Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

It has been a hectic month--one filled with challenges and one filled with blessings. It has been a rather lean time, as I know it has for many this year. Last night, on Christmas Eve, I went to sleep with a wonderful sense of peace in knowing that my daughter was home, safe, asleep, our home was warm, and there were presents for her under the tree.

I am richly blessed with friends. Monday, my best girlfriends who are close enough, were here for lunch. In the middle of the laughter, I realized I was truly happy and forgotten whatever had been troubling me all week. For my girlfriends who are too far away, Mona in Kosovo, Carol in Philadelphia, Karen in South Carolina (Karen's card arrived while we were dining and we put it in the middle of the table), Michelle in Bartlesville, Teresa at Fort Leonard Wood, Rita in Cana--I send my love and gratitude for their friendship.

Keep the season in your heart.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jine the Cavalry

Today is the birthday of the Gray Ghost of the Confederacy, John Singleton Mosby, who was born in 1833. Fellow historian and emmy-award winning film maker Robert Lee Hodge commented this Southern icon:

Many years after the war, Mosby explained why, although he disapproved of slavery, he fought on the Confederate side. While he believed the South had seceded to protect slavery, he said, in a 1907 letter, that he had felt it was his patriotic duty to Virginia. "I am not ashamed of having fought on the side of slavery—a soldier fights for his country—right or wrong—he is not responsible for the political merits of the course he fights in ... The South was my country."

That says it all. In our book, The Day Dixie Died, we included an episode wherein shortly after the war had ended, a lone visitor was spotted at the grave of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, and leaving a single flower upon his grave. The visitor was one John S. Mosby. His relationship with Stuart was the stuff of legend. He, after all, orchestrated the "Ride around McClellian, Ride around McClellian," yes boys, "Jine the Cavalry!"

Also from Rob,

Mosby is famous for carrying out a daring raid far inside Union lines at the Fairfax County courthouse in March 1863, where his men captured three high-ranking Union officers, including Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Stoughton. The story is told that Mosby found Stoughton in bed and roused him with a slap to his rear. Upon being so rudely awakened, the general shouted, "Do you know who I am?" Mosby quickly replied, "Do you know Mosby, general?" "Yes! Have you got the rascal?" "No but he has got you!" His group also captured about 30 to 50 sentries without firing a shot.

A toast, to the Gray Ghost!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Five Pounds of Pleasure

Fellow Festus fanciers, look no further! The perfect Christmas gift is here. Gunsmoke: An American Institution by Ben Costello is the ultimate, be-all, end-all, definitive work on this television classic.

Ben was my guest on "Topeka Talks" today and I was disappointed that the book had not arrived in time for the interview. Lo and behold, in this season of miracles, the promised goodies arrived DURING the interview and I excitedly ripped into the box on the air. It's a hefty volume--5 pounds and not an ounce of fat. Every page is a treasure. There is a synopsis of each episode along with the cast of guests for that show, as well as interviews, narrative, quotes, and hundreds of photos. There are endless hours of pleasure in this volume. Visit to order and tell Ben that Deb sent you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Topeka developer, Henry McClure, joined me on "Topeka Talks" the other morning. Henry and partners are responsible for the new College Hill project near Washburn University. This area had been suffering from "blight," I believe that's the polite term for run-down home and businesses. I'm all for development in these areas; when we allow our inner-city to rot, it only spreads. Henry said the apartments are 70 plus percent ocuupied, and he's working on retail deals. Kudos to Henry for taking a chance on Topeka!

Speaking of development, news from the Kansas Statehouse -- new leadership and the value of gambling; from back home, prisons are economic development.

It's going to be a long winter.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Like an Oak

Everyone knows that my favorite Oak Ridge Boy is William Lee Golden. Always has been. Last week, I had the chance to interview him on the radio show; Sunday, Noel and I had the chance to meet him and his comrades at the Great Overland Station and then Carol Ann joined me for their Christmas concert at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. Noel was thrilled to get her picture with each band member and the GOS hosted a wonderful event. Likewise, TPAC was packed, and if we could have harnessed the energy in the room, it would have lit our holiday season!
PS--My producer and KMAJ's morning newsman Steve Forman, says you might be a Southerner if you have a favorite Oak Ridge Boy!

