(Frank) Today Around Kansas has some great stories for you, starting with one about a letter from Kansas pioneer Thomas C. Wells written over 150 years ago that shows the more things change, the more they stay the same. Next learn about the early days of Kansas author William Inge. Then take a look at the adaptable coyotes of Kansas and finish up with a poem from Ron Wilson. Stay tuned!Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.
(Deb) Good morning. (Frank) Good morning. Yea. It’s early in the morning. It’s Wednesday. This must be Around Kansas. (Deb) Must be. (Frank) I’m Frank Chaffin. (Deb) And I’m Deb Goodrich. Good morning. (Frank) So, what have you been up to? (Deb) Oh my gosh, I’ve covered every inch of the state. Well, actually just north of I-70. So, I’ve been all along Highway 36. And of course, lots of events in Topeka. But I’m telling you, this is the time to see Kansas. You and I were talking last week I think, about traveling around the state. Every inch of the state is green. (Frank) Oh yea, yea. (Deb) Places that haven’t been green in 20 years are green right now. Thank god for the rain. I mean, some people have too much. We really feel for the folks down in Texas, and other areas of the country. But for Kansas, it has been a godsend. The drought, I was speaking to the people out at Wallace, Kansas, right out there on the Colorado border and they had more rainfall, I think Cecil said, in six weeks than they had all of 2012 or 2013. So, their drought I think is officially over as of last week. So, everything is glorious. (Frank) Yea. Those of us that ride on two wheels every now and then are thinking that it’s over. (Deb) Well, and now that it’s all greened up and before the August heat and everything, now is the time to get out and see some stuff. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) Saw a lot of people on their bikes, you know, there are a lot of people out even with the rain. They’re hard core nuts. But… (Frank) Share the road. (Deb) Share the road. (Frank) There are guys on bicycles and on motorcycles. (Deb) Absolutely, absolutely. (Deb) So, what are you up to Frank? (Frank) Oh well, I’m kinda having fun this summer cause I mentioned the vintage baseball league and that’s kind of a fun thing. The Topeka Westerns are all over not only the state, but other states and they’ve got a tournament coming up here in Muscotah this month and so I’m gonna go up and take a look at that. It’s really kind of interesting because they play with various rules, cause the rules changed from the 1860’s even through modern times. And some of the games you don’t tag the person out, you throw ’em and hit ’em with the baseball. Now it’s not a hard ball like it is today, it’s more like a hacky sack. (Deb) Oh gosh. (Frank) They’re interesting. So, if you ever see a bunch of guys in some strange looking uniforms in the grass out at Lake Shawnee or around, stop and take a look because it’s probably a vintage baseball game. (Deb) I’ve heard a lot of people talking about that. I gotta throw this in real quick. Frank was on the cover of the Senior Monthly which is a…I guess it covers northeast Kansas. Is that right? (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Wonderful publication. Great article, great photograph. Way to go Frank. That was really nice. (Frank) Thanks. It’s all about WREN radio, which of course, got reborn in 2012 on the internet and we’re having a lot of fun. Tune in at wrenradio.net. Or of course you can get a free app from your app store and it’s called Tune In Radio and then search WREN and you can listen to the oldies. (Deb) Who would know that these old guys could just be dragged kicking and screaming into the new world of technology. It’s you and Les and all those old guys. So, it’s great. It’s wonderful. (Frank) OK, we’ll be back.
