Monday, May 30, 2016

A Different Side of World War II: Camp Concordia

On this Memorial Day, amidst the images of flags and celebrations, I've remembered a lonely tower in the middle of a Kansas field.

Earlier this month, Randy and I participated in the Discover Kansas trip with the Kansas Master Farmer-Homemaker group. One of our stops was at Camp Concordia. Before the tour, I didn't realize that Kansas had a number of POW camps during World War II. One of them was Camp Concordia, located 2 miles north and 1 mile east of the Cloud County town.

From May 1, 1943 through November 8, 1945, more than 4,000 German soldiers were transported to the north central Kansas camp, located on 157.5 acres just outside Concordia. The camp was built at a cost of $1.8 million and consisted of 313 buildings, including a hospital, post, restaurants, fire department, and barracks.

Of course, some 815 of our U.S. military personnel were stationed at Camp Concordia during World War II, guarding the prisoners and interacting with them.
Photo from the Camp Concordia website. This picture of Camp Concordia was taken from the water tower in the fall of 1945.
Since Camp Concordia was strategically located in the heartland of America, many of the prisoners were employed on local farms.
Army trucks transported the POWs to the surrounding farms, where they earned a small wage from the farmers for their work.
Though some local citizens were against prisoners being awarded freedom beyond the confines of the camp, farmers were thankful to have additional help, especially with so many young locals away in service to their country. With the passage of time, warm bonds formed between farm families and prisoners. The "education" both "sides" forged in the course of these working relationships was perhaps more enduring than any college curriculum could offer.
This picture is of an army truck with a POW work detail and their guards passing through Concordia. Photo from the Camp Concordia website.

While most of the old Camp Concordia has been returned back to farmland, a few of the original buildings still remain, including one of the stone guard towers, the water tower base, a Main Gate Guard post and officers club. In July 2015, Camp Concordia's warehouse building - called T-9 - opened as a museum.
During World War II,  nearly every state in the nation had at least one POW camp. An estimated 360,000 POWs were held on U.S. territory during the war. Camp Concordia was the largest of 16 camps in Kansas. It mainly housed German prisoners who'd been captured in battles in North Africa.
Camp Concordia was built as a model POW camp, but because approximately 50 of the first prisoners at the compound were Nazi officers, the atmosphere quickly turned oppressive and threatening. After a number of violent episodes, the Army transferred 44 Nazi leaders away from Concordia. As measures of restoring order to the camp, the library removed Nazi reading material and instituted college coursework for prisoners under the jurisdiction of the University of Kansas.

POWs were housed, fed, clothed, allowed mail and paid for work. The camp was run by the rules set forth in the Geneva Convention of July 1929, which required the humane treatment of prisoners.

The POWs at Camp Concordia had several bands and orchestras, among them the 47th Grenadier Band. The POW dance band played for USO dances.
 Photo from the Camp Concordia website.
During its two years of operation, the camp saw only two escapes and eight POW deaths.
On May 7, 1945, the German officially surrendered. The last prisoners departed Camp Concordia on October 31, 1945, and the camp closed for good on November 8, 1945.

Camp Concordia is open by appointment only. Contact Cloud County Tourism for guided tours: 785-243-4303.

Camp Concordia was just one stop of several in Cloud County. My favorite was the historic Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. I love stained glass windows and their chapel was full of them.
Their gardens were nearly as colorful as the stained glass windows.
The Whole Wall Mural is also impressive. It's the longest sculpted brick mural in the U.S. It was on the eastern wall of the Cloud County Historical Society Museum, which was packed to the brim with artifacts from the county and region.
Bob's Toy Barn in Clyde had aisles and aisles of farm toys and other well-displayed vehicles from Bob Condray, who has been named to the National Farm Toy Hall of Fame.
Besides collecting ready-made toys, Bob makes his own in an attached workshop. I would challenge anyone to figure out which are which.
And we ate supper that night at the LCL Buffalo Ranch.
The Discover Kansas events are a good reminder that we have plenty of tourist-worthy attractions in our own backyard. Summer vacation doesn't have to mean leaving the state. It could be as close as a tank of gas and a little time.

More later on the Republic County portion of our Discover Kansas tour!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Field Report

The Crayon box has a color called Yellow Green. If you look at it by itself, you'd say it's as "green" as Kermit the Frog. But put it up against plain old Green and there's definitely a tinge of yellow in it.

That's kind of how the 2016 wheat crop is looking these days. Even with all the rain and the cooler temperatures earlier this month, the crop is beginning its transition from green to golden.

We got another 1.40" of rain Tuesday night (or Wednesday morning, depending upon  your perspective).

And while there may be a grumble or two about all the rain at the local coffee shop, most farmers would prefer being delayed with spring tasks with rain instead of looking to the empty skies during a drought.

For the first time since July 2010, Kansas has been classified as "drought free," according to Mary Knapp, assistant state climatologist.
The rains and cooler temperatures have given the wheat crop good "filling" weather, creating plump heads filled with wheat berries. We have been fortunate to avoid hail and tornadoes during this active weather pattern which brought devastation to the areas around Dodge City, Abilene and Chapman the last few days. (Thoughts and prayers are with those who are cleaning up.)

