(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas, I hope you’re enjoying our visit to Sedan last week, I sure did. And now we’re going to take you to Prairie Days, to the Little House on the Prairie just outside of Independence, Kansas. We sure had a great visit with the folks there. Lots of interesting people. I know you’re going to love seeing what they’re doing at the Little House on the Prairie.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission.
The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.(Deb) We were so fortunate to be invited to the Little House on the Prairie for their celebration of Prairie Days. And of course, they draw from a huge community, counties around and these communities, a lot of them are struggling to survive quite honestly as kids grow up and leave the farm. We all know that story. And this is a real celebration of their community heritage, of the pioneering heritage of Kansas. And Little House on the Prairie is just a great testament to that pioneer heritage and the folks who support it and come from all over, from all the counties around. We had so many great folks to visit with at the Little House on the Prairie during Prairie Days. It was just impossible to get everybody in. One of my favorite of course is Dave Tooper. And Dave retired from the Army up at Fort Leavenworth. And now he is the historian down at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. And he and his wife Theresa came over and he is a demonstrator of Civil War medicine and you might think that he was displaying instruments of torture, the way this stuff looks. But as Dave explains to the kids and the folks who visit him there at the table, there were a lot of advances in medicine during that time, because unfortunately they had a lot of folks to experiment on. So, when you are looking at these really archaic saws and drills and all those instruments of torture that led to some advances that we still use today. And he was just one of the many folks, and I hope you’ll stay with us as we visit a lot more of them.(Deb) Welcome back to Prairie Days at Little House on the Prairie. And with me is another one of the most popular people here Mr. Fry the potter. And he has a regular potter shop in Elk Falls? (Steve Fry) In Elk Falls, Kansas. Elk Falls Pottery. We started in 1976. (Deb) 1976. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. All right so this has been so popular with the kids. You have them make a piece of pottery. They love it. So one of the things, we were talking with the blacksmith about this, you know, the blacksmith, just like the pottery and the basket making. These crafts have not changed much in a long, long time. (Fry) About the same as they’ve been made for thousands of years. (Deb) So, what was the appeal in making pottery to you? (Fry) I just fell in love with it. The first time I tried it, I thought, “This was so cool. I want to do this.” And so I just kind of kept going. I started in college, took a class learned it in college and I just never did quit. (Deb) Were you an art major in college? (Fry) I was. I actually took a sculpture class and I got… changed from sculpture for pottery when I got used to the potters wheel. (Deb) So, talk about being here at Little House on the Prairie and doing this craft. (Fry) Well, it’s fun. Because people like to see how things were done. And we’re losing a lot of that. Everything is so electronic and technological now that we don’t think about things that can be done by hand. And like with us, we dig our clay. We get it right from the earth. We take it home, we make things from it, and we sell it, so we do the whole process from the raw material to the finished customer. (Deb) Wow, so do you dig your clay on the Elk River? (Fry) We have got some clay on the Elk River but this clay comes from Barton County, near Great Bend. (Deb) So, what’s the difference from clay in Barton County and on the Elk River? (Fry) All clay is different and the clay in the eastern part of the state is a lower temperature clay. The clay that we find in Barton County will withstand very high temperatures. We fire to 2,300 degrees. And at that temperature, our local clay from Elk Falls would melt. (Deb) Wow. Just who would believe that there is so much to know about just plain dirt and how useful it can be. (Fry) Everybody hates clay unless they’re a potter. (Deb) Well thanks so much. And there’s kids waiting in line to make pots so I’ve got to let you go. But thanks for visiting with us. We’ll see you in November in Elk Falls for the… (Fry) Outhouse Tour. (Deb) Absolutely. Thank you.
