Chip Happens

This year, KHC features weekly posts related to the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition Hometown Teams, currently touring Kansas.

Competitive cow-chip tossing starts early in Russell Springs.  Image Courtesy Ward Taylor, Butterfield Trail Association and Historical Society Treasurer.

Competitive cow-chip tossing starts early in Russell Springs. Image Courtesy Ward Taylor, Butterfield Trail Association and Historical Society Treasurer.

Kansas in late summer is home to many beautiful sights. Waving fields of wheat. Cloudless blue skies. Sunrises so vivid they make you want to cry.

And, if you happen to be in the tiny northwestern town of Russell Springs, cow chips—which is to say, dried cow dung—flying through the air.

That’s because every year since 1955, Russell Springs has held an annual cow-chip throwing competition during its Old Settlers’ Day celebrations. Competitors from around the state gather to take part in the contest, which includes Men’s, Women’s and Junior’s classes, as well as Politicians and VIP classes.

According to one source, cow-chip tossing developed out of the need for winter fuel on the frontier. Settlers held informal games to see who could load their wagons with the most cow chips, which could be burned. Over time, the practice became purely recreational—and more competitive.

The sport isn’t complicated, but like any other, it has rules: two chips per contestant. Farthest chip counts. If there’s a dispute over whose chip goes farther, the committee’s decision is final. And contestants can’t provide their own “equipment.” Instead, the Cow Chip Committee spends the week before the contest gathering competition-worthy cow chips of at least six inches in diameter.

The annual contest helps foster a sense of identity in the residents of the very small town (population as of 2010: 24). The competition even earned Russell Springs the title of “Cow Chip Capital of Kansas” in March 1974, according to Pat Haremza, secretary of the Butterfield Trail Association and Historical Society.

Kansas have had considerable success in the sport, too. Jim Pass of Plains, Kansas, couldn’t break the world record (Oklahoman Leland Searcy’s 182’3” toss in 1979 still stands), but he did manage the title of 1998 World Champion, hurling his cow chip 158’1” at the annual national championships in Beaver, Oklahoma.

Humanities Happenings: 04/24-04/26

Which Humanities Happenings event will you attend this weekend? Choose from a variety of film screenings, presentations, and museum exhibitions!

Photo courtesy of Kansas Natural Resource Council and kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and Reuse Restrictions apply.

Photo courtesy of Kansas Natural Resource Council and kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and Reuse Restrictions apply.

Lawrence: The Waters of Kansas
The Ogallala aquifer, backbone of Kansas agriculture, is 30% gone. Perennial streams are now classified as historic. Reservoirs are silting in and increasingly subject to toxic blue-green algae. The time is ripe for a statewide conversation about our water – how we’ve used it, how most of us take it for granted, and our struggle to account for future generations.

The Kansas Natural Resource Council, with help from the Kansas Humanities Council and the National Science Foundation-funded Biofuels and Climate Change: Farmers’ Land Use Decisions research team, has produced a documentary film series featuring water resources and people from across Kansas who casually and intimately interact with groundwater or surface water, reservoirs or rivers. “The Waters of Kansas-Cheyenne Bottoms” and “The Waters of Kansas-Farming over the Ogallala” touch on the history of developing and using a water source, competing interests, and how communities grappling with the future. April 24th at University of Kansas-Spooner Hall at 4:00pm. Click here for details.

 

oakley_cornhusker_logo Oakley: Corn on the Plains Day
Compete in a corn recipe challenge. Take the contest from the field to the dinner table and “Harvest” the spirit of culinary competition. Teams can enter a dish for People’s Choice. Remarks provided by Jane Marshall, food historian at Kansas State University.

Join a roundtable discussion with local, long time farmers about the past, present and future of corn harvesting in America.

Video presentation of Smoky Hill Public Television’s production, “Traveling Kansas, Oakley” featuring the Oakley Corn Festival and the annual Kansas State Cornhusking Contest. April 24th at Buffalo Bill Cultural Center at 11:00am. Click here for details.

