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Segment 1: How a sea voyage inspired a fashion collection.

Her grandparents immigrated to America from England in the hull of a ship. Hear how that journey helped inspire a collection at this year's West 18th Street Fashion Show.

  • Amani Skalacki, jewelry designer/stylist

West 18th Street Fashion Show, 8 p.m. Saturday, June 9 on West 18th Street between Baltimore and Wyandotte Streets, Kansas City, Missouri 64108.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

At The Law Shop in Van Meter, Iowa, attorney Amy Skogerson untied a piece of blue yarn from around a bunch of craft sticks. Each stick had a word or short phrase stamped on it, and she read from them as she placed them on her desk: “negotiate, court representation, research law, draft documents.”

Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

As a kid growing up on his family’s farm in Louisburg, Kansas, David Wayne Reed just wanted to perform.

He wore his mom’s heels, a cinched-up shirt as a dress, and a wig to entertain visiting seed salesmen. He also choreographed dances for the hay crew.

“As kind of a slightly effeminate little kid, (farming) was hard, it was masculine, and I didn’t know that I really fit in. I kind of felt like a little bit of a square peg,” Reed told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Central Standard.

David Wayne Reed

May 18, 2018
Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

He's an actor, writer, storyteller ... and now, filmmaker. While growing up on his family's farm in Louisburg, Kansas, David Wayne Reed used to dress in drag and perform shows for the hay crew and visiting seed salesmen. He became a founding member of KC's Late Night Theatre. And in his new film, he returns to his farm roots.

Ashley Leal parks in front of the Plains, Kansas, Community Library. It’s about to close, but she doesn’t care. She pulls out her blue laptop.

“I’m ... using the Wi-Fi,” Leal says with a laugh.

Her home internet was so slow, she came to the library parking lot. Cars often idle there in the evening while their drivers tap into a plodding, but treasured, link to the internet.

“I’m just thankful that we have somewhere to go,” Leal says.

It’s the only free internet in this small western Kansas town. For many people, it’s the only internet, period. Surprisingly, part of the problem and the solution, for rural areas may lie in Netflix traffic.

For about 10 years Laura Krier has lived in Concordia, Kansas, a small town that she’s seen get only smaller.

Without some kind of economic development, she fears things it will only get worse.

Segment 1: What's up with demolition derbies?

Americans have been intentionally ramming cars into each other, for sport, since the 1950's. Learn about the Midwest's Colosseum and why the old school demo derby may be running out of gas.

  • Frank Morris, NPR correspondent and senior editor, KCUR

Segment 2, beginning at 22:46: Yes. Even if you're a Midwesterner, you still have an accent.

The Midwest has a reputation for being a bland, neutral, accent-free place. But experts say that simply is not true.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

Farmers at Betty’s Truck Stop near Sweet Springs, Missouri, took their coffee with a side of bad news early Wednesday morning.

In response to the Trump administration's threats to place tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods — including farm implements — China threatened to sanction $50 billion in U.S. exports, this time targeting airplanes, cars, chemicals and soybeans.

“Beans are down 50 cents overnight, and corn’s down 14 because of this trade thing with China,” Jim Bridges said as he took a seat at a large table in the center of the restaurant. Bridges, who grows corn and soybeans, made a few calculations and reckoned his potential losses at about $50,000.

YouTube

Derek Klingenberg is kind of a farmer celebrity.

His YouTube channel draws more than 70,000 subscribers for ag-themed pop-music parodies, trombone covers and, more recently, cow art made with satellites.

This week, the Peabody, Kansas, farmer took his cow art to the next level, or altitude. He posted a video showing his cows to form a giant “Hi” as seen from the heavens.

Segment 1: How does weather shape Kansas culture?

It's that time of year when tornado sirens ring out their eerie sound and crazy weather hits the plains. Inspired by a photography exhibit of Kansas tornado sirens, we explore how the weather affects our lives and communities.

Segment 1: Why barber shops are more than a place to your haircut. 

An author with Kansas City roots reminisces about the unique relationship between African-American boys and barber shops in Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

This is just not the kind of news Kansans want to hear, but: Four of the ten most isolated towns in the United States are in Kansas.

Loz Pycock / Flickr -- CC

Wendell Castle revolutionized the art world. The Holton, Kansas, native was known as the father of the studio furniture movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He mostly made chairs that looked like sculptures ... and the only shop class he ever had was in seventh grade. He died last week at age 85; hear his story and what he meant to the art world.

David DeHetre / Flickr -- CC

After the 2016 presidential election, many people were surprised by Donald Trump's win. National news organizations sent reporters out to so-called "Trump country," trying to figure out what they missed. We take a look at how stories that unfold nationally play out in Midwestern states.

Then: A look back at the fight for gay rights in Kansas. KCUR's C.J. Janovy shares stories of activists who both struggled and found solidarity in an inhospitable state.

Guests:

White residents in Missouri are dying at a higher rate than they did nearly two decades ago, according to a report from the Missouri Foundation for Health.

The increased death rate largely is occurring in the state's rural counties, especially in the Ozarks and the Bootheel region and substance abuse appears to be a major factor. For example, deaths by drug overdose have increased by nearly 600 percent in many rural counties. Poor mental health also plays a significant role, as suicides among young and middle-aged adults have increased by 30 percent since 1995. 

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

In places where the unemployment rate is well below the national average — states like Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa — one would think it’d be easier for communities to recruit new residents to fill open jobs.

