Thursday, June 20, 2013


Henry Ford
     I heard today that the house started working on the Agriculture Bill today.  The thought stays in my mind that this is so appropriate since the combines have started to roll here in Barber County.  It is a time of collective madness.  Be forewarned that if you are taking a leisurely drive in the country that you need to watch out for teenage truck drivers, speeding semi's, slow 12 foot wide machines, that will scare you to death if you do not pay attention.  This is HARVEST.
     Farmers that normally talk slow and linger over coffee are now speed demons and impatient to get the crops in the elevator.  Especially this year after sweating drought, late freezes, plants diseases, and bugs bound to eat what is left.  Also the hot sun showing up on cue to shrivel the stressed crop.
     It has been years since I ran a combine or drove an old truck to the elevator.  I am sure that there are teenagers looking up above while dumping wondering what that contraption is up there.  The truck lift.  I have the distinction of being the last driver of the last pickup load of wheat dumped with the truck lift in the Anness Elevator (on the west side) you have to be local to know about that.
     Today the larger farm size has pretty much retired the antiques that used to be pulled out once a year, dusted off, pickup tag wired on, and kid sent to the elevator with a load.  I have driven up on these old rigs at night without a tail light at all working or even on them.  The big diesels and semi rigs now are common on the farms.
     When the pay day comes but once a year and there has been most hope lost of a crop (grandpa always said you had to kill wheat 3 times before putting it in the bin).  Well this year it is about 5 times and it is not a very hopeful crowd, but it is even more precious to get in now.
     A little bit of my gram pa's blood always boils up this time of year and I get the urge to buy a combine.  But all I have to do is look at the price tag and I get over it.  I still wish I had made the run once from Texas to Canada.  I still wave at those hardy souls making the trip down the highway and wish I was going along.  But time and health stops many adventures.
     As the parties fight over an AG Bill that is mostly a food stamp bill, (aged myself on that one, I still remember commodities) I wish that those people up there would come down and put some personal sweat and risk into AG.  At least the would learn something about getting things done and honesty.
     I will be heading out with the camera and get some shots of those Amber Waves of Grain.  I still thrill to a line of combines following each other through the fields.  I guess the new machines are really something and I hear that there are some models that the operator does nothing but watch.  It is guided by satellite and is hands off.  Well if it works as good as the GPS does that says our B&B is in an open intersection 2 miles away that operator better not sleep.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


     When I was young June Dairy Month was a special time for me.  Both sides of my family were dairymen.  Mom's folks milked Holsteins and Dad milked and showed Guernseys.  I am partial to the Guernsey breed and wonder now what happened to it?
      Mom has a photo packed away of me and my brother, dad, and gram pa with Mr. JC Penney.  Mr. Penney had one of the largest Guernsey farms in the country.  Dad used to show and judge in 4-H and showed afterwards.  I remember finding the white coveralls that used to be worn in the show ring and I wore them out as a kid.  Dairy cattle are always judged by the handler in white coveralls.  I think it is still the same today.
     When we ended home delivery of raw Guernsey milk and cream we joined the Cream O Gold dairy in Hutchinson Kansas, owning and operating the Wichita franchise.  At one time there were 5 of our routes running in town.  At the time there were still small dairy's some still delivering raw milk.  The Nelsons, Mies (pick up only), Maple street dairy, then there was De Coursey, Meadow Gold, Ramsey, and of course, Steffens.
      I remember that the Guernsey cow was the most gentle cow on the farm.  For many years growing up whenever the TV shows had a cow on it was the same Guernsey cow.  I imagine she lived 30 years.  But the bulls were the meanest there ever was.  I remember when our bull Mr. D was being put down, he could not be loaded in anything.  He was put down with a lot of difficulty right in the catching pen and sent to become hamburger.  I don't remember but I bet it was the toughest hamburger we ever ate.
     When I started freelance writing I was submitting work to an Ag paper and doing an assigned piece for June dairy month I did the piece on a dairy in our area.  I thought I would save my Guernsey lament for another time.  Well some 20 years later I guess it is about time.
     You see the Guernsey breed was so special because the milk had a golden color to it.  It was only out done by the Jerseys for butterfat content.  Then butterfat went out of style and farmers had to increase volume to meet the tight costs of production to survive, and the public was pushed to cut down on milk as a 'health measure'.  HUH?
     I find no Guernsey Journal anymore.  It may still be there but the last one I saw was so small that it could not still be going.  Hoard's Cattleman is still the main publication for dairy.  I am so happy that the herd that Hoards owns is Guernsey.
     I see the push for organic and healthy nearby production of food and see all the little dairy's specializing in value added products and still wonder, where is the Guernsey?  There is a reason that the milk has a golden color, it is because it is the only breed that has natural occurring Beta Caratine.  The same thing that carrots are famous for.  It is good for your eyes and healthier.
     I wish there was a Guernsey dairy close by that I could buy raw milk again.  But in many states a farmer can and has gone to prison for selling raw milk.  I grew up on it and I know of no one that was ever made sick by it.
     So I hope I see an organic dairy someday rediscover the GOLDEN GUERNSEY and bring back something healthy from oblivion.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


                                                                Holy Scripture

     We buried Gene.  In his fringed leather jacket and three cornered hat he looked as though he had just walked out of a history book.  And a history book is what he was.  When I first knew of him I only knew him as Gene the Barber.  He cut hair for forty nine and a half years in Medicine Lodge.
      The first time I saw him it was on Sunflower Journeys on channel 8 public TV.  A segment on the Gypsum Hills, he was setting on a piece of cap rock and explained the geology of the area.  As much as you can in a few moments on a TV segment.
      I met him after moving to the Medicine Lodge area and found an unending source of information and opinion.  Many would just ignore the stories that he told, but he was a story teller.  He spent years all over the hills finding artifacts, gems, minerals, fossils, and meteor fragments.  I never had the chance to do any of the roaming with him and it is my loss.
     On top of everything else he was an artist. he could draw and paint as well as any artist that makes a living from their creations.  He had an imagination and a vision as big as the hills.  Those driving west on US 160 through the hills will see a cross on a hill that he had put there.  Then there is the beginnings of a super structure of a sculpture on the side of the highway 50 feet high.  There has been so much speculations and opinion of it, it has a life of its own.  What it was intended to be was an Indian made of barb wire.  The design was active in his minds eye til the day he died.
     Several would like to see the project completed and an artist and sculptor is willing to undertake the project.  Will it ever happen?  Who knows?  I would like to dream the dream with his memory and see it completed.
     There is so much I don't know about him.  I wish I would have known him when both of us were younger and full of energy.  I am sure he will be missed in the next Peace Treaty, I don't know how many he wore his leather fringed coat and carried his black powder rifle in but it is like a fixture will be gone.
      As best as I can define Gene it is that he was a free thinker and lover of history.  There are so few of these among today's youth.  If there is a heaven of our own dreams I am sure that he is riding across an endless prairie with his rifle and tri cornered hat leading a mule.  In the evening he is knapping a flint knife to leave for those who come later to find.
     Adios Gene.