This event supports “Cornhusking: Harvesting the Spirit of Competition,” a special exhibit at the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center that explores the Kansas State Cornhusking competition. The project is part of “Hometown Teams,” a statewide initiative exploring the way sports build and unite communities.

 

This 1867 Harper's Weekly illustration, "Buffalo Hunting on the Plains by Officers of the United States Army," shows the kind of hunting that took place at Fort Larned.  Image Courtesy Fort Larned Old Guard.

This 1867 Harper’s Weekly illustration, “Buffalo Hunting on the Plains by Officers of the United States Army,” shows the kind of hunting that took place at Fort Larned. Image Courtesy Fort Larned Old Guard.

Larned: History of the Hunt
The public is invited to an open house for “The Evolution of Hunting: From Survival to Marketing to Sport at Fort Larned,” a special exhibition that examines how hunting transitioned from a survival necessity to a leisure sport enjoyed by cavalry officers and their wives at Fort Larned.

The open house is held in conjunction with the Fort Larned Old Guard’s “Mess & Muster” day of events. All events are free and open to the public. April 25th at Fort Larned National Historic Site at 10:00am. Click here for details.

At 1:30 PM, Fort Hays State University History Professor Juti Winchester will present “New Yorkers on the Warpath: Easterners Go West to Hunt.”

The project is part of “Hometown Teams,” a statewide initiative exploring the way sports build and unite communities.

 

 

Lizzie climbing Scersceau in full bustle  skirt. Photo courtesy of Martin & Osa Safari Museum.

Lizzie climbing Scersceau in full bustle skirt. Photo courtesy of Martin & Osa Safari Museum.

Chanute: Mountaineer Pioneer
The public is invited to learn about a yearlong project to conserve the photographs of Elizabeth Main Le Blond, a pioneering mountaineer, photographer, and cinematographer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The event is held in conjunction with the Safari Family Fun Festival, which includes an Amazing Race-style selfie competition through Downtown Chanute. April 25th at Martin & Osa Johnson Safari Museum at 10:00am. Click here for details.

The “Queen of the Mountain” exhibition is on display through June 27th and is part of “Hometown Teams,” a statewide initiative exploring the way sports build and unite communities.

 

 

Jordan Poland

Jordan Poland

Goodland: Athletic Architecture
Kansans place a high level of importance on their athletic architecture. From Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence to the Hornet’s Nest in Dighton, Hubbard Stadium in Smith Center to Veteran’s Stadium in Coffeyville, we cheer for our teams in a variety of buildings that commemorate fallen soldiers, lift the spirits of communities, and entertain us with the newest technologies. Jordan Poland, Speakers’ Bureau, will explore Kansas sports venues through time, as well as the stories of the athletes and fans who have called these places home. Walk through a timeline of athletic architecture in Kansas, across the spectrum of sports, to illustrate how these places have affected our collective memory and have been the gathering point for generations of fans. April 25th at High Plains Museum at 2:00pm. Click here for details.

 

 

Marla Day

Marla Day

Lawrence: “The Things They Carried Home”
This public preservation workshop will be led by Marla Day, senior curator at Kansas State University’s Historic Costume and Textile Museum. The workshop is part of “The Things They Carried Home,” a series of preservation projects and preservation workshops aimed at helping veterans and their families preserve material related to military service. April 25th at Watkins Museum of History at 9:30am. Click here for details.

 

 

 

Donald Blakeslee

Donald J. Blakeslee

Marion: An Unexpected History
Donald J. Blakeslee, Speakers’ Bureau, looks at Kansas in the era before Columbus. Consider what was not here: no cities, no roads, no mechanization, no domestic animals other than the dog. It is easy to imagine that the small human communities that occupied Kansas for thousands of years would have existed in relative isolation, focused on hand-to-mouth existence–but nothing could be further from the truth. The prehistoric inhabitants of Kansas traveled widely, even to central Mexico; traded with the Pueblo people of the Southwest; and included people interested in such arcane subjects as meteors and meteorites and were part of a continent-wide intellectual tradition. April 25th at Marion Historical Museum at 7:00pm. Click here for details.

