A busy August in Walnut Shade

Chapter 11

All the news from Walnut Shade
August 11, 2011

The last couple of weeks have seen the return of summer to Walnut Shade.  We had an unusually cool June and July, but the thermometer hit a high of 99 on Monday and it looks like we will stay in the upper nineties for a couple of weeks at least.  The humidity has been high as well, perhaps because of the continued flooding along the Missouri River.

Marie Green reports that the County Commission approved their annual contribution to the Miller County Fair.  The fair, beginning in two weeks, looks to be bigger and better than ever.  Thursday night is the livestock parade and dance (the dance is for the kids, not the livestock).  Exhibits and contests are scheduled all day on Friday, with the fish fry that night, and Saturday will see the awarding of ribbons at the closing ceremony.

Sherri Brown, town librarian, is working with the Excelsior Book Club to promote “Walnut Shade Reads” this fall.  The idea is to get as many people as possible to read the same book.  She got the idea when she and Anna Mae Bundy and Connie Thompson visited the Kansas City Public Library a few weeks ago.  Sherri’s asking for nominations for the book to be read.  You can make your suggestion by filling out a form and dropping it at the library or at Bach’s Lunch.  Forms are available at those two locations and at City Hall, St.Brendan’s, St.Stephen’s, First Baptist Church, the VFW and American Legion.

John Cramer, Jr., son of Dr. John and Sandy Cramer, received word that he has been awarded a full four-year scholarship to the University of California at Santa Cruz where he will study robotics engineering and astrophysics.  He will graduate in December from Miller County High School and will enter UC-Santa Cruz as a second semester sophomore.

Inez Harris reminds members of the Prairie View Extension Club that the regular meeting will be held at Shirley’s next Monday afternoon.  Rosemary Wilson from the K-State Extension office in Manhattan will give an update on the state budget and present a program on hypertension.

Alvin Begley and Mike Brown spent Saturday afternoon painting a couple of rooms at the VFW hall.  Marj Begley and Elaine Brown supervised.

Tom and Michelle Clemons received word from the documentary film makers who stayed at Holly House over the 4th of July that they will be coming back in October to shoot some additional footage for their film on the Oregon Trail.  They have been traveling through the western states since their time here.

May Finley, Gwen Burton and Andrea Evans and attended the antique show and sale in St.Joseph  over the weekend.  May reports that “steam punk” seems to be the hot style right now.  Whatever that is will probably begin showing up in the shops downtown.

Miss Cecilia Davenport, who retired in 1980 after teaching high school English here for forty years, has just published her memoir, “The Elements of My Style.”  She’ll be signing copies at the library on Saturday.

The Willing Workers 4-H Club met at the First Baptist Church on Monday to finalize preparations for their entries in the Miller County Fair.  John Cramer, Jr. is entered in Public Speaking, Technology and Photography.  Lauri and Andrea Duffy have entries for the Dog and Rabbit shows and Andrea is entering Public Speaking.  Jennifer Hall will compete in the Fashion Review and Tyler, Sarah, and Taylor Heath have entries in Small Livestock.  Hannah Tucker is entered in Public Speaking, the Fashion Review, Photography and the Cat Show.  Good luck to all the kids; we know they’ll come home with a mound of blue ribbons.

The Miller County SCS board gave its OK to build a water retention structure on Bill Heath’s farm.  Construction should start in October, Bill reports.  If everything goes as planned, he’ll be pulling fish out of that pond in a couple of years.  Oh, wait, he wants to remind everyone that it’s entirely for erosion control; if some fish happen to get into it, well, there’s just no fighting Mother Nature.

You know, I think I’ll go over to Bach’s Lunch and have one of Susan Hall’s delicious fish sandwiches, but…

Until next week, I remain
Your Faithful Correspondent

I always know when the dog days of summer have arrived because Jerry doesn’t want to leave the house between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.  He has the most amazing bladder, but I insist that he go out a least a couple of times during the day.  He gives me a soft growl and irritated look when I push him out the door; probably the same response Judy got when I was still employed and she made me go to work.  While my job at NEKEDC was almost always interesting and certainly paid well (at least as well as a public sector job ever does), for the last few years I felt that I was just putting in my time.  When the opportunity to retire came around, I had no hesitation and I know that I made the right choice.  Jerry is particularly happy I retired, except on days like this when it’s nearly a hundred degrees in the shade and he’s standing in the back yard looking morosely at the back door.  

These days, it seems like there’s even less shade than there used to be.  While the prairie grasses in this part of Kansas were early replaced by shocks of corn, the area immediately around Walnut Shade was known for many years as the “Garden of Eden” because of the numerous apple orchards that were planted in the early1870s.  At the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, apples from Miller County were awarded the gold medal at the horticultural exhibit.  Over the next few decades, however, the orchards were ravaged by weather, insects and poor cultivation practices and by the early 1920s, most of the trees had died off and were pulled up in favor of planting corn and wheat.  Lou Hawkins still has a few apples on his farm and Phyllis and Rodney Dane own ten acres of the original Walnut Creek Orchard that once belonged to Phyllis’ great grandfather.  Their trees produce enough apples in good years to sell at Lou’s farmer’s market and to turn into cider for the Halloween Howl in October.

But to be honest, apple trees don’t provide much shade, not like the trees that gave the town its name.  Walnut Shade, of course, got its name from the groves of trees along Walnut Creek and the Big Blue River.  Those stands originally extended away from the creek and river banks nearly a quarter mile, but slowly, they were cut closer to the streams to provide more and more land for cultivation.  The trees that were within the expanding city boundaries were protected, however, and over the years, residents of the town have taken pains to make sure that the trees that do die out are quickly replaced so we don’t become “The town formerly known as Walnut Shade.”

The other day, I ran into Phyllis Dane at the Stop and Go asked her how plans were coming for the fall Master Gardener’s Tour.

“All of the gardens were identified a couple of months ago and it seems like everyone is pretty confident it’s going to be a good tour this year.  Last year was a disaster, but pushing the date back a couple of weeks will help,” Phyllis pointed out.

She’s right:  last year was a real disappointment.  The summer was unusually hot and dry and many of the fall-blooming plants were dying by the end of August.  The tour was scheduled for the second week in September and that was a mistake, one that Phyllis pointed out many times leading up to the event.

“We all should have known better.  We are Master Gardeners, after all,” she said with a laugh.

We all hope that this year’s tour will be better.  Despite the heat right now, we’ve had good periods of rain and the meteorological forecast is for a cooler than usual September and October, so that bodes well.  Since the gardens at both St.Brendan’s and St.Stephen’s are on the tour, I suspect there have been extra prayers offered for good weather and a sizable turnout.

Last summer and early fall are shaping up to be a busy time, as they almost always are.  In addition to the Miller County Fair and Master Gardener’s Tour, schools begins the last week in August.  The 4-Hers will be taking their winning projects to the Kansas State Fair the first two weeks of September and the Prairie View Festival will be the third weekend of that month.  October is always filled with football games and other school activities and then it’s time for the holidays.

The weather has kept me from doing much painting outside, but I absolutely must get out if I’m going to keep my commitment to being in the Art Fair in Fremont.  I’ve completed about a dozen pieces in my studio so far, all of them from sketches or photographs, but I think I do my best work alla prima, en plein air.  Perhaps tomorrow morning, I wake up Jerry early and we’ll get out before the heat settles in, but I know we’ll have to be back home before 7:00 a.m.  Any later than that and I’ll get that growl and irritated look from him.  Got to keep the dog happy at all costs.

About stclairc

Abstract artist, photographer, writer
This entry was posted in Art, Dada, Observations, Serendipity, Small Town Life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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