Sunday Snapshot: A Cow in a Field

I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve managed to not post anything for almost a month, even though I have a whole bunch of things I can write about.

Here is a picture of a cow to tide things over.

We met on a minimum maintenance road somewhere in southeastern Franklin County. When we stopped to inspect a section of muddy road, this cow came by to say hello.

We met on a minimum maintenance road.

We met on a minimum maintenance road.

Sunday Snapshots: A walk on the prairie

Our weather station reported that today’s temperature reached 102.3 degrees. The air is thick with humidity, yet the ground is so dry the grass is brown and even the weeds are losing the will to live. But two weeks ago, parts of Kansas were blessed with heavy rains and mild temperatures, and Jim and I found ourselves at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

The movement of clouds create ever-shifting light and shadows on the prairie.

The TPNP is quintessential Kansas, one of the few places where you can experience giant views of native prairie. In addition to the original homestead and school, the park includes bison that graze in the pastures, and nearly 40 miles of hiking trails weave through acres of grasses and prairie flowers. The trails are open 24/7/365, and the lighting around the visitor center is thoughtfully designed to minimize impact on the night sky, making it a perfect place for stargazers and photographers.

Southwind Nature Trail.

Following Jim along the Southwind Nature Trail.

Because we didn’t have a lot of time that day, a park ranger recommended that we follow the Southwind Nature Trail and the spur to Lower Fox Creek School, a total of less than three miles of walking. Yet in such a short hike, we climbed hills, crossed a creek, spotted butterflies, and were surrounded by cheerful birdsong. It was good for the soul.

Wide Open Spaces

Sunday Snapshot: Shoaf Monument at Union Cemetery

The twin columns of the Shoaf monument at Union Cemetery in Douglas County, Kansas.

The twin columns of the Shoaf monument at Union Cemetery in Douglas County, Kansas.

We were on our way home from a weekend drive–the storm clouds to the east of this monument would eventually produce a tornado near Atchison, Kansas–when we spotted this unique monument. Twin columns, twin urns.

Twins. Lost.

The epitaph for Ulles Uriar Shoaf (April 17, 1866–October 26, 1882) and Susan Marria Shoaf (April 17, 1866–November 20, 1882), reads:

They were lovely and pleasant in their lives.
By death they were not long divided.
Twin Son & Daughter of
Solomon & Margaret
Shoaf

Appanoose Museum in Franklin County

JIm and I first noticed this charming school building on one of our weekend wanderings not long after moving to Franklin County a couple of years ago. It was only recently, though, that we discovered the building is still in use as a museum and community center.

Appanoose School continues to serve as a community center and museum.

Appanoose School continues to serve as a community center and museum.

The first thing we learned: this is not the original school building. The first school, designed by Ottawa’s own George P. Washburn, was built in 1919 and burned down in 1934. The current building is the second building, which was used as a high school until 1963, when the high school consolidated with Pomona. In its history, the building has also served as an elementary school and, at one point, the school taught kids from first through twelfth grade.

The original Appanoose High School, which burned down in 1934.

The original Appanoose High School, which burned down in 1934.

Today, the building serves as a community gathering place, a small free lending library, and a storage space for the new elementary school. The gymnasium floor is maintained and often used for practice. But Jim and I were there to see the museum, which is open on Sunday afternoons from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This is truly a grassroots museum, a collection pulled together by a group of local history enthusiasts who wanted to preserve the story of Appanoose.

Appanoose was never a town, but rather a rural community. The museum shares the story of those who were brought together by Appanoose School, as well as the small surrounding communities, some of which only exist today in a church or cemetery name, like Richter and Greenwood. Displays also showcase rural life in the early 1900s.

A model of the Richter General Store.

A model of the Richter General Store.

Though not high-tech by any means, the displays are thoughtfully and cheerfully laid out, and despite having lived in Franklin County for more than two years now, I realized I still had a lot to learn about some of the smaller communities in the county’s history.

I was particularly charmed by a room filled with technological odds and ends, including a wonderful set of old typewriters and a telephone operator switchboard.

A telephone switchboard that was once in use in Franklin County.

A telephone switchboard that was once in use in Franklin County.

The museum also honors area veterans, and there are several displays about the local men and women from the Appanoose community who have served. There is also detailed display about James O. Baxter, a Pomona man who was shot down over Germany during the Battle of the Bulge, but whose remains were not recovered until 1999.

Admission to the museum is free, though donations are appreciated. The volunteers are truly interested in local history and are happy to answer questions. The museum is worth a look, and it’s a lovely introduction to the history of the northwest corner of Franklin County.

Sunday Snapshot: In the setting sun at St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park

I’m writing more about St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park later this month. In the meanwhile, here’s one of my favorite photographs of the plant life there, shot in the warm glow of the setting sun.

It looks a little like chamomile, but I think it's Daisy Fleabane.

It looks a little like chamomile, but I think it’s Daisy Fleabane.

Sunday Snapshot: Museum at Prairiefire

I learned about the new Museum at Prairiefire completely by accident: I happened to catch a discussion on a friend’s facebook page about places to visit in Overland Park, and someone mentioned a new museum opening in May.

Museum at Prairiefire.

Museum at Prairiefire.

The museum is part of a larger development called Prairiefire, which has created an upscale small-town village of arts-and-crafts-inspired apartment buildings, a shopping area, a cinema, and the museum, all within walking distance of each other. The museum building itself is gorgeous and is surrounded by a wetlands park filled with native plants.

The museum includes a Great Hall (free to explore), an American Museum of Natural History exhibit (admission fee required) and a Discovery Room for children (admission fee required). During our visit, the Great Hall was filled with dinosaur and fish fossils.

The big reason to go during the next few days is the AMNH exhibit, Water: H20 = Life. Originally on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, it is now a wonderful traveling exhibit. It’s beautiful, it appeals to the senses with a combination of live animals and plants, text, sound, hands-on demonstrations, videos, and technology. We noticed that even younger children were taking their time exploring the exhibit, and we were amazed by how much we learned about human, plant, and animal water needs and usage. Jim and I were especially enamored with a short film about the availability of fresh water on the planet, which used multiple projectors to create a three-dimensional globe in the center of the viewing area.

The people of Tonle Sap live in floating houses and work in floating businesses.

The people of Tonle Sap live in floating houses and work in floating businesses.

Mudskippers have adapted to live in and out of water.

Mudskippers have adapted to live in and out of water.

Our favorite part of the exhibit: a video on fresh water availability projected to create a 3D world.

Our favorite part of the exhibit: a video on fresh water availability projected to create a 3D world.

The exhibit runs through July 13. If you’re in the Kansas City metro area, it’s worth a stop. We’re already looking forward to the next exhibit.

Sunday Snapshot: Sharp-Morrison Cemetery

Sharp-Morrison Cemetery in Linn County, Kansas

Sharp-Morrison Cemetery in Linn County, Kansas.

It’s known as the Sharp-Morrison Cemetery, because the larger monument belongs to George J. Sharp (1809-1873) and the smaller one belongs to George J. Morrison (1871-1879). They are alone at the edge of a field, not far from where No. 15 School once stood, shielded by the ghost of a tree gone nearly as long as the two Georges.