prickly story about barbed wire, Andy McKee

(Frank) Today Around Kansas starts with a prickly story about barbed wire, how it ended the vast open range and the museum in La Crosse, Kansas that is devoted to its history and legends. Next learn about Andy McKee, one of the world’s finest guitarists. Then enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with a look at the Battle of Black Jack, also known in many circles as the first battle of the Civil War.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Frank) It’s early Wednesday morning, or online it’s anytime you want to see it. (Deb) Yes. (Frank) So, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) This is Around Kansas. Good morning. (Deb) Good morning and here we are the 30th of March. April is almost upon us. (Frank) Already. (Deb) I know. I have to give a shout out to my dear friend Dana Anson who is a nut and she was actually born on April Fool’s Day. (Frank) Oh no. (Deb) So, one of her birthdays, I don’t recall which one it was, but Marshall Barber was on the radio, he had the morning show. I called and I said, “I’d like everybody to wish Dana Anson a happy 50th birthday.” Well, she was not yet 50, but it was April Fool’s Day. Marshall didn’t, for some reason, totally trust me. I don’t know why, but he did wish Dana a happy 50th birthday, but he did it hesitatingly. I don’t think Dana’s ever forgiven me, but oh well. (Frank) Hmm, so anyway. We have some really interesting stories for you today too. (Deb) It’s going to be a fun day, fun day. My birthday comes up in April, so you have time to plan. April 8th. (Frank) She’ll be 29 again. (Deb) Again, yet again. Isn’t this a great country? (Frank) Kind of like Groundhog Day. (Deb) Exactly, exactly like Groundhog Day. That sums up my life so well. Yea, yea repeat! Do it again. See if you can get it right this time. (Frank) We’ve talked about a lot of people and places around the state of Kansas, and every now and then we kind of forget what we’ve talked about, because we were talking about it before we went on today…(Deb) Like last week, what did we do last week? (Frank) Did you do a story on this? I went, “I really don’t remember. I don’t think so.” Anyway. (Deb) You people have to keep us straight. I keep thinking about of all the cool things that I would love to have input about. I would love to have the viewers tell us about their favorite haunted places, or their favorite romantic places. I was out on a ranch in western Kansas not long ago and the guy that owned the ranch was telling me how he and his now wife used to go down and court by the river bank there on the ranch and fight mosquitos and everything. It was really sweet, it was really sweet. I’m like well if you guys survive that that was probably a good test. You know, on 4th of July. How do people mark the 4th of July? We’ve got a lot of traditions here, so let us know. Drop us an email or message us on Facebook and maybe we’ll take some of those and make them into a story. (Frank) I’ve got to say not 60 Minutes, but on CBS Sunday Morning… (Deb) I love that show. (Frank) …one of their reporters had been in Kansas and somebody said, “What did you like best about Kansas?” They said, “I got this little thing and it’s supposed to represent the biggest ball of string.” Linda went, “Did you just hear that?” I said, “Yes, he said he loved the ball of string.” (Deb) Isn’t that funny? Remember it was in the movie “Michael”? (Frank) Yes. (Deb) With John Travolta. That was wonderful. The big ball of string is a big deal. If you haven’t been there… (Frank) It is. (Deb) …you’ve got to go see it. (Frank) And they add to it. (Deb) They add to it. We’ll talk about the big ball for barbed wire here in just a few minutes. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Not quite as easy to get close to.

