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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO GRANDSON TYLER WHO’S 23 YEARS OLD TODAY! °º•¤.¸¯`°º•¤.¸¯`°º•¤.¸ ¸.¤•º°´¯ ¸.¤•º°´¯ ¸.¤•º° ~~~ H*A*P*P*Y* *B*I*R*T*H*D*A*Y* *~~~ ¤•º°´¯ ¸.¤•º°´¯ ¸.¤•º°´¯ ¯`°º•¤. ¸¯`°º•¤. ¸¯`°º•¤

Filed under: prairie musings, Tyler Britton USAF — Peg Britton @ 9:46 am



Filed under: political musings, GOP — Peg Britton @ 7:40 pm



Filed under: political musings, Sam Brownback, religion — Peg Britton @ 5:17 pm

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback seems to idolize Texas Gov. Rick Perry and wants to fashion Kansas to look more like Texas.  Take note:  Texas has more adults without high school diplomas than any other state.  Texas has more people without health insurance than any other state.  Texas has an extremely high poverty rate of 20%…that’s one of every five Texans living in poverty. We don’t want Kansas to look like Texas.  Texas is a mess and Kansas is heading that way under the leadership of the present governor.

Texas is what is called a “weak governor state” and the governor’s main job is to be a cheerleader for state business.  Gov. Perry is also the self-appointed evangelical spiritual leader for the state.   The legislature only works the first half of the year following a November election and doesn’t return to work until two years later after the next election. The governor can call a special session, if needed, for emergencies. For all this hard work, the governor earns $150K a year plus free housing, food, travel, security forces. However, Perry has increased his personal wealth by at least $3 MILLION since taking office after George W. Bush resigned in 2000.Perry wants taxpayers to provide a state police security detail for him and his wife while they travel …and they travel a lot to promote his book and give speeches.  We’re not talking coach class travel.  At a time when state spending reductions were used to help offset a multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall, taxpayers were billed for more than $294,000 in security detail expenses for out-of-state trips by Gov. Rick Perry or his wife, according to records released by the Texas Department of Public Safety.  Destinations included the Bahamas in January for a family vacation and trips to Amsterdam, Madrid and New York by Anita Perry alone - visits that Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said were for economic development.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for President saying his record on jobs, taxes and spending proves he is the best candidate to lead America.  Brownback was also the only Governor who accepted an invitation to attend Rick Perry’s evangelical Christian Prayer weekend.  People will soon realize the shallow character of Rick Perry who along with the other forefront non-contenders, will fade into the shadows.

The Republican leadership must hold classes to inform all the Republican candidates of the latest sound bite for the day.  They all sound alike. Like the White Queen in her youth, the contemporary Republican politician must be capable of believing as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Foremost among these is the claim that it is possible to balance the federal budget without raising taxes. Most Republican politicians are intelligent enough to understand that with federal revenues at 14.4 percent of GDP and expenditures at 25.3 percent, it is, in fact, impossible to close the fiscal gap with spending cuts alone. Any republican candidate who acknowledges this reality is in peril.

The latest hope for the R’s is Chris Christy, Governor of New Jersey.  Christy, a real governor,  continues to say he is not running.  But Christie might run for president someday, or be selected as someone’s running mate. For those purposes, he must constantly ask himself the question: Am I about to say something to which a white, evangelical, socially conservative, gun-owning, Obama-despising, pro-Tea Party, GOP primary voter in rural South Carolina might object? By this standard, simple acceptance of the theory of evolution amid a sea of outlandish religious beliefs becomes a risky stance for him. he seems to be the only moderate, sane voice among the GOP candidates.

Nate Silver has an interesting post arguing that Chris Christie managed to become a darling of the conservatives without being as conservative as they think he is. He “supported the assault weapons ban and opposed concealed carry laws.” He “stated explicitly that global warming was real and man-made.” He “stated [in 2008] that ‘being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.’” He has “no issue with same-sex couples sharing contractual rights,” i.e., civil unions, though he does oppose abortion rights and same-sex marriage. He’s soft on the “ground zero” mosque (which is actually a couple of blocks away). He declined to challenge Obamacare in court. And he actually put out an Obama-friendly ad during his 2009 gubernatorial campaign.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: prairie musings, Tyler Britton USAF, Ally Britton — Peg Britton @ 11:40 am


We gathered for an early morning kickoff breakfast for SSGT Tyler Britton USAF who left soon after for Cincinnati.  Left to right…mom Karen, friend Meredith aka The Crystal Queen, Tyler, Aunt Ally and Grandma Peg. Photo by Gabe Orozco.  The only thing “Air Force” in Cincy, other than perhaps a recruitment office, is the niche program the Air Force maintains at the Cincinnati University Trauma Center and Critical Care Hospital to train CCATT (Critical Care Air Transport Team) personnel.  There is no air base located there.   Air Force respiratory therapists are selected for the  intensive CCATT training program.   Tyler validates each airman who passes the course to see if they are sufficiently trained to be part of a three-person team to transfer critically ill and wounded military personnel.   When he isn’t doing that, he’ll work in the critical intensive care unit of the hospital.  If you are in Cincy, stop by and say hello.


Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth, Tyler Britton USAF, Drew Britton, Todd Britton — Peg Britton @ 9:54 am


A couple from Kanopolis captured the frontier spirit.

Dancing girls…with fans…


Robert Rogers, right, son of artist Charles Rogers, held a one day showing of some of his father’s western paintings, many having not been on display since the 1980s.  Left is Ally Britton with her Kansas City cousin, Kay Kippes Maier.


Paintings by Charles Rogers, “The Kansan”.


A mixed herd of 400 cattle were held in line by experienced drovers and well-trained horses.


An intersection full of traffic of any variety is unusual in Ellsworth.


They drove the herd to the intersection of highways 14 and 14, by my house, and turned them around to shoo them through town again.  This photo is by Von Rothenberger.  The others were taken by Ally Britton.


My niece from Kansas City has been coming to Ellsworth for our celebrations since she was a small girl…and then she always sat on the ledge behind her….before the arrival of planting boxes.


The town had one of the largest gatherings of visitors ever observed, according to some.  It was a gorgeous day and following a long miserable, summer, everyone seemed ready to venture forth and enjoy the day.  My friends, the “movers and shakers”  from northwest of Ellsworth,  came to see the action.


It’s rare these days that we can get more than one grandchild at a time home to visit.  Both our grandsons made it for the cattle drive and to welcome Tyler home from his second tour of Afghanistan and wish him well with his next assignment in Cincinnati.  Brittons left to right are Todd, Peg, Ally, Tyler, Karen and Drew.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: prairie musings, LGBT — Peg Britton @ 7:50 pm

When: September 27th, 2011, 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Where: Lawrence City Hall (6 E. 6th Street; Lawrence, KS )

On Tuesday, September 27, The Lawrence City Commission will be considering adding the term “gender identity” to Lawrence’s Human Relation Code as a protected class.

If you cannot attend, please CALL or E-MAIL the Commissioners with your support.


If you’re a KU grad, call.  If you know someone who lives in Lawrence, forward this Action Alert to them and ask them to call.  If you ever lived in Lawrence in the past, call.  If you *want* to live in Lawrence in the future, call.

In other words, CALL.  The anti-equality activists are organized in their opposition, and our community must be heard.

It is important that the voice of acceptance rings loud!

Aron E. Cromwell
(785) 749-6020

Vice Mayor
Bob Schumm
Home (785) 842-6729
Work (785) 842-7337

Michael Dever
(785) 550-4909

Hugh Carter
(785) 764-3362

Mike Amyx (he does not check his e-mail) Home (785) 843-3089 Work (785) 842-9425

You can view this on our website at:



Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth, Tyler Britton USAF — Peg Britton @ 7:21 pm

Ellsworth’s 150th Kansas Celebration culminates in a cattle drive through downtown tomorrow.  Tonight the herd is pastured in a cow camp south of town off highway 156 and Oxide Road, one of the most beautiful spots in Ellsworth County.  Tomorrow the drovers will round up all the cattle and push them through the main street of town and north past my house where I hope they don’t scatter far and wide when they see open country. It was suggested I keep my doors shut.  They’ll pasture them somewhere north of town tomorrow night then ship them back from whence they came.




The horses were hobbled but managed quite well to get where they wanted to go by hopping.


400 head of mixed herd cattle are shown scattered over the expansive grasslands of Ellsworth County.  It was a beautiful sight to see.


A beautiful Kansas sunset on the cow camp.  Photo by Tyler Britton.


Same Kansas sunset from my front yard.


Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 1:40 pm

Ellsworth Celebration
“The Wickedest”

Ellsworth, Kansas - We’ll keep those “dogies” rollin’ into Ellsworth at 4:00pm and the end of our drive. The old cattle town will be waiting anxiously for the cattle to arrive. Come celebrate the 150th Kansas Anniversary in true cowboy style, at the End of the Trail!
Western Music “End of the Trail Concert” will feature Barry Ward, Judy Coder, Prairie Rose Rangers, and of course our Cowboy Poet and MC, Geff Dawson. Concert starts at 7:00pm at Ellsworth High School PAC Center on Saturday September 24, 2011.



