Smoky Hills, Lecompton Walking Tour

(Frank) Today Around Kansas starts with the history of the Smoky Hills and how they were formed long ago. Next learn how 4th Graders’ QR Codes for a Historic Lecompton Walking Tour won the prestigious 2016 AASLH Award of Merit. Then enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with Charles Curtis and his new statue in Downtown Topeka.

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

(Frank Chaffin) Well, good morning. It’s Wednesday, I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. (Deb) We got the memo, apparently we’re in mourning, maybe because summers over this weekend. That marks– It’s not the official– (Frank) Starting into Fall colors. (Deb) Right. It’s not like the end of the season on the calendar, but with Labor Day coming up that is sort of the unofficial the end of summer, beginning of Fall. Kids are back in school and all that good stuff. The last fling of the summer, that’s this weekend. (Frank) Wait until Halloween [laughs]. (Deb) Honey, the stuff is already in the stores. (Frank) I know. Yes, it is. (Deb) It’s crazy. The kids were looking at– (Frank) Christmas music playing in the background. [Laughter] (Deb) The nightmare before Christmas, it has begun. It has begun. Speaking of this weekend, last fling, Eskridge Rodeo. We had a segment on that last week so be sure you get out to Eskridge. Beautiful time to enjoy the Flint Hills and the beautiful little town of Eskridge and the rodeo is always a good time. It means a lot to these communities too, these events throughout the year. You’re supporting not only the folks that are putting on the rodeo, for example, in Eskridge but the town itself. It means a lot to bring a few dollars into the communities and stop and have a bite to eat, look around, and have a good time. (Frank) Yes. Then, drive out of Eskridge and up through the Flint Hills. It’s beautiful, especially this time of the year, because the trees are beginning to change and the grass, and it’s something. (Deb) They’re getting a little tinge of yellow and the sumacs getting a little tinge of red. (Frank) Look out because there are a lot of motorcycles [laughs] that also like to go that route. (Deb) They sure are. (Frank) Look around but also look out. (Deb) Okay. Got to give a shout out also to our friends; Kirk Drager, the Blue Moon String Band. Beneath the Starry Sky, brand new CD. You folks are all going to be familiar with our friend, Cally Krallman, not only did the artwork but she wrote the lyrics for these songs. Kirk, the very talented Kirk Drager, did the music. In the Blue Moon String Band, we have Jim Campbell, Kirk Drager, Rod Durst, our banjo picking buddy, and Diane Gillenwater, who is an amazing fiddler and teacher and an all around amazing person. (Frank) And a 12-string guitarist. (Deb) She’s amazing, just amazing. She can do anything. What a talented group of folks. We have so much talent here. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) We sure do. We’ve got a great show coming up for you today. We’re going to talk about the landscape. We’re going to talk about some very talented and award-winning people. Sometimes talented folks get awards. Don’t they Frank? (Frank): [laughs] Yes, once in a while. (Deb) Every now and then. We haven’t gotten one lately, we need an award. We need a major award, Frank. [Laughs] (Frank) Yes, we do. We could get an Emmy for Very Early Show in the Morning. (Deb) [Laughs] Yes, exactly. (Frank) There you go. It’s got to be a new category. (Deb) Start writing in. When do they give the Emmys? In the Fall? (Frank) I think so. During all of the award shows now. [Laughs] (Deb) Right. Think about that folks. Write us in for an Emmy. (Frank) We could think of the stars that we can come and intro, it’d be cool. (Deb) It would be so cool. (Frank) We’re going to start it. (Deb) Get our own red carpet? (Frank) Yes. Very Very Early in the Morning Emmy Show is coming soon. I think. [Laughs] (Deb) I’m so excited. We’ll be right back.