 

 

Brice Obermeyer

Brice Obermeyer

Park City: Reclaiming their Past
Many museums across the United States have human remains, funeral objects, and the sacred items of American Indians in their collections. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) legally guaranteed American Indian tribes the right to reclaim these items in an effort to restore the humanity of these individuals. When the law took effect in 1990, museum staff, board members, and volunteers feared conflict and a loss of valuable historical artifacts. However, Brice Obermeyer, Speakers’ Bureau, explains increased collaboration between museums and Indian tribes has been sparked by NAGPRA, which is now appropriately viewed as American Indian Civil Rights legislation. April 25th at Park City Public Library at 7:00pm. Click here for details.

 

 

Joyce Thierer

Joyce Thierer

Stafford: A Scattered People
Author Gerald McFarland offers a vivid, personal history of five generations of his family who migrated west over the course of two centuries. Their struggles, successes, and causes (one relative was John Brown) mirror our country’s history and dreams. 245 pp. Joyce Thierer leads the TALK book discussion. April 26th at Stafford County Historical & Genealogical Society at 1:30pm. Click here for details.

 

 

 

 

Lorraine Madway

Lorraine Madway

Glasco: Olympic Dreams & the Road to Gold
The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin are most remembered for the worldwide political tensions in the early days of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Little remembered is that it was also the first time basketball was played as an Olympic sport. The gold medal U.S. team was composed in large part by Kansans who played on an industrial league team, the Globe Refiners of McPherson. Lorraine Madway, Speakers’ Bureau, celebrates the historic connections of basketball in Kansas to the 1936 Olympics and provides an opportunity to examine the culture of community sporting events during this time. This presentation will include a showing of a short KHC-funded documentary from the McPherson perspective, Oil & Gold: The McPherson Globe Refiners Basketball Story, produced by the McPherson CVB and Keith Cantrell. April 26th at The Corner Store at 2:00pm. Click here for details.

 

For more information about upcoming KHC events, take a look at our events calendar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Long, Strange Tale of the Eisenhower Baseball Controversy

This year, KHC features weekly posts related to the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition Hometown Teams, currently touring Kansas.

When he was young, Eisenhower wanted to be a famous baseball player; he had to settle for becoming President of the United States, instead. Photo Courtesy Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum.

When he was young, Eisenhower wanted to be a famous baseball player; he had to settle for becoming President of the United States, instead. Photo Courtesy Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum.

To date, President Dwight D. Eisenhower remains the only U.S. President who could claim a career in professional sports—kind of.

It’s well known that Eisenhower wanted to play baseball professionally. Instead, he led the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. However, Eisenhower later told The New York Times that before attending West Point, he actually had played baseball semi-professionally in Kansas; he’d just done so under the assumed name of Wilson.

The Eisenhower baseball controversy, as it came to be known, arose because Eisenhower’s college career took place after he played semi-professional sports elsewhere, which would have caused him to forfeit his amateur status. Knowingly misrepresenting himself in that way would have violated the Honor Code and been grounds for dismissal from West Point, if he had been discovered.

For the sake of a few games of semi-pro baseball, Eisenhower might never have been president.

The only problem with the controversy, according to noted baseball historian Bill Swank, is that there was never one in the first place.

The so-called controversy was not whether Eisenhower played semi-professional baseball. Eisenhower said that he did, on a number of occasions (though it’s worth noting that he hasn’t been correctly identified on any team’s roster). The “controversy” was about Eisenhower knowingly violating the Honor Code in order to play college ball at West Point.