But the housing market works against rural towns and cities where jobs often stay open because there are too few affordable homes and apartments to buy or rent, or the ones that are affordable need lots of TLC. It’s a situation that threatens to turn low unemployment from an advantage into a liability.

Mike Mozart / Flickr-CC

Today, we meet two high school students from Kansas City's Central Academy of Excellence who are using art to tell stories about gun violence. 

Plus, find out how communities, both rural and urban, are affected by the expansion of dollar stores such as Dollar General.

Guests:

Public Domain

Few people bring Kansas City's history to life like Monroe Dodd. But in light of our resident chronicler's move to Colorado, we indulge on one more journey through the great folklore of our town. Then, Kansas City Ballet's lead dancer, Lamin Pereira, shares his experience performing in The Nutcracker. ​Also, learn about a crisis rural America is facing through the lens of a novelist.

Guests:

Frank Morris / KCUR

It’s a common story: Ambitious kids move from small towns to larger cities, never to look back. When their parents die, the family wealth that’s been built over generations through farming, ranching or agriculture-related businesses often follows the kids, draining the economic lifeblood from those rural communities.

The largest generational transfer of wealth in modern times is expected to happen in the next 10 years and rural foundations in states like Iowa and Nebraska are working hard to retain at least a bit of those hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The Missouri French Creole community, located mainly in the eastern part of the state, has its own language and culture. We hear more from a filmmaker who is working on a documentary about them.

Plus: the overlooked history of how Jews shaped small towns in the Midwest. It's the topic of a symposium this weekend: Jews in the Midwest: 1850 to 1950.

Guests:

Russell Watkins / Flickr - CC

Even though the winds and rain have subsided, the carnage wrought by Hurricanes Maria and Irma have left parts of the Caribbean without power and everyday necessities. Today, we find out how recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are progressing from two Kansas City relief workers who saw the devastation firsthand. Then, learn interesting facts, folk-wisdom, and oddities of the Show-Me State, via a brand new Missouri Almanac.

Senator Claire McCaskill / Flickr - CC

For a Democrat running in bright-red Missouri, the 2018 election will be quite the challenge. Today, we speak with Sen. Claire McCaskill about a new Republican opponent's campaign bid as well as the latest developments on Capitol Hill. Then, we learn how the 2014 Farm Bill is affecting dairy farmers and why they're pushing for reform, not replacement.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Drive along U.S. Route 400 in western Kansas, and you’ll see hundreds of metal sculptures on tall poles, some as high as 20 feet. It’s the work of self-taught artist M.T. Liggett, who crafted signs and whirligigs out of scrap metal, tractor parts, and pipe. Whimsical - and politically provocative - art. 

Liggett died on August 21 at the age of 86. These outdoor sculptures are now in the care of four trustees, including one based in the Kansas City area. 

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Kansas-based singer Vanessa Thomas, who tours the country sharing a bill with Grammy Award-winning tumpeter Doc Severinson, doesn't know why she's wearing a cast in her baby pictures.

"It was a foot cast that went all the way up above my knee," she says.

The rest is lost in what she calls a no-man's land of forgotten memories. A story she knows is hers, but almost can't believe is true, except that paper files full of documentation insist that it is.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

Darrel Urban stands in front of a newly-dug pit the size of two football fields laid end-to-end, and ten feet deep. Soon, it will be full of hog waste, and two more large pits will join it.

A site two miles outside of the tiny town of Pfeifer, Kansas, in the northeast corner of Rush County near Hays, is slated to be the new home of a massive hog farming operation. It will be home to thousands of pigs, and their waste. It is a less than a mile from Urban’s home.

Vanessa Thomas

Sep 22, 2017
Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

Vanessa Thomas is a singer who is living her dream life in Lawrence. She's a vocal coach, a church music director and a mom of four. Oh, and she also tours the country to perform with the legendary Doc Severinsen. Hear her story: how she overcame the trauma of abuse through music, and how her hometown of Clay Center, Kansas, played a big part in connecting her to the world.

Guest:

Earl Bullington is an advisor for Focus Bank, which rescued the struggling Pemiscot County Hospital in 2013.
Bram Sable-Smith / for Harvest Public Media

$1.25 million.

That’s the size of the bill that could have shuttered the only public hospital in rural Pemiscot County, Missouri in August 2013.

Publichall / Wikimedia Commons

Modern dance just wouldn't be the same without Kansas City-raised David Parsons. Today, we meet the star choreographer behind works commissioned and performed by troupes in New York, Paris and just about any other city with a ballet scene. Then, we explore the economic relationship between small towns and big businesses. Learn how rural communities are able to encourage, attract and, more importantly, keep hold of new jobs.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

If you pull a fire alarm in any large U.S. city, it's likely that paid firefighters waiting at a nearby station will quickly respond.

But seven out of 10 American firefighters are actually volunteers. They cover vast sections of the country, making up an aging network that is increasingly understaffed and overworked.

Local Boy Scouts carry flags down Illinois Street in a parage marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of Sidney, Nebraska.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Sidney, Nebraska, has prospered while many rural cities have struggled. For decades, the city has been home to Cabela’s, a major outdoor retail chain.

As Cabela’s completes a deal in which it will be bought by a rival, however, the future of Sidney’s economic engine is in doubt. As in other rural cities that have faced the loss or closure of major industry, the question is how the community will move on and grow in the 21st Century.

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