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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
One of the jobs I held as a college student attending Kansas State University required I call on potential customers in the Manhattan area who inquired about a line of agricultural products. Fortunately the calls were not cold calls but in response to inquiries produced by advertisements published in a farm newspaper called Grass and Grain.
One day I was asked to call on a feed lot located on a former air base near Herington. After finishing my last class of the day, I headed out to see my potential customer. I found the air base without much trouble but once there I was told the man I needed to see was working elsewhere on the base. My instructions were to follow a runway to that area of the base. I could follow the runway, but I was not drive on the runway because it was still classified as an emergency landing strip and some days Air Force pilots used it for touch and go landings. If I drove on the runway I would risk of colliding with a jet airplane. While the smooth concrete runway was tempting, I stuck to the rutted trail and hoped I didn't get stuck. I thought about the tricks sometimes played on unwelcome salesmen and thought perhaps they guys I talked to were pulling my leg. However, I didn't think tangling with a jet would have a good outcome and so I stayed as far as possible from the runway and watched for a shadow that would signal a plane was coming in behind me.
Didn't make a sale that day but I was glad when I was safely off the base and headed back to Manhattan.
This week the feedlot currently located on the base was the subject of a Kansas Profile story distributed by Kansas State University.
Ron Wilson, author of the story, wrote: From bombs to bovines. That sounds like an unusual transition, and it is. It describes a transformation of a former Army air base in central Kansas which became a cattle feedlot and is now part of one of the state's leading cattle operations.
Shane and Shawn Tiffany and their wives are the owners and operators of Tiffany Cattle Company, whose feedyard is built on the base near Herington. Coincidentally, Shane and Shawn grew up on this place because their dad managed the feedyard from 1988 to 2002. Their father then moved to take over their grandfather's silage harvesting operation.
Shane and Shawn went to K-State where they participated in the livestock judging team. Then they started into corporate careers. Shane worked at the Kansas City Board of Trade and then went to Texas as a cattle buyer.
In 2007, the owner of the feedyard contacted them. He was ready for an ownership transition and wanted to see if they were interested in buying.
"After much prayer and discussion, we took the jump," Shane said.
The Tiffany Cattle Company now consists of a 15,500-head-capacity feedlot and an extensive farming operation. The feedlot is located on what had been the Herington Army air base during World War II. During the war, B-29 bombers had been built in Wichita and then flown to Herington so that pilots could be trained in them. The airfield closed in 1945 and eventually went into private hands. In the early 1960s, a feedyard was constructed on a portion of the airfield.
"We sit on 42 acres of concrete," Shane said. "Our feed alleys are the old runways. Our feed bunks and waterers are on concrete too." This creates the advantage of having less mud and more cattle comfort.
The feedyard is located in a rural area five miles east of Herington and south of the rural community of Latimer, population 21 people.
The Tiffany brothers have expanded and enhanced the operation since taking over. "It's a great team," Shane said. "We each have our responsibility." The brothers don't have official titles, but Shane essentially serves as business and marketing manager while Shawn manages operations, including maintenance, animal nutrition, and the large farming operation.
"God has blessed us so much," Shane said. When the Tiffany brothers took over, the yard was feeding about 3,000 head of cattle from eight to 10 customers. Today, the Tiffanys work with 130 to 140 customers and are feeding 12,000 cattle. Feeder cattle come to the lot from Virginia to Montana and from Texas to the Dakotas.
But as much as Shane Tiffany loves the cattle business, other factors such as faith and family rank even higher. "We're a Christian business," Shane said. "We wear our faith on our sleeve. We believe in honesty and hard work, and we've tried to establish that culture here. We also get to recruit phenomenal employees."
A plaque above Shane's desk says: "Man before business, because man is your business." The Tiffanys start their workday very early so they and their employees can make time for family and after-school activities.
Apparently, if I were to call on the feedlot today, I wouldn't have to worry about a plane landing on top of my automobile.


