HPPR Arts, Culture & History

History:
prehistory
Native American history
early exploration
trails and railroads
homesteading
community settlement
farming & farm life
Dust Bowl era
ghost towns
personal remembrances & biographies

Culture:
ethnic groups
religion
language
cuisine
traditions
values
folklore
myths
humor

Arts:
literature
folk art
visual arts
music
theatre
events & festivals

Kansas Memory

For me, history depicted in Empire of the Summer Moon is among the saddest in America. Though I didn’t expect a different outcome, the story isn’t easier to accept. Author S.C. Gwynne provides ample background about the geography, sociology, and history of a cultural collision that rocked this region for decades. Even today, we deal with ripple effects Frederick Jackson Turner might attribute to his Frontier thesis, explaining these incidents made our nation what it is.

Initial chapters establish the difficulties of life beyond the 98th meridian where forested land turns to prairie unprotected from searing summer winds and blue northers that dramatically alter landscapes within minutes. Gwynne knows it’s critical for the reader to understand that in any story about the Great Plains, landscape and weather function as antagonists capable of destroying the unprepared.

eatocracy.cnn.com

A look at what’s being served up on the tables of New York exposes lots of crawlies that some people proclaim to be creepy and others think are delicious.  And a bit of investigation exposes a world wide market for bugs that might help stave off starvation for some, while helping to save the planet for all of us.  

AP photo

The country has been mourning the loss of one of its most beloved novelists, Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. But The Wichita Eagle recently pointed out Lee’s role in the writing of another American classic, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Harper Lee and Capote had been friends since childhood.

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.

All Hail Wheat

Feb 22, 2016
Miami U. Libraries - Digital Collections / Wikimedia Commons

Last week the Mother Nature Network published an essay in praise of wheat. Wheat isn’t sexy, noted the article. There are no heirloom varieties. It’s not brightly colored or wild-caught or free-range. Foodies don’t go bananas over wheat. But today, wheat is grown on more land area worldwide than any other food crop.

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.

Leaving Plainsong

Feb 19, 2016
Kathleen Holt

 Shall we peer again into Kent Haruf’s world?

 

Just outside Holt at the McPherons’ farm, all the people we’ve grown fond of—Ike, and Bobby, Harold and Raymond, Maggie and Tom, Victoria and her baby—gather. Outdoors, the men talk, children play, while, inside women prepare a holiday meal. Meanwhile, barn swallows floating on a cool breeze of an evening let us know that all these folk—after all their searchings, shiftings, and yearnings—have finally found a haven, family, with each other.

I'll Miss the Characters of Plainsong

Feb 16, 2016
Lynne Hewes - Cimarron, KS

Over the past two weeks, my book thoughts have been peopled with the characters in Plainsong the book we’re now discussing in the 2016 Spring Read for HPPR’s Radio Readers Book Club.  We’ll be moving on to the second book soon, and when we do, I’m going to miss the characters in Holt.

Interview with Mike Calabrese of Lake Street Dive

Feb 15, 2016
Lake Street Dive

Side Pony is the brand new album from Lake Street Dive, a band who's style covers areas of rock, pop, soul, and more. Drummer Mike Calabrese joined Ryan Gottlieb to chat about the new album - coming out February 19 - and much more, including staying focused on the music while reaching mainstream success.

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.  

Valentine Memories

Feb 12, 2016
alittleclaireification.com

It’s hard to ignore Valentine promotions. Big box stores dedicate aisles to red and pink candies, stuffed animals, balloons, tableware, and other items most of us don’t need. Flower shops depend on profits generated by lovers sending bouquets to their sweethearts. Card stores tempt us to send our partners expensive cards declaring true love. It’s the February assault on our winter-dulled senses, and we’re all gullible—me included. I love getting posies from my husband.

Despite my adult vulnerability to this over-promoted holiday, kids really know how to celebrate it best. They spend considerable time using construction paper, crayons, and glue to craft personal mailboxes for their friends to fill with corny cards signed in childish scrawl, which are then folded, and tucked into thin envelopes that would never make it through the U.S. mail.

