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Filed under: political musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 1:36 pm

WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners of Ellsworth County, Kansas, desires to establish and develop a Countywide Economic Development Plan, and WHEREAS, said Board desires to provide for the financing of said plan, THEREFORE, the Board of County Commissioners of Ellsworth County adopts the following resolution for the establishment of a Countywide Economic Development Program as follows: 1. The plan shall be funded in accordance with K.S.A. 19-4102, by the levy of a tax annually upon all the taxable tangible property of the county in an amount of .5 mill. 2. The Board of County Commissioners shall establish an advisory committee to be known as the Ellsworth County Economic Development Advisory Committee. The membership of said committee shall be determined and approved by the County Commissioners and shall be representative of the various private and public interest and political subdivisions within the county. 3. The advisory committee shall use the funds authorized by the county to conduct studies and prepare comprehensive plans for its future economic growth and development; to inventory the services, facilities, and resources of the entire county; to promote, stimulate, and encourage the growth and development of the agriculture, commerce and industry of the county as a whole, in order to achieve maximum utilization of its human, economic and natural resources and tourist attractions; and to otherwise promote the general economic welfare and prosperity of the area. 4. The advisory committee shall have the authority to undertake joint or cooperative programs to promote the growth and development of the area or region with other counties or political subdivisions of such counties and with other public or private non-profit agencies to achieve the purpose of the resolution, and K.S.A. 19-4101 et seq. Such levy may be made unless a petition requesting an election upon this proposition filed by electors in number of not less than five percent (5%) of the total qualified electors of the county is filed with the County Clerk within thirty (30) days following the publication of this resolution. In the event such a petition is filed, the Board of County Commissioners shall submit the question to the voters at the next election with shall be noticed, called, and held in the manner provided for the giving of notice, calling, and holding elections under the general bond law K.S.A. 10-120. In the event an election is called, no levy shall be made unless the proposition shall receive the approval of the majority of the votes cast thereon. Said resolution is passed in accordance with K.S.A. 19-4102, and shall be published in the official newspaper of this county. Enacted by the County Commissioners of Ellsworth County, Kansas, this 27 day of July, 1987. BOARD OF ELLSWORTH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: Pete Dlabal, Chairman Anton M. Sula, Member William H. Zavesky, Sr., Member Attested by: Rudolph Neuman, County Clerk (Published in the Ellsworth Reporter July 30th, 1987) (Petitioner’s Exhibit “A”)

IN THE DISTRICT COUT OF ELLSWORTH COUNTY, KANSAS STATE OF KANSAS, ex. rel, Joe Shepack, Ellsworth County Attorney Petitioner vs. Case NO. 02-C45 GARY URBANEK AND KRISTI WEST Defendants PETITION FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT (Brought Pursuant to K.S.A. 60-1701, et. seq.)

Filed under: political musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 1:27 pm

COMES NOW the Petitioner to allege and state as follows: 1) The Petitioner is the State of Kansas, through the relation of the Ellsworth County Attorney, Joe Shepack. Joe Shepack #11596 is the duly elected, qualified, and acting County Attorney in and for Ellsworth County, Kansas, and, per K.S.A. 45-222(a) with enforcing the Kansas Open Records Act (hereinafter KORA), found at K.S.A. 45-215, et.seq. 2) Defendant Gary Urbanek purports to be the President of the Ellsworth County Economic Development, which is an entity receiving mill-levy support from the County of Ellsworth (See attached Exhibits “A” and “B”, which are copies of a County Resolution granting mill levy support to Ellsworth County Economic Development and a copy of a county warrant check negotiated by Ellsworth County Economic Development reflecting payment of the mill levy support.) 3) Defendant Kristi West is the custodian of any and all records of Ellsworth County Economic Development as identified by President Gary Urbanek in attached Exhibit “C” (which is a letter from Gary Urbanek to the Petitioner). 4) A written request to access information per KORA was served upon Ellsworth County Economic Development by the Petitioner, in his capacity both as Ellsworth County Attorney and as a private citizen (see Exhibit “D” hereto.) A response was received (see attached Exhibit “C”) which is to the effect that Ellsworth County Economic Development is not subject to the Kansas Open Records Act, but that Ellsworth County Economic Development will allow the Petitioner access to certain records upon payment of a $500.00 fee, in which case records would be made available sometime after November 15, 2002. The letter identified as attached Exhibit “C” speaks for itself. 5) K.S.A. 45-216 provides that KORA shall be liberally construed and applied to promote public access to “public records”, which are, essentially, certain non-exempt records kept by a “public agency”. The definition of a “public agency” is found at K.S.A. 54-217 and is set forth below: “Public agency” means the state or any political or taxing subdivision of the state or any office, officer, agency or instrumentality thereof, or any other entity receiving or expending and supported in whole or in part by the public funds appropriated by the state or by public funds or any political or taxing subdivision of the state. 6) Immediately following the definition of “public agency”, at K.S.A. 45-217(e)(1) is an exclusionary clause to the effect: “Public agency” shall not include: Any entity solely by reason of payment from public funds for property, good or services of such entity. 7) The Petitioner herein alleges that Ellsworth County Economic Development is a public agency within the purview of K.S.A. 45-217(e)(1), as it receives mill levy support from the County of Ellsworth and tax monies from other municipalities, such as the City of Ellsworth. The Petitioner further alleges that Ellsworth County Economic Development is not an entity engaged in conveying or selling property, goods, or services to Ellsworth County and, thus, is not within the purview of the exclusionary clause found at K.S.A. 45-217(e)(2)(A). The Petitioner further alleges the Gary Urbanek and/or Kristi West are either “custodians” or “official custodian” of “public records”, by virtue of their positions within Ellsworth County Economic Development. This Petitioner further alleges that Ellsworth County Economic Development keeps “public records”, within the purview of KORA and K.S.A. 45-217. 9) Gary Urbanek and Kristi West are residents of Ellsworth County and may be served in said county. WHEREUPON the Petitioner prays that the Court enters a declaratory judgment, pursuant to K.S.A. 60-1701, et. seq. finding specifically that the Ellsworth County Economic Development is subject to KORA. The Petitioner further reserves the right to pray for further relief (in the context of this action), pursuant to K.S.A. 60-1703 and KORA, should the Court specifically find that Ellsworth County Economic Development is subject to KORA. Such further relief would include, but not be limited to the following: a determination by the Court whether the $500.00 pre-payment requirement is in compliance with KORA; whether or not 3 - 4 month delay in producing records is permitted under KORA. The Petitioner further reserves the right to bring civil action for violation of KORA perpetrated by the above-named Defendants and other persons who comprise Ellsworth County Economic Development, either in the context of this action or an independent action. FURTHER, the Petitioner herewith specifically reserves the right to exercise that power enumerated under K.S.A. 45-228 of KORA, in the event the Court finds Ellsworth County Economic Development is subject to KORA. Respectfully submitted: Joe Shepack #11596 Ellsworth County Attorney P.O. Box 396 Ellsworth, KS 67439 785.472.4244



Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 7:19 am

I’ll have more on this later, but circle Saturday October 5th on your calendars as that’s when Susan and Heather will be at the Abilene Country Club for a concert. Many of you will recall that Susan, John Reichman and Linda Kidder were here a few years ago and gave us a day of wonderful music at the PAC. Now, Susan will be back on a solo trip with Heather. They are both great singer/song writers from Canada with all the credentials and awards to prove it. It will be a wonderful evening of good music…so stay tuned. I’ll fill you in on more details later on.



Filed under: prairie musings, Wilson Musings — Peg Britton @ 10:43 pm

Today we ate at the Rec Center in Wilson and I had Al’s favorite. It’s a nice big-round-mound of “real” potatoes, mashed and creamy, topped with a generous helping of homemade chicken and noodles, enough to fill one of those deep plates. It is one of my favorites and has been a standby for them for many years. And, with a trip to the salad bar with all the standard fixings, it came to just $5.00. A bargain if ever there was one. Their chicken fried steaks, for those chicken fried steak lovers, are famous far and wide. They make theirs from scratch, fresh meat and with the proper coating…..none of that frozen prepared stuff out of a box served there. And their claim that they have the best fried chicken found anywhere is an honest one. And on Wednesday, they make bierocks, a steady request from the Czech community. And every day there are wonderful homemade pies, good service and friendly atmosphere. The TV is always on in the back nook of the dining room and there is a constant sound of pool balls clunking in the front room. And during the Czech Festival, there is an array of traditional food to satisfy any taste…delicious from one end of the buffet line to the other. Only a horizontal position helps after that…and pleasant dreams. When they take down the salad bar on Sunday, all of that will come to an end. Jerry and his wife, and daughter Joyce, will be closing the doors for good under the Klema ownership. It’s just too much for them. Jerry and his wife are just too old, they say, to continue trying to run it. Joyce will be looking for something new to keep her busy. Their faithful kitchen help and waitresses have already found other employment. It’s an end of an era. It’s where I took my three grandchildren to learn how to roller skate. We had the upstairs rink all to ourselves so no one was embarrassed over a spill. It’s where most of the kids growing up in Wilson learned to skate, bowl and play pool. It where everyone in town was a frequent diner. It’s a sad event for the people of Wilson, and the rest of us, to see them lose such a landmark in their town. The place has been on the market for a long time and we can only hope that soon the Klema’s will find a buyer who will have confidence in the future of Wilson and will invest in their community just as they did. Just as most of us have done. We need to keep things going in Ellsworth County and everyone needs to pitch in and help.


Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 10:00 pm

MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield came to interview truckers in Salina. The Osgood File will incorporate the symphony being composed about the Solomon Valley along Highway 24 into their radio show. Andy Rooney’s producer for CBS’s 60 Minutes came to Lebanon, the center of the U.S.A., for a story. Ted Landphair, of Voice of America, will be in Kansas for eight days to research the story of America’s heartland. He will be visiting Cottonwood Falls, Lebanon, Lincoln, Simpson, the Konza Prairie, and the Land Institute, to name a few. Kansas is a touchstone for many people. The media wants to tell our story. They are interested in watching us be ourselves. They are intrigued with the gumption that caused the Solomon Valley Heritage Alliance to get a grant and find a composer to write a symphony about their valley. They want to walk the ground that is the center of the United States. They want to eat chicken-fried steak in a small town. Our best asset is being good at who we are. People will gravitate to the rural towns that have a vital energy. We just have to let people know where, who, and what we are — and that they can come experience us. Taken from We Kan! ,a bimonthly rural culture newsletter of the Kansas Sampler Foundation. Marci Penner, editor.



Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 8:27 pm

The following is a new posting to my website in an effort to use more of Jim Gray’s storehouse of knowledge about early Ellsworth history.You’ll find it under “Whoa! Take a look”. THE ELLSWORTH PLAZA WALKING TOUR Ellsworth occupies a unique position in the history of the Old West. It is one of only a few Kansas towns that became known as the end of the trail for the Texas cowboys and their wild Texas Longhorn cattle. The era occupied a short span of history from 1867 until 1885, just under 20 years. Ellsworth served as a cattle depot or railhead for seven of those years from 1868 until 1875. The largest amount of trade occurred during the years of 1872 to 1874. Ellsworth’s original cattle town business district was burned in several fires during the mid to late 1870s. Despite these tragedies, several of the buildings of that era have survived and the area remains largely undisturbed by development. Ellsworth was typical of the frontier towns built along the tracks of the Kansas Pacific Railway as it inched its way across Kansas. The plaza was a common area on either side of the tracks which accommodated freight hauling teams, family buggies and foot traffic. As folks met on their way to shop and frequent the saloons, the plaza soon became the social and business gathering place for people within the community. The setting is one familiar to western movie viewers. The railroad track and a wide expanse of right-of-way were bound by city streets known even to this day as North Main and South Main. Gambling houses and drinking parlors, as well as all the businesses required for the survival of a frontier town lined these two streets. This area was witness to hundreds of thousands of cattle driven to the stockyards Gunfights were commonly associated with activity on the Plaza. At one time there was a stampede of buffalo through the plaza. Most of the wild west cattle town history of Ellsworth is contained within these few blocks. Unlike many other towns that once contained railroad plazas, Ellsworth’s plaza is largely undisturbed and has remained an open area for over 120 years. Little remains of the original buildings but the sites they were located on can still be pinpointed with accuracy. In the past it has been difficult for the casual visitor to discern much early Ellsworth history without a personal guide to explain where buildings were located and the sequence of events that took place. To remedy this situation, a Plaza Walking Tour was dedicated on August 3, 2002 which consists of 17 interpretive signs providing an overview of daily life on the plaza. Each sign is easily recognized from a distance by an accompanying steel silhouette. This allows the visitor an opportunity to experience specific events and locations in early Ellsworth history at his own pace. It also offers those within our community who are not well-versed in its history, an opportunity to learn more about the place where they choose to live. (Production assistance: Jim Gray, Dennis Katzenmeier, Stacey Gustin, Tyra Denny, Scott Moore, Pat Bender, Tom Sauer, Tina Baringer Styles, City of Ellsworth and Ellsworth Correctional Facilities. Posers for the silhouettes: Marvin Bush, Tom Sauer, Jim Gray, Don Bender, Nancy Karst, Ray Thomas, Greg Heller, Michelle Torrence and Cow Camp Cowboys. Donations from Tom Sauer, Merl Boeken, Ron Rathbun, Maico and Ellsworth Correctional Facilities. Funding: ECED, City of Ellsworth Bed Tax Grant and Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing Travel and Tourism Division)



Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 8:17 pm

Previously, I said that housing has always taken care of itself in Ellsworth, and in the final analysis it has, if you have a house to live in. But there is a big “middle section” of this story that I should comment on in an effort to be fair about it. At the present time, there is not a queue for housing in Ellsworth. I can’t remember a previous time when we had approximately 40 houses in town that were listed for sale through realtors and by owners such as we have now. If you add other available housing, in the form of apartments, duplexes, townhouses and assisted living units at Good Sam and ECED, it seems to me we have a glut of housing. Potential home-buyers have a wide variety of options available to them. In my opinion, it makes the town look a little on the shaky side when you drive around and see all the “FOR SALE” signs and empty buildings on main street. I haven’t been convinced otherwise about that. There are probably as many reasons for all these houses being on the market as there are houses. I don’t know them all. Once placed on the market, some houses seem to be sold almost immediately. Other owners might want to get the most they can for their house and are willing to wait until the right buyer comes along. Maybe some are unrealistically priced. Others may need repairs and modernization. I don’t know. Sacrifices generally have to be made in order to sell a house quickly in a slow housing market. There are a myriad of reasons why we “appear” to have a housing glut right now, but one must remember it’s a cyclical business with supply and demand as its core. There has to be a degree of anticipation and planning in order not to over-build or be left on the crunch side with little or no available housing. To wander very far on either side of that scale is not the place to be. Yet ECED’s main function is to continue building houses, according to what they reported to the county commissioners on Monday. Think for a minute about this. We have empty industrial/commercial buildings for sale, specifically Century Manufacturing, Craft World and some downtown businesses. It doesn’t exactly make sense to me that we should speculate and build an industrial building to lure some company to town any more than it appears we need more speculative houses to lure people to town. I’d really like to be wrong about this. There is justification for having a reasonable number of houses on the market for sale. There is a history of justification for some one or some group willing to take the risk to build “spec” houses. I don’t want to diminish the importance of this as it is very necessary to our future growth. I remember a real housing crunch many years ago when my husband approached our next-door neighbor, Gertrude Kunkle, to see if she would sell some of her land in the northeast part of the city to a newly-formed housing group. It was a pasture. Gertie was a very civic-minded person, a good woman who was ahead of her time and contributed greatly to Ellsworth. She sold her land at a very reasonable price to the organization and five spec houses were constructed all at one time. No one seemed to want to be the only one living there so all five were built at once. That was not an easy project to accomplish and selling the houses wasn’t either. It seems it took a year or year and a half to get them all sold. I recall one had to be rented in order to find an occupant. They were good, well-constructed and well-designed houses. But, money had to be borrowed, personal notes were signed, college funds for kids were drained and lots of financial risks were taken by those individuals who were trying to promote Ellsworth. It was not a venture where there was personal gain. That area is now filled with houses, but it was very risky business at the time. There was the Canren Development headed up by Bob Nichols, then an Ellsworth pharmacist. As I recall, Canren got its name from the initials of Robert E. Nichols and his wife, Charlotte Ann Nichols. Initially, their group built a few “spec” houses but the investors lost their shorts on them. The lots have remained largely undeveloped and are owned by Ellsworth residents, for the most part. It could be a beautiful residential area if it were landscaped and developed properly and that is not to say many efforts haven’t been made in that direction. It just never “took off”. Housing is and always has been a risky business in Ellsworth, especially “spec” houses. It almost always costs more to build a spec house…or any house… in Ellsworth than you can get out of it. Someone is bound to lose money on the deal regardless of how it is built… stick-built, Ward Craft or Blue Max. Whatever. It’s a given. You might even find it isn’t appraised for loan purposes for as much as you just paid to have it built. That has happened. It costs more to build a house here than it does in Derby or Overland Park and there are many reasons for that. If you live here and build your own house, you will probably lose money on it if you try to sell it the next day, week, month, or year. You can go buy a new car, drive it around the block and it will be worth several thousands less than what you just paid for it. Same idea. We are not in a high growth area where houses are in great demand. So having some group building speculative housing, as needed, is a very good thing. We definitely need that. To build in an already flooded housing market doesn’t seem to be a logical way to proceed. Who determines what the city needs and wants in the way of housing? Are there surveys to indicate what needs have been demonstrated for apartments, duplexes, condominiums and single family dwellings? Who makes these assessments or do we just pull out our nail guns and shoot from the hip? The most familiar house-shopping mantra is… “If I’m going to spend that much money on a house, I’ll have one built the way I want it.” Nice try. You never get it entirely the way you want it, certainly not for the price you think it will cost. It doesn’t work that way. Concessions are made. But, if you do build a house, you’ll free up a house for someone else to buy and that is a good thing. Most reasonable people invest in a house with plans to live in it at least throughout the lifetime of the mortgage while looking at it as another form of paying rent. Getting their money out of that investment is only a dream, seldom a reality. We can only wish we had our houses in a fast-growing market when we need to sell. There are sacrifices to be made that way for the privilege of living here. Part of the problem is that housing costs have sky-rocketed, just like the price of a sack of potatoes, if you’ve noticed recently. There are a lot of low to medium income families in town who would like to have their own home if only they could afford one. Some would like a larger house if they could afford it. Home-owners with large houses can’t sacrifice their investments to a level low to middle-income families can afford. People who can afford a higher priced home frequently build their own. We just can’t realize what it would cost to reproduce some of the houses that are for sale. Big bucks. Houses die just like people die. There are some houses in town that are uninhabitable and were slated to be leveled years ago since taxes were unpaid and ownerships were undetermined. There are others that soon will be beyond repair and added to the derelict list. That happens. Houses wear out from neglect or lack of vitamins or something. Health nuts also die. Those houses need to be replaced in similar numbers in one fashion or another or we’re clamping down on potential for growth in our city. We need to continuously replace that which we have lost, plus add some to it. That’s a requirement for growth! That includes everything… jobs, people, jobs, houses, jobs, shops, light industry, jobs, services….the whole gamut of what makes our city function. If we provide jobs, the demand for housing will increase. People also deserve the freedom to move… up and down… in housing as their needs dictate and their incomes allow. Families out-grow their homes when their chicks fly away. Expanding families need affordable space, as do singles. Newcomers to our town deserve housing options. We don’t want to be caught on the short-side of housing. Unless we want to fall behind, there is a constant need to have available housing. The issue is how much and what kind? Who is to decide? These are some of the suggestions that need to be considered when assessing the level of new housing construction that must be stabilized in order for us to maintain a progressive stance as a community. We need housing NOT because we are preparing for some pipe dream that the Craft World building suddenly will be sold and place Ellsworth in the immediate need for housing for maybe a hundred employees, as was said at the commission meeting. Words to that effect anyway. When we had 750 employees in the Craft World building when it was the Ford subsidiary, most employees commuted, many by chartered buses from Salina. A few supervisors moved here but most had no intention of establishing their homes here. If that happens again in my life time, I promised everyone at the I/R that I’d take them out to lunch. They’d even be happy with snacks! We might consider the value of a housing authority, by whatever name, that really works and not only helps assess the need for housing but also oversees the construction of houses that are being built with tax-payer or private money to see it is done right. Our present zoning regulations possibly should be reviewed and enforced. We need to address the possible need or at least talk about the requirement of city building codes for contractors, plumbers and electricians. It’s all belongs in one package of protection for the city and its citizens and builders. Another number that has to be factored in the housing issue is our declining population, especially of school age children. Remember that inmates at ECU are in our population count but their housing has been provided. Think where we’d be right now without the prison and all its employees. Think of of the number of employees at Cashco, Maico, the brick plant, salt mine, Good Sam home, our schools, and all of our mom and pop shops, etc. etc. etc. We are indeed fortunate to have them. But, by the same token we’ve lost Century Manufacturing, Donley’s Antique Store, The Saddlemaker, the bakery, the lumber yard, the carpet shop, Darr’s good coffee and donuts. Those come to mind, but there are others. We can’t lose anymore businesses at a time when downtown is looking a little needy. The recent figures found in the Lawrence Journal World and the Topeka Capitol Journal regarding the elevation of average incomes in the state with Ellsworth rising to the top of the list is NOT SOMETHING ECED CAN TAKE CREDIT FOR, as they tried to do at the county commissioners meeting. The people who deserve credit for that were the ones who were active in the early 90s and who brought the prison, the new ownership to Cashco, the salt mine, etc. ECED absolutely can not claim any credit for that. We need to concentrate on attracting tourists and establishing small businesses to meet the needs of the tourists who have money to spend. Tourism IS economic development. We need to patronize our mom and pop stores more and encourage others like them to come and open businesses. If the “Jack Pot of all Jack Pots manufacturing plant” comes to town, fine, but I’m neither holding my breath nor thinking we should build houses in anticipation of that ever happening. I think that plant has been closed for about eight years…I could be wrong about that, but with today’s turbulent economy it might be another eight years before there is enough expansion to seek out that building. In the meantime, do we continue in the real estate business, building, buying and selling private property with tax dollars? We need to build houses, there is no doubt in my mind about that, but if they are to be “spec” houses built with public funds, then it seems to me there must be an overall plan in place and a demonstrated a need for them. People and jobs create the need for houses. Empty houses do not create jobs or by their very existence attract new people to our community.The determination of housing for our community needs be conducted by a group exhibiting leadership and integrity whose work will fall well within guidelines which are understandable and acceptable to the citizens who live here. It can be done. It should be done. (Whew! That was a big “middle section” to explain.)



Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 9:12 pm

This year, the Good Samaritan Village in Ellsworth will be celebrating 50 years of service to Ellsworth and the surrounding area. For a community our size, this is a major achievement in which we can all take pride. The Good Samaritan Village is a non-profit organization. The Good Sam home, as it is familiarly called, has been here almost as long as I have. If you can remember when they came here, as I do, then you have to be slightly aghast at how time flies. We tend to forget it’s there unless we have a need for it; however, once that arises, we find it is a very necessary part of our lives and our community. The facility is a major employer with a dedicated staff of 100. These individuals provide a very valuable service to our community and can be counted on to be there when we need them. For those desiring to continue living independently without assistance, there are cottages, duplexes and Drovers Cottage which will house 25 to 30 residents who are 62 years or older. The newest facility on the campus is Prairie West which opened last month. It has 12 apartments for those over 62 years of age who need limited assistance in their daily lives. There is a medical aide on duty 24/7 and complete meal service. All needs are provided for those who live in Prairie West. There are some empty units waiting to be filled. Villa Grace, the oldest and most vital facility, provides total around-the-clock care for 64 residents. Georgina Bates is the Human Resources Director and can answer any questions you might have about Good Sam. You can call her at 785.472.5000 or email her at


Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 10:22 am

I’m declaring war. WAR! It’s time to arm ourselves and get to work. Enough is enough! It’s time to have open season on these King Kong-size hoppers that have taken over our territory. These big busters are too nasty-tempered and toxic to have any natural predators. They get their natural crunchiness from feeding on bug spray cans and mail boxes with an abandoned wind mill or two thrown in for dessert. Have you noticed they just sneer as they graze? These things are too big and repulsive for anything except dissection in biology class. This really nasty pest is too fat to fly so it just jumps high and far and knocks over small, innocent children in the process. They spread their wings and hiss and then cream you with foul-smelling, irritating foam that’s as repulsive as a bucket of Bactrian camel spit between the eyes. It isn’t safe to wander out on the prairie with these critters hoppin’ around. They zero in on you en masse with those 5 huge eyes, viselike can-opening jaws and ever-moving mouth parts like something out of a horror flick comin’ right atcha! Just the thought of them is enough to keep you cowerin’ under the covers. Remember when I mentioned wading ankle-deep in them at the old stone house when I stopped to take pictures earlier this summer? Well, “something” could have eaten them then, but there weren’t enough “somethings” big enough and hungry enough to eat all of them. Maybe we need to import bigger, more voracious hopper-feeding “somethings” . They could graze insignificantly along with the cattle and buffalo happily slurping up the hoppers. About the only thing we can do to protect ourselves, and our loved ones, is swing at ‘em with a 2 x 4. So I’m suggesting we mobilize an army of 2 x 4 swinger-swatters. A local Kansas Militia appropriately “armed” with 2 x 4’s is what we need. We’ll show those busters what we can do if we have unified determination and go after them with our 4s. We’ll need to stop by Pete’s of Pete’s Tru Value and pick up “Easy Rider Four Racks”. We can put them in the back window of our pickups along side our “Easy Rider Rifle Racks”. He’ll probably throw in the 2″ x 4″ x 48″ for not much more. Tall swinger-swatters might need the 52″ size. Switch hitters and two-handed swatters are doubly welcomed to join up. Now we can safely head back out to the prairie… armed and dangerous, ready to swing and swat with our deadly four shot. Those critters will add humus to the soil in our wake! Sign up today!


I’M KANSAS C.O.W.B.O.Y. #1224

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 4:05 pm

For some reason I never thought of buying a membership in the C.O.W.B.O.Y Society until today. That’s not true. I’ve thought of it a bazillion times, but never at the right time. A friend gave me one of those backside kicks yesterday to remind me it wasn’t on my list of memberships on my return e-mail address. So, around sunup this morning I was at C.O.W.B.O.Y. headquarters on Douglas waiting for the Cowboy to come back from selling cattle, or doing whatever one does with them at that hour, so I could buy a membership in his Cock-eyed Old West Band of Yahoos Society. Ellsworth was established in 1867 and that’s the number of pennies it takes for a membership. It’s a bargain. I have all the information about joining on my website. Members gather for occassional yahooing, participate in the spring and fall round-ups and receive the Kansas Cowboy newspaper six times a year. Just as they did in 1873, members can get a real good bargain on goods at Drovers Mercantile. It’s a heck of a deal! Now my signature is almost as long as my messages….Kansas C.O.W.B.O.Y. #1224, Kansas Explorer #1224, Rolling Hills Zoo #42, Amazing 100 Miles…..etc. I feel like an amazing, exploring Yahoo animal. Jim has an exciting announcement soon to be released about a fantastic new item he will be selling in his store. It is going to be a huge event for him and Ellsworth and we all need to support him in this endeavour. So keep your eye on the Independent and stop in to see him after the announcement. I am really excited about this and I think you will be too. And who has been in to buy a jar of his Habanero Hot Sauce? I suggested we see how this works in another of my blogs several weeks ago. Let’s give Jim a boost by buying a jar and see what a difference it makes to him. We really need to support these people who are trying to make a difference in Ellsworth.



