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Filed under: prairie musings, Sandra Stenzel, Ally Britton, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 10:15 am

Yesterday Claudia and I took some of the apartment goods to Salina Presbyterian Manor, aka “The Palace”,  that Todd packed in my car earlier this week.  There are some household items that are hard to pack and if you are going great distances with a move, you usually pitch them as they’re too expensive to box and it ends up costing more than they are worth.  Not so with short moves when you can move like a vagabond, toss stuff in a tub, tie it on the top of your car with the rocking chair, wrap clothes in a blanket…and off you go.

Ernie and Clyde  unloaded my car at the Palace and took all the “stuff” to my apartment.  They were super nice, accommodating maintenance men who soon will be my best friends and ever helpful in the future.  All I do is call the office, schedule a work order and they do their magic.  Meantime, Claudia and Meredith applied their skills and put stuff in what we collectively thought might be the best place.  I have a lifetime supply of Kleenex, paper towels and soap…enough to supply every able bodied person in east Salina.

I met Fern, one of my neighbors, in the laundry room.  She said, “Welcome to the Manor.  The 4th floor is the best!”  Everyone seems to relay the same message of warmth, sincerity and friendliness.

My lifelong friend, Ivy Marsh, stopped by to meet Claudia and Meredith the “Crystal Queen”.

Now I’m at a standstill with my move.  My packer-helpers either are on vacation or busy with other Thanksgiving duties…like dressing turkeys for holiday platters.  Once I get their help again and the movers come in 12 days, I’ll be heading eastward to a new life.  I think the transition will be smooth, but I’m going to feel the strangeness of it. Misplaced.  I’ve never really lived alone in the strict sense of the definition…as alone somewhere in a city and not having any family nearby.  My family has always been at arm’s length, coming and going, in a house that was also theirs.

My apartment  with square rooms and an elevator will take some adjustment, but not for long.  It’s a change I’m welcoming with eager anticipation. I like living alone…as I enjoy my solitude, books, music and computer…as long as my family and friends stop by and call often. Remember that my email address is britton.peg at gmail dot com.

Meantime, a loud deafening whine fills my surrounds.  City Plumbing is pumping my septic tank, a requirement before I can sell my house.  I don’t know if, when or to whom that will be, but this part is out of the way.

A good friend is stopping by tonight for a visit and dinner.  We’ll let someone else do the cooking so we can concentrate on conversation.  She’s a major player in Ally’s Turkey and Dressing Party tomorrow.  That’s a good friend.

I’ll be listening to Ally’s interview this afternoon at 3:00 on KMUZ 88.5 FM.  Since her cell phone seldom works because her house is in a hole and made of tin, she’s coming here to use my land line for her interview.

We’re having another beautiful day…a good day to be out and about.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: prairie musings, Sandra Stenzel — Peg Britton @ 8:52 am

A friend and I are heading west today to visit a mutual friend of long standing who lives near WaKeeney.  We haven’t had a good visit in a long time so we’re looking forward to seeing her.

It’s also a day of celebration in WaKeeney.  There is a fair of some kind at the fairgrounds in WaKeeney with 50 or more vendors displaying “really cool” items,  according to our friend.

And the famous lighting ceremony in the downtown area is at 6:00 pm.  They erect a huge Christmas tree at the major intersection of downtown WaKeeney and string lights from it to all reaches of the downtown area.  It’s pretty impressive.

Ringo was invited to go along, but he has an appointment at StarBarks for a “do”.  He needs it.

So….I’m off.  I hope you have a very pleasant day as well.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: political musings, Sandra Stenzel — Peg Britton @ 11:02 am

I’ve had almost a week to sort out my thinking and feeling on the election results from last Tuesday. And guess what? I’m still mixed on what I think and feel about this first Tuesday in November that represented hope for some groups, and setbacks and despair for others. Mostly, I think the ox is in the ditch regarding the nation’s economy, the freedoms we were supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution, and as I look around, the rest of the world looks a little green around the gills too.  It’s one thing to bleat “hope” and “change”. It’s another to deliver on those promises.  Tuesday seemed to prove that we are big on the bleating, and not so big on making good the promises of our founders.