(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas, we’re still at Prairie Days here at the Little House on the Prairie and with me is Mark Tommer. And one of the most popular people here, the blacksmith. So, obviously blacksmithing was not your intended career goal as a kid. So, how did you get into it? (Mark) I saw a blacksmith working in the Mystic Seaport Connecticut Museum and I was nine years old and I was just, “Wow! That is like the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life.” And I thought, I got to learn how to do that, I got to learn how to do that and I was about 27 when I bumped into a blacksmith working at Old Cow Town Museum in Wichita, a young guy and I asked him, “Where do you learn how to do this in this day and age?” And he said, “It just so happens we’ve got a workshop coming up in a few weeks. Do you want to sign up?” And I said, ” Oh yes.” So, I took a two-day workshop and I loved it. (Deb) And how old were you then? (Mark) About 27. (Deb) Wow. (Mark) I’m about 60 now, so it’s 32 years and change, something like that. (Deb) Well, the kids are still fascinated by it, obviously, as are the adults. (Mark) That’s the fun of doing this here. (Deb) So, what’s the pleasure you know, where does that come from? (Mark) I’ve always been into creative things on the side, I’ve never been able to, well, I was a designer as an engineer, but you’re very constrained when you’re doing design for a company. But it’s a kind of free form art thing. It’s very creative. It’s very creative, it’s very durable, it can be very useful. If you need to make a special tool, a modified tool, it’s just a really nice set of skills. And it’s real simple materials. (Deb) So, has the blacksmithing is it the same now as what you’re doing the same as a hundred, or two hundred or how far back? (Mark) Oh, I don’t know how far back. Forging, forged iron after the Bronze Age, but you’re looking at 800 years probably. I think the Chinese were doing iron 800 years ago. (Deb) And it’s essentially unchanged, same technology. (Mark) Pretty much. It has its own rewards. (Deb) Now you were talking, I heard you talking with one of the visitors about the mining in eastern Kansas, which was you know, some people in southeastern Kansas know, they’re pretty familiar with that history, but other folks are not in other parts of the state. (Mark) There is a shallow coal seam right at the edge of Kansas, where you dig down 20 feet and you’ve got coal. And so there were a lot of strip pits over there, early on. The problem was it was really dirty, oily coal. High sulfur, a lot of metal, lead and zinc and arsenic and stuff in it. So, it wasn’t, it was usable in a forge, but it was really smoky and dirty, had a lot, made a lot of clinkers and the smoke was really bad for you. (Deb) Right. (Mark) This is pretty good coal, but it is getting harder and harder to find. (Deb) Now you are also a musician, so what do you play? (Mark) I play acoustic guitar. I’ve done that for over 40, about 45 years. It doesn’t sound like I’ve played for 45 years. But I am a competent guitar player, singer. (Deb) And the name of the band? (Mark) Caney River Boys. (Deb) And what do you play? (Mark) We just play folk tunes and fun songs, nothing really complex. Nothing terribly challenging, just kind of fun, laid back music. The other two fellows at the glassworks over at those two tables, so, they’re my musician friends. (Deb) Well, what a creative life you’ve got Mark and so do you ranch, got some land down here? (Mark) I do. I have livestock, I’ve got goats, I’ve got a llama and a burro that kind of keeps an eye on the goats. I’ve got chickens; I’ve got honeybees. (Deb) What? Wonderful. (Mark) And I checked my hives day before yesterday and they’re loaded with honey already. So I had to give them some more space to go. I’m going to break my 200 pounds of honey this year. (Deb) Wow. (Mark) That will be nice. That will be really nice. (Deb) All right, we’re going to have to come see you and visit the bee hives. (Mark) I should have brought some with me. (Deb) The bee gums. Where I grew up, they called them bee gums. (Mark) Really? (Deb) The people, yeah, have you ever heard that? (Mark) Nope. (Deb) The things you learn on Around Kansas. We’ll be right back with more at Prairie Days at Little House on the Prairie. Stay with us.