(Deb) We were talking a couple of weeks ago about the fact that when I mentioned that I had moved out to Oakley, on the high plains, this one lady said, “Oh I love the Flint Hills.” While the Flint Hills are lovely, that’s not all of Kansas, and it’s not all the hills in Kansas. The Smoky Hills is quite extensive, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. I think next week we hope to do the Chautauqua Hills. We did the Gyp Hills last week. We got some amazing hills in Kansas. We do. I’ve got to tell you, Dr. Jake has this amazing app on his phone, and I don’t know who, what this app is but it’s a barometer and an altimeter. As we’re driving along on the road, I’m like, “Give me your phone, and I’ll check the altitude and see how big it is.” Did I do a promo for this already? They should send me royalties. Not only do we deserve an Emmy, we deserve royalties for all the people that we’re pitching here on the show [laughs]. (Frank) That’s right. We have no shame. (Deb) We have none. None. Zero. So yes. If you buy one of those, you let me know so I can write the company. That is the coolest app. When you’re going all over the state, and you’re looking at the change in altitude — Flat Kansas? Nope. It’s not. It’s not. (Frank) No. I know you’re going to do Smoky Hills. As a historian, surely in that story you have why they’re called the Smoky Hills? (Deb) I sure hope so. [Laughter] (Frank) I guess we’re going to find out. (Deb) I guess we’ll find out. Let’s take a look and see. Deeper seas than those of the Gypsum Hills formed the Cretaceous-age outcroppings of rock that characterize the Smoky Hills of north central Kansas. According to the Kansas Geological Survey, three principal rock outcrops characterize the Smoky Hills: the sandstones of the Dakota Formation, the limestones of the Greenhorn Limestone Formation, and the thick chalks of Niobrara Chalk. The Dakota Formation sandstones crop out in a wide belt from Rice and McPherson Counties in the south, to Washington County in the north. They are the remains of beach sands and sediments dumped by rivers draining into the early Cretaceous seas. The hills and buttes, like Coronado Heights, are capped by this sandstone. The next outcrop belt to the west is the Greenhorn Limestone, which is made up of thin chalky limestone beds alternating with thicker beds of shale. The Greenhorn limestone was deposited in a relatively shallow part of the Cretaceous Sea. Near the top of the Greenhorn is fencepost limestone, used for building and fences due to the lack of wood. The westernmost range of hills developed on the thick chalks of the Niobrara Chalk. These beds were deposited in a deeper part of the Cretaceous ocean and are exposed in bluffs of the Solomon, Saline, and Smoky Hill Rivers. Pinnacles, spires, and odd-shaped masses such as Castle Rock and Monument Rock in Gove County are characteristic of those formations. It is in these outcroppings that the fossils of swimming reptiles like mosasaurs and plesiosaurs have been found. The Smoky Hills are extensive and there are several places to visit to learn more. In addition to the museums like the Sternberg in Hays or the Fick Fossil Museum in Oakley, the Fort Wallace Museum, the Russell Springs Museum, El Quartelejo in Scott City, and Ottawa County Museum in Minneapolis offer fossils and related exhibits. To observe the landscape itself, besides Castle and Monument Rocks, there is Rock City, Mushroom Rock State Park, Kanopolis State Park, and the Scenic Byways that crisscross the area.

(Frank) Are you going to say, “We’re back” or what? (Deb) We’re back. (Frank) We’re back. (Deb) We’re back, and we want to give a shout out, today, to Lecompton. Historic Lecompton, of course, is one of our sponsors. There’s always something great going on in Lecompton, and we appreciate their supporting our show. If you’d like to support our show too, you can just get in touch with us and go to our website, find us on Facebook, whatever. Just let us know. We’d love to have you here too. There’s one of our fans now. Ross Freeman, who’s the proprietor of this establishment. See, a few more like him and the Emmy would be ours, Frank. It would be ours. Back to people who really won an award– (Frank) Well, Lecompton not only is historic but there along the river, it is a recreational area. That’s where bald eagles also nest. It’s something else to go and see over in Lecompton. (Deb) There’s so much, and now that they’ve got the restaurant open and the shops, it’s just—I cannot say enough good about Lecompton. (Frank) The thing is, though, I know I’m strange but, times that I go to visit Lecompton I kind of look around and say this could have been the capital of Kansas. (Deb) Almost was. (Frank) Okay, so it’s a very small town now, but what if the capital was over there, I don’t know. (Deb) Almost was. (Frank) It’s just my little strange mind that goes, “I can’t imagine, had this become the capital, what it would look like?” (Deb) Yes, and it almost was the capital. We are so proud of the folks in Lecompton. Let’s take a look at what they’ve done. (Frank) The American Association for State and Local History has announced that Sandy Gantz, 4th grade teacher in the Perry-Lecompton School District, along with her school colleagues and Lecompton’s museums, are the recipients of the prestigious Award of Merit for 4th Graders’ QR Codes for Historic Lecompton Walking Tour. Sandy received a grant from Thrivent Life Insurance Company and contacted Constitution Hall, operated by Kansas Historical Society, and the Territorial Capital Museum, operated by the Lecompton Historical Society. At the beginning of the project, school buses took the students on a tour of the town with museum staff and volunteers providing the narration. The students explored and photographed the sites. Fifteen volunteers from the community were gathered to go to the school once a week for 6 weeks to help the kids do research on the15 different sites to be included on the Walking Tour. The students with their community volunteers researched by interviewing locals, searching period newspapers, and reading articles. The students produced a 1-3 minute video on the history of their assigned site. They also designed artwork in the shape of quilt blocks to identify their site, and put a QR code at each site so that visitors to the town could easily access the videos with their smartphones. The walking tour with a map and scavenger hunt was printed and distributed to local businesses. The grant Sandy received paid for the QR code signs and map printing. The project debuted in 2015 during Territorial Days, the town’s yearly June celebration when residents and visitors come to Lecompton for a parade, reenactments, festivities, and food. This year the only award presented in Kansas was to our Lecompton project. Presentation of the awards will be made in Detroit, Michigan, this September. Receiving the award for Lecompton will be Rev. Bob Dulin and his wife Alrutha of Detroit. Rev. Dulin is a life member of the Lecompton Historical Society and a 1959 graduate of the Lecompton High School.