And the convergence of all this thinking and feeling regarding the election comes, appropriately, on Veterans Day. It’s supposed to be a day of patriotism, a day of honoring those who put on the uniform and served America. It’s supposed to be a day of reflection regarding the sacrifices made, and the progress we hope for, and perhaps, a day of celebration for how far we’ve come. Above all, it was meant to be a day of coming together for all Americans.

But these days, patriotism is in dire straights. It’s taken the form of a wedge to divide us, not a sentiment to unite us.

Oh, there’s plenty of flag waving. Plenty of flag pin wearing. Plenty of symbols and words. More than plenty. From my perspective, being a real American has been lost in this sea of symbols. And for a supposedly Christian nation, we sure have made a great big golden calf out of those symbols. And we’ve done it, I suppose, because it’s easier to “talk the talk” of patriotism than it is to “walk the walk” of what it means to be an equal and free American.

Real patriotism, in my opinion, is the dedication to making all those pretty words in the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States, real.  I can remember my Dad talking about being drafted before WWII was officially entered, and how he felt after Pearl Harbor and what it was like for him leaving home for the first time. He was asked to serve a nation that really hadn’t decided if it actually LIKED him or his family and friends who had so recently immigrated to the US.

But he did it. And it was a sacrifice and an honor that helped shape who he was. It helped form the very core of the man he became. And he made those sacrifices gladly.  He knew the stories from his parents about how hard life had been for the Volga Germans in Russia. He knew the word, in one generation, about having the government support one religion and belief system over another, about having your crops taken by the government and watching your family starve as the bushels of wheat left the farm. He knew all those things about life in the old country. He knew why his family had left Russia, about why they came here, and about why he should be glad he was born in America and not along the banks of the Volga.

I’m certain he made that six year commitment to serving his country for the very real reason of preserving the freedoms that America had promised. He didn’t do it for a flag, a striped piece of cloth. He didn’t do it for a parade, for a lapel pin, or for the colors red, white and blue. Those things are all symbols, a kind of short hand to remind us of the reality behind the promises.

But to listen to the campaigns and election propaganda, the symbols count for much, but the reality of the freedoms they represent? Not so much. It’s like we’ve made the outside gloss and image more important than the substance so many fought and died to create and preserve. We have used these symbols not to unite our country, but to divide Americans from Americans. We’ve used these symbols to judge each other, to grade the patriotism of others, and to dismiss real work in favor of “looking” like a patriot. Slogans like “love it or leave it” and “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” now are more important in determining elections than the real and substantive records of the folks who are running.

And meanwhile, the very real freedoms we were taught to respect and cherish are fast fading away. Privacy and protection from government intrusion in our lives? Feh! We don’t need no stinkin’ privacy.  Big brother wants to know what you are up to today. Small government that serves the people and not the other way around? Feh! We NEED a bailout of almost a trillion dollars for financial institutions that only a couple of months ago didn’t give a rat’s fat patootie for the taxpayers who now fund the yachts and vacation homes of their management personnel.  “Equal justice under the law” is only for those of certain faiths or certain income brackets.

And worst of all, “support the troops” now means “vote my way”. It doesn’t mean providing adequate health care for veterans, because, ya know, that would mean less money for the banks and the car makers. It doesn’t mean providing those in combat with the equipment and protection they need. Nope. “Support the troops” means, “let’s make Halliburton richer” and “let’s provide job security for Blackwater mercenaries”.  It doesn’t mean, “let’s plan for a lifetime of care these disabled veterans will need”. And that change in meaning is nothing short of a big damn shame.

It seems that Americans think if they just wear enough flag pins, hold enough parades, shout enough slogans, and dig deeply into their pockets to support big business, that patriotism is well served.  As a nation, we have chosen style over substance. Someone once said that no one from a foreign country will ever need to come here and take our liberty and freedom from us. We Americans will gladly hand them over, without a fight, to our own government, our own military industrial complex, and our big brother institutions. Because, at the end of the day, worshiping the symbol and judging others is always easier than making the effort to fulfill the promises of equality.

