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Valerie Brown-Kuchera

When Joel and I got married several years ago, he had never attended an estate auction.  Weirdly, he wasn’t even interested in digging through other people’s old junk! Like the good wife that I was, I immediately began conversion therapy. 

CCO Public Domain

I grew up in mostly metropolitan areas. To give you an idea of what that means, my high school graduating class included over 1000 students. In that world, youngsters don’t participate in every program that interests them because the competition is stiff and resources limited. While cities offer exclusive options, small towns require inhabitants to survive outside comfort zones.

Colorado Sees Drop In Net Migration

Dec 5, 2017
Jason Rosenberg / Flickr

As Colorado continues to experience rapid population growth, a record number of residents have moved out of the state.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, new annual figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that Colorado experienced its first population decline in about a decade in 2016 in the number of people arriving from other states, while those leaving Colorado hit a record high.

Little Spouse On The Prairie: The Man Diet And Speed Shopping

Dec 2, 2017
Valerie Brown-Kuchera

The Man Diet

Last week, I introduced you to Joel, my much older husband.  This week’s show is two-fold -  “The Man Diet” followed by “Speed Shopping.”

Eight weeks ago, my husband gave up Dr. Pepper. Not entirely, mind you. He simply dropped his intake from unlimited (between eight and 10 per day) to two 12-ounce drinks a day.  I’m happy for him, because this reduction allowed him to lose 30 pounds in those two months.  Yes, I said 30 pounds.  In. Eight. Weeks.

Pixabay/CC0 License

Anyone reading or listening to news over the past few weeks must, as I do, long for comfort and continuity to counterbalance media reports. What better way than to root ourselves in customs that go back enough generations that they’ve withstood the test of personal and national distress. Our family honored such a tradition recently with a shower to celebrate the birth of our youngest daughter’s first child. As I put away a dish passed from my grandmother to my mom and now to me, I thought about the generations of women who’ve gathered to celebrate an impending birth.

US Naval War College / Flickr Creative Commons

T. Boone Pickens is selling his ranch, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The 89-year-old energy magnate, a graduate of Amarillo High School, values his Mesa Verde ranch at $250 million dollars. The ranch stretches across 65,000 acres in the northeastern Panhandle.

Our Turn At This Earth: Leaving Goodland

Nov 30, 2017
Ammodramus/Wikimedia Commons

My Kansas hometown was straightforwardly named for what surrounded it: good land. I grew up on some of that good, if somewhat hillier than prime, land, about fifteen miles beyond town as the crow flew, through sunny skies over sunlit plains, up toward the Colorado and Nebraska borders.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Little Spouse on the Prairie is the show where I poke affectionate fun at my husband, my kids, my home, and rural life, even though I love them all fiercely. Today’s sketch is called “Antique Man.” 

Lauri Andler(Phantom)/Wikimedia Commons

Holidays remind many of us of either family or cultural customs that connect us to generations long past. By following old family recipes, we can savor treats our ancestors have served for decades or maybe even hundreds of years. For instance, my husband’s Swiss ancestors have been making and giving Linzer tarts at Christmas time long before they migrated from Switzerland to the United States. After analyzing my own great-grandma’s stash of old recipes, the English side of my family has baked date cookies and breads as well as Christmas puddings for eons.

Our Turn At This Earth: Slow Migration

Nov 23, 2017
Julene Bair

They Came to Stay - that is the title of three big history volumes recording the stories of the first settlers of Sherman County, Kansas. I grew up basking in the pride of that phrase. Proof of my own family’s long past in Sherman County could be seen in the crumbled remains of the sod house where my mother’s older siblings had been born. In 1919 my grandfather built the big, broad, two-story farmhouse we lived in. Clearly, he believed that his family would stay on that land for generations to come. Why else go to all that effort?

Danette Ray is standing inside a re-created train depot, wearing cowboy boots, leather chaps and two six-shooters in holsters at her waist. Before she draws her pistols to fire at a row of targets, Ray calls out: “You get back inside, I’ll cover for ya!” — a line spoken by Jimmy Stewart in the 1957 western Night Passage.

Ray, who goes by the nickname Marie Laveau, competes in cowboy action shooting, a brand of target shooting with historically accurate guns and costumes. There’s yet another dose of theater: In each round, the shooters play out a movie scene.

Wikimedia Commons

Texas has been front and center in the national debate over the last year, for a myriad of reasons. The Lone Star State has weathered a devastating hurricane, a horrific church shooting, historic wildfires, shaky trade negotiations with Mexico, and a controversial bathroom bill.

CCO Creative Commons

Imagine a time traveling pilgrim joined your family’s Thanksgiving celebration this year. After you got over the surprise of finding in individual wearing a tall hat, short pants, stockings, funny looking shoes, and possibly carrying an antique weapon in your dining room, you’d have to wonder about the differences between 1622 and 2014. Questions might include what this visitor thought about modern homes, holiday foods, and current pastimes to celebrate a national holiday that ties contemporary Americans to one of the first English settlements in the new world.

Shoppers, check your receipts when you buy Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. It’s likely the total cost will be the lower that what you paid in 2013.

In the ongoing struggle on college campuses for LGBT equality and acceptance, Kansas State University is an unexpected leader.

K-State is best known for agriculture and football.

On a gorgeous fall day in Manhattan, with the K-State marching band entertaining tailgaters, many fans were surprised to learn that their school was ranked in the 25 campuses for LGBT friendliness by CampusPride.org.

