Our Turn at this Earth - Just a Farmer


Every day at noon when I was a little girl, my father would come up the east steps of our farmhouse. Entering the mud porch, he would drop his hat on a hook, and, depending on the season, remove his wool-lined denim jacket, or peel off his coveralls, or unbuckle and remove his rubber boots, then wash his hands.

When he opened the door into the dining room, water still dripping from his hairy forearms, I would always be waiting. While Mom put the finishing touches on a hot meal, we would sit together in the lounge chair beside the bay windows, which looked onto a big once-red barn that had faded by the time I was born.

A whiff of dust and grease emanated from my father, along with the scent of Lava soap. A baby, then a toddler, then a little girl, I nestled in his lap, breathing in his smells along with his love. I would play with the brass fasteners on his bib overalls, or rub my hand over his sandpapery cheek, or pat his bald head, or pull the chest hair that curled above the v-neck of his blue work shirt. When he wasn’t grimacing in pretend pain, his smile hung open on imperfect teeth, a couple of the bottom ones gold. All the while, the roots of my psyche were burrowing into him, my identity intertwining with his.

My father was a farmer. Such men are often praised as “men of the soil.” But if anyone had ever called him “a man of the soil” to his face, his lips would have curled up and his eyes would have lit with the same amused scoff that crossed that face whenever someone preached religion to him. He did not go in for highfalutin language or high-minded ideas about our human origins or afterlives. He was perfectly content knowing, or thinking he knew, that, in his words, “when we’re dead we’re dead.

My mother, on the other hand, was a devout Lutheran. Looking back on my childhood, I’m grateful that I had one religious and one non-religious parent. It seemed to enlarge the inner space I was free to inhabit. It gave me more elbow room in which to become myself.

My father was living proof that you didn’t have to be religious to be a good man. He was the hardest worker I’ve ever known, honest in all of his dealings, a devoted husband and father, and a good neighbor.  He was not “a man of the soil.” He was “just a farmer,” as he often said, and a “sheepherder.” Even though the sheep he herded were his own, he enjoyed downplaying rather than playing up his success.

If there was anything he couldn’t stand, it was a braggart, or as he would have said, a blowhard. From him, I learned that a person who claims to be important is sure to be the opposite. It amuses me to imagine how he would have responded to the blowhard who has dominated our national stage of late. If you’re of a different political persuasion than the one I’m intimating here, no worries, my father’s disdain, and sometimes his bigotry, was non-partisan. He called John Kennedy “a choir-boy Catholic,” and I can’t imagine him voting for Obama, not because of his policy ideas but because of the color of his skin.

I said my father was good, but he was far from perfect. Remarkably, I managed to avoid absorbing his racial and religious prejudices. I guess the roots of my identity were much like plant roots. They had the good sense to burrow toward the healthier nutrients, which in this case, they found in my mother. She took me to Sunday School and church, where I learned that God loved His children equally, therefore so should I.

Maybe I shouldn’t mention my father’s faults while eulogizing him. But like him, and maybe thanks to him, I distrust highfalutin, rosy language. Besides, I couldn’t love him more if he had been perfect. Perfection is impossible. He was just a farmer, just a man.



Our Turn at this Earth - The Ogallala Road

  I’m the kind of person who can’t resist a country road. I’ll be zipping down the interstate between somewhere big and somewhere else big, and a narrow track winding between pale buffalo grass pastures will catch my eye. Next thing I know, the interstate... [More]


Our Turn at this Earth - The Beaver Creeks

My father pastured his sheep on what could loosely be termed the “shores” of Little Beaver Creek, a dry watercourse that flowed only after gully washers – his term for big rainstorms. Today it amazes me that I could have grown up in that place and never wondered... [More]


Our Turn at this Earth - The Carbon Cycle

Stories about disruptions in the carbon cycle abound in the news these days. But recently, it occurred to me that I didn’t really know what the carbon cycle was. A few Google searches later, and I will never again see my fall garden in quite the same way. It has always... [More]


Our Turn at this Earth - Response to the Letter to the Editor

I would like to thank Mr. Ron Blaesi for his letter to the editor commenting on my recent essays concerning corn and the Ogallala Aquifer. I hope this discussion will encourage more dialogue on the topic. One benefit of dialogue is that it leads us to review our assertions.... [More]


Our Turn at this Earth - Animal Stories

My mother used to tell a story about a dog that our family had before I was born. She swore he could read her mind. “Elmer,” she recalled saying one time, “why don’t you get me that chicken?” She said she didn’t even point. But danged if... [More]


Walls of Corn

Like any farmer, my father loved driving along a wall of green corn and computing the many bushels it would yield and the money these would put into his bank account. He irrigated his corn out of the Ogallala aquifer, and always believed that the government would shut him down... [More]


Our Turn at this Earth - Elephant, or Cash Cow?