Are we really such fools? I wonder.

I wonder what some folks think “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” really means.  I wonder if we, as a nation, really believe in the separation of church and state, the notion that all people are created equal, and that justice is blind.  We’ll see, in four years, if there has been any meaningful change to actually make real the promises of our nation. To put us back on the path of personal freedom, personal responsibility and equal justice under the law. We’ll see if privacy and equality and a government that “cares for the least of these” are even possible anymore.

Guys like my Dad, and the women who were the Rosie Riveters of the nation, sacrificed much to make constitutional promises a reality and not just a pipe dream. I just hope their sacrifices were not so my generation could worship the symbols while ignoring the truth, and the real work we need to do to make America the country our founders envisioned. As Robert Frost noted, we still have miles to go before we can sleep.



Filed under: Sandra Stenzel — Peg Britton @ 12:04 pm

Ok, so the title song here is a little outdated. When Sting sang those haunting words, Russia was still perceived to be the world’s biggest threat to peace and US prosperity.  My, my, how things have changed in the last fifteen years. Sting worried about the future of the world, and noted that if both the Russians and the Americans loved their children, perhaps disaster could be averted. It is a sentiment worth revisiting, but now, for different reasons.

These days, other than Sarah Palin watching the old USSR with binoculars from the deck of her house, we don’t worry much about the Russians. Oh, occasionally, some kerfuffle like the one in Georgia will give us cause for alarm, but for the most part, Russians are still licking their economic wounds from years of war with Afghanistan and the world push toward a global economy. An economy, given their war depleted coffers, they were woefully ill prepared to compete in with the rest of the world super powers. No, I think the threat to our future is not so much from Russia, but from our own greed.

And still, as I write this on election day, I hope the world loves and think about the future of its children. And I especially hope Americans, Kansans, and local communities love their children too. We take it for granted that we all love our children and want to give them a better world than the one we know today.  But some days, I gotta wonder…

Given the hopeless quagmire of our national debt, which, over the last eight years has grown so huge the national debt clock had to be taken down because it didn’t have enough zeros, I think we love our children not so much. After all, we are willing to mortgage their future by fighting an endless war against a nation that did not attack us and that did not have weapons of mass destruction. We are sort of ignoring Afghanistan for the moment, and hoping the war there will not sink our economy with debt, just like the Russian war against them did in their economy.  Contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater are filling their pockets at the expense of our children. And we hope, like Russia, they love our children too, even as contractors collect the loot on their way out the door.

And it’s not just war debt that we are piling on future generations of Americans. We seem to have an endless supply of taxpayer cash when it comes to bailing out banks, and Wall Street, and hedge funds and derivative traders. The tax money machine keeps on crankin’ with talk of bailing out American automakers, and some say bailing out ethanol plants will be next. Heaven only knows how many industries will get in line for last minute bailouts before Buschco leaves office in January. The getting’ is good right now if you are a good ol’ boy in the financial industry or if you are part of the military industrial complex. Too bad for you if you are one of the “children”, one of the future adult Americans who will be paying for these giveaways and bailouts for at least one if not two or three generations.

And at the state level, Kansas revenue collected this year may not be enough to balance our state budget without either raising taxes, cutting essential spending, or some combination of both. Funny how we always have enough money to give to business and government operations, but never quite enough money for education or health care or infrastructure. I guess we could add Kansas to the list of Russians, and Americans we fervently hope “love their children too”.

And locally? Well, we’re adding to the debt of our counties and cities each year. The purchases made now will be paid not by folks my age, but by a future generation. The same with bond issues for the hospital, the school district, and debt associated with creating amenities and infrastructure.  Many of these will be paid for not only by city residents, but visitors and really everyone in the county who buys anything and pays sales taxes. And the revenue taken in by projects which were to pay for themselves, is no where near enough to service the debt, so future taxpayers will get to enjoy the payments for years to come.  Maybe even for more than one generation to come.