Friday, September 23

7:00 pm Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament American Legion Post #174. Highways 140 and 156.

Saturday, September 24

Historic Plaza

Family Stage

10am Pre(e)r Group Band – Christian Rock

10:45am Kaleigh Glanton – Award winning Singer

11:20am Cap’n W.T. Allen – Historic Performer

11:50am David Ross Gordon – Historic Performer

12:15pm Smoky Hill Pickers – Area Jam Group

1:05pm Dave Pickering One Man Band – See to Believe

2:00pm Matson & Weaver – Salina Singing Duo

2:45pm Max & Me – Miltonvale Singing Duo

3:30pm Pam Barber & Harry – Ventriloquist

4:00pm The End of the Trail
Kansas 150th Anniversary Cattle Drive trails through town

4:45pm Caldwell Dance Hall Belles – Direct from Caldwell, Kansas

5:15pm Backwater Boys – A Guaranteed Knee Slapper

All Day Beer Garden

Nicodemus Buffalo Soldiers - Roaming

Hodgden House Museum Complex Living History Day

Seven Historical properties open all day

10am-5:00pm Antique Tractor Show

11am-2pm Butter Churning and Wool Spinning Demonstrations

1:30pm Mother Bickerdyke portrayal by Lu Adams

2:00pm Water Witching Demonstration

2:45pm Tomahawk Throwing by White Bear (aka Dean Curtis)

Ellsworth Elementary School Grounds and adjacent streets

Youth Events from 10am-6pm unless otherwise noted

Fish Pond - Carousel - Blowup Bouncer - Kiddy Train Rides - Dart Throw

Dunk Tank - Soft Ball Throw - Bean Bags -Pop Bottle - Duck Pond

Cowboy Hat Toss – Special Prizes

Sunflower Seed Spitting – Special Prizes

10am – 12noon Sack Races - Cash Prizes

1pm-3pm 3-legged Races – Cash Prizes

2pm -4pm Kendra’s D.D. Clown Troupe – Face Painting

4:45-6pm Popcorn - Cotton Candy


Apple Bobbing -114 N. Douglas

10am Lawn Mower Races – Cash Prizes

1pm Wheelchair Races – Cash Prizes

10am-6pm FFA Car Bashing


7:00pm Western Music features Barry Ward, Judy Coder, and the Prairie Rose Rangers.

Tickets: Adults $12 advance, $15 at door, Children (12 & under) $7.

Intermission: Raffle drawing for an autographed guitar by “Sugarland.” Also Kansas 150th Anniversary decorated cakes will be auctioned. For tickets and other information: 785-472-4071;;


Filed under: prairie musings, Tyler Britton USAF, Drew Britton — Peg Britton @ 1:29 pm

The older I get, the more I have become fascinated with and wish I’d majored in theoretical physics; however, I must have been aware even then, when the universe was still quite young, that there would have been a very low degree of certainty that I would have graduated.

Like so many others who are “around” my age, I have fallen into the “donut” hole. From now until the end of the year, I will pay about 50% for my brand name drugs and 93% of generics. It smarts, but insurance does help until you sort of drop out of the bottom, which for me comes in September and lasts until the first of the year.

Ringo has a habit of standing guard by lying on the circular stairs going to the tower.  He can see out the windows and give early warning of anyone who might decide to approach my house.   He doesn’t really fit on wedge-shaped stairs and, although I’ve never seen it happen, I have heard enough to know he either must fall asleep and roll down a couple of stairs, or he’s throwing one of his toys down the stairs and chasing it…or he’s located a bug and is hell bent to attack it from all sides.  I just know he’s very quiet, then BAM, the sky is falling.  For reasons known only to him, he doesn’t always approve of the alignment of the pillows on the couch downstairs and periodically he flings them far and wide.  It must be because I leave the house without him (which is rare) or he’s demanded an excess of cookies and felt short-changed with what I offered. It’s something I haven’t figured out.

The town folk are gearing up for the cattle drive tomorrow.  I noticed a gathering of porta-potties south on Douglas, ready to receive visitors.  The cattle are going to be passing my house tomorrow afternoon and I’ll be parked at the foot of my driveway watching…along with other friends who can’t make it downtown for various and sundry reasons.