(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. I’m Deb and this is Frank. And Frank you know watching the news, nothing ever changes. You know, the skirts may go up and down. The hem lines and stuff and people’s…the pants may get baggy or whatever, but people just don’t change. And what people have to deal with never changes. Life never changes. That’s one of the things I’m reminded of in dealing with history, you know pioneer stories. And one of the segments that I wanted to do today was just to remind people when you get discouraged and stuff, people 50 years ago, 150 years ago, 500 years ago, dealing with the same stuff. What have you got to deal with every day Frank? (Frank) Oh boy, you don’t want to know. (Deb) But really, we’ve all got family. We’ve got you know money, you know jobs and moving. All the same things. And that’s exactly what people dealt with. (Frank) The universe revolves. (Deb) It does. (Frank) Revolves, revolves. (Deb) Yes, as the world turns. (Frank) What was is now again. (Deb) Now again. Let’s take a look at how it was. Life is life, no matter where or when you are. Our days are filled with the ordinary challenges of life: money troubles, relationships, relatives, work. It was the same 150 years ago. This is a letter written by Kansas pioneer Thomas C. Wells to his relatives in the East. His letters were collected and published. Though written more than a hundred years ago, there is so much we can all relate to. So much of this young couple’s struggle holds true for folks starting out today: I did not write home last week for I had enough else to occupy my time. The past week has been an eventful one to me; on Thursday evening last Ella and I were married. Everything passed off very pleasantly; all the guests that were invited came, except two, and they were quite unwell; sixteen, besides ourselves and the family in whose house we were married, were present, and that is doing pretty well for Kansas, for you must know that they all had to come from one to five miles over the prairies in the dark and several of them got lost and wandered about for half an hour or more before they could find the house. We would not have hurried matters quite so much had not Theodore been intending to start for home on Tuesday, next, and as he was the only relation that either of us had out here, we wanted him to be present when we were married. My expenses have been much greater than I expected since I have been here this time. I have been obliged to pay a board bill of six dollars a week for myself & Theodore besides one dollar a dozen for washing, and my house has cost me more than I expected etc. etc. and the man who engaged to furnish me with rails disappointed me so that I did not get my field fenced and the stray cattle have harvested considerable of my corn for me which is not very pleasant, but I hope I shall do better another season. I wish that you and father could come and make us a good long visit when we get settled in our new home, it would be so nice; but I would like still better to see you settled near us in a home of your own. Ella sends love. Yours truly from your affc’t son, T. C. Wells.
(Frank) And we’re back. Well, I probably bored you to death with all of my stories about the movie Picnic which was of course, filmed in Kansas way back in 1955. But the guy that wrote that is also from Kansas. His name William Inge. And he was an interesting character. He didn’t start out to be a writer. He was a news broadcaster. He was a columnist in St. Louis and he met up with a guy named Tennessee Williams. And Tennessee Williams is the one that really encouraged him to start writing. But I don’t want to get ahead of the things here. (Deb) He knew everybody, didn’t he? He just met absolutely everybody in his career. And he came along at a time where I don’t know, the arts, film and stage and everything were just bursting. (Frank) Right. (Deb) And he just came in contact with every significant person of that era it seems. (Frank) And he wrote about people that he met and grew up with in his growing up days in the 1920’s in Kansas. Let’s take a look. By now you know that William Inge wrote the play and screenplay for the movie Picnic that was filmed in Kansas in 1955. William Inge wrote several plays, most of which were based upon his growing up years in Kansas and people he met in places in Kansas. William Inge was born May 3, 1913, in Independence, Kansas. He attended Independence Community College, which now has the William Inge Center for the Arts. He graduated from Kansas University with a degree in Speech & Drama. He moved to Nashville to work on a Master of Arts degree, but dropped out. Back in Kansas he worked for the highway department and as a radio announcer; taught high school English and drama and finally completed his Masters Degree. In 1943, he worked as a reporter for the St. Louis Star and with encouragement from Tennessee Williams, wrote his first play, Farther Off From Heaven. While a teacher at Washington University he wrote Come Back Little Sheba, which ran on Broadway for 190 performances and earned Tony Awards for Shirley Booth and Sidney Blackmer. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for his play, Picnic which ran on Broadway in 1953 and 54. It was, of course, made into a movie in 1955. The movie won two Academy Awards. Splendor in the Grass was another play and movie. Other familiar works are Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Bus Stop, which was inspired by people he met in Tonganoxie, Kansas., Glory in the Flower, Loss of Roses and several more. One more note. Summer Brave, posthumously produced on Broadway in 1975, was the original version of Picnic. He commented that he re-wrote the play for his own satisfaction. William Inge committed suicide on June 10th, 1973 at age 60. The William Inge Collection at Independence Community College has 400 manuscripts, films, correspondence, theatre programs and many other Inge memorabilia. William Inge – Kansan! Another great talent from this great state. I’ll be playing the oldies for you on the radio Saturdays on WRENradio.net. And maybe I’ll see you somewhere Around Kansas