I’m not a CAVE person (Citizens Against Virtually Everything). I do believe we need to invest in our community infrastructure. I do believe we have to act as if we and our community have a future. But some days, I have to wonder if anyone thinks about exactly WHICH generation will pay the piper for the tunes we’re dancing now.  Our population locally continues to decline. We have fewer students in our schools each year, fewer water meters hooked up in the city as people move away or out of their homes. We have fewer seniors to enjoy the amenities our community has to offer, fewer kids to swim in our water park, and certainly, we have fewer people paying taxes in the county and the city overall.

It’s what we have come to expect out here in terms of population. But I wonder if the leadership of our nation, our state, our county and our city, REALLY do love their children too. If so, perhaps we should be looking at our legacy. The greatest generation, followed by the biggest generation, the baby boomers, have done a lot of taking and giving, during our time at the helm.  We’ve sailed some rough waters and come out safely from the ordeal.  But what of those who follow us? What are we leaving them? Debt and a world less safe? A floundering economy and crumbling public infrastructure that they will have to shore up? Unbalanced budgets and taxes higher than any of us can currently imagine?

That is the course we are on, unless someone steps up, and soon, and says “basta”. Enough is enough.

When looking at the ballots in this election, it’s interesting to note the number of candidates, locally and in the region, running unopposed. One wonders if that is because the current officeholders have done such a good job that no one thinks they should be replaced? Or, if the “privilege” of holding public office has become tainted to the point that no one wants to run? The discourse too nasty, the problems so big, that we just leave it all to “someone else”? Or perhaps, we are all just comfortable watching American Idol and Monday Night Football, beer and snacks in hand with the remote close by.

But no matter who runs, who wins, and who leads, the question remains. Who will pay the bills? Who will fund this legacy of debt that we are leaving the next generations?  Will they really have a better life than we did? Or will they continue to move away, disgusted by the financial burdens left to them from our generations? Will they someday have to default on all the debt we incur now? Will our children be forced to look for a bailout from another level of government that likely will also have no cash left from the excesses of the new millennium?

Like Sting, the debt we are running up makes me hope that not only Russians, but Americans, Kansans, and local taxpayers, love their children too.  The next generation is going to need all the help we can give them. If we haven’t “helped” them too much already.

Happy election day. The winners will have their work cut out.



Filed under: political musings, Sandra Stenzel — Peg Britton @ 7:59 am

The East-West Divide in Kansas by Sandra Stenzel of WaKeeney

Imagine my surprise last week when I got a call from a friend in eastern Kansas telling me that the schools in WaKeeney had become the subject of a political mailing in a race for the Kansas Senate in the district that covers Johnson County.


Surely, my friend has misunderstood. WHY would the schools in WaKeeney be used as a tool for a tool running for the Kansas Senate? “Well, he said, if you don’t believe me, I’ll send you a copy of the flier. Sure enough, in living color there it was. Mary Pilcher-Cook, the candidate who cooked up this nonsense, was blaming WaKeeney schools for the tax rate in Johnson County.

Ok, I’ll wait for you to stop laughing before I go on.

It was a mailer that was complete with full color pictures of a “bandito” with guns blazing, a cowboy hat, and a bandana mask over the face. Ooooooh. Scary. Heheheheh. I had NO idea folks in our school system were so frightening to Johnson County.  Here’s the offending part of her mailer attacking her opponent:

“I will not support legislation which allows your tax dollars to be exported to schools that your children do not attend. His approach to education funding is to increase taxes on Johnson County residents and then export our tax dollars to fund schools in WaKeeney. That is wrong.”

Oh.My.God.  I tell ya, when I read that, my first reaction was indeed to say “Whaaaat?” Then I laughed. I suspect little miss alarmist probably has never actually BEEN to WaKeeney, except maybe to stop at the local truck stop for coffee on her way to ski in Aspen or Vail, or wherever rich folks from Johnson County ski. She likely threw a dart at a map and it landed on our town. She sees us as “robbers” and

And then I got mad.