Plainsong brings awareness lessons

Feb 11, 2016
Kathleen Holt

I’m Cindee Talley.  Today, I’d like you to meet two of my Radio Reader Book Club Friends.. Kathi Holt and teacher, Lynn Hewes.  They’re sitting around the table at the historic Cimarron Hotel, talking about our current read… Plainsong.    

Their chat is a perfect example of the paying attention.. whether it be to our children, or our surroundings.  These two lovely women are so engrossed in their conversation, they had no idea they had captured the sound of a semi going by.  Kathleen starts the conversation:

Kathleen Holt:  Is there a place in our lives these days for parents and adolescents or adults and adolescents to discuss literature – to explore how we might look at this differently or similarly?

Do the people of Plainsong represent us?

Feb 9, 2016
Karen Madorin

I’ve been thinking about the people of Haruf’s fictional community of Holt, Colorado.

Is it just me, or is this an ugly place with some ugly people?

Look, for the first half of the novel, give or take a few pages, teenagers seem to have a lot of recreational yet rough sex, fathers prowl bars, a woman is harassed by a coworker, mothers abandon their children, teenagers bully each other and brawl with their teachers. Not a pretty picture.

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.”

pinterest.com

After receiving scores of Presidents Day sale flyers in my mailbox and e-mail, I’m flashing back to childhood celebrations of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington’s birthdays. Keep in mind we didn’t combine birthdays fifty years ago. We turned February into one long party. We celebrated Lincoln on February 12 and then Washington on the 22nd. When you added in a Valentine party, February was a festive month for elementary students in the late fifties and early sixties.

High Plains: A Sense of Place or a Place of Sense?

Feb 5, 2016
Kathleen Holt

Tom Averill and Tom Prasch: a discussion inspired by Kent Haruff's Plainsong.

Tom Averill:  Yeah, I’m particularly interested in Plainsong as a branch of small town literature that I study, whether it is in eastern Kansas or on the High Plains – small town literature and probably small town film, sort of have a certain number of things in common.

Tom Prasch: Yes.

Stephen Locke / http://tempestgallery.com

Green Landscapes has rated Kansas in the top seven places in the world to view a sunset. Kansas was the only place in the U.S. selected. Stephen Locke takes some of the most breathtaking sunset photos in the state.

Note: HPPR has permission from the artist to publish these photos.

Sense of Place from the Radio Reader's Forum Leader

Feb 2, 2016
Karen Madorin

I’m Rebecca Koehn, Forum Leader for the HPPR Radio Readers Book Club.  I’ll be hosting discussions about the current read in the 2016 Spring Read – A Sense of Place.  We’ll be discussing Kent Haruf’s Plainsong in an on-line forum that you can join by following the simple instructions available at hppr-radio-readers-dot-org.

RedOrbit.com

When you think of dinosaurs you probably don’t think of the jitterbug. But a new study claims that the ancient creatures were, in fact, known to cut a rug. According to redorbit.com, dinosaurs danced to impress potential mates and as a way of scaring off enemies.

Plainsong is a GOOD book

Jan 31, 2016
Kathleen Holt

I hope you are enjoying our discussion of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong. I am, by profession, a teacher of English, but with a few publications in print, I like to think of myself as a creative writer. I enjoy studying novels and poetry for craftsmanship.

So.  When I read a book, especially a GOOD book, one that really touches me, resonates with me, as Plainsong does, deeply, I like to learn something about the author’s writing process, the way that he or she sets about to write.  In an interview for The Wall Street Journal, Haruf  noted that he would first read a passage from a favorite author – Chekhov, Faulkner, or Hemingway—so as to remind himself  “what a sentence can be.”  While Haruf’s admiration of these earlier modernist writers is worthy of further exploration, what’s more important to us is to appreciate what it tells us to expect about his style – it’s spare—relatively free of detail and description;  unadorned—plain, common words; yet, indirect, asking us to infer meaning.

