Tuesday, February 18, 2014


David R. Brower
     There is a new/old crop that will be available again to producers in the United States.  This crop has about as much diversity as the peanut and was once considered a crop of vital importance to the nation.  However, it has been illegal to grow it in the US.  Canada has been a leader in its production in North America.  Remnants of this once vital crop can be seen in roadside ditches and along creeks, and tree rows.  And if you pull it up and try to use it you can be jailed.
     WHAT IS IT?  Hemp.
     The hemp plant.  It thrives in drouthy areas and poor soils.  Is easy to grow and market.  So why has it been illegal?  Hemp is a member of the same plant family that Marijuana belongs to, (Cannabis).  It has similar visual features.  So the DEA has included the Hemp plant in on its 'War on Drugs'.
      There is one difference.  Hemp contains no THC which is the active ingredient that gets you high.  You also cannot hide the Marijuana plant in growths of Hemp because they do not look close enough to use as a shield for the illicit plants.
      In fact the great hypocrisy is that hemp products are marketed all over the US and most do not hide what it's ingredients are.  There was a provision made for one product that had so much use it could not be outlawed.  So they changed the name to Sisal.  Call it Sisal it is legal, call it hemp and it isn't.
     The leader worldwide in hemp production is China.  In 2011 the US imported 11.5 million dollars worth of hemp products.  Some hemp seed finds it way into Granola.  Wouldn't it be great to bring production back here from China?
     With the change in enforcement attitudes one grower in Colorado put in a crop and had excellent results in 2013.    Ryan Loflin planted a plot without even getting a permit from the State.  He plans on expanding production this year because he is saving seed to increase the small seed supply that exists.
      Hemp produces fiber, oil, and seed.  It is refined into seed foods, oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, creams, soaps, lotions, and fuel.  It was grown in Kansas especially for the fiber that was used in ropes and was vital to the war effort in WW 2.  This is why there is wild hemp growing all over the state.  You could smoke a bale of it and not get a buzz, though some dealers would mix the material with the real plant to stretch the volume.  The phrase 'smoking rope' comes from the time when most rope was made from hemp.  (Don't go trying to smoke an old piece of rope out of grampa's barn, it won't do you any good).
     With the passage of the new farm bill provisions are there that make farming of Hemp legal again.  This versatile and drought tolerant plant will make a great addition to the rotation in a farmers plans.  With the pressure on ground water this would be a great way to conserve what we have left.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