Get a good night’s rest tonight because you’ll want to be downtown by 10 am tomorrow when all the festivities begin.  I’ve posted the Chamber of Commerce schedule of events again so that you’ll have a handy guide.  I’ve heard a few people talk about how they wish the music could be downtown, with the beer gardens and street dance as was once so common in the “old days”.  It was a way people socialized, and it was fun.

Tomorrow, if you are able, you should stop by Drover building (the building north of the “Drover Building with the oriel/bartizan”) that once housed the RAP gallery on Saturday.  It has been cleaned up and is ready for visitors.  Robert Rogers is showing a collection of his father’s western paintings, such  display of Charles Rogers works a very rare happening.  I can’t remember the last time these were available for viewing….but many years ago. I hope you’ll stop by the gallery, visit with Robert and view the paintings.  I think he also has his father’s prints for sale, if you are interested.

The portions of the earth on which we are prepared or able to live are modest: 12% of the total land area and 4% of the whole surface if you include the seas.  Said another way: no less than 99.5% of the world’s habitable space by volume, according to one estimate is fundamentally - in practical terms completely - off-limits to us. One wonders why we are doing such a piss poor job taking care of the organism on which we live.

“You’re killing somebody. And there’s no denying that. And especially when we know that several people have been declared innocent with the new scientific techniques, and we’re not real sure if the individual we’re executing this evening or next week is really guilty. And that in itself, that kind of doubt — the other thing most of us know — all the research which indicates that capital punishment does not deter. And it seems so illogical to say to the public we do not want you to kill, and to demonstrate that we’re going to kill individuals.” -Allen Ault, former Georgia corrections commissioner and former warden from the Georgia prison where Troy Davis was executed, on what it is like to participate in executions.

We’re having a family “fiesta” tomorrow night after the running of the bulls.  Two grandsons will be home which makes it a very special occasion.  Tyler is here for a few days before reporting for his next Air Force job assignment in Cincinnati at the University Trauma Hospital.  Drew will be home for an overnight from Boulder where he works as a personal banker.  My niece from Kansas City is also arriving for the cattle drive.  She’s not a newcomer to Ellsworth and has always enjoyed being here for our festivities.  So, it appears it will be a gala weekend and I’m very much looking forward to  being surrounded by family.  Life doesn’t get any better than that.  Maybe pictures will follow.

Where is that satellite that was supposed to come crashing to earth today???

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: political musings — Peg Britton @ 8:40 am



Filed under: prairie musings, Video — Peg Britton @ 8:14 am

You don’t want to miss this.

Uploaded by RoadtoResilience on Sep 7, 2011

Tom Hanks narrates the epic story of the 9/11 boatlift that evacuated half a million people from the stricken piers and seawalls of Lower Manhattan. Produced and directed by Eddie Rosenstein. Eyepop Productions, Inc.

BOATLIFT was executive produced by Stephen Flynn and Sean Burke and premiered on September 8th at the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Summit: Remembrance/Renewal/Resilience in Washington. The Summit kicked off a national movement to foster community and national resilience in the face of future crises. See to become a part of the campaign to build a more resilient world. The film was made with the generous support by philanthropist Adrienne Arsht, Chairman Emerita, TotalBank (



Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 10:54 am


Fackbook is going way too far…it’s about time to move away from it.



Filed under: prairie musings, Jeffee Palmer — Peg Britton @ 5:57 pm


From nowandthenadays | September 20, 2011 at 6:27 pm

by Jeffee Palmer - Lawyer, historian, writer, mother, grandmother, native Texan, UT grad, and proud Austinite!

In sleepy Austin, Texas, I came to consciousness during the “wonder years” world of the 50s and 60s, and like everyone around me, I was proud of my nationality, believing in the superiority of all things American.   My 21-year old self was taken aback, therefore, when it was pointed out that the rest of the world didn’t quite see things my way.  Living in Lima, Peru, I learned that many upper class Peruvians ( (insulated in a caste system based on blood lines) were unimpressed with Americans, referring to them among themselves as “burros with money.”  It surprised me because I had been taught that the United States was a good neighbor and friend in our hemispheric neighborhood.  They should like us!