Left, Noel with Richard Sterben; right, with Duane Allen; and below, with Joe Bonsall. I'm going to have her add her own commentary.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Friends--New and Old

Charlie LeSueur was a guest on my radio show this morning. It was a hoot. His new book is called, Riding the Hollywood Trail: Tales of the Silver Screen Cowboys. A native Westerner, Charlie has transformed his passion for classic cowboy movies to a lucrative business and satisfying personal relationships. Whoa, Sally! Can it get any better than than? (You know, at first I thought Charlie looked like Alan Ladd, but upon further consideration, I believe he really looks like Nick Adams.)

We had a great conversation and I'm not going retell his stories here...visit and pick up the above mentioned or Charlie's first book, The Legends Live On: Interviews with the Cowboy Stars of the Silver Screen. I can't think of a more appropriate gift for the Western fan in your house. Charlie will be back on the show before Christmas.
Reality Check

I enjoy almost all my guests, but some are particularly special. My friend Frank Schilagi (below, right) joined me on the air Tuesday and it was great to reconnect after all these years. When I was a reporter for The Mount Airy News, sometime before 1980, I read a full-page article on Frank in the Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel. At the time, Frank was dean of the Babcock School of Management at Wake Forest University. I clipped the article and put it in a drawer, thinking, "I want to meet that man."

Well, lo and behold, a couple of years later I was working for the Winston-Salem paper when I was assigned to cover the Realtors meeting where Frank was the guest speaker. I introduced myself and we set up a time for an interview. We met at the Steak and Ale on Stratford Road (I think Frank owned it). We had lunch, I made notes, and then Frank cancelled his appointments for the afternoon so we could continue to talk. It was one of the nicest compliments I've ever had.

Every now and then, Frank and I would get together and he would share his infinite wisdom on life and business, which I never forgot. I also never used it. I stumbled and sputtered through life and now Frank has re-entered it and I hope to make the most of his wisdom and expertise. I surely treasure his friendship.

Friends, you too can partake of Frank's wisdom in his book, Reality Check for Leaders (left). It's worth buying just for the prologue, which reads like the opening scene of a Jean- Claude Van Damme movie. The book chronicles a year in the life of a hotel manager, a profession that has served Frank well. While targeting professionals in the hospitality industry, its principles apply in any situation--even the home front. Visit and tell Frank that Deb sent you.

I have now begun the movement to get him to Topeka for a public appearance. Bill Moore, CEO of Westar, was very interested so I'm sending Frank's PR info to him and I'll keep you posted on the progress. Frank will be back on my radio show before Christmas as well, so stay tuned to from 8 to 10:40 a.m. each weekday morning. I'm the warm up for Paul Harvey and Rush Limbaugh.
And some parting words of wisdom: put Frank's principles to practice, in business and in life. He's one of the most successful men I've ever known, professionally and personally. He's a positive force.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beau, Bodine: Tuesday Night at the TV

I'm watching Maverick when Roger Moore (left) was playing the lead in the guise of Beau Maverick, the white sheep of the gambling brood. He's wonderful. The synopsis of this particular episode, according to Moore's official website, appears below. One thing not mentioned is that Max Baer Jr. (below, right), otherwise known as "Jethro Bodine," has a bit role. My goodness, he was really a handsome, strapping, fellow! Too bad he got typecast with the Beverly Hillbillies. In a really funny aside, Baer plays the ticket-taker/bouncer for a high-brow prize fight. Roger Moore sucker punches him then lands a right hook on Baer's jaw. Not likely, considering Baer's famous father! Even funnier, the prize fighters were wearing tuxes. Now, perhaps this is an historically accurate detail I missed in my Wild West research. Somehow, all these crucial elements were totally overlooked by the chroniclers:

8. Kiz (Robert Douglas) 04/12/1960
Episode 91: Beau Maverick crashes a party in Virginia City thrown by eccentric socialite Kiz Bouchet. Kiz has a penchant for smoking cigars, playing poker, and fighting fires. Recognizing Beau as a fellow free spirit, she hires him to protect her. She believes her life is in danger. Beau discovers that Kiz's cousin Melissa, along with family doctor Pittman and attorney Hanford, are plotting to have Kiz judged incompent [sic] so they can split her $2 million inheritance. Beau comes up with a scheme to turn the tables on Melissa.