(Deb) Welcome back. Teresa great to have you. Nice to be here Debbie. She is a basket maker and we were just talking last night, you’ve been making baskets for 28 years. (Teresa) 28 years. (Deb) That doesn’t seem possible. You don’t look that old. OK. Beautiful baskets and we see you were picking willow this morning. We went out with Theresa before we came over this morning cutting willow branches. So, Teresa talk about what you have to go through to make these beautiful baskets. You’ve got one in progress here. (Teresa_ Yes I do and as you said Debbie, we went out and picked some willow. This is what I call creek bank willow. And it’s the wild willow and I use this for the handle, the rim of the basket and then the handle I use wild grapevine. Now here I have the frame. I have a handle and I have a rim and these are both secured together with what we call the “gods eye.” Isn’t that wonderful? The god’s eye holds the basket together. So, it’s very important that this be sturdy because this is the foundation for your basket. And all of the rims that shape the basket are going to go in underneath these shelves here that are formed by the god’s eye. (Deb) So, what is this? (Teresa) This is strips of basket reed which is from the inner core of the bamboo. So everything is from nature. I can actually go out into the forest and sometimes I weave with cat tails, or willow bark can be stripped and I weave with that. But I can actually go out into the forest and come out with a basket. (Deb) And the colors as well? (Teresa) The colors as well. The colors are sometimes from, and most of the time from a natural dye. Any type of berry. Hedge will give you a nice orange color or yellow color. You can use herbs for the green. But we dye with natural colors and then I like to weave a little bit of country cloth in my baskets to just add a little bit of accent. (Deb) Now, traditionally women would have probably woven in scraps of fabric too wouldn’t they? (Theresa) Absolutely. You know back in the prairie days material was hard to come by and not easy to make. And so they would have used every little scrap and bit that they had in quilts and such. (Deb) Make do or do without. (Teresa) Make do or do without. You didn’t waste any part of it. (Deb) Well they are just beautiful. (Teresa) Thank you. (Deb) And what a beautiful craftsman. So this is one of the things that Teresa is doing here today at Prairie Days. And if we don’t get blown away we’ll be right back.
(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be in this spot. We’re actually in the schoolhouse at the Little House on the Prairie and with me is the proud owner of this property, Jean Kurtis Schodorf and Jean, thank you so much for sharing this with us. (Jean) Well thank you for being here today. It was a special day with Prairie Days. And thank you so much for being with us. (Deb) Oh well, thanks for having us. Let’s talk about this schoolhouse because I know it is really special to you. (Jean) It is. And so, at the same time that we were building the log cabin, this school house here is Sunny Side school house. And it was about two miles from here on the side of a hill. It was the last schoolhouse standing that my Grandmother had taught in. (Deb) Wow. (Jean) She had taught in seven one-room school houses. And this was the only one standing. She had gotten her training at the Emporia Normal School, that’s what it was called. And then rode her horse from her home, to various one-room school houses and this was one of the ones, this was…Sunny Side is the school house that Lillian Jones, my Grandmother taught in, in 1901. (Deb) More than 100 years ago, isn’t that something. (Jean) And she rode her horse or rode her buggy or her father would take her. She got paid $25 a month for five months. And there were 36 students in this room. (Deb) Now when you acquired the school, what was in it? (Jean) We bought a lot of the contents at the auction. So, this was the desk that my Grandmother taught on. This was her desk. And the piano was original to the schoolhouse. It was a church so that’s why it was in good shape. (Deb) Uh huh. (Jean) And I think it was…I don’t know, I can’t remember which, Abe Lincoln, one of the pictures was original. And then after that, we started, my parents and I, started going to sales and places and trying to find things that were of 1901. (Deb) Right. (Jean) And then, so we literally, some of these were in sheds. People, all of those double desks were in a shed, that somebody said, “Oh, I remember we’ve got these old desks.” And then the red chairs were from the church. (Deb) What a labor of love this has been. (Jean) Oh yes. And then we did not, this is an original, the water cooler is an original for the school. However, at the time of the auction another man bought it, took it home, waited 15 years. He died and his wife called me up and said, “We have the original water cooler, and I want to donate it to the school house.” (Deb) Well this, you know that really exhibits the community spirit. This has meant a lot to this community to have this properly displayed and interpreted and preserved like it is. Well, we’ve worked hard on it. We’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible. As simple as it was when Laura live here. (Deb) Right. (Jean) Now, we’ve added a few little., a few buildings, but every year since 1977, we have had visitors. We don’t advertise. We have had visitors from every state, 50 states every year. And about 25 countries every year. My brother’s name is Bill Kurtis, the journalist. And he and I own the Little House on the Prairie Farm. This is the farm. And I’m president, but he is very much involved. It’s a working farm. There are cattle here. We’ve got animals here and, yeah we’re keeping it. We’re going to keep the Little House side open as long as we can. And getting my nieces now involved in the Little House and we just want people to come and visit the site here where Laura lived. (Deb) Well, it’s a treasure. Again, not only to Kansas, but also to the whole nation.
Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission.
The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.