     What if someone made a claim against you and the police would show up with a SWAT team and you have done nothing wrong?  Seems like a story about a novel or a movie.  The story line is exciting in those contexts but what about real life?
      Is this really happening in the United States?  News of no knock warrants and Swat teams in action happen with common regularity.  Yet real crime is dropping.  Can it happen here in your hometown?  Very possible.
     Take the case of a time honored historic manufacturing company that not once but twice has had a Swat Team descend on its factories.  The employees were confronted by officers in full black tactical gear with guns drawn.  Not just hand guns but assault rifles and gear more military use than law enforcement.
      What could have drawn the Federal Officers down on this company?  Allegations, from an unknown source, that material used in the manufacturing of its products were illegally obtained from its foreign sources.  Not illegal in the US but by the supplying countries.  But those countries had no interest in prosecution since the transactions were legal.
      Yet the company produced all of the proper paper work proving that the materials were bought and shipped from legitimate sources and all licensing and permits were in order.  Yet the allegation had been made.  So all material was seized and put under impoundment.
      The company waited and waited for any indictment or legal accusation be made so the company could proceed to clear its name and get its workers  back to building product and earning pay checks.  In the mean time the companies name was being drug through the media muck and being tried in the court of public opinion.  After all our Federal agencies would not send an armed force against a legitimate manufacturer, would they?
      One other fact not discussed, there were many other legitimate manufacturers building the same products with the same materials and not one of them were closed or had a Swat team seize their materials.
     Who was this?  The venerable Gibson Guitar Company.  GIBSON GUITARS!!!!!!!!!!  Musical instruments are built to exacting standards and there is industry acceptance to the most superior woods to use for  instruments.  So this means that top grade instruments are using the same materials.  So was Martin accused?  Ibenez? Taylor?  Groetsch?  No.
      So has any indictment ever been brought against Gibson?  NO.  The material has been returned to the company and they are back to producing what they do best, building guitars.
    Who made the allegations?  No one is telling.  What is the only thing that has been found that is different from the other guitar companies in the United States?  The CEO owner of Gibson Guitars gave donations to Conservative candidates.
      They cannot find anything else.  So the material is back and what is the best possible course of action that the company can take to have any satisfaction?  They take the returned material and build a special GOVERNMENT MODEL GIBSON GUITAR.  Which has sold out.  The remainder of the material returned is being made into the second model Government Guitar.
      Where can you find the end of the story (so far)?  In a small story from the New York Times buried in the inner pages of other papers around the country.  After 2.5 million in legal fees and $300,000 in fines Gibson is back.
     The Swat Team legacy continues.  In the Gold areas around Alaska there is always a yearly inspection by EPA officials.  Normally they come with clip boards.  Last spring they came with a Swat Team.  No one knows why or what the threat was perceived to be.
      An elderly man was shot six times in bed by a Sheriffs officer in a no knock warrant in California.  The Swat team was called in when an officer who was watching the place for code vilolations swore he smelled chemical smells and was certain a Meth lab was working. 
    No Meth lab, one man dead, family ordered to leave.  No one being charged with wrongful death.
     This can't happen in the United States.  Right?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Stephen Leacock
     I have been a member, and a board member, of an organization called the COWBOY STORYTELLERS OF THE WESTERN PLAINS for a long time now.  The whole point of the group, which started at the coffee shop in Seiling Oklahoma around 1992, was to get the untold and unrecorded stories of northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas areas.
     These would be the stories as close to first hand as possible about everyday life and events.  From cowboys and ranchers, homesteaders, business people, professional people.  The whole purpose is to come into the community who hosts the meeting and listen to their stories and record them for history.
      One of the sad truths is that our membership is getting older and more and more space in our newsletter, (which I publish), is devoted to the 'Empty Saddles' of our members who pass on.
     One thing about history is that if it did not make the books or newspapers, it is just stories told to families and youngun's to be passed on.
     The sad thing is that our group has gone from four meetings a year to two, spring and fall.  Spring in Oklahoma and Fall in Kansas.  This last fall we did not have the Kansas meeting.  No one stepped up to host the event in their area.
     Our website never caught on and we are dropping it.  We have virtually no e-mails.  This is because the young are not interested in history.  By the time a person gets the history bug it is generally too late.
     I have been considering a project that I would like to ask my readers help on.  I am wanting to compile a book on very obscure people, places, events, and happenings in Kansas.  The title for the moment is ODD BALL KANSAS - THINGS YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT THE SUNFLOWER STATE.
     Every community has those stories that did not make the history books and if they made the papers it was generally wrong.  Newspapers are notorious for getting things wrong or putting a slant on things.
     I have people tell me little tidbits and I have to try and remember them or make a lot of calls because the folks down at city hall, or main street, did not hear the stories themselves.  If you have a good story, or a good story about something bad, that can be documented and researched, I would love to put it in my book.
     I don't know of anyplace in the state that something odd or notorious has not happened.  It does not have to be notorious, just a good story.  Contact me and let me get it recorded.  Not every story will check out but I want all sides of the story.
     Getting back to the Storytellers, I used to send a copy of the newsletter to every High School history department in the areas that we have meetings in.  I was hoping that there would be that one teacher that was interested, or at least give extra credit, for the students that came.  In all the years that I have sent out the newsletters I have not seen one student or teacher from the areas we come to.  Now that the Common Core standards are changing the history that is taught, by rephrasing or ignoring, it is efforts like ours that can keep the record straight.
     The Storytellers have published a book of news letters from the beginning until around 2006 that is for sale.  The book is $35 plus shipping.  Call it $40.  Let me know and I can get one out to you.
     Membership in the Cowboy Storytellers is $15 per year and you get a newsletter before each meeting.  If you would like to host a meeting in your area get in touch with me.  It does not take a lot of effort to get us there.  Just a place that holds around 30-100, people to tell us stories, any entertainers in your area, and cookie break.  Our members come from a long ways so a place to eat or a group to have a meal is needed.
     You can get in touch with your story ideas to me at wildfire620@gmail.com.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


                        POETIC THINGS TO THE HEART"           
Pau (Pablo) Casals
     Fifty years ago a phenomenon came to the shores of the US from England.  I remember watching on our black and white TV set as the Fab Four getting off the plane.  And on Sunday night there was a lot of excitement on the Ed Sullivan Show about this new group.
     I had heard some of the Beatles recordings and there was a lot that I liked.  The hair cuts probably caused as much a stir as anything.  (Can you believe it was considered long?)  Dad was still running milk routes and he picked up a Beetle wig somewhere.  He came driving down 54 Highway from Blasi's gas station with this black mop on his head and a cigar in his mouth.  One old lady almost ran off the road seeing him.  We had a lot of fun with that wig.
     At the time I was listening to dad's Jimmy Rodger's LP's and listening to fading in and out signals on Saturday night from WSM the Grand Ole Opry.  Of course if you watched cartoons in that era you were always entertained with classical music.  I don't know how these kids today stand cartoons.
      The thing that irritated me, and probably most of the guys in America, was all the screaming that went on while the Beatles performed.  OK you can get excited but I don't understand screaming and not hearing what they were doing.
     I was soaking in music that had a new sound and yet a familiar one also.  The group was heavily influenced by the harmonies of the Everly Brothers.  I was also taken in by the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel who had many of the same influences.  My radio dial was moving between KFDI, KLEO, and KEYN.  I was also delighted by the Folk sounds of the Lamplighters, Peter Paul and Mary, the Kingston Trio.  I was in love with the earthy sounds of George Jones, Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs and many more.
     As the 50th anniversary of the Beatles is here it is a realization of how much this group influenced the music world.  Even today many of their songs lyrics need to be listened to carefully because their meaning is not what it was thought to be at the time.
     I had always hoped that the Beetle reunion would happen but John Lennon had gone so far from where the group had been it was impossible.  His murder was a shock but also was the slow death of George Harrison to cancer.
     It has been an over used term 'changed the world' but it is not so out of the truth in the case of the Beatles.