(Frank) We’re back again on this Wednesday morning. (Deb) So, we were out at La Crosse a few weeks ago and the Barbed Wire Museum in La Crosse. I had heard about it many times, but I had not had the chance to go. It is wonderful. Wonderful. Number one, it is really extensive. It’s huge. And it is beautiful. It is so well done and all these samples of barbed wire. You’re like, “Really, big deal?” But nothing, other than the railroads, nothing changed the West like the introduction of barbed wire. So, it is hugely important to our history. Brad Penka there was just amazing. He opened the museum for us so that I could get in and take pictures to share with you. I think the museum opens for the season maybe at the end of April or first of May, something like that. So, make sure you put La Crosse on your travel plans. But they also have the Post Rock Museum there and they’ve got Bank Museum. (Frank) Another rock. (Deb) You know, I’m thinking rock of the week. What do you think Frank? (Frank) Yea. We’ve had Teter Rock and Pawnee Rock. (Deb) Castle Rock and Pawnee Rock. (Frank) A lot of rocks here in Kansas. (Deb) We’ve got rocks and then we’ve got the Point of Rocks. I know that I talked about that out at Cimarron. There’s just no end to the rocks we have and they’re really cool rocks. I was thinking actually driving over today, we should just do a rock of the week. If you’ve got a cool rock that we don’t know about… (Frank) Now, do you know who actually invented barbed wire? I was hoping you did, because I have no idea. (Deb) Glidden. (Frank) You mean the paint guy? (Deb) Yea, yea. (Frank) Really? (Deb) Maybe we’ll talk about that. I thought… (Frank) So, we had, he invented barbed wire and then he invented paint, and then painted the barbed wire. I don’t know. But that’s what the story is about, is we’re going to go to this museum in La Crosse and we’re going to look at a lot of barbed wire. I think we’re ready to see the story. (Karla) First there was nothing but a vast open range. Native bison roamed free. Then came the settlers, and with them, a need to define their territory. Soon, miles of fences were built. Territorial disputes ensued, rights came into question, and the character of the land began to change. When the dust settled, people were once again able to live relatively in peace. The days of the open range were gone. In La Crosse, Kansas, a museum complex celebrates the seemingly mundane chore of fencing with displays on post rock and barbed wire. Some say it was the six-gun that settled the west. Others know better. It was an unusual invention that in a few short years grew into a multi-million dollar industry: barbed wire. It was a simple invention originally designed to protect a small family garden. Within a few short years of its invention, its use had spread across the prairie and eventually around the world. Barbed wire made a number of important contributions to western history. It redefined the landscape. The legal dispute that erupted between its inventors made its way to the United States Supreme Court set a precedent in patent law. It made men wealthy and their wealth built public buildings, and a major university. It was a simple invention that changed the direction of history and its impact resonates today. The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum is devoted solely to the history and legend of this part of American history often referred to as the “Devils Rope”. On exhibit are over 2400 barbed wire varieties; including samples manufactured between the years 1870 and 1890. Hundreds of antique fencing tools illustrate the inventiveness of pioneers. The museum presents interesting ways to learn about one of the Midwest’s most important contributions to America’s history. Dioramas of early barbed wire use, a theatre featuring educational films, the Barbed Wire Hall of Fame, the museum archives room, and a research library all help to conjure up images of settling the Midwest, range wars between homesteaders and cattlemen, and the transformation of the open prairie into America’s bread basket. Brad Penka is president of the Kansas Barbed Wire Collectors Association and you will count yourself lucky to have him show you around. His passion is contagious. The collections are displayed so artfully, so thoughtfully, that I can promise you will never again take barbed wire for granted. Nor will you look at those picturesque rock fence posts in quite the same way. This museum complex is located next to the city park so there’s lots of room for the kids, who can’t be fenced in, to run off some energy. A must for your Kansas bucket list!

(Deb) Speaking of rock. (Frank) I think we’ve composed ourselves now, maybe. (Deb) I thought you were going to ask me if I knew who invented rock. That’s what it was. Speaking of rock, we’ve got Andy McKee coming up. (Frank) Yes we do. (Deb) Different kind of rock. Rock and roll. (Frank) Yea, yea, yea. Guitar players. There are a lot of them around, but there are some that are of course, much better than others and Andy McKee happens to be one of them. (Deb) Maybe one of the top five in the world. Seriously. He is unbelievable. Unbelievable talent from right here in Topeka. Kansas has raised some incredible, incredible guitar players. We’ve got Richard Williams from here in town and we’ve got Dawayne Bailey from out in Manhattan and we’ve just got them all over the place. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) They’re just everywhere. (Frank) Well that and groups, I mean “Kansas.” (Deb) I know. I know. (Frank) I mean bunches and bunches of them. Back in the ’50s there were a lot of groups and of course at that time they mostly just traveled and did dances in a lot of places because there were a lot of halls that would have the dances. Of course, KOMA out of Oklahoma City, the big 50,000 watt KOMA promoted a lot of those bands. (Deb) Oh yea, they were huge. In fact, obviously I wasn’t living here then, or anywhere else in the 1950’s but I have heard them talk…I’ve heard the old folks talk about KOMA and how so many of those bands that’s where they got their reputation. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) Just all over the Midwest, so it’s really important to the musical scene. (Frank) Yea, and I don’t know if that really inspired a lot of the bands that then came forth out of Kansas, or even individuals… (Deb) I think so, yea. (Frank) …but there were a lot of them. (Deb) I think so. (Frank) Mr. McKee is now making his mark in the music world. I’m going to do a fun story about it. (Deb) When Frank says in the music world, we do mean world. Not just this country, but THE world. Andy has conquered the world. Let’s take a look at Frank’s story. (Frank) Andy McKee is among the world’s finest acoustic guitarists. His crossover success to millions upon millions of YouTube viewers underscores his emergence as one of today’s most unique and influential artists. To fans of virtuoso musicianship, it is Andy’s attention to song structure and melodic content that elevates him above the rest. To fans of popular music, Andy entertains both the eye and the ear as he magically transforms the steel string guitar into a full orchestra via his use of altered tunings, tapping, partial capos, percussive hits, and a signature two-handed technique. He’s been featured as a cover story in both Acoustic Guitar Magazine in the U.S. and Acoustic Magazine in the UK, and is also the figurehead of the unique Guitar Masters Tours, which has traveled the world over. With his influence continuing to grow, in 2012 Andy was personally asked by progressive metal icons Dream Theater to open their Asian tour followed by living-legend Prince, yes PRINCE, who found him on YouTube, to join his band for a series of shows in Australia. It was YouTube that brought Andy’s unique talent to many people. His performance of Drifting now has more than 54 million, yes, MILLION, views. Andy now looks to challenge himself even further with more surprise collaborations, diverse music releases, development of new instrument products, and ceaseless international touring including new markets such as India, Russia, the Middle East and Greece. In addition, Andy launched a record label titled Mythmaker Records in 2014 whose focus is on gathering and developing the world’s most creative and unique musicians in one place. On April 12, Andy comes home to Topeka for a rare performance. Wrapping up a tour with stops in Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland, he heads to White Concert Hall at Washburn University for what promises to be an amazing evening. For tickets and more information, visit