A few years ago I attended a meeting in my hometown, Goodland, Kansas. It had been called by the Vision Team, appointees of then Governor Sam Brownback, who had taken a noteworthy interest in conserving the Ogallala Aquifer. We hundred or more attendees were divided into groups... [More]


Our Turn at this Earth - The Great Plains Are Not the Midwest

“He thought he knew what he was going to see, but now that his horse stood on the summit, he couldn’t believe. He couldn’t believe that flat could be so flat or that distance ran so far or that the sky lifted so dizzy-deep or that the world stood so empty.... [More]

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Traffic Court September-December

Forman, David Scott, Miami Fla, driving 78 mph in a 50 mph zone. Fines $177 Court Cost $108. Hagan, Audrey Ann, Columbia Mo, driving 78 mph in a 65 mph zone. Deferred. Court Cost $108. Pfeffer, Samuel Tyler, Sharon Springs, Reckless Driving.  Bench Trial – Not... [More]

Traffic Court up to September 2019

Turner, Philip Russell II, driving 85 mph in a 65 mph zone, deferred adjudication, court costs $108. Patton, Amanda, driving 93 mph in a 65 mph zone, deferred adjudication, court costs $108. Ramey, Tyler Ray, failure to stop or obey railroad crossing signal, fines $195, court... [More]

Wallace County District Court Sentencings

On May 15th, Vance Diamond Halsey appeared in the Wallace County District Court with court appointed attorney, Christopher Rohr, Colby for sentencing in the matter of case 2019-CR-03.  Halsey was charged with Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Police Officer on March 12, 2019, ... [More]

Traffic Court for May-June 2019

May Traffic Report Thomas, Dyami R, Bellingham, Wash, driving 85 mph in a 65 mph zone, fines $105, court cost $108. Araujo Pompa, Almedio, Coral Gables, Fla, driving 85 mph in a 65 mph zone, fines $105, court cost $108. Lennon, Jake Owen, Pittsburg, Penn, driving 93 mph... [More]

Traffic Court for April 2019

James Manuel Phillips, Gardner, Colo, driving 77 mph in a 65 mph zone, fines $57 and court costs $108. Kenzie Marie Spreier, Colby, Kans, diving 80 in a 65 mph zone, fines $75 and court costs $108. Erick Edward Jarosz, Canon City, Colo, driving 84 mph in a 65 mph zone,... [More]

Brandon and Fugate Sentenced

Jonathan Brandon appeared in Wallace County District Court on April 10th, 2019, with his court appointed attorney, Steve Cott, Garden City, for sentencing in cases 17 CR 51 and 17 CR 58. Each case charged Brandon with Distribution of Methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a school,... [More]

Traffic Court reports Apr 11, 2019

Chandler, Garrett Scott, Pueblo, Colo, driving 75 mph in a 65 mph zone, fines $69, court costs $108. Palmier, Joshua Quayshun, Birmingham, Ala, driving 84 mph in a 65 mph zone, fines $99, court costs $108. Chavez, Brenda Icilice, Denver, Colo, driving 85 mph in a 65 mph zone,... [More]

March District Court

On March 13th, 2019 Charlene Valdez appeared in Wallace County District Court with court appointed attorney Leslie Beims, Goodland in the matter of case number 2017 CR 42. Valdez had been charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine, within 1,000’ of a school,... [More]

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Dollar General Grand Opening

The Grand Opening of the Dollar General will be this Saturday, January 25th from 8 to 10 am.  There will be  free totebags and cups, and the first 50 customers will recieve a $10 gift card.  Cake will be served.  