         "I have never really done anything to create what has happened.  It creates itself.  I'm here because it happened.  But I didn't do anything to make it happen apart from saying 'YES".
                                                             Ringo Starr

Sunday, February 2, 2014


                           IDEA AND YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE
                                 IT COMES FROM.  AND IF YOU ARE
                                       LUCKY, YOU HAVE A PENCIL
                                               OR PEN AND WRITE IT
                                                                  Pete Seeger

     A commentator made the remark that they will probably give accolades to the passing of Pete Seeger.  I am here to prove him right. 
     WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE, IF I HAD A HAMMER, THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND, and on and on.  Pete Seeger was a major influence on folk music and every generation from the Depression to the Y Generation.
      His politics were too far left for some and not left enough for others.  Thanks God that we are free to love the music and the man freely and recognise what was a true gift to us. 
     A contemporary and traveling friend of Woodie Guthrie, and every folk legend since and including Arlo Guthrie, Pete was a passionate storyteller, musician, and friend to all.
      Traveling with that long neck banjo and writing songs that have become classics he managed to bridge all generations.  What a sad world it would be that we could not love someones songs, passions and opinions if we all had to have the same politics.
     Pete not only had great influence in the music world he was passionate enough to dedicate himself to causes he believed in.  The Hudson River would probably still be a dead open sewer and trash pit if he had not dedicated himself to bringing attention to it.
     Seeger always wanted to be on a personal level with his fans and was dismayed at the emerging of Rock and Roll that elevated the stars high on a platform and the fan way below.  Always a consummate performer he wanted everyone to sing along and feel the music that he played.
     He was a friend of every serious musician and writer.  What do you do when a Pete Seeger song comes on, whether it is him or not?  You may not even know it is his, but it gets your attention and there is no mistaking the feelings behind it.  If it is tragic you feel your heart tug, if it is comedic, you laugh.  If it points out some inequity, you listen.
     At 94 years what a great legacy that will continue through the generations to come.
     Goodbye Pete.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


                                        Winston Churchill

     I love motorcycles, but as much as I love them I have never owned a running one or been down the road.  They are a fascinating part of our transportation history.  A good buddy in high school rode Honda's and I loved to play around with the families little Honda 50's.  We had friends out by Friend and we would run around the yard on an ancient moped.
     My dad had a lot of smarts on me.  When I wanted to get a motorcycle, I was already interested in collectible things, I found an ad for a 'basket case' BSA Bearcat.  This was about a 70cc model and very rare.  It is a great collector piece even today.  But he knew that my mechanical limitations would pretty much assure that I would never get the thing to run.
     My buddy and I started on reassembling the pile of parts and it was a pretty good looking bike.  But true to his instincts the farthest it ever ran was about 30 feet.  I still get laughed at about this.  My Grandpa always called them Murder Cycles (but Grandma had dated a guy on a motorcycle before she met him).  I also ran enough motorcycle accidents as a firefighter/EMT that I saw the damage that can happen to even the best driver. 
     So I admire from afar.  And a trip that I have not made yet, is to Marquette Kansas to the Kansas Motorcycle Museum.  This is the collection of Stan the Man Engdahl.  A dirt track racer with over 600 trophy's and a career that spanned the 1940's to the 1990's.
      Stan opened a TV and radio repair shop in Marquette and in the back had a motorcycle shop.  The result of his death in 2007 his building and several adjoining buildings became the Kansas Motorcycle Museum. 
      Stan's wife Lavona remained curator of the museum and with the help of several volunteers kept the museum opened most everyday of the year.  Lavona passed away recently and a story got put out that the museum was closed.  This is not true.  Eight volunteers are keeping the museum open and there are no plans for it to close.
     The KANSAS MOTORCYCLE MUSEUM has over 100 vintage bikes and over 600 trophies that Stan won.  Stan won every championship with a modified Model K Harley Davidson.  He invented special features such as running the oil through the bike frame to eliminate an oil pan.  I will be making the trip soon.
     While you are there plan to spend sometime in a neat community and stop over at Lindsborg or if you are going the other direction Ellsworth.  In fact why don't you make a Highway trip.  Kansas Highway 4 goes through a lot of scenic places and historic as well.