According to Swank, however, the Honor Code that Eisenhower is frequently charged with violating hadn’t been codified when Eisenhower was at West Point, so he couldn’t have violated it. Additionally, the line between amateur and professional players was so blurry as to be almost meaningless. At most, in Swank’s view, Eisenhower’s time playing semi-pro baseball would have been considered a “youthful infraction” under the 1906 Intercollegiate Athletic Association bylaws, and there would have been no meaningful obstacle to him playing college sports.

So why would Eisenhower have bothered with the fake name, then?

Many players used fake names to make it easier to colleges and universities to look the other way. It was a simple matter of maintaining sufficient player numbers to keep college teams viable in the face of growing numbers of professional and semi-professional teams, says Swank. He based his conclusions on careful examination of baseball records and newspaper articles from the area and time period in question.

For more information on the saga of the “controversy,” check out this article on Today I Found Out. The article sets up the case for; Swank’s blistering reply in the comments section sets up the case against.

 

Humanities Happenings: 04/17-04/19

Humanities Happenings are here and waiting for you! Join one of these KHC events this weekend.

Sandra Wiechert

Sandra Wiechert

Topeka: A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
Michael Dorris’ novel starts in the present and moves backward in time to tell the story of 15-year-old Rayona, her American Indian mother Christine, and the fierce and mysterious Ida, whose secrets, betrayals, and dreams bind all three women’s lives together. 372 pp. Sandra Wiechert leads the TALK book discussion. April 17th at Aldersgate Village at 2:30pm. Click here for details.

 

 

 

Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson

Holton: Midwest Melting Pot
Many threads have been interwoven in the fabric of Kansas culture, from the Plains Indians to European homesteaders and African American Exodusters. A number of rural communities have grown in recent years because of Latino and South Asian immigrants who are working and raising their families in Kansas. Ron Wilson, Speakers Bureau, highlights real-world examples of people who have used their diverse cultural backgrounds to contribute constructively to Kansas communities. April 17th at Trinity Lutheran Church at 6:00pm. Click here for details.

 

 

 

John Edgar Tidwell

John Edgar Tidwell

Augusta: The Fire Next Time
At once a powerful evocation of the author’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of racial injustice, James Baldwin’s book galvanized our nation in the early days of the Civil Rights movement. 106 pp. John Edgar Tidwell leads the TALK book discussion. April 18th at Augusta Public Library at 10:30am. Click here for details.

 

 

 

MJ Morgan

M. J. Morgan

Lindsborg: Looking for Lost History
Kansas has nearly 9000 disappeared towns and communities, caused by its unusual and spectacularly fast settlement history. The variety of town types–from colony and end-of-line towns to cumulative and rural communities–is as striking as the stories they left behind. Kansas towns are diverse and contain vital human histories of failure and persistence against the odds. M.J. Morgan, Speakers Bureau, will explore research conducted on lost Kansas places and discuss problems of recovery of information. April 18th at Bethany Lutheran Church at 2:15pm. Click here for details. 

 

 

 

Travis Larsen

Travis Larsen

Hays: Ambiguous Roles & Representations
The use of Native American imagery for sports mascots has a long and controversial history. Whereas some proponents say that the mascots honor native cultures, others argue that they reinforce ethnic stereotypes and cultural misunderstanding. Universities such as Stanford and Marquette have changed their team names and mascots in response to the debate. Other teams, however, have fought cases in court in order to preserve their mascot images. Travis Larsen, Speakers Bureau, will explore the history of these images, the controversies surrounding them, and the various ways sports teams have changed, eliminated, or defended the use of Native American-themed mascots. April 18th at Ellis County Historical Society at 2:00pm. Click here for details.

 

Harvey County Courthouse Photo credit: Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, KS

Harvey County Courthouse
Photo credit: Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, KS

Newton: A Walk Down Memory Lane & Up the Courthouse Steps
Join community members for a short walk down the memory lane where the Harvey County Courthouse has resided! Director Debra Hiebert and curator Kristine Schmucker will share photos and fun information, and invite program attendees to share their memories and stories. How have YOU used our county courthouse, past and present? April 19th at Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives at 2:00pm. Click here for details. 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Weems

Robert Weems

North Newton: “Defining the ‘Other'”
Robert Weems, a history professor at Wichita State University, presents “Defining the ‘Other’: A History of Racial Stereotypes.” This lecture supports “Sorting Out Race,” a special exhibit that uses thrift store race-related objects as a starting point for conversations about race and racial identify. April 19th at Kauffman Museum at 3:00pm. Click here for details. 