(Ron) Howdy folks, I’m Ron Wilson, Poet Lariat. The cowboy really came alive in legend at the time of the great cattle drives. And the goal of the Texas drovers was to get to Abilene. This poem is in honor of the “First Cowtowns.” One of the first cowtowns the world had ever seen, was the little community known as Abilene. It all began after the Civil War here, with demand for beef from the western frontier. A livestock dealer named Joseph McCoy, helped bring about the American cowboy. He saw Longhorns in Texas running free and he knew what an opportunity these could be. McCoy looked for a place with grass and water abiding where he could build a big railroad sighting. He traveled through Kansas on a railroad route west, in search of a town that would suite his request. And when he got to the city of Abilene, he found a place which he had foreseen. It became a cattle shipping point hence forth for Texas drovers bringing cattle north. Thousands of Longhorns came up the Chisholm Trail to the city of Abilene to meet the rail. The money flowed and cowboys got wild until the local folks got riled. So in time the cattle trade moved west and the Texas cattle rancher’s quest. But in the history of the west, the name still resounds Abilene, Kansas, one of the first cow towns. Happy Trails.

(Frank) We’re back again. You know, there still is a Maple Leaf Festival in the fall in Kansas. It’s near a battleground that was pre-Civil War, although we agree that the Civil War really began in the state of Kansas and in the 1850’s. (Deb) And really began at Black Jack in my opinion, my learned opinion and that of many other scholars, that the Civil War actually began right here on Kansas soil, June 2, 1856, with the Battle of Black Jack, really close to Baldwin City, right on the Santa Fe Trail. They’ve got a really wonderful historic site and we’re going to talk a little bit in this segment about the battle. But if you go visit the site, you can go anytime and walk the trails. They’ve got some really beautiful trails there. You can actually walk up in to the ruts of the Santa Fe Trail. People who haven’t done it, you’ll tell them you can go see the ruts. They’re like, “Big deal.” It is a big deal. When you stand in those ruts, there’s just something that comes over you and you think about how many thousands of people passed over. The people that would have gone through there…of course, my personal favorite hometown boy J.E.B. Stuart. No idea how many times he would have trotted his horse right through that very spot. It just sends chills over me. (Frank) Yes, and some years ago there used to be a musical during the Maple Leaf Festival called “The Battle of Black Jack.” It was a musical and yours truly got to play a true life person in it, a Baptist minister that got captured by the slavers and they poured liquor down him to find out if the Free Staters were going to move and where they were going to be and the whole thing. It was really a spectacular…and I hate to just say show because it was gigantic. There were a lot of lot of people in it. It was a fun thing to do as well. (Deb) Look for the Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin City. It’s in September every year I believe. (Frank) We’ll probably do a story on that. (Deb) We’ll do something on that later on. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the Battle of Black Jack. (Karla) This wasn’t always a battlefield. It was a place of rest and respite, the Black Jack springs on the dusty Santa Fe Trail, a welcome spot in the shade of the Black Jack oaks on a hot day. For thirty years, this was a peaceful place. Then came John Brown. Yes, the John Brown who set the Kansas Territory ablaze. In May of 1856, enraged at the sack of Lawrence by pro-slavery Missourians, Brown and his followers, including his sons, visited cabins along Mosquito and Pottawatomie Creeks, took five men and boys from their homes and slaughtered them. The murders sent shockwaves through settlers, and many left, went back to whatever was left of their previous lives. Brown became, mostly unofficially, a wanted man. Henry Clay Pate led a group of Missourians into the Kansas Territory to hunt down Brown. On June 1st, 1856, they camped in the grove of Black Jack oaks. The next day, they found themselves in a desperate fight with John Brown, and when the shooting was over, Pate was Brown’s prisoner. Days later, Brown would come face to face with soldiers from Fort Leavenworth led by Col. Edwin Sumner. Lt. J. E. B. Stuart was among those soldiers. His life would become intertwined with Brown’s, and each would play a major role in the great drama unfolding in America. What is arguably the first battle of the great Civil War took place along the already well-worn path of the Santa Fe Trail in Douglas County, years before the war would break out in the East. The site is owned by the Black Jack Battlefield Trust, which has created trails throughout the property. While there are events at various times throughout the year, the park is open daily from dawn ‘til dusk and offers a very different landscape than often imagined in Kansas. The vegetation is far more dense and lush, the land rolls and drops through thick woods. In other words, it is once again a peaceful respite from the rest of the world. Visit their website for information on supporting this important site and be sure to put it on your itinerary as you are traveling across Kansas.

(Frank) We have been kind of silly today, so really the only thing I can think of is: Badup, badup, badup, that’s all folks! (Deb) Happy April Fool’s Day.

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

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