Gradually, I realized that these Peruvians had been seeded with large doses of European culture and its snobbish aversion to uncultured Americans.  In fact, Lima seemed more European than Latin American, eating Continental style with not a chicken fried steak on any menu.  Back then, you could find menu selections of Canard a l’Orange (Duck with Orange Sauce) or Lobster Thermidor that would make a Frenchman feel at home (or Julia Child trill in delight)! Subject to widespread immigration, the country had been populated with many Europeans who transplanted their cultural norms, languages, and foods in a welcoming soil.  A Swiss man sold cheeses and chocolates and other delicacies from Switzerland from his La Tiendicita Blanca (the Little White Store).  Italians opened restaurants serving food from their homeland, where invariably your dining partner would disparage the “Americanization” of true Italian cuisine in the U.S.  I enjoyed knowing Pierre, a delightful engineer from Belgium who spoke five languages, and another charming man, Eduardo, who came from Germany and spoke at least three.  He might have been a former Nazi, now that I think about it.  Italian brothers Valerio and Gianni had a textile company, speaking an Italian-laced Spanish that was so expressive!  Valerio taught me a betting system he used when gambling in Monte Carlo.

But meeting fascinating people and experiencing some cultural condescension did not cause any rips in the fabric of my American pride.  That didn’t happen until recently, beginning when I saw citizens at town hall meetings on health care reform, act like street fighters, screaming, threatening, and having hysterics at the idea of providing health care for all Americans.  These meetings were called to engage in civil and civic discourse about life, death, putting an end to unnecessary  suffering, and curing disease among our citizenry.  What is it about that subject that warrants uncivilized belligerence – violent displays of ignorance and selfishness?

And what about the disrespect that so many Americans shower on our president, from Speaker John Boehner to the entire stable of commentators on the most shameful network ever permitted to pollute American air waves?  After all, what is the birther issue if not undisguised racism, a move to discredit President Obama because he is black?  It doesn’t matter that a majority of Americans voted to elect him president, preferring him to his Caucasian opposition.  And while you may not support the policies of the man, what happened to showing respect for the office, the face of our nation in the rest of the world?

But even with all that, we didn’t reach the ultimate unraveling of my American pride until these last Republican presidential debates.  During the first one, the crowd actually cheered when the moderator noted that 234 people who have been executed during Perry’s tenure as governor.  And then, Governor Perry was asked whether he had any trouble sleeping at night in regard to this number, to which he responded in the negative because he trusted in the system and knew they all deserved it.  Or words to that effect.

Am I among a minority of Americans who believe that every time that a person is killed at the hands of the State, we should solemnly reflect and pray that this person was truly guilty, assuming we believe in the death penalty in the first place?   Hasn’t the Innocence Project reminded us (in case we forgot) that civilized beings should have at least a little concern that perhaps out of those 234 people—just perhaps—one may have been innocent.

At least Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter, seems to agree.  As she told Lawrence O’Donnell a few days later about the debate, “The moment that would have broken my father’s heart was the moment when applause broke out at the mention of more than 200 executions ordered by Rick Perry in Texas. It was stunning and brought tears to my eyes. This is what we’ve come to? That we applaud at executions?”

Describing the first time her father had to order an execution as governor of California, Patti said, “He and a minister went into a room, got down on their knees and prayed.”  That, my fellow Americans, is what decency at the head of an execution machine looks like.   And even more revealing is the inscription on Reagan’s tombstone:  “There is purpose and worth to each and every life,” Now we can argue about when life begins and I admit that I rarely agreed with this man as president.  But I cannot fault his compassion and respect for human life.  Civilized men and women  are not supposed to rejoice in another human’s death.

But rejoice they do!  At the next debate, the faithful cheered at the notion of letting a 30-year old die because he had no health insurance.  Dr. Ron Paul didn’t blink an eye over that prospect.  Has there been an invasion of body or brain snatchers who, as we speak, are replacing the minds of Americans with a version completely lacking in compassion?

These brain snatchers must be targeting conservatives.  New York Times’ Paul Krugman recently wrote, that conservative intellectuals used to support “‘a comprehensive system of social insurance’ to protect citizens against ‘the common hazards of life,’” singling out health, in particular.  . . Now, the conservatives no longer accept government intervention in the name of compassion.  “Compassion is out of fashion— indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the G.O.P.’s base.”

I hate to use the word “un-American” because conservatives flail it around almost as much as they do “socialism,” usually directed at our president, but who are these people with whom I share citizenship?
Whatever the answer, I sadly realize that the rest of the world are seeing these same people via satellites and computers.  These are the people who are representing us – all Americans – to the Europeans, Latin Americans, Asians, and every where else.  I can’t help but think the word “barbarian” must come to the mind of many . . . along with “burros with money.”


Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth Sites, Area Sites — Peg Britton @ 3:42 pm


Posted today on the Thompson Creek article:
A recently published book SERENIA’S KANZAS at most book stores and AMAZON gives more details to this settlement on Thompson Creek.  As their direct descendant I inherited photographs and letters from them at this time in history (Civil War and soon thereafter) and taking ‘Poetic License’ with their dialogue developed the rest of the story of the Johnsons and Campbells.

The sequel ANNE should be published by Christmas 2011.

Kathleen Boston McCune

You can read the Thompson Creek story here…



Filed under: political musings, LGBT — Peg Britton @ 8:08 pm

At 12:01 am tomorrow morning, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell goes into effect.  That is after 14,000 honored service men and women were discharged from military service for no reason other than being gay.  Slowly….inroads are being made to make all people equal in the eyes of the law, but we have a long way to go.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: prairie musings, print news, Kansas — Peg Britton @ 11:29 am

The Incomparable, the Extraordinary, Marilyn Maye
“The Greatest White Female Singer in the World,” according to Ella Fitzgerald
Maye Sings Ray, Ray Charles, That Is

Friday, November 18, 2011, 8 p.m.  McPherson Opera House, McPherson KS
Tickets: $35, $30, $25

Brit and I were two of Marilyn Maye’s faithful followers…as were all of our KU and Kansas City friends.  Maye lived in Kansas City, was the same age as most of us and sang at the Colony.  We loved her.  We loved to hear her sing and went as often as we could afford to…which wasn’t very often.   She was amazing then, and probably still is.  She was one extraordinary vocalist and she’s still singing at age 84. I won’t be able to attend her concert in McPherson but I bet I can get Ally to stand in for her dad and go hear her.  She’ll love her too.

Here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal that you might enjoy reading about Marilyn Maye.
Tues. Mar 2, 2010


Going to hear Marilyn Maye—who begins a two-week stay at Feinstein’s at the Regency March 2—is a bit like attending a wedding where the bride’s family and the groom’s family have never met. On one side of the room are the Broadway and cabaret people, who tend to like their singing big and theatrical, with a lot of drama and stage presence. On the other side is the jazz crowd, who want everything hip and cool and understated, and will split the scene if anything doesn’t swing. Ms. Maye is the only pop-song diva working today who can satisfy both crowds at once, combining the projection and personality of Ethel Merman with the musicality and virtuosity of Ella Fitzgerald.

It’s all a matter of timing. Ms. Maye’s singing has such relentless drive that she literally rocks your world; so many feet start patting in time that you immediately fear for the building’s foundation. In the Maye musical universe, everything swings—even the ballads. She’s so hip that basic scat singing is too square for her; she would much rather take a lyric phrase and stretch it into a run of syncopated, chromatic syllables. Even 4/4 swing itself is old hat; instead she likes to convert a familiar song like “Come Rain or Come Shine” into a high-powered 3/4. “I’ve always loved jazz waltzes,” said Ms. Maye in a phone interview from her home in Kansas City, Mo. The time signature “lends itself to too many songs. It’s swinging and yet it doesn’t go so fast that you can’t deliver the lyric.” One of Ms. Maye’s signature showpieces is a tongue-twisting vocal take on Paul Desmond’s iconic “Take Five,” which she swings, rather unbelievably, at five quarter-notes per bar—even harder than Dave Brubeck and Desmond (who wrote it).

Unfortunately, her professional timing has never been the equal of her musical timing. By the time Ms. Maye—who celebrated her 80th birthday at the Metropolitan Room two years ago—made it to the big leagues, it was already very late in the day for the traditional American songbook. She cut her first album for RCA Records, “Meet Marvelous Marilyn Maye,” in 1965, on the eve of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the Age of Aquarius. “I keep thinking that if I could have recorded earlier, my life might have been very different,” she said. RCA had enough faith in her to release seven albums of mostly standard-style songs in an era of diminishing returns. So did Johnny Carson, who had her on “The Tonight Show” a record-breaking 76 times and famously (on the notes to her 1968 album “The Happiest Sound in Town”) dubbed her the “Super Singer.”

Ms. Maye’s first professional experience was as a singing emcee in a kiddie revue every Saturday morning for several years, beginning around 1939, in the Jayhawk Theater of Topeka, Kan. “I introduced all the other little acts, as well as the cartoons and ‘The Lone Ranger.’ I sang ‘God Bless America’ more times than Kate Smith.” It was the first of many long runs in her career.

Unlike most singers of her generation, she didn’t hone her craft singing with a big band. Instead, she had an extended engagement at a nightclub called the Colony in Kansas City. For 11 years, 10 months a year, she sang there five nights a week. And it was there that she and her pianist and husband, Sammy Tucker (whom she describes as both “brilliant” and an alcoholic), worked out many of her classic routines. Most of the standards on her RCA albums were based on the arrangements she and Tucker fine-tuned in Kansas City.