A sad side note: In January of this year, Baer's live-in girlfriend committed suicide by shooting herself. He found her; apparently, she was still alive but was placed on life support at the hospital. Her family decided to disconnect the machines later that day according to press reports. Bless him, and her family. She was 30; he was 70.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Good Intentions

Dear Reader, I promise to be more diligent with posting. My friend, Freddy Badgett, back in Mayberry, complained that my day job at the radio station is interfering with my writing. He's right! It has been pretty time-consuming, though interesting. It has given me the opportunity to meet some really incredible folks, either in person or on the phone. I've interviewed Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Maricopa County, Arizona, and an author/lawyer from Kentucky who changed his name to Natty Bumpo. No kidding. It's a new adventure every day.

I'm on the phone with my brother, who lives back home in Ararat. He is a heavy equipment operator--and there hasn't been much work this past year. He's worked about half the time of the year before. The economy is so far in the tank there, that I hope something good happens soon. So does he. We must strive to be supportive of one another and to be hopeful.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wild West Cosby

We don't often think of Western movies with black characters. There's a few, like 100 Rifles with Jim Brown, and then there was Mel Brooks classic Blazing Saddles. Thanks to the Western Channel, I've had the opportunity to watch Man and Boy starring Bill Cosby. I highly recommend it. It's not a typical Western; it is realistic and a picture we don't normally see of the post-Civil War West, of the African-Americans who are a big piece of that history. It's a story of family and struggle and chaos--well written, well acted, well directed. Great cameo roles by Leif Erickson, John Anderson, and Douglas Turner Ward.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bargain Tex

While at the Salvation Army Thrift Store the other day I found a record, "Tex Ritter: An American Legend." It's a three-record set and includes such hits as "High Noon" and "Jingle, Jingle, Jingle." With commentary by Tex, it's a rich experience to listen to this music and his voice, singing and describing how various songs came to be recorded. The best part is, I only paid one dollar for this treasure.
Is this a great country or what?
Weather or Not. . .
. . . we like, we have it. Rain, rain, rain, flood, flood, flood. We've been watching the weather channel with the rest of the country, praying for Galveston.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Caught a great episode of Gunsmoke today. It featured Festus (Ken Curtis, who was an absolute doll and a wonderful singer) but guess who the guest stars were: Denver Pyle, Dub Taylor, and George Lindsay. It was priceless! Goober (George) was a gunslinger; Dub was a bartender; and Denver was a doctor. Supposedly, Festus was bitten by a rabid dog and is mistaken for a hired gun. Brilliant! Ken had a beautiful singing voice. For proof, visit:

When we had dinner with Buck Taylor a while back, I mentioned that even though I had a crush on him when he was playing Newley, Ken Curtis was really the best-looking guy on the lot. He was not offended.

Ken was born in Lamar, Colorado, and when he died, his ashes were scattered on the high, flat, plains.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Babb on China

Geoff Babb, the Foreign Area Officer for China at the Army's Command and General Staff College, is my guest this morning at 9 a.m. This map is a reference for his appearance. We aim to serve and educate. I have to tell you, I visited with Geoff last week and in 30 minutes learned more about China and her people than in the rest of my years put together. He's also a lot of fun. Listen in online at, or on your AM dial at 1440. Up before Geff is Paul McGuire from the Bureau of Land Management on their mustang adoption program, and afterwards, Jane Tetuan, author and cancer survivor.

We're always visiting with someone interesting and invite your calls. 877-297-1440.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why, I Ask, Why?

