Wednesday, June 22, 2022

It's a Small World

 When I was a young girl, I thought my father must know more people than anyone in the world.  I would meet someone from another school and mention my new acquaintance to my father, and he would proceed to tell me who my new friend's parents were, and sometimes who the grandparents were.  Of course, his wide acquaintances were primarily in the half-a-dozen counties where he had been raised.

This blog is really about those serendipitous meetings where you are someplace far from home and you meet someone you know, or you meet someone new and discover you have a very close connection.  For example, when we attended the Montreal World's Fair of 1967, we ran into a man my husband had played basketball against in high school.

During my husband's tour of duty in South East Asia, he was playing pool in the officers club and heard someone call out his name, using his high school nick name.  It was an acquaintance from a neighboring Kansas town whom, my husband discovered, was also an Air Force Officer.  Although they hadn't seen each other for several years, they had a nice visit half way around the world.

In the early 2000s we took our mothers to England for a holiday, and while having lunch in an English castle my husband spotted the parents of one of our best friends having lunch in the same castle dining room, and we stopped by to say hello..

This story, however, is a little different, since the person I met was a stranger.  We were attending an art exibition in Oklahoma, and I wandered into an ongoing conversation with one of the artists exhibiting her work.  The Filley Art Museum in Pratt, Kansas was mentioned, and the artist acknowledged having some familiarity with that area.  As I joined the conversation, the artist asked if I grew up in Pratt, and I replied that I had grown up in the small community of Byers, adding "which you have probably never heard of."  She replied, "Oh, yes, I know Byers.  My Aunt Gloria went to school there."  "Gloria Martin?" I asked, never imagining it might be someone I knew.  "Yes," she replied excitedly.  "That's my Aunt!"

Painting by Sonya Terpening

As a result of pure serendipity I had a delightful conversation with Sonya Terpening, an artist who began studying with professional artists in junior high school, who received her degree in art from Oklahoma State University, and who was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from that university in 2020.  However, her recognition as an artist goes well beyond Oklahoma, and even well beyond Texas, where she now lives.  She and her work have been featured in such important magazines as Art of the West, Western Art Collector, and Southwest Art.  Her deep feeling for the West, which is the frequent subject of her paintings, is beautifully expressed in her own words:  "Living in Oklahoma or Texas is living with the fable of the West, both states are so rich in history." (More of her work can be seen online.)

What a treat for me it was to meet Sonya Terpening, and what proof that "It's a Small World" that I wandered into a conversation, mentioned my small childhood community, and unexpectedly had a pleasant chat with an artist whose work we had admired as we wandered through the exhibit earlier.  Serendipity can shrink the world and produce delightful surprises!   

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

What Else May You Be Missing in Kingman?

In previous blogs I have mentioned outdoor mural art and indoor post office art, from both of which history can be learned.  Kingman, Kansas offers both examples.  In a previous blog I featured the two murals by Stan Herd on the north outside wall of the Main Street Kingman County Historical Museum.

Just across the street from the Museum is the Kingman Post Office.  Kingman is one of those lucky towns whose post office contains art commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Department Section of Painting and Sculpture.  Kingman's painting, "In the Days of the Cattlemen's Picnic," was done in tempera by Jessie S. Wilbur.

Because I have already posted a blog about the commissioning by the U.S. Treasury Department Section of Painting and Sculpture during the 1940s, I will mention that only to date Jessie Wilbur's painting as being done in 1942.  At that time, she would have been 30 years old and would have completed her study of art at Colorado State Teachers College.

Initially, she became interested in cubism, which held her interest for many years, but later she became interested in impressionism.  However, it was as a printmaker that she became best known.  None of these styles dominate her painting in the Kingman Post Office, but her inclination toward a more modern style of painting can be seen.

She did not rely entirely on her paintings for income but rather taught at Colorada State for a few years before going to Montana State College in Bozeman, Montana, where she also taught courses at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana.  

Many examples of her public art may still be seen. Some of her art is on permanent display in the Jessie Willber Gallery at the Beall Park Art Center in Bozeman.

The next time you travel through Kingman, Kansas, you just may want to visit the Post Office.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

More Praying Mantids to Share

Credit: Lyn Fewick  Praying mantid turns to greet me!

I was so excited to see an article in the newspaper from the K-State entomologist about Praying mantids.  Those of you who follow my blog know that I am fascinated by them.  The article described how to ensure a garden has a few praying mantid guardians by carefully removing a discovered egg case and putting it in a glass jar with a lid that has at least 10 small air holes.  The instructions said to keep the egg case in the house with warm temperatures and wait 4-6 weeks for eggs to hatch.  The instructions included the alternative of keeping the jar in the refrigerator to delay hatching and then removing it when you want it to hatch, which will take 1 or 2 months after removing it from the refrigerator.