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

I've been thinking a lot lately about what people call "empty nest syndrome." Probably because it's about to happen to me and Kathy, but just as likely I think because it's an interesting notion ­­ the whole comparison to birds.
And men are much newer to being compared to birds than women. The term, empty nest syndrome, was first coined fairly recently in the overall scope of modern psychology, whereas pregnant women preparing for childbirth have been labeled as "nesting" for generations. More bird comparisons.
You think back to the time before you had children. So few responsibilities, so few obligations. So self-serving and simple. Holy cow, you can have that again!
But you don't want it.
You want your children to wake up and eat breakfast there forever. Every day for the rest of your life, you want to find them hanging out in the living room streaming horror movies with their friends. I realize this is a fantasy and it will most likely pass. I also realize that I know some unfortunate people whose children are 35 and they do eat breakfast and hang out all day at their parents' house. Because they still live there.
You don't want that, either.
So, I prepare as best I can for our nest to become empty, quiet, and maybe a little uninteresting. Daughter number one is finishing up her freshman year at Peru State College. There has been no indication she will either drop out or flunk out and return home to us. I guess that's either good or bad, depending on how you look at things.
Daughter number two informed me yesterday she received the housing assignment she wanted at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. So that appears to be happening also. Darn it. I guess all I can hope for is catastrophic academic performance in her final semester that would prevent her from graduating and force her to take some time off before college. Like until after I'm dead. She'll have plenty of time then.
Selfish? Sure, but I'm a dad.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

A recent trip south seeking Civil War history led us to visit many battlefields, including a small, hidden battlefield called Grand Gulf in Mississippi, along the Mississippi River. On a self-guided tour, we got a little off the beaten path and stopped at the "forgotten" Grand Gulf Cemetery. It was once the town cemetery, but with mortar fire from Union gunboats hitting many buildings in the town, and later when the path of the Mississippi River changed and flooded, the town was completely destroyed. With no one left to care for the cemetery, it has become neglected during the past 100 years.
The cemetery is on a rocky hillside with overgrown trees and moss hanging down from the branches, creating a mysterious atmosphere. Headstones were leaning and as we walked up the primitive and shaky rock steps. Leaves from oak trees covered the ground. Some family plots were once surrounded by ornate metal fencing, but throughout the years some of the fencing has gone missing and what is left is rusting. One family plot had a tall metal entry arch that possibly supported a metal gate. The archway had vines and flowers in the metal design. I could not help but think that when the family members created this plot more than 200 years ago, they considered it elegant and thought it would last forever, honoring those family members' grave sites.
Some of the dates on the deteriorating stones went back a long time ­­ born in 1801; died in 1840. We thought of cemeteries back in Kansas with the much more recent dates on the grave stones. What will cemeteries back home look like in 200 years?
As we walked from one cemetery plot to another, we noticed most of the tall stones had been knocked over by wind or other elements. There were holes in and around the grave sites, exposing too much. My husband and I felt so sad about the neglect of this cemetery. The early settlers of the Grand Gulf area revealed part of their history in what was carved on their gravestones. Some were more legible than others. They had come from Canada, Boston, New York, all to start a new life along the Mississippi River, where once paddle boats brought business and the town and area grew and prospered. But now the town was gone.
Many early settlers had brought their young families to the town and various untreatable fevers spread and took the lives of the youngest babies to the oldest family members. This was evident from the birth and death dates on many of the grave stones. Two such stones caught our attention. They were side by side. One had the names of four children: Francis E. Ragsdale, born 1832, died 1837; Frances Ragsdale, born 1833, died 1844; Samuel Ragsdale, born 1842, died 1843; and Martha Ragsdale, born 1844, died four months later. At the bottom of that stone was, "dear children of Francis B. and Ursula Ragsdale.
I was stunned as I looked to the second gravestone; the name carved was "Ursula Ann Ragsdale, wife of Francis Ragsdale; born in Jefferson County, M., January 26, 1812, died August 25th, 1846." Did Ursula die of the fever or of a broken heart after losing four dear ones? A crack in the top corner of the mother's grave stone seemed so appropriate.