Why did the chicken cross the road?
BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!
JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.
HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure - right from Day One! - that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.
DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?
COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road
BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of crossing?
AL GORE: I invented the chicken.
JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.
AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.
DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.
OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.
NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.
PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.
MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.
DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.
JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth? That's why they call it the ‘other side.' Yes, my friends , that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay, too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like ‘the other side.' That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.
GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.
BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.
ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.
JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.
BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2008. This new platformis much more stable and will never cra...#@& &^(C%..........reboot.
ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?
COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

From my bud, John Arnold. Visit him at Oh, and also visit the good folks at What a fowl site!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oklahoma Cattle Hauler

Some photos defy words. From my friend, Cheryl, who lived in Oklahoma and saw this very vehicle and this very bovine with her very own eyes.

Or not.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Birthday Salutes

Today is the birthday of Neville Brand (third from left), a character actor I came to know and love through the TV series, Laredo. I was already in love with his costar, Peter Brown (swoon, of Lawman fame, second from left). Add hunks Phillip Carey (left) and William Smith (far right, and see more below) and there's no wonder why I was a fanatical viewer. Brand was a veteran of WWII, and his career is detailed in this article on Combat's website: It's great reading and corrects some of the misconceptions about Brand's military career. Brand died in 1991 of emphysema.
William Smith

. . . has to be one of the most interesting character actors alive. I fell for this cowboy in Laredo, and the more I have learned about him and his career, the more interested I've become. He'd make a great guest for our radio show. A native of Columbia, Missouri, Smith speaks five languages (including, I believe, Russian) and is descended from Kit Carson and Daniel Boone. I quote directly from

William Smith was riding horses nearly before he could walk. Keeping true to his roots as a cattle rancher's son, one of his first jobs, as a boy, was cleaning horse stables for Jock Mahoney.

In 1957, Bill secured a screen test at MGM and was signed to a contract. "I had no acting background," he recalls, "but this was at the height of television's western binge, and I squinted well and sat tall in the saddle."

Bill saddled up in Laredo as the half-breed, Texas Ranger Joe Riley and as Brodie Hollister, an aging fast-gun in Disney's Wildside. Among his more notable guest appearances are in Gunsmoke, the episode titled The Hostage and the Kung Fu episode titled The Chalice.

A flood of television watching memories include
The Virginian, Death Valley Days, Daniel Boone, Here Come the Brides, Custer, The Guns of Will Sonnett, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...

Can't forget his appearances in The Young Riders and Walker Texas Ranger.
Bill was once again the Cowboy in
The Shooter, directed by Fred Olen Ray. It was nominated for an award at the 1998 Golden Boot Awards.

And, from

He was born on March 24, 1934, in Columbia, Missouri, on Rolling Acres, a Hereford cattle ranch. After losing everything to the dust bowl, the family moved to California.

From 1942, when he was eight, through young adulthood, Bill appeared in many movies as an extra (uncredited). After high school, he joined the Air Force and served during the Korean War and received a Purple Heart for wounds incurred in action. He studied at the University of Munich, and Syracuse University. He graduated cum laude at UCLA.

Bill would go on to become one of Hollywood's best-known character actors, with over 300 TV and movie credits.

Wow. Can you get any cooler than that? I'm calling his agent right now.

Freddy the Plumber, and Philosopher

My old friend, Freddy Badgett, plumber extraordinaire, joins me on the radio tomorrow. Listen in. He's a hoot.
Dan Fogelberg

Today is also the birthday of Dan Fogelberg. When I interviewed Vicki Lawrence last week, she quoted Fogelberg, "The audience is heavenly, but the traveling is hell," and we both commented on how much we loved him. My thoughts are with his wife and all those people who loved him, all those whose lives he touched.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mama, ala Vicki Lawrence

Chatted with Vicki Lawrence yesterday. Yes, that Vicki Lawrence.

She's performing tomorrow night at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, so I visited on the phone and taped an interview that will air on the radio show today. Since I am technologically challenged, she was gracious and patient as I grabbed my producer, Steve Forman, from a meeting so that he could tell me to push the "ON" button for my microphone.