Filed under: prairie musings, political musings — Peg Britton @ 1:56 pm

(ELLSWORTH WANTS SOME OF THAT) Travel and tourism is a major Kansas industry that is vital to the economic stability of this state and should be of major interest to the people of Ellsworth County. Research from the Travel Industry of America shows that tourism has an annual economic impact on Kansas of 3.2 BILLION DOLLARS a year. Not million. Billion. Some of that can surely filter in to Ellsworth County if we redirect our energy to capture it as it “drives” by. Kansas tourism is growing as a result of the Travel and Tourism Development Division”s Attraction Development Grant program. Or something like that. It’s a wordy title for the program. Back in FY2000, the division awarded nearly one million to develop or enhance tourism attractions or events in the state. With local matching funds, this represents more than 6 million spent in Kansas for tourism-related projects. Kansas’ special areas of interest are: Western Frontier, Arts and Culture, Aviation, Nature-based Tourism, Farm and Ranch Experiences and Hunting and Fishing. Ellsworth can pocket itself in almost all those specialized markets. We could leave Aviation to Wichita, but certainly we have a big interest in all the other areas and could market them toward tourists. Tourism IS economic development, as has been said by many so often. Building houses is not a priority in Ellsworth especially when we have nearly 40 houses for sale in town, according to some people who have been trying to rid themselves of theirs for months and years. Housing has always taken care of itself; at least it has in the 51 years I’ve observed it. Bring people to town and businesses are created to meet their needs. Bring jobs to town and houses will follow. We have “House for Sale” signs all over town and that doesn’t look at all good. It leads to all kinds of speculation and the impression that things aren’t going well here. If the $2,000,000 ECED dollars that have been spent on housing in the past few years instead had been spent on tourism, look where we might be today. It is sad, I think, that years ago we tore down the buildings on north main to make way for the Senior Citizens Center, which could have been located elsewhere. Charlie Rogers was almost in tears over it as we stood across the street in his gallery and talked about losing so much of our history. He was old and wise about such things. And, it’s too bad that the Oriel/Insurance/Bartizan Building wasn’t preserved at a time when it could have been more easily “preserved.” As Jim Gray has often has said, “It is the signature building of the town. It’s our identity. Everyone who comes to Ellsworth remembers it.” Maybe there is still a way to capture the essence of it as it stood originally. It’s important to try. All this is to say tourists are interested in our Ellsworth history and it’s tragic that we’ve let so much slip through our fingers. There are some things we may not be able to do anything about, but others we can, step by step. If you stood in Drovers Mercantile and listened to the people from far and wide who ask questions of Jim, then you’d realize the extent to which we need to do a better job with those people who come to town and want to see and learn about what we do have. We need to give Jim a hand and listen to what he has to say. As a town, we need to find our direction and combine our efforts to work together. We need to reinstate the true meaning of “volunteerism”. We need to try harder, be more observant. And we need to be better listeners. Think of the enormity of the beef industry in the U.S. Did you know it had its beginning right here in Ellsworth? Think of the potential that might have for us. Did you know that Henry Inman, Mark Inman Seitz’s great-granddaddy, designed and built our signature building? Tourism is what we need to be thinking about, not more housing. Tourism IS economic development.


NOTICE: Anyone who wants a copy of my August 11th publication which pertains to the newspaper quotations relating to the sequence and activities of ECED housing transactions may contact me for an email copy.