(Ron Wilson) Another landmark of the Flint Hills are the deep ravines, the deep draws, and the stone, which might look simple to a bureaucrat sitting at a desk, but when it comes time to build fences, you need to call on somebody special. This poem is titled, Up Hill and Down, A Tribute to the Fencing Man. The government man sits at a desk and draws a simple line and says, “Here, where the property ends, a fence here would be fine.” But what seems so simple in the government domain doesn’t match the real world of the natural terrain. For when we need a fence built across this rugged land, we need a hard working expert. We need the Fencing Man. Yes; the Fencing Man is he who suffers the consequence when the Flint Hills are the place that’s required to build a fence. By contrast, in the flat-lands, building a fence can be a breeze, but out here in the Flint Hills, we can’t build a fence with ease. When that line cuts across the steepest of these hills, it creates a major challenge, which the Fencing Man fulfills. It’s one thing to build a fence where the land is flat and level, but it’s different on these hillsides with a 60-degree bevel. It’s a place where a pickup truck or four-wheeler can’t squeeze, so he drags a chainsaw out by hand to cut the brush and trees. Seems it’s the most inaccessible place we need the fences most, so he’s hiking up a side hill with a driver and T-post. Then, he’s sliding down the draw where the sides are very steep, and the ground is too darn rocky to drive the posts in very deep. So, while the government man draws a line across the aerial maps, the Fencing Man is on the ground with barbed wire and water gaps. It looks easy sitting in a room and drawing up a man-made plan but it ain’t easy in the Flint Hills, so we salute the Fencing Man. Happy Trails.

(Frank) I think we’re rolling. Hello again. We just have too good a time on this show. We hope you do too. Hey, I saw you in a picture with Charles Curtis. How did that happen? (Deb) Honey, I get around. I know all the cool people, important people, I know them all. Yes. Me and Charlie, we’re like that. (Frank) It’s not too green, but Kansas is like that. (Deb) Well, bronze does it too. (Frank) [laughs] (Deb) Just look at your baby boots. When they put those in bronze, they turn a little green too. But, Charles Curtis, the latest statue to be dedicated on Kansas Avenue. And I was talking with Marsha Oliver who is on the board of Downtown Topeka and we were talking about how this capital city, not just the State House, but this capital city belongs to everybody in Kansas. By golly, your tax dollars are making things happen in this State. Come and see what your capital city looks like today. Of course, speaking of tax dollars a lot of private funding went into the project on Kansas Avenue. So, it’s amazing. You’re going to love it. It’s going to make you proud, and I was so proud to be a part of the dedication of the Charles Curtis statue. (Frank) Come and see it. (Deb) Mayor Larry Wolgast commented that of all the statues installed on Kansas Avenue thus far, the only native Topekan is Native American Charles Curtis. Crystal Douglas, representing the Kaw Nation, said, To us, he is Cousin Charlie. Pat Doran of the Federal Home Loan Bank said, We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. We at AGam have been involved in producing a documentary on the life of this amazing man. The first segment, on his childhood, may be viewed on the Kansas Humanities website. In the meantime, visit Curtis on Kansas Avenue, just a couple of blocks from the state office building that bears his name. The Federal Home Loan Bank is placing a bronze plaque next to his statue. It reads: Born in Topeka, great-grandson of Chief White Plume of the Kaw Nation, and first Native American Vice President. A champion of the American farmer, an advocate for women’s suffrage, and a standard-bearer for granting citizenship to Native Americans, Charles became a member of the US House of Representatives in 1893 with the 53rd Congress, serving seven terms. Elected to the US Senate 1907 and serving in that capacity for 20 years, Charles served as Senate Majority Leader before he became Vice-President of the United States in 1929. Charles was instrumental in the passage of the Federal Home Loan Bank Act and the establishment of a Federal Home Loan Bank in Topeka. Sculptor Elizabeth Zeller, 2015.

(Frank) We have to go. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere– (Frank and Deb) –Around Kansas.

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

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