Farm Credit Seeking Scholarship Applicants

The Board of Directors of Farm Credit of Western Kansas, ACA is pleased to announce the continuation of the Farm Credit Scholarship program.  Farm Credit has $8,000 available to High School Seniors, a $500 per semester scholarship, which is renewable for up-to four years... [More]


Sharon Springs Wildcats Take On Weskan Coyotes

Jace Mackley shoots a basket for Weskan in the game between Wallace County High School and Weskan High School last Friday.  Weskan Boys won 71 - 51. JC Allen (WHS) shoots over Brookley Dinkel   (WCHS) during last week’s game.  The Lady Wildcats won... [More]


FHSU Students Earn Fall Semester Honors

Grady Hammer and  Dalen See are among the 1,596 students named to the Deans Honor Roll for the fall 2019 semester by deans at Fort Hays State University. The Deans Honor Roll includes undergraduate students only. To be eligible, students must have completed 12 or more... [More]


KSU Students Earn Fall Semester Honors

More than 4,220 Kansas State University students have earned semester honors for their academic performance in the fall 2019 semester. Students earning a grade point average for the semester of 3.75 or above on at least 12 graded credit hours receive semester honors along with... [More]


Sexson Returns From Retreat For Rural Leaders

Lissa Sexson of the Wallace County Visitors Bureau attended the 27th Retreat for Rural Leaders facilitated by the Kansas Sampler Foundation and held at The Barn Bed and Breakfast Inn near Valley Falls. Lissa was one of 34 people from across the state to attend. The group was... [More]

My Favorite Hiding Spot

Sandi Kerr-Jordan’s 8th graders discus hiding spots as they learn about interactions between the Jews and the Nazis during World War II. Here are some of her student’s personal hiding spots - My hiding place is my room. It is really the only place in my house... [More]


Acoustic Eidolon to Perform

Back for a third time in recent years, Acoustic Eidolon will perform for the Western Plains Arts Association, Sunday, Jan. 26 at the Wallace County High School Auditorium, 521 North Main, Sharon Springs. The program begins at 2 p.m. Mountain (3 p.m. Central).  Admission... [More]

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Bugle Notes - Jan 16, 2020

This Sunday, the Fort Wallace Museum is looking forward to hosting Greg and Cee Heller from Kannapolis for the screening of the new documentary film “Fort Harker: Gateway Post to the Frontier.” Please join us at 2:00 pm MT for the 45-minute film, followed by discussion... [More]


Bugle Notes - Jan 9, 2020

Happy New Year! The Fort Wallace Memorial Association is looking forward to a fun and full 2020; we invite everyone to join in and help make it our most successful year ever!  There are two ways to join our organization. “The Fort Wallace Memorial Association”... [More]


Bugle Notes - Dec 12, 2019

Christmas arrived at the Fort Wallace Museum this past Sunday, with the annual “Candlelight Christmas” service, followed by a festive gathering inside the main building. The 1888 Bethany Lutheran Church was filled to capacity for the traditional service. Worship was... [More]


Bugle Notes - Dec 5, 2019

In 1865, David Butterfield raised money from New York investors to create Butterfield’s Overland Despatch Stage Line along the Smoky Hill Trail - the shortest route from commerce centers near Atchison, Kansas to the gold fields near Denver Colorado. In 2019, Butterfield’s... [More]


Bugle Notes - Nov 7, 2019

On Saturday, the Fort Wallace Museum welcomed author Chuck Warner and his wife Karen to the Museum to discuss his new book “Birds, Bones and Beetles,” about his grandfather Charles “Bunk” Bunker, who was a KU Naturalist that explored Wallace County and... [More]


Bugle Notes - Oct 31, 2019

The 2019 Smoky Hill Trail Conference held at the Fort Wallace Museum is now in the rearview mirror! The event hosted 75 folks, including several national names in Western History research, as the role of Fort Wallace in Trail history was explored. Tours, lectures, networking,... [More]


Bugle Notes - Oct 17, 2019

The Smoky Hill Trail Conference weekend is here, and we are excited to host folks from all over Kansas, Colorado and beyond! The theme of the weekend is “Fort Wallace - the Fightin’est Fort on the Smoky Hill Trail,” and presentations will explore the events,... [More]


Bugle Notes - Oct 10, 2019

This Saturday night, we are delighted to welcome Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran “The Singer and the Songwriter” to the Fort Wallace Museum for an evening of live music at 7pm as part of the High Plains Public Radio Artists Series! The Singer and The Songwriter is the... [More]

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