They also cut an album together titled “Marilyn . . . The Most,” which was distributed mainly in Missouri. It was essentially a demo; they were hoping some label would pick it up, but instead it was heard by Steve Allen. He scheduled her for repeated appearances on his prime-time variety show, and the association with Allen led to the RCA contract and eventually to “The Tonight Show” with Carson. Today, Ms. Maye regularly dedicates concerts to both Allen and Carson: “They’re both here tonight—they just have better seats.”

Alas, that was precisely the wrong time to launch a career singing jazz and standards; she dented the “Billboard” charts a few times, but never enjoyed a blockbuster hit. (She’ll tell you how she turned down RCA’s request to do “Strangers in the Night.”) As the support network for her kind of music dried up—the major big-city hotel-based nightclubs folded their tents and silently stole away—she did more and more regional theater (one of her later albums is a one-woman cast recording of Jerry Herman’s score to “Hello, Dolly”). Except for a gig at Michael’s Pub in 1991 (how did I miss that?), she was barely seen in New York for more than 30 years.

Her current Manhattan renaissance is due to Donald Smith, of the Mabel Mercer Foundation, who booked her in his annual Cabaret Convention, in 2005, and to the Metropolitan Room. “I thought, ‘Who’s going to show up, eight people?’ Then when I got there, they were lined up down to the corner.”

Over the course of seven Metro runs since then, Ms. Maye has become a New York institution for the 21st century. With her powers virtually undiminished at age 82, she reminds me of the charge I used to get when Rosemary Clooney and Mel Tormé were with us (or when I get to hear Tony Bennett live). On her ’60s albums, RCA kept prodding her to do vocal versions of instrumental hits—from “Petite Fleur” to “Mr. Lucky” to “Washington Square” and even to “Java”—things that no one else would or could sing. There’s no one remotely like Ms. Maye: Her arrangements are generally killer fast—constantly changing tempo and key, and sometimes even taking side trips through other songs before coming back again—yet she makes them sound as natural and easy as “Jingle Bells.” On any given night, at the Metro (and surely at Feinstein’s) the room is packed, not least with dozens of singers. Ms. Maye always thanks them for being supportive, but clearly they’re there for their own benefit— to learn how it’s done.

Mr. Friedwald writes about jazz for the Journal.


Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 10:53 am

The cattle drive is coming within a few yards of my house on Saturday. In fact, I was forewarned this morning by a trail driver friend that I might want to keep my doors shut in case one of their errant longhorns decides to come inside. That should be interesting.

He also said we could visit their final camp before their drive through Ellsworth on Friday night near highway 156 and Oxide road…that’s slightly west of the 156/14 junction south of town.

You can follow all the activity of the trail drive…blogs, photos, personal accounts, schedules….HERE.

Saturday is going to be a huge day in Ellsworth.  You won’t want to miss it.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: political musings, print news, Sam Brownback — Peg Britton @ 2:28 pm

TOPEKA – Yesterday, the Kansas Department of Labor announced that Kansas’ unemployment rate has increased for the first time since 2009. After eight months of Republican-led debate on abortion, marriage and strip clubs, it is not hard to understand how this occurred.

“Gov. Brownback and the Republican Legislature have complete control over every facet of state government,” said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis (D-Lawrence). “This is what happens when our governor and Republican Legislature make divisive social issues their top priority.”

“I believe that former Gov. Parkinson and the previous Legislature put Kansas on the right track towards lowering unemployment and growing our economy, but that focus on job creation has vanished over the last eight months,” said Davis.  “During the beginning of 2011 Kansans were going back to work, but according to Brownback’s own Department of Labor economist, Tyler Tenbrink, ‘there has been no noticeable improvement in the Kansas labor market since April’.”

“Last January, Sam Brownback told the people of Kansas that his first priority as governor was to create more jobs.  We now know his rhetoric doesn’t match his record,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, (D-Topeka).  “These unemployment numbers show that job creation isn’t even close to being his first priority.  Instead, he spent his first session laying off teachers, state employees, and abolishing 4,600 art-supported jobs, all while promoting an extreme social agenda that does nothing to improve our state’s economy.”



Filed under: print news — Peg Britton @ 11:57 am


A cow is stuck in the mud at the bottom of an empty stock tank in Garfield on Wednesday July 27, 2011. The historic drought of 2011 dried up stock tanks all over Texas.