 

 

 

Sara Jane Richter

Sara Jane Richter

Scott City: Dust Bowl Gardeners
During the bleak days of the Dust Bowl, women used their green thumbs and gardening skills to extend their daily menus, earn money, and even beautify their dreary environs. Drawing from first-hand accounts, Sara Jane Richter, Speakers Bureau, explores the vegetables, flowers, and medicinal herbs these women cultivated within the harshest conditions during the Great Depression. By experimenting with and cultivating hardy breeds many women were able to augment their families’ menu, larder, meals, and mood. April 19th at El Quartelejo Museum at 2:00pm. Click here for details.

 

 

Please visit KHC’s upcoming events calendar for a humanities event that interests you!

 

 

Eric McHenry named Poet Laureate of Kansas

Eric McHenry Photo credit: Kelly Magerkurth

Eric McHenry
Photo credit: Kelly Magerkurth

The Kansas Humanities Council (KHC) announced that Eric McHenry of Lawrence, Kansas has been named the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Kansas. In this role, McHenry will promote the humanities as a public resource for all Kansans through public readings, presentations, and discussions about poetry in communities across the state.

“Eric brings to the Poet Laureate of Kansas position an abundance of talent and enthusiasm,” said Julie Mulvihill, executive director of the Kansas Humanities Council. “As a writer, his words seem effortless, although we know how meticulously and thoughtfully he deliberates on each. As a teacher, his intelligence and humor make poetry come alive. The combination of these qualities will make Eric an exceptional poet laureate for our state.”

“There’s nothing I love more than sharing poetry with people, and I look forward to doing that in every corner of Kansas over the next two years,” said McHenry. “I think we’re all grateful when we encounter language that’s equal to life’s richness and complexity. Poetry can provide that.”

Eric McHenry is a nationally known poet and associate professor of English at Washburn University in Topeka. His work has been featured in publications such as Poetry InternationalSlateYale Review, and Topeka magazine, among many others. He also contributes poetry reviews for the New York Times and Columbia magazine. Odd Evening, his third book of poems, will be published by Waywiser Press in 2016.

A fifth-generation Topeka native, Eric has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for poetry seven times and received the Theodore Roethke Prize in 2011. His first book of poems, Potscrubber Lullabies, earned him the prestigious Kate Tufts Discovery Award in 2007, the largest American prize for a first book of poetry.

Outside of the college classroom, Eric has taught poetry in various settings, including K-12 teacher workshops, adolescent service agencies, local authors’ groups, and libraries.

Initial support of the Poet Laureate of Kansas program is made possible by the Friends of Naomi Patterson:
Carol Patterson Baldwin
David Patterson
Kent and Susan Garlinghouse
Russell and Jane Greene

Additional support comes from KHC’s Friends of the HumanitiesClick here to make a donation in support of the Poet Laureate of Kansas program.

Polo on the Plains

 

During the 1920s, wealthy area businessmen revived Ellis County's polo history.  Photo Courtesy Ellis County Historical Society.

During the 1920s, wealthy area businessmen revived Ellis County’s polo history. Photo Courtesy Ellis County Historical Society.

When most people think of Kansans on horseback, they picture cowboys herding cattle under a wide-open sky. They probably don’t think of polo, a sport historically dominated by the British upper classes.

But maybe they should.

After all, in Ellis County, Kansas, the sport’s history stretches back to the nineteenth century.

“There really is a tradition of polo here dating back to the 1870s,” said Donald Westfall, Ellis County Historical Society’s Hometown Teams Partner Site Project Director.