The American Civil Liberties Union wants to know why a student athlete at Garden City Community College was kicked off the basketball team after he continued shooting baskets during the playing of the national anthem.

Rasool Samir, a Muslim, was sent home to Philadelphia two days later and has not returned to the school since.

CCO Creative Commons

The search for gold compelled Spanish Conquistador Cornado to venture into what is now Kansas. Ironically, he found gold more valuable than the metal he hoped to find. Unfortunately, he didn’t recognize the importance of the gold dust he found covering his boots and leggings as he rode and walked through the tall and short grasses of Quivira.

On a feedlot in far southwest Kansas, two cowboys on horseback move cattle on the high dusty plains, spread out like dozens of football fields stitched together with miles of fences. Their “Buenos dias! Buenos dias!” greetings mix with moos on a hot summer morning.

Maita thinks he was seven years old when he and his family were forced out of their home in Bhutan.

Starting in the late 1980s, the Himalayan country began driving out people who were ethnically Nepali. They fled across the mountains to Nepal, where they were settled in impoverished refugee camps.

“I didn’t even know Nepal. I didn’t know anything about it,” Maita explains using sign language. “We didn’t have any food. We didn’t have any shelter. We needed help cause we were starving.”

Jacob Morin

People who live on the High Plains are resilient, taking negative events and turning them into positive ones.

There is perhaps no greater example of this than 33-year-old artist Jacob Morin of Amarillo, who in 2002, was shot in the neck following a drug deal gone bad.

“The bullet traveled through my neck,” Morin said, in a phone interview with High Plains Public Radio. “It changed my life completely.”

Jonathan Baker

The Indian community of the Texas Panhandle met this weekend for an evening of dancing, singing, and community. The event, held in the auditorium at Amarillo’s Caprock High School, was a celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, which is held every autumn. Children of all ages danced in traditional garb, and adults sang and danced alongside them.

Prairie Tayles: More Than A Thorn

Nov 3, 2017
U.S. National Park Service

As I mulled writing about devil’s claw plants for this column, my thoughts skittered across a dozen bunny trails. So, hang with me. Folks who grow up on the plains frequently re-purpose seemingly unrelated items into functional uses. Stephen Ambrose noted this ability in his book Band of Brothers. He praised the ingenuity of American farm boys who welded metal to fronts and undercarriages of tanks and other military vehicles, permitting them to plow open centuries-old hedgerows. Their problem-solving saved lives and permitted the U.S. front to advance across Europe.

Drive along U.S. Route 400 in western Kansas, and you’ll see hundreds of metal sculptures on tall poles, some as high as 20 feet. It’s the work of self-taught artist M.T. Liggett, who crafted signs and whirligigs out of scrap metal, tractor parts, and pipe. Whimsical - and politically provocative - art. 

Liggett died on August 21 at the age of 86. These outdoor sculptures are now in the care of four trustees, including one based in the Kansas City area. 

Jonathan Baker

In a VFW hall near downtown Amarillo, a group of former energy workers met to drink coffee and reminisce about their days working at the Pantex Plant, the nation’s primary facility for the assembly and disassembly of nuclear warheads, located northwest of Amarillo. Monday, Oct. 30, was designated the 9th Annual National Day of Remembrance for nuclear weapons workers by the U.S. Senate.

CCO Public Domain

Archeological training teaches students to look for human-altered landscapes. This includes out of the ordinary coloration, unusual shapes or formations that don’t match surroundings, or obvious construction such as cliff dwellings. Southwest Colorado’s sagebrush plain schools the eye to distinguish differing hues of greenery indicating soil disturbances or recognize mounds with donut-like collapsed centers. In western Kansas, students of vanished cultures work harder to identify signs of earlier occupation.

Ida Waugh

As daylight wanes and nights grow longer, neighborhood kids return to classrooms. While much of these kiddoes’ work involves the three R’s combined with social studies, science, technology, art, and music, don’t forget all-important recess. Seeing little ones walking to school made me wonder if youngsters still love to jump rope as much as I did when I headed to school, pig-tails bouncing and dressed in plaid dirndls and black and white saddle oxfords.

Pixabay / Creative Commons

Amarillo could soon become home to a professional soccer team from the United Soccer League, according to Soccer Stadium Digest.

As many High Plains residents are aware, Amarillo is in the process of building a new baseball stadium downtown, which will play host to the relocating Double-A San Antonio Missions. But what they may not know is that the stadium is also being designed to accommodate a United Soccer League team.

CCO Creative Commons

If you ask youngsters to name a wizard, they’ll immediately offer Harry Potter’s name. I have news for Harry fans. The real wizard lives in Wyoming, and he wears a cowboy hat. His wand happens to be a paintbrush. This is all true—I and other artists worked with him for a week to improve our use of light and shadow in our paintings.

National Park Service / Wikimedia Commons

A little-known fact about the Sooner State: Oklahoma is home to more historically black towns than any other state. Sadly, the Great Depression devastated many of these small communities of African-Americans.

But 13 of these black towns still survive, and they provide a fascinating glimpse into how communities shaped the early days of settlement in Indian Territory.

Pixabay / CCO License

As a teacher, I encourage students to incorporate sensory detail into their narratives and essays. If Mother Nature were in my classroom this fall, I’d have to give her an A+ for her efforts. She’s hammered one detail after another into golden perfection from the sights, scents, to sounds of autumn.

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