Credit:  Lyn Fenwick     Admiring his shadow

Frankly, I have much more confidence in Mother Nature to help with the hatching than in myself getting involved.  If I got something wrong, I would feel very guilty.  The need to make sure the nymphs were not released to freezing temperatures, which would be fatal, convinced me that I needed to stay out of the praying mantis mothering and leave it up to nature.

Of course, if a building to which the mantid mother had attached her eggs was being torn down, or I spotted a branch or stem in the burn pile about to be set ablaze, that would be different.  In such emergency rescue cases, even I might be willing to take the chance of hatching the nymphs, whose eggs case appears like a hardened piece of Styrofoam stuck on branches, walls, fences and sides of houses.  Perhaps a school science class might be entrusted with the responsibility, and more specific instructions could be obtained from Kansas State Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources.

Credit:  Lyn Fenwick   Discarded shell

As for myself, I will continue to keep my eyes open for praying mantid hiding in leaf rubble, where I once spotted one, or hatching on the side of our house.  I watched in amazement as it slowly escaped from the case it had outgrown.  Several weeks later that year, my husband and I were sitting on the porch when a praying mantid joined us.  He showed no signs of fright and lingered with us to enjoy the afternoon before finally disappearing.  It didn't take too much imagination for me to believe it might have been the praying mantid I watched shedding his case earlier in the spring. 

Credit:  Lyn Fenwick     Escaping outgrown case 


They are beneficial in gardens, eating "anything they can grab onto with their raptorial front legs," according to K-State entomologist Raymond Cloyd.  That includes flies, of which we had so many last spring and summer, and crickets, months, wasps, and caterpillars.  Unfortunately, it also includes butterflies, but if they are on their toes, those butterflies can escape into the sky!

Be on the lookout for these interesting insects, which are described as "a beneficial to a home garden."  

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Buffalo Bill Cody and Hays

William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody
Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick

The picture above shows the image of William F. Cody, also known as 'Buffalo Bill,' outside the Hays Library.  Buffalo Bill is nearly legendary in Hays, Kansas, his exploits familiar to local people.

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick
Beneath the bust of Cody his importance to the city of Hays is described, explaining how he co-founded the town that was the predecessor of Hays, with a man named William Rose in 1867.

Cody was in the area because in 1867 he was employed by the Kansas Pacific Railroad, his job being to hunt buffalo to feed the railroad work crews.  The following year, 1868, Cody served as a scout and guide in the U.S. Army.  These assignments were often dangerous, and he was awarded a Medal of Honor.  His celebrity made him well-known, and he was featured in the popular dime novels of that era.

In his time, he was seen as a hero--brave, handsome, charismatic.  Yet today we often judge our heroes with hindsight.  His reputation was gained by the displacement, if not actual slaughter, of indigenous people and animals.  Indians saw the arrival of trains, and the people inside those trains, as a threat to their way of life--and they were correct.  While Cody killed the buffalo to feed railroad workers, he also killed for sport, killing far more than was needed to feed work crews, and he sometimes led hunting groups.  It is believed that Cody himself killed 4,000 buffaloes.  

Photo: Lyn Fenwick
Indians also killed the buffalo, but almost no part of the animal was wasted, from their wooly coats and their meat, all the way down to their sinews.  In contrast, wealthy sportsmen shot from trains, leaving the buffalo to rot on the prairie.  Sometimes they would compete to see who could kill the most buffalo in a single day.  It has been estimated that for every buffalo killed, as many as four wandered off to die, suffering from their wounds. 

The irony is that part of the thrill was the fact that these prairie bemouths were regarded as a great prize to kill.  As they were slaughtered to near extinction, they were also considered the Monarchs of the Plains.  The plaque at left reads:  "Herds of 60 million Buffalo once roamed the Prairie until reduced to 300 and near extinction.  They were the basis for the Indian Economy, Food for the Emigrant, Railroad Worker and Soldier." 

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick

The reverence for the Monarch of the Plains is sculpted from the native limestone of the region, depicting the buffalo looking out across the fort once occupied by soldiers and now visited by tourists.  And so, Hays, Kansas honors both the marksman who used his frontier reputation to create his own Wild West Show and profit from the reputation he built killing buffalo, while on a hilltop outside of Hays a buffalo carved from the native stone looks over the city of Hays.

Cody's Wild West Show became internationally famous, but in the end, his show went bankrupt and closed in 1913, although he performed in other shows until his death in 1917.  Near extinction, a small herd of Buffalo was used to breed back the Monarch of the Plains, avoiding extinction.

Photo credit:  Lyn Fenwick