(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. (Frank) Should I howl? (Deb) Yea, you go for that. You go for that, you go for that. Do your best Wolfman there. (Frank) Yea, well not Wolfman, Coyoteman. (Deb) Coyoteman. (Frank) We’re in Kansas after all. (Deb) That’s right. Coyoteman. You know we got rid of all the wolves, so all we’ve got left are the coyotes. So, I had never seen a coyote, nor had I heard a coyote till I came to Kansas. And honestly living in Topeka you don’t hear too many either. So, the first time I actually heard coyotes was at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. And we were in the campground there and it was just about dusk. And all of a sudden those howls set up and I’m like holy cow you know the whole Sioux Nation has us surrounded or something, I mean what? And my husband said, oh those are the coyotes. And now I have been outside of town, you don’t have to go far, what ten feet out of Topeka, and you can hear the coyotes in certain neighborhoods. And they are getting closer and closer like a lot of wild animals to urban areas. You know bears, mountain lions, everything is kind of coming into urban areas. (Frank) Here’s a fact, you know Wiley Coyote that was always after the Roadrunner? (Deb) Yea. (Frank) A coyote can actually outrun a roadrunner. (Deb) I did not know that. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Really? (Frank) Yea. (Deb) Did you time ’em or what? (Frank) No. I read that on the internet. (Deb) He read, Abraham Lincoln said everything you see on the internet is true, so it must be. Let’s take a look at some more coyotes. The first coyote I saw in Kansas was February in the Cimarron Grasslands in the southwestern corner of the state. The sky was gray, nearly black, and the grass was like gold. The air was heavy with the scent of sage when the creature was loping through the waving grass, as if on cue, as if had just been added to this iconic Kansas landscape. There is hardly a place in Kansas where you won’t hear the plaintive, lonely call of the coyote. That most western of animals makes his home virtually anywhere, even in the city limits of large towns. They are incredibly adaptable. Residents of Wichita were horrified a couple of years ago when a pack of coyotes carried away their small dog. Wildlife officials tell us they are deathly afraid of humans, but yes, small mammals should watch out. Coyotes sometimes live alone, but often in pairs or packs. Home ranges can be as large as 25 square miles. They are vocal and shortly after nightfall may howl to indicate their location, claim their territory, reinforce social bonds or simply because they enjoy howling. Pairs sometimes mate for life. Their den sites include cavities under rock ledges, hollow logs, shrub thickets and dens abandoned by other mammals. They may use several dens when rearing pups. Litters of 4 to 7 pups are born in spring. They can live up to 10 years in the wild. Coyotes are opportunistic, eating pretty much what is available. The predators hunt from dusk to dawn for rabbits, mice, rats, squirrels and ground nesting birds. They also eat plant matter, including fruits and berries. They will scavenge dead livestock and kill poultry, small livestock, cats and small dogs. They are smaller than their cousin the wolf, but sources say they can in fact breed with dogs, which results in a coydog, which might be more aggressive than the simple coyote, and may, in fact, be responsible for attacks on livestock. In many American Indian traditions, the coyote is a trickster, playing pranks on humans or his fellow animals.
(Ron) Nowadays farmers have modern tractors with all the technology and all the features. But the tractor that I grew up driving was an old Super H Farmall. This poem is entitled, Revenge of the Farmall. My Dad bought a tractor used way back in 1958. It was a Farmall Super H which he thought was great. It wasn’t big or fancy, had no roll bar, cab or radio. No three point hitch or power steering to turn it just so. He had more modern bigger tractors in the ensuing years, but he always kept the old Farmall around the old place here. Decades later when we moved back to the place, I drove the Farmall but felt it should be replaced. We went to the dealer and bought a brand new tractor with all the tools and features which you would think would be a factor. It had a front end loader and a great hydraulic system with so many wonderful features that I had never missed ’em. When there was work to do I picked the new tractor instead and leave the old Farmall parked out back in the shed. One wintery day I had to take a load across the meadow. I fired up the brand new tractor and moved across the snow. When suddenly the tractor’s front end went down with a whack, and into a snow filled ditch. I couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go back. The new tractor had front wheel assist, but it was in too deep, tires spinning on the slippery slope where the angle was so steep. I tried to rock it, but there was no such luck. Thanks to my bad judgment, the new tractor had gotten stuck. I considered my options, I trudged back with sinking heart. And decided to see if that old ignored Farmall would even start. To my surprise, the engine caught with a growl and then a shout. We drove across the meadow and pulled that brand new tractor out. It must have been a funny sight to see this curious trip, like watching a Model T help out a new space ship. Now things are back to normal, when there’s a tractor to be used. I choose the brand new tractor because of all that it can do. But Dad was right and just because his thinking was so sound, I’ll embrace the new technology, but I’ll keep the old Farmall around. Happy Trails.
Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.