High Plains

Paul Phillips

From the Panhandle of Texas to the southern regions of South Dakota, the High Plains has a landscape generally characterized as flat and monotonous.  American explorers traveling west from the eastern wooded areas were not impressed with the “sea of grasses” they found covering the region, and proclaimed the area to be part of the “Great American Desert” unfit for agricultural settlement. 

American settlement arrived later, but this sea of grass was already home to many pastoral tribes, including the Comanche - peoples who had developed a nomadic lifestyle, following and hunting the more than 60 million buffalo that moved in herds across these vast grasslands.  As you will read in the Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne, the buffalo was key to the Comanche’s survival, providing food, shelter, and tools.

What Is a Playa?

Feb 23, 2016

We grew up on the High Plains thinking of those occasionally muddy pasture depressions as "buffalo wallows," "rainwater basins" or "mud holes." Turns out, scientists are learning those playas play a significant role recharging aquifers such as the Ogallala.

Jonathan Baker

I’m a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Book Club Read, Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne. I love this book, because it paints such an unflinching picture of the staggering beauty and brutal reality of my homeland.

The High Plains is perhaps the greatest grassland in the world. It’s hopelessly wide and unnervingly flat. And until somewhat recently, it was uninhabitable. But with the introduction of the horse to the plains, something remarkable happened. The confluence of the Comanche, the horse, and these limitless grasslands led to the rise of one of the most powerful mounted forces the world has ever known. If you were to invent the ideal denizen of the High Plains, you couldn’t do much better than the Comanche. Their very natures echoed this place in countless ways.

csmonitor.com

A nostalgic essay about the good old days when all food was slow and TVs only received two channels recently caught my attention. It made me think about the differences between my childhood and my grandkids’.

The paragraph about not having a remote really struck home. The author explained how adults expected children to trudge to the television to manually switch from one channel to the other. I remember those days when dad would tell us to change channels. I might have been a grown up in my own home before I owned a television with a device that allowed us to flick channels without leaving our seats. That was just the beginning of technology that encouraged dependence. Now it’s expanded into restrooms.

Rural Characters: Types or Stereotypes?

Feb 14, 2016
Russell Lee, August 1939 / FSA, Library of Congress

Today, you and I have the opportunity to sit down at Washburn University with professors Thomas Averill and Tom Prasch.  They’ll challenge us to think about types or are they stereotypes of people sharing our rural landscape.  Let’s drop in to Thomas Averill’s office and join the conversation.  

Kathleen Holt

I'm Eric McHenry, Kansas Poet Laureate.

Today, I'd like to explore the work of another great Kansas poet- William Stafford.  He spent his career years in Oregon where he was the Poet Laureate, but he continued to write about life and "place" on the plains of Kansas.

  Home Is the Place that Holds You

Somebody once asked the poet William Stafford why he kept writing about western Kansas, where he’d grown up, even after decades of living in Oregon. What was wrong with Oregon? “Oregon’s all right,” Stafford said, “except the mountains and the trees get in the way of the scenery.”

For Stafford, the ideal landscape was mostly skyscape. He liked an unobstructed view, prospects limited only by the distant curving away of the earth. The purpose of land isn’t to be seen; it’s to be felt with your soles. His poem “One Home” begins with the line “Mine was a Midwest home — you can keep your world,” and ends with “Wherever we looked the land would hold us up.”

Karen Madorin

By nature, Plains people share what they have with neighbors. It is how we survive and thrive. This opportunity for readers and lovers of ideas to explore and discuss our common landscape and the stories it generates is a gift. Each of us brings original perceptions to our common experience. Those differences can strengthen or weaken bonds necessary to make life good in a hard land. This group offers a venue for us to learn who we are because we value life on the Great Plains.

Karen Madorin

 In 1542, Father Juan Padilla wrote “the sky is so vast and unchanging that it resembles a great blue bowl turned upside down on the landscape.”  He was one of the chroniclers of the ill-fated expedition led Francisco Vasquez Coronado across the High Plains.

Coronado’s trek, along with the others led by fellow conquistadores during the Spanish exploration of the New World was never meant to just gain knowledge of the endless prairie.  The days they spent on the trackless grassland were a means to an end; the sacking of the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola and the forced conversion of the natives they encountered.  Coronado came to the New World determined to spread Catholicism, impose the Spanish regal system on all they met and most important, take all the gold they could find.  They set about to abolish tribal systems in place since the Neolithic, to give those peoples no choice but to be assimilated, dominated or die.

