamon buff. They are rarely seen during the day, burrowing in sandy soil til nightfall when they appear to be food for nearly every other creature on the plains. Coyotes, foxes, badgers, weasels, owls, and every slithering snake imaginable feast on the little fellers. Since they primarily feed on seeds, they gather as many as they can and stuff them into their little pouches. Thus, they spend their time outside the burrow gathering and hoarding, and wait until they get back to the nest to begin digesting their haul. They do not need much water, instead, breaking down seeds with their metabolism, making them ideal survivors in the arid landscapes of the high plains. They can also conserve water by lowering their metabolic rate, which reduces loss of water through their skin and respiratory system. Another fascinating feature of these little guys is their complex burrow system. The burrows have separate chambers for specific purposes like sleeping, living and food storage. The spacing of the burrows depends on the number of kangaroo rats and the abundance of food. Kangaroo rats also live in colonies that range from six to several hundred dens. The burrow of a kangaroo rat is important in providing protection from the harsh desert environment. To maintain a constant temperature and relative humidity in their burrows, kangaroo rats plug the entrances with soil during the day. When the outside temperature is too hot, a kangaroo rat stays in its cool, humid burrow and leaves it only at night. To reduce loss of moisture through respiration when sleeping, a kangaroo rat buries its nose in its fur to accumulate a small pocket of moist air. The next time you see the buff-colored little rodent crossing the road, you might take a moment to marvel at what an interesting little creature he is!

(Deb) You think they’re enlightened enough now? [laughs] (Frank) I think we’re finally done. So, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. Happy Fourth of July. (Frank) Oh, yes, yes. And we’ll see you somewhere- (Both) Around Kansas.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

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