For crying out loud, it isn’t like we don’t send OUR tax dollars to Johnson County for economic development programs, higher education, and a plethora of other things that ALL state tax dollars go to support in ALL areas of the state. This candidate might be desperate, but if she thinks WaKeeney schools are why Joco taxes are high, she’s also insane. Delusional. And desperate to win.

I decided to channel my outrage about this to write a letter to the editor of the Johnson County Sun and the Kansas City Star. I would encourage you to do the same. For now, I thought readers here might like to read the letter I sent east.

“Dear Editor of the Johnson County Sun:

Imagine my surprise this week when a friend called to tell me about the campaign flyer he received from Mary Pilcher-Cook regarding the schools in WaKeeney, Kansas.  I have to say, I was surprised to know that our school district had become a campaign issue in Johnson County. First I was puzzled, and then I laughed out loud. Actually, I laughed until I had tears in my eyes. And they say people in western Kansas are uniformed?

I was astounded, as well as amused, that this woman would be dragging our community into your state senate campaign. I asked my friend to send me the offending campaign literature. Good grief. So, WaKeeney is the reason Johnson County taxes are what they are? Only Pilcher-Cook could make that false leap of logic.

It’s a sad day for our state when a candidate for an important legislative seat tries to use WaKeeney, of all places, as a wedge to divide the citizens of eastern and western Kansas.  I wonder if she has ever even been to WaKeeney, or did she, or some other political operative, just throw a dart at a map and came up with our name?

Surely you all in Johnson County have more important issues to worry about than whether or not WaKeeney gets its few dollars of state funding for our children.  And in case the voters in your district need a reminder, we are all, both rural and urban, in this Kansas economy together.

At a time when businesses at both ends of the state are struggling to survive, at a time when Kansas is at an economic crossroads and needs real leadership, and at a time when employers in Johnson County are desperately seeking well educated workers, now is no time to replay the endless east vs. west bashing game. Such inflammatory rhetoric serves no one.

Kansans have, for too long, allowed ourselves to be divided and conquered by this kind of petty nonsense. But, I guess for some elected officials, jealousy and division are more important than addressing the very real issues facing Kansas. For sure, it’s easier to throw stones at WaKeeney than it is to confront the economic reality in our state, your county, and the workforce needs of your businesses. I guess if I had been in the Kansas legislature for as long as she has, with so few accomplishments, I’d want to distract the voters with a non issue too!

One of the reasons population in western Kansas has declined over the years is that so many of our well educated children have migrated to Johnson County and other parts of the greater Kansas City area. Your businesses provide wonderful opportunities for our children, but only after they have been educated in our local schools. They come to work for you after they attend our vocational training schools or Kansas colleges and universities, which, I might add, we also pay state taxes to support. It’s an arrangement that has worked well for both your businesses and our children for decades. We’re glad to see our children do well and help your economy grow, because we know, in the long run, it benefits the entire state. Too bad Pilcher-Cook doesn’t feel the same way.

It seems that Mary Pilcher-Cook would just as soon we stop sending our well educated students to your county to join a workforce that desperately needs to grow in order to keep you competitive in the global economy. I guess she’d rather have those Kansas children be uneducated and unskilled and useless to your employers, who are hungry for just the kind of hard working and well trained people we graduate from our schools.

Perhaps she’d rather have us send those competent workers to other states and cities instead of Johnson County. Clearly, a divisive and condescending attitude like hers hangs out the UNwelcome sign for anyone looking to join the Johnson County workforce. The work ethic of our WaKeeney students is unmatched, as are the education and training they receive in our Kansas schools.  They are a valuable asset to businesses across the state, but apparently, not to Pilcher-Cook.

Over the last few years, the citizens of WaKeeney and Trego County have raised our OWN taxes multiple times to improve the physical facilities at our schools, to upgrade our science labs, our computer training, and to reward the hard working teachers who make it possible for us to provide your businesses the employees they want. Workers that we hear, (apparently via Pony Express) your businesses need. We’ve been glad to help, and you are welcome. But her kind of divisive speech is what we get in return?  To quote someone from another state, “thanks, but no thanks”.