So we choose to be thankful - even if the farming "to-do" list is not getting crossed off as quickly as we'd like. After all, only two months ago, the wheat fields looked stressed. A dry winter had taken its toll. We were anticipating another ultra-early harvest, (like 2012) but this time, it would be because of lack of moisture.

Now the outlook is totally different.

Details create the big picture.
Sanford I. Weill, American businessman

I look at the "big picture" as I drive by fields, hurrying from one place to the next. But yesterday, I also decided to look a little closer.
Six weeks ago, the alfalfa was drought-stressed and was getting devoured by weevils. Randy has been wanting to begin harvesting it for more than a week now. But, on the other hand, it's lush and thick. While it is getting some blooms, it's not yet past its prime.
Just ask the butterflies that flit and float through the field.
The corn crop is off to a good start, though its "feet" are getting wet. 
The corn we had to replant is now up and growing next to its bigger "brothers."
Last Friday, there was enough of a window for Randy to plant forage sorghum and milo.
It's not up yet, but there is plenty of moisture in the ground for it to draw from.
There's a running joke that farmers are never happy with the weather. (Jokes often are born from a modicum of truth.) While there may be some grumbling at the parts counter or the restaurant, most of us are singing a different song, kind of like the happy trill I heard from the meadowlark yesterday afternoon as I chased butterflies across the alfalfa field.
And we are thankful.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Trouble with Kittens

The trouble with a kitten is that
eventually it becomes a cat.

~Ogden Nash

Since Randy's favorite animal is Big Cat, I'm sure he would disagree with Ogden Nash. I, on the other hand, think the poet was on to something. 

Our latest crop of kittens has taken up residence in the window well outside my basement office. I know when they are hungry. They protest rather loudly until their mama comes for dinner. 
But even I have to admit they are pretty cute.
However, I have decided that taking pictures of kittens is a little like taking photos of toddlers. Rarely do you get everyone looking in the same direction with a pleasant expression on their little faces. Case in point: Our five newest critters on the County Line were not ready for their closeups.

"Really? Not one of you wants to look at the camera?"
 Gray Kitty wants to play "King of the Mountain."
The golden kitten seems to be Mr. Personality. (Actually, I don't know whether it's a "he" or a "she." Time will tell.)
Kinley and Brooke got to meet the kittens when they were here a couple of weeks ago. It was perfect timing. We knew that the mama had delivered her babies. But she didn't bring them up to the house until the day before the girls arrived.
That's another thing kitten have in common with human babies: They grow and change so quickly. So far, the kittens have not replaced Cozy in Kinley's affections. But just give them time.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Meringue-Topped Chocolate Chip Bars

Where has May gone? For teachers and their students who are counting down the hours until the end of school, perhaps it's moved less swiftly. But, I look at the calendar and I see that June is barreling its way toward me. With June, comes a four-day church meeting in Topeka, which I hope gets finished up before harvest starts.

While television weatherpeople have started complaining about the rain and cooler temperatures, I'm thankful that the more moderate weather may have helped me avoid a head-on collision of church obligation and farm duty.

But, before we say goodbye to May, we have Memorial Day coming in little more than a week.
Memorial Day weekend just isn't the same as it was back when I was a kid. We still do the annual cemetery tour with my parents, putting flowers on loved ones' graves. We also try to meet Randy's sister and family to decorate graves for their family.

Look closely to see the rainbow in the clouds!
But back when I was grade school age, we sometimes had a picnic in Lemon Park in Pratt with Grandma and Grandpa Leonard and often with my Great Aunt Helen and Great Uncle Mike Stauth before we'd make the cemetery rounds.

As a kid, I didn't think about the preparation that went into toting a meal to the picnic shelter. I just looked forward to playing on the playground equipment and the novelty of eating a meal outdoors.

These days, we usually let a local pizza parlor do the cooking for us. And, as the chief cook around here, that's fine with me, too.

This recipe for Meringue-Topped Chocolate Chip Bars would be good at a picnic or for an after-the-cemetery-tour snack. They 'd be a fun treat at a camp-out with family or friends. They'd even be a little fancier chocolate chip bar to include on a cookie platter for a special gathering.

I found it in Calvary Baptist Church's most recent cookbook. It's a recipe from Alda Hildebrand, who always brings home her fair share of the ribbons in the open class division at the Stafford County Fair. The crunchy meringue top is the perfect way to offset the chewy cookie layer underneath.
Meringue-Topped Chocolate Chip Bars
Recipe adapted from Alda Hildebrand
Calvary Baptist Cookbook: Celebrating Our Heritage
Bar Cookie:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup miniature chocolate chips
2 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar
Chopped nuts (optional)

Cream butter, brown sugar and sugar. Add egg yolks, water and vanilla, mixing well. Sift together flour, soda, baking powder and salt and add to creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into a prepared 9- by 13-inch pan. Set aside.

