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1/21/2005

Rural Culture on the Plains of Kansas

I’ve just returned home from a Rural Leadership Conference held at The Barn Bed & Breakfast in Valley Falls, Kansas. Each January The Kansas Sampler Foundation invites rural leaders from around the state of Kansas to renew their look at Kansas through the creative talents of Marci Penner. Out of the realm of the foundation arose the Kansas Explorers Club over a decade ago. Since that time explorers have scoured the state seeking to “See Kansas With New Eyes!”  
 
Rural Kansas has undergone a transformation in the past 40 years that has turned some communities into ghost towns. Many, many more are teetering on the edge of a dangerous cliff with little to encourage them to hang on. But, wait! Here comes Marci Penner and the Kansas Explorers riding to the rescue!  
 
Marci challenged us to put our money to good use on a planned field trip to Effingham & Horton, Kansas. A requirement of the trip was to spend $10 at Effingham Market. Another $10 was required of us at the Electric City Emporium in Horton. You should have seen the faces of the proprietors as 47 Explorers fell upon their places of business and enthusiastically bought more than they had ever sold before in one day. The catch was that it was all later donated to help families in need in the area.  
 
Explorers were also encouraged to buy stamps at the Effingham Post Office. Several hundred dollars of stamps were sold supporting the small office that needs to preserve its viability to the community through an accounting of its sales of postage stamps. At Horton, Explorers also visited the English Leather Shop where 21 year old Luke Pollock is carrying on the honorable tradition of repairing society’s worn leather shoes, boots, saddles and jest about anything else made of leather. He’s attracting folks to his shop from miles around! The local newspaper, The Horton Headlight was a special find with a back room and basement crammed full of antique newspaper equipment. The old 1880’s printing press in the basement was still sitting with the last paper that it had run still winding its way through rollers as though it could be fired up to run the daily within minutes! Tom at Electric City Emporium is a natural retailer. He wouldn’t do anything else. His isles were crammed to the ceiling with a profusion of STUFF! He even has the Kansas Cowboy on a shelf! As each of us stepped to the counter his smile grew ever wider while the cash register rang loud and clear.  
 
The real impact of all this doesn’t really sink in until we’ve all gone away. It is kind of like everyone in town looks at one another and says, “Did that really happen?” You betcha! And then the enthusiasm just catches hold like a cold that won’t go away only this is a GOOD thing. We jest infected the whole community with a new “vision of tomorrow” for their hometown.  
 
Rural Kansas has a lot to offer and with the Kansas Sampler Foundation and it’s Kansas Explorers Club on the trail to preserve and sustain rural culture we’ll be offerin’ up a whole lot more in the years to come! 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 
 

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