I explained to the patient Vicki that I was not in my own studio (where I have a sign telling me to push the "ON" button).

Finally, we got 'er done.

It must be difficult for very famous people to encounter the public -- a public that has invited them into their homes for decades and feels like they're part of the family. Vicki Lawrence is as familiar to me as one of my far-flung cousins, but I had to remind myself that she doesn't know me from Adam's house cat. I admitted that I was extremely jealous that she was able to land special guest, Fess Parker, on her own talk show a few years ago. We mutually swooned at the thought of that tall, rugged, drink-of-water.

We talked about "Mama," Vicki's alter ego and the costar of her two-woman show. Originally a sketch written for the Carol Burnett Show, Mama evolved into a regular skit and then a spinoff television show. The role of Mama, however, was written for Carol Burnett, not Vicki Lawrence. Carol wanted to be the spoiled daughter, Eunice, so she changed the roles.

It was also Carol who decided that Mama should be Southern, reflecting Carol's own roots in Texas. The writers feared it would be offensive. On the contrary, the public, including Southerners, loved it.

"Mama was a gift Carol gave me," said Vicki.

And it's a gift Vicki Lawrence has been giving us ever since.

Tickets are still available for Vicki's show and my interview with her airs on around 10:10 today. Hey, remember the night the lights went out in Georgia? Yep, the same Vicki Lawrence. What a talented gal.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Anybody Lost a Cat?

My friends, Freddy and Barbara Badgett from Mount Airy, sent this:

I think it's priceless!

Andy, Andy, Andy!

On a related note, if you're not looking for a cat, but are instead looking for an erudite, elucidating, business column, check out Andy Oberumueller at He may not find you a feline, but he can tell you which is a better investment--a cat or a dog.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

T. Boone in T. Town

If the energy in Heritage Hall could have been harnessed, it would have powered Topeka for a year.

T. Boone Pickens conducted the first of his dozen, nation-wide, town hall meetings to an overflow crowd Wednesday afternoon. By 3:30 (the meeting was scheduled for 4), Expocenter security guards were not admitting anyone else inside the brimming building. Folks whined and protested. The gentleman who walked with me from the parking lot, an engineer who had driven all the way from Kansas City, slipped to the other side of the building and tried that door. I don't think he got inside because I didn't see him again. A group pleaded vainly that they had driven from Oklahoma. I was grateful for a press card.

An elderly man in front of me wore overalls and a Tractor Supply cap. A tee shirt proclaimed, "Convert Now," and I thought the man was a fundamentalist-Christian until I realized the illustration was not a steeple but a windmill. Across the aisle sat former Congressman and Senate hopeful, Jim Slattery. It was definitely a cross-section of Kansas: young, old; working class, affluent; men, women; politicians (scads of politicians), voters.

The man-of-the-hour strode in beside Governor Kathleen Sebelius and stepped right to the middle of the stage, announcing, "What a great crowd!" Governor Sebelius nonchalantly explained that Rep. Annie Kuether would introduce her and she, in turn, would introduce him. He retreated a step or so and gave her the floor.

The governor was witty and upbeat, and Pickens is obviously impressed with her, later stating that one of the reasons Topeka was chosen for the town hall meeting was the governor's commitment to wind power.

Pickens (right) is comfortable in front of a crowd. He is folksy, matter-of-fact, direct, determined. Often overheard from the crowd was the term, "common sense." He said he wanted to raise an army. The throng was so eager that they might have stormed the Bastille if he had asked them. Later, I asked if he thought people were there to learn about energy or to just listen to someone who shoots straight.

He looked me right in the eye and replied, "I'm not really sure."
When Slattery stood up and asked if Pickens supported electric cars, the oil baron replied, "I'm for anything American." On several occasions, he reiterated this position, constantly referring to the $700 billion spent annually on oil. Natural gas, coal, wind--he is open to anything that keeps the country moving and the dollars here.