Let's talk about the High Plains sense of place

Jan 29, 2016
Kathleen Holt

This is my first on-air, on-line book club, and I’m looking forward to exploring Kent Haruf’s Plainsong with you.  I currently serve as Division Chair of Humanities and English professor at Dodge City Community College where I teach, but the book club is my meeting you as a fellow reader.   

Admittedly, I am somewhat of a newbie to the High Plains having lived her for just over a decade, but in that time, I’ve driven to numerous small community for  Kansas Humanities sponsored book discussions or to vacation in a favorite small Colorado town very much like Haruf’s Holt. Traveling has given me a deep appreciation for the vastness of the High Plains as wel as its beauty – the muted palette, the skies – cloudy or clear--the panorama and for its temperamental weather.  More importantly, I’ve learned to ask, not “how many miles is that,” but “how many hours is that.”

fivethirtyeight.com / American Museum of Natural History, Ken Carpenter

The Museum of Natural History in New York revealed its latest exhibit this month, reports fivethirtyeight.com. The exhibit features the gargantuan skeleton of a plant-eating sauropod. Many paleontologists think this is the largest dinosaur ever discovered. The dinosaur doesn’t even have a proper scientific name yet. It’s being called Titanosaur in the meantime. The skeleton is 122 feet long and 19 feet high, so big that its head pokes out into the museum’s elevator bay.

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.

tedeschitrucksband.com

Tim Lefebvre - bassist for the 12-piece blues, rock, and soul band Tedeschi Trucks Band - chats with HPPR's Ryan Gottlieb about the band's brand new album Let Me Get By.  Tim also shares his experience working with David Bowie on his final album Blackstar, sitting in with the Saturday Night Live house band, and more!

Bettman / Corbis

Dinosaurs have become an everyday part of the American imagination. From Jurassic World to The Good Dinosaur, we encounter these ancient behemoths perhaps more than we even realize. But how did this obsession come about? It happened largely thanks to the efforts of one man: Barnum Brown. Brown was born in frontier Kansas in 1873. Named after the great showman P.T. Barnum, Brown would grow up to become a master promoter in his own right.

A Sense of Place – the High Plains

Jan 24, 2016
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.

Plainsong

Jan 20, 2016

Plainsong by Kent Haruf is the first selection for the 2016 Spring Read.    

“In the same way that the plains define the American landscape, small-town life in the heartlands is a quintessentially American experience. Holt, Colo., a tiny prairie community near Denver, is both the setting for and the psychological matrix of Haruf's beautifully executed . . . descriptions of rural existence where weather and landscape are integral to tone and mood, serving as backdrop to every scene. This is a compelling story of grief, bereavement, loneliness and anger, but also of kindness, benevolence, love and the making of a strange new family. In depicting the stalwart courage of decent, troubled people going on with their lives, Haruf's quietly eloquent account illumines the possibilities of grace.”  (From Publishers Weekly, Peter Matson, 1999)

getplants4less.com

The staff of the Carleen Bright Arboretum in Central Texas introduced me to the Growing Wild Butterfly Gardening Program, and gave me an opportunity to observe some of their beautiful butterfly habitats.  This week we’ll take a look at some butterfly gardening basics provided by the Texas parks and Wildlife Department and the Urban Fish and Wildlife Program.

Here's a list of recommended plants:  black-eyed Susan, butterfly weed, curly parsley, Indian blanket, mealy blue sage, purple cone flower, dill, lemon mint and scarlet sage.

Empire of the Summer Moon

Jan 19, 2016

  Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne is the second book for the 2016 Spring Read.  

“The vast, semi-arid grasslands of the southern Great Plains could be dominated by hunters and warriors on horseback. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the Comanches, often referred to as ‘lords of the Plains,’ were the single most powerful military force in the region, to the frustration of both the Mexican and U.S. governments. This engrossing chronicle traces the rise of the Comanche people from their roots as primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to their mastery of the horse and emergence as the feared power brokers of the area. At the center of the narrative is the charismatic Quanah Parker, who skillfully navigated the gaps between his traditional culture and the emerging, settled culture of the late-nineteenth century.” (From: Jay Freeman, Booklist. Amazon)

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