Topping: Beat egg whites. Gradually add in brown sugar, beating well, until a meringue forms. Spread over cookie batter. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped nuts, if desired. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Today, I'm linked to Weekend Potluck, hosted by these bloggers. Check out the tried-and-true recipes from them and other foodies!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Million Dollar Rains

Randy says these timely spring rains are "million dollar rains." Now, before anyone starts lining up for a loan, he's not saying that it will put a million dollars in our bank account. But after a dry winter, the 6 inches of gentle rain we've had during the past month will improve the Kansas wheat harvest overall. (And, on a personal note, it will help pay down our operating loan at the bank.)

This latest rain brought another inch of valuable moisture to our 2016 wheat crop.
 The cool temperatures have been ideal for filling the wheat heads with grain.
 Our alfalfa fields are looking much more lush and productive than they did earlier this spring.
Randy plans to start putting down alfalfa next week, depending on the weather forecast.
Earlier, we had the co-op spray the hay fields with insecticides after they were being chomped by weevils. An army of ladybugs is now feasting on aphids in the alfalfa.
The rains have provided the moisture Randy needs to plant forage sorghum and some milo. That's on the agenda for today.
I took this photo last week when Randy was having to replant in a corn field.
Since we are dryland farmers, our 2016 corn crop wouldn't have happened without the April rain, and the subsequent rains have helped bring it up.
Peace Creek during the "golden hour"
The rains also have helped fill ponds and creeks, as well as bolstering the grass in our pastures, where are cows and their calves are "vacationing" for the summer. 
And, speaking of "vacations," my farmer likes spending his time off at the golf course. The spring rains have really made the Stafford course look beautiful.

Some people complain about rainy days. But for farm families, a good, gentle rain is just about the best antidepressant there is.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Prayer Jesus Taught Us

At church, I've been hearing a sweet little voice behind me recite the words to The Lord's Prayer. The higher-pitched voice joins the chorus of adult voices and, for me, has added a whole new dimension to the unison recitation of "the prayer Jesus taught us."

We recite it together every week during our worship service at Stafford United Methodist Church.  It's one of those things that - if we're honest - we may even say by rote, not even thinking about the words and what they mean.
Byers United Methodist Church, Pratt County, my childhood church
I've been going to church since my parents carried me through the doors of the Byers United Methodist Church more years ago than I like to admit.  I don't remember intentionally learning the words to The Lord's Prayer. Perhaps I did, but it's also possible that I learned them vicariously while sitting in a pew marked with my ancestors' names, and hearing them repeated, week after week.

Byers United Methodist Church
For that young worshiper, learning something new forces her to concentrate, to think about the words that are so familiar to the rest of us.  My friend, Debora, helped me to look at The Lord's Prayer in a new way, too. At church, Debora's mom handed me a 14-day devotional, "Praying The Lord's Prayer at Noon" (Prayer Point Press, 2015) and told me that Deborah thought I might like to read it. (Deborah is from Stafford, but now lives out of state. We keep in touch on Facebook and when she comes to visit her mom.)

The devotional is written by Dr. Terry Teykl, a United Methodist pastor in Texas who also works with a Christian radio station, KSBJ. He proposed praying The Lord's Prayer at noon daily, calling it "Pray Down at High Noon."
Stained glass in the Via Christi, St. Francis, chapel. Taken when we visited a friend in the hospital in April.
In the devotional, Teykl says:
"It's a challenging time to be the Church of Jesus Christ. There are a lot of things that we, as Christians, don't agree on. But one thing we can do is offer the prayer Jesus taught us to pray back to God in humility and unity. The brief passage, roughly 21 seconds when spoke, is simple enough to be prayed by children, yet rich enough to have fueled volumes of literature. It was Jesus' instruction to His disciples, and, as a result, it holds a sacred place across many denominations. Maybe it can be a gathering point where we can lay down our own personal or political agendas and simply ask God to come."
The Lord's Prayer covers it all, Teykl asserts, "large things, small things, material things, spiritual things, inward things and outward things."
Stained glass at the Via Christi, St. Francis, Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother
In the devotional, Tekyl breaks down The Lord's Prayer's phrases and creates a two-page reflection for each of the 14 days. He also includes a different Biblical translation of the familiar prayer each day.

It is believed that the early Christians regularly spoke The Lord’s Prayer at morning, noon, and night.

Would the world change if we committed to this simple plan ... praying The Lord's Prayer each day at noon? Maybe. Maybe not. But maybe the thing it would change is me. It might be worth planting the seed and seeing what happens.
Via Chrsti, St. Francis, Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother
"Imagine the Body of Christ praying The Lord’s Prayer all around the world. As it becomes noon in each time zone, our sisters and brothers will be praying for God’s Kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven." 
Larry Bauman,
Ardmore UMC District superintendent
Maybe I need to approach it with child-like wonder, like that little voice behind me in the church pew.
Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, Concordia, Kansas