Please consider what we in western Kansas contribute to your community, your businesses, and your economy. In case Pilcher-Cook has forgotten, we also pay state taxes that benefit multiple Johnson County economic development projects.  I don’t hear her complaining when those tax dollars flow from west to east. It seems that as far as she is concerned, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. I wonder if your business community agrees? If so, we’ll remember that the next time we plan a shopping trip or a visit to one of your sporting events. Our money is good elsewhere too!

It’s a joke out here that people from Johnson County think I-70 only runs in one direction, from west to east, until it is pheasant hunting season. That attitude of “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine too” is a joke out here and a joke all over Kansas. Just like the provincial attitude of Pilcher-Cook is a joke. Except, on this issue, no one in either community should be laughing.

I urge you to vote for Pete Roman. Our children, your workforce, and the growth and prosperity of our state depend upon it.”

If you would like to send a letter to the editor of the Johnson County Sun, you may Contact the publisher, Steve Rose, at 4370 West 109th St. Suite 300, Overland Park, Kansas. Or, since the election is coming up soon, you can email him at, or fax your comments to (913) 381-9889.

Please let him know that we are tired of the politics of divisiveness, the lunatics that think Kansas ends at the Johnson County line, and the shortchanging of students in rural communities. Like I said, the future of our state, and certainly our schools, may hang in the balance.



Filed under: prairie musings, friends, Sandra Stenzel — Peg Britton @ 7:44 pm

When I crumbled out of bed this morning, the sun was shining and the day had all the earmarks of being one of those perfect fall days in Kansas. Perfect for going somewhere.  Hummm?  I called my friend who lives back beyond WaKeeney on Downer Creek and asked if she and her new puppy weren’t just dying to see me.  She couldn’t think of a quick answer since she wasn’t on her feet, so I headed west to mess up her day.

And, a great day it was. She’s just one of those good to the core people that I love being with. We never run out of anything to talk about.  Besides, we agree on most things that are of a political nature, everything at the social mores level and a few academic things.  She’s a whole lot smarter than I am, so I listen and pretend a lot during our academic type discussions. I came home with a very good feeling after spending day with a good friend.

She has laying hens so she loaded me down with eggs, one of her free-range chickens she butchered, home-made sauerkraut, potatoes from her garden, and two jars of the best hot peppers you ever put in your mouth.  I hide the peppers from the rest of the family.

We went to the truck stop in WaKeeney for an early dinner and I highly recommend their liver and onions. Sandra said their roast beef was really good as well. It was. I sampled it.

On the way home I stopped in Hays to run an errand.  I was only in the store about 5 minutes, and when I came out, there was this cop writing out a parking ticket.

I said to him, ‘Come on, man, how about giving a retired person a break’?

He ignored me and continued writing the ticket. His insensitivity annoyed me, so I called him a ‘Nazi.’

He glared at me and then wrote out another ticket for having worn tires.

So I proceeded to call him a ‘doughnut eating Gestapo.’ He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first.

Then he wrote a third ticket when I called him a ‘moron in blue’.

This went on for about 20 minutes. The more I talked back to him the more tickets he wrote.

Personally, I didn’t really care. I came downtown on the bus, and the car that he was putting the tickets on had one of those bumper stickers that said, ‘ McCain in ‘08.’

I try to have a little fun each day now that I’m retired.

The doctor tells me that it’s important for my health…:

And, you know that isn’t a true story.  And, I’m sure it’s been around with an “Obama in ‘08″ bumper sticker.

Ally came to town and fixed mac and cheese with surprises for her dad.  He’d rather have that than a big steak.  Now we’re both settled in front of the news reports of the day.

My friend who is in Maine will be home after the election.  I’m looking forward to her return and I hope we have something to celebrate. I don’t about you, but I’ll be glad when Nov. 5th is here.

Thanks for tuning in…


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