A Strong West Wind

Jan 18, 2016

A Strong West Wind: A Memoir  by Gail Caldwell is the third book in the 2016 Spring Read.  

“In this exquisitely rendered memoir set on the high plains of Texas, Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell transforms into art what it is like to come of age in a particular time and place. A Strong West Wind begins in the 1950s in the wilds of the Texas Panhandle–a place of both boredom and beauty, its flat horizons broken only by oil derricks, grain elevators, and church steeples. Its story belongs to a girl who grew up surrounded by dust storms and cattle ranches and summer lightning, who took refuge from the vastness of the land and the ever-present wind by retreating into books. A memoir of culture and history–of fathers and daughters, of two world wars, the passionate rebellions of the sixties -- the book is also about the mythology of place and evolution of a sensibility: about how literature can shape and even anticipate a life” (From Amazon)

Spring Read 2016 Booklist

Jan 17, 2016

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl—her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house—is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they've ever known.

Are These Really the Best Places to Live in America?

Aug 21, 2015
USDA Economic Research Service. Published Aug. 14, 2015 / CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM/THE WASHINGTON POST

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog recently grappled with a federal report that determined the best and worst places to live in America. The study made its determinations from the standpoint of scenery and climate. The report looked for several factors including mild winters, temperate summers, topographic variation, and access to a body of water.

Best & Worst States for Working Moms

May 6, 2015
www.wallethub.com

In the world of working moms the High Plains region spans the center of a survey of equality and support for mothers to hold their own in the workplace. With Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma ranking in the mid to low range at number 24, 33 and 42 respectively as the best and worst states for working moms.

A Western Kansas Highway Worth Your Time & Travel

Apr 30, 2015
Kansas Public Radio

Warmer weather brings out the wanderlust in many of us. Something about springtime can create a desire to get outside, hit the road and see something new. Commentator Rex Buchanan has been up and down a highway in western Kansas that he says is worth your time and travel.

Commentator Rex Buchanan is the director of the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas and a regular contributor to Kansas Public Radio.

PECAN in a Nutshell

Apr 16, 2015
NSF, NOAA, NASA & U.S. Department of Energy

If you’ve spent any time in Southern United States, then one would expect you to be very well acquainted with the Pecan. However this rendition may be something completely new to you. The Plains Elevated Convection at Night, aka PECAN is a study aimed at understanding severe thunderstorms at night over the High Plains.

No one really knows why the High Plains are so high in elevation, but researchers at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado are proposing a new explanation.

Andrew Moore / nytimes.com

A story and slideshow of the Great American Desert provides a glimpse into lives and pictures that resonate with us… our values, struggles, and the hidden beauty of a place we call home.  Life Along the 100th Meridian from the New York Times.

If you live in the Texas Panhandle you’re more likely to be discussing plans for THANKSgiving rather than ThanksGIVing, as you might it Kansas.  There’s commonality in how we speak across the High Plains but also differences.  Click through the slide show above to view some food-related differences in pronunciation and usage across the region. 

Jonathan Goforth / flickr commons

The plains states rank well generally for income mobility according to a new study considered to be the most comprehensive yet on the subject.  Based on millions of anonymous income records, the study by leading economists found four primary factors correlated with higher income mobility in an area: a larger and more dispersed local middle class, more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.

I swore I would never be a woman who lived her life behind a camera lens.  I wanted to live in the moment, experiencing life as it occurred. 

I achieved this goal until I received a Nikon that captures moments up close and from considerable distance with clicks of a silver button.  Using that telescopic lens, I could see fine details my unaided eye used to see as blurs.

These sweet treats can be grown throughout the HPPR broadcast area, although the further north they bloom the more likely they will encounter some late freezes that will nip the year's crop in the bud.  But the smell and taste of home grown peaches makes it worth the gamble, and the trees will actually live a longer and more 'fruitful' life if they have occasional barren years for resting and restoring.  The trail of the peach begins in China thousands of years ago.  The flavorful fruit was introduced to our shores by the Spanish explorers.

Spot and stalk on the high plains is a completely different game.  Here, creatively seek out the highest vantage point.  That could be a windmill tower, a knoll, or even the top of your pickup cab.