That’s when a wealthy British man named George Grant bought tens of thousands of acres of land in Ellis County and established a “colony” he named Victoria. His plan was to sell land to other members of the British nobility.

One of the ways Grant appealed to potential settlers was through the promise of a refined, gentlemanly lifestyle. Polo was a major part of that, offering the British transplants a taste of home while they were on the range.

But when the promised easy riches failed to appear for most ranchers, many British settlers left Kansas, and polo mostly left with them.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that a group of wealthy business professionals and ranchers interested in the sport’s history in the area inspired a polo renaissance in Ellis County, with local ranches like Sweetwater and Philip Ranch both fielding their own teams.

The sport enjoyed a few decades of relative prominence in the area before the Fort Hays Polo Club closed in 1956. Since then, Ellis County’s polo history has been just that—history.

Westfall hopes that this exhibit will revive interest in the sport. There is a lot of interest about horseback sports in the area, he says, but it tends to be “strictly Western.”

“I hope the exhibit gives people a greater appreciation for [Ellis County’s] diversity as far as heritage was concerned,” Westfall added. “This is only one part of that, but it’s a part that sometimes gets lost.”

Polo on the Plain will be on display at the Ellis County Historical Society Museum from March 21 to May 31.  For more information, visit www.elliscountyhistoricalmuseum.org or call (785) 628-2624.

Humanities Happenings: 04/10-04/12

Read, discuss, listen, and learn with this weekend’s Humanities Happenings events.

Gene T. Chávez

Gene T. Chávez

Topeka: A League of Their Own
In the early 20th century when Mexico was at war with itself, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans left their homeland and migrated to the United States. In the Midwest and West, the railroad companies, meat packing industry, and mining operations vied for Mexican workers as an inexpensive labor force. As the Mexican populations grew in Kansas, so did projects to “Americanize” the children. Softball fields became the intended places to assimilate these kids, but instead the games became community spots where neighborhoods asserted their own unique identities. Gene T. Chavez, Speakers Bureau, will trace the development of Mexican American fast-pitch softball in the Sunflower State. April 11th at Washburn Institute of Technology at 10:00am. Click here for details.

 

 

Sara Jane Richter

Sara Jane Richter

Augusta: Green Thumbs in the Great Depression
During the bleak days of the Dust Bowl, women used their green thumbs and gardening skills to extend their daily menus, earn money, and even beautify their dreary environs. Drawing from first-hand accounts, Sara Jane Richter, Speakers Bureau, explores the vegetables, flowers, and medicinal herbs these women cultivated within the harshest conditions during the Great Depression. By experimenting with and cultivating hardy breeds many women were able to augment their families’ menu, larder, meals, and mood. April 11th at Augusta Public Library at 10:30am. Click here for details.

 

 

Michael J. Zogry

Michael J. Zogry

Goodland: Sports & Spirituality
Anetso, a centuries-old Cherokee ball game, is a vigorous, sometimes violent activity that rewards speed, strength, and agility. A precursor to lacrosse, Cherokee people still play it today. Observers also note that it is the focus of several linked ritual activities. Is is a sport, or a religious ritual? Could it be both? Why has it survived through centuries of upheaval and change? Drawing from his book on the subject, Hometown Teams Tour Scholar Dr. Michael J. Zogry will consider these questions as he provides a multimedia introduction to anetso. April 11th at High Plains Museum at 2:00pm. Click here for details.

This presentation is part of the “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America” Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition on display through May 3rd.

glasco_ross_kelly

Glasco: Glory Days
The Dug Out Coffee House and Reception will discuss stories and memories of sports and play in Glasco. Hear from past team members, families, and coaches. A dialogue on women in sports will be encouraged. April 12th at Glasco Community Foundation at 2:00pm. Click here for details.

This event supports “A Triple Threat on the Diamond, Field, and Court,” a special exhibit that explores the sports heritage of Glasco. The project is part of “Hometown Teams,” a statewide initiative exploring the way sports build and unite communities.