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 7:40 am




Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 3:50 pm

In talking with a couple who just returned from visiting several islands in French Polynesia, which is about half way between Hawaii and Australia, I learned a little of what it’s like to live there. It’s a paradise, of course, with variations in temperatures between high 80s and mid 60s and the most beautiful scenery imaginable. Some people go there to visit and never leave. Others who travel there are tempted. Wages are high but so are costs. When converted into U.S. dollars, everything costs about $5.00. A dozen eggs are $5.00, so is a can of beer, a gallon of gas, gallon of milk, gallon of orange juice. Five dollars each. It makes conversion easy. Getting what you need or want are matters of an entirely different kind. The chickens come from the US, beef from AU, lamb from NZ and veggies from Chili. As in the case of much of the world, you can’t just walk into a store and get what you want, as we are accustomed to doing. If you are dying for a thick, juicy steak or a rack of lamb, you wait. And wait. And wait. In the meantime you eat fish that swim in schools that surround your many islands. And get healthier. The Polynesians are the original environmentalists and continue to fish the way of their ancestors taking only what they need with a hook and line. No nets. When you need fish, you can get it yourself or find one of the many large tables full of fresh, iced-down fish where the owner will say, “This is what we have for today”. It may not be the kind you wanted, but you make a choice from the several varieties the fishermen have caught that morning. They protect the coral reefs, their forests and the land and water as it’s a duty passed down from their ancestors. It was the same way with our Native Americans. They never took more from the land than they needed. July is festival season in Polynesia and not much happens during that month except that everyone parties. A lot. Until all the beer and liquor on the islands have been consumed. Lobster divers, for instance, wisely don’t dive in July. They free dive so there are no lobsters to be found anywhere during the month of July. They consume alcohol for a month, avoid the water and only dive again when they are once again sober. That’s their custom. A lot of people from the Philippines and Eastern Europe find work in French Polynesia so they can support their families back home. When the Filipinos want to fly home, they leave from Papeete, Tahiti and fly to LA and lay over. From LA they fly to Frankfurt and lay over. (Are you picturing the lazy old sun and what it’s doing?) From Frankfurt they fly to Bangkok and lay over. Then finally, there is the hop from Bangkok to the Philippines. When they “lay over”, they do it in airport waiting rooms. There are no creature comforts for them. If you’ve been following this geographic nightmare, you realize they fly all the way around the world THE WRONG WAY to get home. That’s the cheapest way. Go figger. The fastest way is to fly from AU or NZ to Manila, which is only a short flight, but that is far too expensive for them. Workers are paid on the basis of their own economy, not entirely by the type of work they do. A waiter from Eastern Europe will be paid more than a waiter from the Philippines as their home economy is more affluent and their financial needs greater. Polynesians are well paid. They own their own land and houses and grow many of their own veggies. They pass down their houses and land to their next generation just as they received it from their ancestors. Clothing costs are minimal. Only light weight casual clothes and thongs are worn as there is no need for anything more. No dress clothes. Life is easy. Shop owners maintain very flexible hours and work when the notion strikes. They have not had a tsunami there in 30 years but the fear is that another will come and there will be great loss of life. Many villages have been built right on the water’s edge and are backed by steep almost impenetrable forested mountains. There are only a few primitive paths that lead up the mountains so even those routes don’t offer much hope for escape. Cruise ships that harbor in the shallow waters of the bays fire up their engines and head out to deeper water on immediate notice of an oncoming tsunami. Passengers who happen to be on shore are left behind as the captain orders are to save the ship and those passengers who are on board. That’s something one would like to be forewarned about before boarding a tender. The kids are gathered up from the many Polynesian Islands and attend boarding school in Papeete. When they reach college age, they go either to France or Australia to further their education. For the most part, the students return to their native land to continue the customs of their ancestors. French Polynesians keep in touch with the outside world the same as we do… with computers. Satellite positioning isn’t right for their spot in the world so there is little in the way of good TV reception. They are isolated from the problems of the world so the need for current news isn’t all that urgent. So, if any of you go to French Polynesia, please send me a picture postcard!



Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 9:45 am

Some of you have written or called about being “a little new at this” and asked for help navigating my site. Not to worry as I’m happy to help. We all went through this learning procedure when we started, and every day on a computer is a new, sometimes difficult experience. That’s what makes them exciting one minute and exasperating the next. It helps keep you young or makes you age fast. Four-letter words frequently are used singularly and in combinations rarely heard elsewhere. I thought I’d pass on a tip to those of you who might be interested in learning a little day by day. There are daily newsletters with tips. The best one, imo (in my opinion) is “Steve’s Tips and Techniques” and can be found at You can receive free of charge any number of newsletters, daily or weekly, that he publishes. The Computer Tips HTML daily newsletter best suits my needs. You can experiment and see what you like. The daily letter contains a little of everything, but is short and manageable. The degree of difficulty contained in the newsletter varies from very simple to somewhat complicated. If it doesn’t apply to your needs, just delete it. You can always go back to his website later and dig it out of the archives. Each newsletter contains a software “deal”, a Computer 101 lesson, a tip of the day and Amanda’s cool website suggestion for the day. There is also a box to click to unsubscribe. I have bought a lot of software from Steve and if I haven’t liked it, he’ll take it back. He has some great bargains from time to time, and usually all of what he sells is as inexpensive as you’ll find anywhere for new software. A couple of years ago I had this sent to my youngest grandson who really likes experimenting with shortcuts and new geeky stuff on his computer. He has learned a lot from it and I call on him for help from time to time. I just thought I’d mention this to you as a friend once did to me.



Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 8:46 pm

For several years we’ve tried to relocate our bats. (See June 20 blog on this subject, if you’re interested). I don’t want them to “go away” in the “forever”sense, I just don’t want them hanging on our house in such profusion. They choose to live right outside my bedroom window where I can hear them scream and squeel at night. Suggestions to take their arguments elsewhere have fallen on faulty sonars. Today when I saw Larry Griffith in the neighborhood with his new bucket truck, I remembered my bat houses that were in the garage waiting for just such a bucket-truck-person to pass by. He put the houses way up high in a couple of cottonwood trees where they belong, one for the mamas and babies, the other for the guys. They must have a grande dame in charge who sets the rules. That’s the way they roost anyway, so I’ve been told. I’m not sure who went to that amount of trouble to find out. Let sleeping bats hang, I say. Anyway, Larry did a splendid job placing them perfectly on the big cottonwood tree trunks.. He also does a super job trimming trees and hauling off the debris. He’s a local guy and does good work. I highly recommend him.


Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 4:17 pm

The Lucas Area Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce the arrival of the Smithsonian Exhibit, “Yesterday’s Tomorrows”. The exhibit, which features “A Past Look at America’s Future”, will be on display at the Lucas Grassroots Art Center from August 9th to September 20th. Lucas is the smallest community to ever host a Smithsonian Exhibit. Several supporting exhibits can be found in stores all over downtown Lucas. For more information on the exhibit you can write or visit their website As a suggestion: Go north from Ellsworth to Lincoln and take a look around. There are good places there to eat, particularly Extra Innings BBQ and Biggie Biggs. See the renovations they are making on their limestone buildings. If their theater is open, take a look. It’s beautiful. If you’ve never walked through their court house, you may want to take the time to do that. There is a kodak moment in the city park where you can take a picture in front of the Cottonwood Tree, said to be the second largest in Kansas. You can’t miss it as you drive in the park. Village Lines has some unusual gifts and many Kansas products. Then take highway K-18 west a few miles and turn where it says, “Denmark –>” If you’re there next Sunday, you’ll find Elsie Discoll giving a demonstration on Tussie Mussie at Elsie’s Herbs and Flowers Shop. I’m not sure what that is…but it has something to do with herbs and flowers. It sounds like something to curb a cough, but I haven’t a clue what it is. On August 18th she’s giving a demonstration on Herbal Wreath. Her demos take about an hour. If the Denmark Lutheran Church is open, go sit in there for awhile and see what a beautiful church it is. Notice the carving of the boat to the left of the altar. Then, it is only a short distance west to Lucas where you can view the Smithsonian Exhibit at their Grassroots Gallery, see accompanying displays in store windows, wander around the Garden of Eden and stop at Doug Brant’s and buy a ring of his famous pepper sausage to munch on driving home. If you don’t eat, it’s a good, inexpensive trip for the kids before school starts…but the kids will love the bbq or homemade pizza. Biggie Biggs also serves up great pie prepared by Jim’s wife. Coming home, you can take the scenic route south on K-232 to highway I-70. Old highway 40 is closed at Black Wolf so if you choose that route, you’re on your own. I know the back way to Wilson now, but I can’t tell you how to do it. Or if you want to go the reverse way, Lucas is located 16 miles North of I-70 exit 206 at the junction of Hwys K-18 and K-232. The above is one of my favorite Backyard Adventures.



Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 11:43 pm

There have been 357 hits to my website today and there is another half hour to go before midnight. The Wilson Chamber of Commerce breakfast/speaker is tomorrow morning and I intend go. Someone from the state is speaking…it’s too much for me to remember who right now. They have a good series of speakers and it’s a good thing to support them. I always enjoy going to Wilson. It’s a beautiful drive taking the back road near Black Wolf…getting lost and all…and there is always something going on in Wilson. I can never leave there without stopping at Shaw’s. I wonder if I’ll have to sack groceries like I did last time I was there. I think I missed my calling. Thanks very much for visiting my website. More things for you to read are in the works!



Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 10:39 pm

….er sumpin’ like that. When you run across print that is a different color and looks “geeky”, that is a hypertext link connecting you to another website. If you run your cursor over it you will see it changes color. In the posting immediately below, the “” link will take you to the subject I’m describing. Just click on it.


Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 9:25 pm

The progress being made by the Solomon Valley Highway 24 Heritage Alliance is impressive and I have visited several of their communities along the route in my Backyard Adventure tours with Linda. We can be inspired and derive ideas from their successes for our own tourism development. If you have a few minutes, look at their They have a whole section on history which will be posted later. The article written by Patrice R. Holderbach is interesting. I think it is very possible to bring people off I-70 to Ellsworth with our history, shops and events as a draw. We have so much to offer and tourism dollars can “make a huge difference”. They would be “new” dollars, and it is said they will circulate 7 times within a community. By Patrice R. Holderbach Special to The Capital-Journal I would like to acknowledge the Topeka Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce for their efforts to lead the community into the little-recognized and even less-explored world of Kansas tourism. Events like the Sunflower State Games and Treasures of the Czars, which are promoted by these organizations, do more than generate an economic boost for the area. They also enhance the cultural and academic bounties available to Topekans and visitors alike. This summer I had the chance to experience firsthand what a challenge promoting such a concept can be, and to enjoy its rewards. Through Kansas State University’s Community Service Program, I served as an ambassador for the Solomon Valley-Highway 24-Heritage Alliance I lived in Morland, population 160, which is 12 miles west of Hill City. This organization, which was created less than two years ago, is composed of 24 towns from Glasco to Hoxie. All are linked by the Solomon River and US-24 highway. The alliance is a grassroots organization that meets every month to discuss plans for heritage preservation and future survival of the area, by celebrating the similarities and spotlighting the unique qualities that have fashioned each town. The people of the valley encourage visitors to come explore “the real Kansas.” In other words, welcome to the newest notion of western Kansas tourism. It is said that if even 1 percent of the traffic from Interstate 70 could be re-routed to US-24 each year, this would bring an additional $2 million to $3 million in revenue for these small towns. In an era when the glory days have long gone by for many of these communities, these would-be ghost towns are doing what they can to help themselves. During my stay in western Kansas, not only did I pay a visit to the legendary Penokee Stone Man, I had my picture taken in front of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, saw an archaeological dig in progress and enjoyed ice cream with Calamity Jane (aka Joyce Thierer, a Chautauquan/historian from Emporia State University). I went grave-dousing in Osborne Cemetery and sang “Home on the Range,” rode in a tractor, combine and 1941-model fire truck, and met personally with a gubernatorial candidate. (For the record, none of these events are related.) And I was only there two months. Just imagine what possibilities lie ahead for our beautiful sunflower state, in this untapped resource of tourism — Kansas tourism. Patrice R. Holderbach, Topeka, is a sophomore in print/radio journalism at Kansas State University.



Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 10:35 am

Curtis G. Glaser and Joni Glaser, Plaintiff vs. Al Wedel and Associates L.L.C. and Allen Wedel, Defendant Case No. 02-C-38 Pursuant to K.S.A. Chapter 60 Petition:

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