Inez and the Governor

Chapter 20

All the News from Walnut Shade, KS
October 6, 2011

The Master Gardeners’ fall tour was a great success.  The weather was perfect and the crowds were well-mannered for the most part.

The Excelsior Book Club met at Flossie Wentworth’s house on Wednesday and enjoyed a light brunch provided by Susan Hall, who is trying out some new recipes for Bach’s Lunch.  Elaine Hunt says that she’s willing to be a guinea pig any time Susan wants to experiment.

Jim Fillmore has been spending a lot of time in Parkersburg.  He says that he’s rented a place where the Dixieland Stompers can practice without disturbing the neighbors.  Word around town seems to be that there may be another reason for his frequent trips, since Clarke Wick and Al Higgs haven’t seen the rehearsal space yet.  Carol Higgs thinks the “reason’s” name is Melody.

Stan Adams was installed last week as Commander of the Walnut Shade American Legion post.  Stan says that he worked his way up from janitor, but Lois says he never swept a floor in his life.

The American Legion is sponsoring a coloring contest in the elementary school and the winners in each grade will be announced on Veterans Day.  The theme this year is “It’s a Grand Old Flag.”

Miss Davenport’s niece, Anne Porter from Marysville, visited on Friday.

Mark Derby was selected to be second chair trombone in the All Miller County Jazz Band.  Mark explained that being chosen for second is really an honor since that’s the chair that plays the solo parts and improvises.  Les says that his son’s life is just one long improvisation, so he’ll be great.

Mayor Combs reports that the planning and zoning committee will hold a meeting next week to  review the proposed design guidelines for downtown businesses.  Sally Oswald will discuss the work the Main Street/PRIDE committee has been doing to improve the look of the downtown.

The first performances of As You Like It were Saturday and Sunday.  The acting was superb and the sets were first-rate.  Jeremy Walls is a graduate student at KU studying scenic design and he has created an interesting modern twist on the pastoral setting usually associated with the play.  You might call it Shakespeare meets the Desperate Housewives.

The Finley’s have sold Mayflower Antiques to Jason Glenn.  George and May have been splitting their time between Walnut Shade and Tucson for the last four or five years and have decided that it might be time to spend more of the year there.

Meanwhile, I’m spending as much time here as ever and….

Until next week, I remain
Your Faithful Correspondent

The garden at St. Stephen’s suffered a bit of damage on the Master Gardeners’ tour on Saturday afternoon when it was invaded by three two-year-olds who appeared to have no responsible adult supervision.  Sally Ryan was able to corral them and take them to the nursery in the Fellowship Hall where they stayed until their seemingly unconcerned mothers finally found them.  No apologies were offered and Sally made sure that the women knew they were probably not going to be “invited” back next year.  The advertisements for the tour plainly state that children and pets cannot be accommodated in the gardens, but every year, that information seems to slip by a few people.

Two gardens seemed to be the crowd favorites:  Marie Green’s blue wildflower garden and the White Garden at St. Brendan’s.  Marie has been “cultivating” Kansas wildflowers for the last ten years and has some spectacular specimens.  She has especially been collecting varieties of asters and shows Smooth, Souther Prairie, Spreading, Willowleaf, Azrur, Saltmarsh, Fendler’s, Drummond’s, Aromatic, and New England asters.  She intersperses these with Leavenworth’s eryngo, Mist flower, Elephant’s Foot, and Downy gentian.

The White Garden at St. Brendan’s has been featured in the Kansas City Homes and Gardens, Midwest Living and Urban Plains (an online magazine published at Drake University).  The garden was started by Sister Mary Frances White and Father Porter in the 1950s and has been an on-going project of the Alter Society since the passing of Sister Mary Frances in 1978.  Father Rick, who succeeded Father Porter in 1980, professed to have no gardening abilities and was happy to let Grace Morton and Anna Brady shoulder the maintenance responsibilities.  Over the years, they have recruited a core group of gardeners, most of whom have taken the Master Gardener course through K-State Extension.  The garden now includes specimens of Boltonia, Arrowhead, Cutleaf teasel, Daisy fleabane, Dotted smartweed, Lamb’s quarters, Prickly poppy, Sand lily, Western yarrow, Narrowleaf four o’clock, Moth mullein, Tall joe-pye weed, Ten-petal mentzelia.  The rose garden has varieties that are predominantly white, including Pope John Paul, JFK, Polar Star, Lady Liberty, Simplicity and Moondance.