Photographs by Jay Janner
Story by Brenda Bell
Austin American-Statesman staff

The meanest drought in modern Texas history looks different out here, away from the cities.
There are no emerald swaths of St. Augustine lawns, no blooming shrubs, no misters cooling bar patrons as the sun goes down on another cloudless, 105-degree day. The disconnect between what rural Texans are experiencing and sheltered urbanites are seeing has never seemed greater.
Out here, the brutality of the drought is measured not in annoying water restrictions or water pipes bursting in the dessicated ground — all now commonplace in Texas cities and towns — but threatened livelihoods, and the waning of life itself.

Livestock and agricultural losses are already estimated at $5.2 billion, and expected to rise. Stock tanks have dried up, hungry cattle are being rushed to market, crops plowed under. Wildfires have torched more than 3.4 million acres; deer are abandoning their young; oak trees that have weathered many a hot summer are fading.

The state’s aquifers, which supply 60 percent of its water supply, are dropping, squeezed by development pressure and lack of rainfall. Some of the brightest jewels in the river system - the Blanco, the Pedernales, have slowed to a trickle. The Sabine, in normally lush East Texas, is at an all-time low.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows an angry red blotch covering almost all of Texas, denoting extreme to exceptional — the most severe — drought conditions. In the past 12 months, just 15 inches of rain have fallen, the driest such period on record. The average daily temperature in July (87.1 degrees) beat the old 1954 record, by nearly two degrees. August temperatures, currently averaging over 89 degrees, are on target to set a new record too.

These “phenomenally consistent” weather conditions are the result of a long-running La Nina weather pattern — the same set-up for the infamous 1950s drought, says Mark Rose, meteorologist for the Lower Colorado River Authority. When it began in 1949, one of every two Texans was still living in rural areas; by the time it ended seven years later, Texas had become an urban state, most of its population unfamiliar with the yearning for a good, two-inch rain.

There is no better depiction of that earlier time and place than Elmer Kelton’s “The Time It Never Rained,” the story of an old rancher’s struggle against the unforgiving “drouth” (in the Texas vernacular) — a story that rang so true that many readers believed the main character was based on their own fathers.

“I hoped the novel would give urban people a better understanding of hazards the rancher and farmer face in trying to feed and clothe them,” Kelton wrote in his preface to the book. “The heaviest readership, however, was west of the Mississippi. In effect I found myself preaching to the choir.”

Kelton died in San Angelo in August, 2009, a few months before the last statewide drought ended.


David Tucker, a ranch hand at Rocking H Ranch in Garfield, gives water to an exhausted cow he rescued that was mired in the mud at the bottom of a stock tank on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. The eight-year-old cow survived the ordeal, but two weeks later she got stuck again and died.


Terry Hash pauses after searching in the cracked soil for cotton seeds in his 175-acre cotton field in Garfield on Thursday, August 18, 2011. Hash planted 800 acres of cotton, corn, wheat and sorghum, and almost all of it was destroyed by the drought. Despite having insurance, Hash said he worries about how he is going to pay his farm loans and borrow more money for next season’s crops. ‘Lots of sleepless nights,’ Hash said. ‘You lay in bed wondering what the hell you’re going to do.’


Hundreds of acres of corn were destroyed by the drought on this farm in Round Rock on Tuesday, July 12, 2011.


A cow looks for blades of green grass in the bottom of an empty stock tank at a ranch near Manor on Wednesday, July 27, 2011.


Cattle wait in a pen to be auctioned at the Gillespie Livestock Company in Fredericksburg on Friday, August 10, 2011. Cattle auctions did brisk business this summer because ranchers were forced to sell much of their herd due to lack of water and grass. It could take years for the ranchers to replace their herds, and beef prices are expected to rise sharply after briefly going down.

Underweight cattle wait in a pen to be auctioned at the Gillespie Livestock Company in Fredericksburg on Friday, August 10, 2011. Some ranchers could not afford hay for their cattle or could not find it to buy.


A water slide and a rope swing are rendered useless at a pond in Old Dime Box in Lee County that has dwindled to just a few inches on Thursday, July 14, 2011.


Dead trees are silhouetted against the dawn sky in Wyldwood on Thursday, August 18, 2011.


City of Austin Water Utility workers repair a water main break in the intersection of Airport Boulevard and 51st Street on Thursday, August 18, 2011. The broken water main closed the busy intersection for several hours causing traffic problems. Shifting ground caused by the heat and drought is breaking water pipes all over Austin



Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 12:06 pm

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