 

Leo E. Oliva

Leo E. Oliva

Kinsley: Environmental & Cultural History Collide
Fort Hays State University history professor Leo E. Oliva will use a series of interviews, recorded nearly 60 years after the Dust Bowl, to examine the lasting impact of the Dust Bowl on families. Richard Basore, Watershed Field Coordinator for the Kansas Department of Health & Environment will discuss watershed restoration and protection strategies.

Following the presentations, a panel of experts will discuss contemporary water issues. April 12th at Kinsley Public Library at 2:00pm. Click here for details.

This event is part of a series of reading discussions that support the exhibit “Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry.”

 

John K. Burchill

John K. Burchill

Jetmore: Kansas Anti-Horse Thief Societies
John K. Burchill, Speakers Bureau, discusses how Kansas was once the center of operations for many organized bands of horse thieves. In reaction, many independent anti-horse thief societies were formed, with the national Anti-Horse Thief Association especially strong in Kansas. By 1910 Kansas held the most members, was home to The Anti-Horse Thief Weekly News, and consistently had residents hold offices in the national order. So effective were these organizations that local law enforcement were often the first to join, and the Kansas Bank Commissioner called for their assistance to help fight bank robberies that plagued the state. April 12th at Horsethief Reservoir at 2:00pm. Click here for details.

 

Stafford: Letters of a Woman Homesteader
Stewart took up homesteading in 1909 to prove that a woman could ranch. Her captivating letters reveal the isolation, the beauty, and the joy of working the prairie. 282 pp. Jennifer Jo Krisuk leads the TALK book discussion. April 12th at Stafford County & Genealogical Society at 1:30pm. Click here for details.

 

Don’t forget to check our events calendar often for new and upcoming humanities events!

 

Wyatt Townley final event as Poet Laureate of Kansas

Wyatt Townley Photo by: Terry Weckbaugh

Wyatt Townley
Photo by: Terry Weckbaugh

The Kansas Humanities Council (KHC) announced that Wyatt Townley will be presenting her final presentation as Poet Laureate of Kansas at the Koester House Museum in Marysville on Thursday, April 30. The event, “Coming Home to Poetry,” will begin at 7 PM.

Townley began her two-year term as Poet Laureate of Kansas in 2013. In this role, she has promoted the humanities as a public resource for all Kansans through public presentations and discussions about poetry in communities across the state and a statewide newspaper column. She lives in Shawnee Mission, Kan.

“When Wyatt was chosen as Poet Laureate of Kansas, the selection committee knew her talents and charismatic presence. What we didn’t fully realized was Wyatt’s passion for the position and her devotion to sharing poetry with Kansans statewide,” said Julie Mulvihill, KHC Executive Director. “While the humanities connect us to the larger human experience, her poetry magnified it. The Kansas Humanities Council is grateful for this gift Wyatt shared with all of us.”

As Poet Laureate, Townley presented “Coming Home to Poetry” and poetry readings to 68 organizations across Kansas. Her newspaper column, “HomeWords,” was published for 53 weeks and featured 105 cinquain poems written by Kansans—a number that reflects the 105 counties of the state.

“The laureateship itself was a poem for me,” Townley said. “What an honor and delight traveling Kansas and connecting with people about things that matter—love, death, and Poetry!

“We laughed, we cried, we got chills. We put over 10,000 miles on our 16-year-old van, never breaking down and managing to dodge all blizzards and tornados,” Townley said. “Internally, I found a path from private to public that I could travel, and made new friends along the way. It was all poetry, all the way down.”

A widely published poet, Townley looks forward to more time in her writer’s studio when a new poet laureate is named. Her next collection, Rewriting the Body, will soon be published. Other projects are also percolating. “Possibly a memoir that centers on the laureateship and the great leap for an introvert from solitary practitioner to ambassador,” she adds. “There are some juicy book projects I’ve put on hold, and some life projects as well—singing, drawing, and teaching Yoganetics. But first: a vacation!”