Information about the flowers in both Marie’s wildflower garden and the White Garden can be found on the Miller County Master Gardener site and at

It’s always fascinating to see what the productions by the Acting Company will be like from year to year.  Lance Graves has been the director since the first season in 1994 and he consistently manages to astound and gratify his audiences.  In addition to his affinity for Shakespeare, he loves Gilbert and Sullivan, Shaw and Sondheim.  He stretches his actors to their limits and beyond, and makes the audience stretch just as far.  His first season was notable for having six actors quit after the third performance of The Life and Death of King John, a play that is rarely performed and with good reason: its five acts make it a long, long play and it requires a rather large cast of actors.  Lance was able to recruit several people from Walnut Shade for some of the non-speaking parts, but most of the actors drove in from Kansas City, Manhattan, Lawrence, and St. Joseph.  That began the tradition of having actors stay with Walnut Shade residents for the weekends of the performances.  Realizing that he had made a mistake trying to stage such an ambitious play, Lance quickly pivoted, cancelled the three remaining performances of King John and moved on to Westside Story.  Both the actors and the audiences embraced the change and sold-out shows were the result all the way to end of the season.  

In subsequent seasons, Lance has mixed Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies, but has not staged another of the historical plays.

“I realize that I tend to exhaust the actors with Shakespeare, but I try to revive them with a musical,” he said the other day, when we met at Shirley’s for breakfast.  Unlike the rest of the members of the Acting Company, Lance now lives in Walnut Shade full time.  “I’m really excited about doing the Gershwins this year.  We haven’t done their music before — I’m not sure why, really — but this one is so much fun and rather timely, don’t you think, although perhaps we should have done it in 1999.”

He was referring to the plot involving political (and other) promises made and promises (political and other), sometimes kept.

“It’s a bit daunting to do a play written and originally directed by George S. Kaufman, but Susan Hall has promised me that the corn muffins from Bach’s Lunch will be every bit as good as the ones Mary Turner baked for Wintergreen.”

I have no doubt.

Coincidentally, while Lance and I were talking, Inez Harris walked into Shirley’s and sat down at our table.  Inez is hosting Stephane Crain who plays Mary Turner.

“I must say that Stephane is just the nicest young lady.  She goes to bed singing and wakes up singing,” Inez said with a somewhat curious look on her face.

“Does her singing bother you, Inez?” Lance asked.

“Oh, no.  It just reminds me of my sister, Clara.  She used to do the same thing.  She loved to sing and the house was always filled with her lovely voice.”  Inez had just the slightest shimmer in her eyes and Lance and I thought she might cry, but she composed herself and motioned for Shirley to bring a menu.

Clara was Inez’s younger sister by three years.  She was, by all accounts, immensely talented and  was thought to have a promising career in the opera.  After high school, she was accepted in the voice program at Juilliard and was beginning to make a name for herself among the faculty and students.  During the summer between her sophomore and junior years, she came back to Walnut Shade and it was here that she contracted polio in 1953 at the age of twenty.  She died two years later from pneumonia, a common cause of death among those afflicted with polio at the time.  In her memory, her parents donated the funds to save the Opera House, which was scheduled for demolition, and to renovate the building.  Since then, it has been used as a movie theater, site for weddings and anniversary celebrations, high school graduations, lectures, church services, and finally the home of the Aeolian Acting Company.  I’m sure that Clara would be proud and I know that Inez is.

After breakfast, Lance went home to tweak the blocking for a couple of the scenes in As You Like It and Inez said she was off to Topeka to talk to the Governor.  She and he have had a running disagreement about his cutting off funding for the arts in Kansas.  

“I’m not going to let him get away with it,” Inez declared.  I’d hate to be in his shoes; Inez rarely loses an argument.

Well, the Art Fair is this weekend and I have twenty-two pieces for sale.  I borrowed a tent from Lou Hawkins and constructed frames on which I will display the paintings.  I’m looking forward to seeing the other artists and their work.  Mary McCready is quite pleased with the number of exhibitors, especially the two dozen from Kansas City, which is becoming nationally recognized for the quality of its art and artists.  Judy and I went down to the Nelson a couple of weeks ago to see the Monet exhibit.  I can’t say that I’m a big Monet fan, but it is always inspiring to wander around the galleries and see the Rothko, the Bentons, the Manets, the Pissarros, the Sargent, the Binghams, the Hartley, and the Degas, as well as the wonderful Henry Moore and Noguchi sculptures.  After a nice lunch in the Rozzelle Court restaurant, we wandered over to the Kansas City Art Institute and on to the Kemper Museum where an exhibit called The Big Reveal had just opened.  It included new acquisitions for the permanent collection and a major new work by Petah Coyne, Untitled #1336 (Scalapino Nu Shu), 2009–10, an installation centered around an apple tree with peacocks and pheasants mounted in it.  For some reason, it reminded me of some of the pieces Harry Morris creates, though if he ever used a bird in his it would probably be a wild turkey.  Come to think of it, Harry has used Wild Turkey in one of his sculptures, but not the bird variety.

About stclairc

Abstract artist, photographer, writer
This entry was posted in Abstract art, Art, Dada, Observations, Organic art, Painting, Small Town Life. Bookmark the permalink.

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