Support for the Poet Laureate of Kansas has been provided by the Friends of the Humanities.

The Kansas Humanities Council is a nonprofit organization that supports community-based cultural programs, serves as a financial resource through an active grant-making program, and encourages Kansans to engage in the civic and cultural life of their communities. For more information or to donate to the Poet Laureate of Kansas program, contact Leslie Von Holten, Director of Programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org, or visit www.kansashumanities.org.

Harvesting the Spirit of Athletic Competition: Competitive Cornhusking in Oakley

This year, KHC features weekly posts related to the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition Hometown Teams, currently touring Kansas.

Strength training for corn husking contests sometimes involved extreme measures, as this picture shows.  Photo Courtesy Wild West Historical Foundation.

Strength training for corn husking contests sometimes involved extreme measures, as this picture shows. Photo Courtesy Wild West Historical Foundation.

80 minutes. No time-outs. No water breaks. No substitutions.  Corn husking was the Midwestern sport of endurance and skill during the 1920s and 1930s.  Just a competitor, a wagon and as much corn as they could shuck.

By 1940, the sport drew crowds of more than 100,000, and Time Magazine called it “the fastest growing spectator sport in the world.”  National Corn Husking Contests celebrating Midwestern heritage and values were broadcast coast-to-coast on NBC’s Farm and Home Hour.

But World War II and the mechanization of the corn harvest brought an abrupt end to the contests that Collier’s Weekly once declared “the toughest competition in the world.”

Fast forward to 1970.  Some residents in the northwest town of Oakley wanted to hold an event that would bring people into their town and attract travelers off the Interstate.

Ross Nelson, the Logan County Agricultural agent, suggested an old-time hand cornhusking contest.  With the help of former husker Kenneth House of Goodland, they set out to revive the contest in Kansas. In 1971, Oakley hosted the first year of the now-annual Kansas State Corn Husking Contest.

The rules developed by Nelson and House became the model for the modern-day contest rules used by Kansas and the eight other Midwestern state members of the National Corn Husking Association.

According to the National Corn Husking Contest Rules 2000, “The objective is to husk into the wagon the largest amount of ear corn and at the same time husk all the ears on land covered. Such corn, when husked, shall be reasonably free from husks.”

Most huskers use a hand-held husking hook to help break open the husk for speedier removal from the stalk, though some still prefer bare hands. And 10, 20, or 30-minute bouts are now the norm, depending on the class of competition.

Though rural traditions and values still remain rooted in the sport, the old-time huskers are passing on. Laurie Millensifer, Oakley’s Hometown Teams Partner Site Project Director, fears the sport, along with its history and heritage, will be gone if the younger generation does not get involved.

She hopes that the demonstrations and displays planned for their 2015 “Harvesting the Spirit of Athletic Competition” exhibition will help sow the seeds of interest and participation in the sport of competitive corn husking in Kansas.

The exhibition will be on display at the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center between March 30 and May 1, as well as throughout October. For more information, contact (785) 671-1000 or info@buffalobilloakley.org.

Request for Partners: ALA’s Latino American

khc_logo_sketches_feb16b

The Kansas Humanities Council is seeking nonprofit partners for a potential application to the American Library Association’s Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative. The program will explore the Latino story with scholar-led film discussions and other creative activities, conducted between July 2015 and June 2016. KHC will apply for the grant and, if awarded, oversee administrative tasks.

Interested in partnering? Email Murl Riedel, murl@kansashumanities.org, KHC Director of Grants, by April 15 with the following information:

  1. Name and location of your organization.
  2. Why is your organization interested in exploring the Latino story?
  3. Beyond film discussions, describe plans for potential complementary activities in your community. Examples: oral histories, walking tours, exhibits, online projects, etc.

For details about Latino Americans: 500 Years of History, visit: https://apply.ala.org/latinoamericans

Questions? Contact Murl Riedel, murl@kansashumanities.org, 785-357-0359