The applause was loud and immediate. Slattery also mentioned that a couple of guys he knows are looking for a running mate. The applause was immediate for that one as well but Pickens didn't take the bait.

Scrawling on a dry-erase board, Pickens laid out his plan: In ten years America could reduce its dependence on foreign oil by 38%. That's pretty impressive, he concluded, and the crowd was in general agreement.

The question that was asked and re-asked, however, is what individuals should do NOW. People were serious. One gentleman commented that he had bought a smaller car and was saving $200 a month on gas. "Where do I invest that money to make this plan work?" he asked.

Boone said simply, "I'm not sure." He instructed the audience to visit the website, fill out the information cards for updates, and await further instructions. It had the feel of disciples waiting for the Mother Ship.

A Pickens staffer talked with the hundreds of folks listening outside and gleaned questions from them. They were the same. What do I do? It was a crowd hungry for direction.

"We have been leaderless on energy for 40 years," Pickens said. "I can't believe we've been this stupid. . . . The French have been four times smarter than us," a hard pill to swallow, he added.

I asked what took him so long to come up with a plan. He grinned. "I tried in the early 90s but we had cheap oil and nobody listened."

The most interesting energy question for me was T. Boone himself. What an incredibly energetic, youthful man. He stresses physical fitness, though he didn't touch on that topic today. He also believes in loving what you do. He didn't mention either of these ideals. They were obvious. And those qualities moved people.

To learn more, visit the and listen to for the recording of our visit. For that matter, be sure to tune in every weekday morning at 8 a.m. for Topeka Talks with yours truly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dancin' and Fiddlin'

I'm listening to Buford Kegley, the morning DJ on WBRF in Galax, Virginia. (Isn't streaming audio the best thing ever?) The Fiddlers' Convention is coming up. It makes me wish I could click my ruby slippers three times and be there. While Galax is going on, there's no better party, no better entertainment, on God's green earth.

Happy Fiddlin.'

(top photo made at last year's event by Tom Jones)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mary Washington College

I have spent the last hour on the phone with someone I haven't seen since the summer of 1975. Heather Palmer and I attended Governor's School for the Gifted and Talented at Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, Virginia. (Don't laugh!!! It's a big deal!!!!) She was encouraging a friend's child to apply and googled our year--1975--to find others willing to offer testimonials. I was blown away to hear from her, especially when I discovered that she, too, is an historian of the 19th century. We promised to keep in touch, exchange books, and to visit each other this fall. She has a book coming out in November and we're speaking in Boston and Providence in October. Hopefully, we can make our paths cross again.

Above, the entry to Mary Ball Hall where Heather and I spent that magnolia-scented summer. My roomie, Lisa Hardy, would sneak down with me and "decorate" the lovely marble statue of the grandmother of our country. Heather did not have, as I recall, such evil inclinations.
What wonderful memories.

I called home and my uncle, Charles, was down at the Willis Gap Community Center listening to the weekly jam session. It made me homesick. Which reminds me. . . if you haven't looked at the Free State of Patrick lately, Tom Perry has some great stuff. Link to the right.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


If we had enjoyed ourselves more in Atwood, Kansas, over the weekend, they would have had to bury us there.

We had visited before, and looked longingly into the windows of the Aberdeen Steakhouse (above). On Friday night, we spoke there. More importantly, they fed us. And fed us. And fed us.

Jeff and Alice Hill own this turn-of-the-century landmark in this small northwestern Kansas town. The Shirley Opera House, upstairs, is under renovation. Jeff and Alice are the hardest workingest people I've seen since my Mama and Daddy. I felt like a slug by comparison.

After our presentation, we were escorted back to their ranch (below and far below)--roughly, 30 miles from town. It was glorious. There was a thunderhead over us and we stood on their porch and watched the lightening. We slept soundly in their hunting lodge.

The next morning, Jeff gave us the grand tour and as if on cue, a doe and her fawn appeared next to the road and stood while we fumbled for the camera.

While Alice hoed vegetables, we returned to town for lunch with the Cabrinas. Peggy is a major domo with the town's Jayhawk Theater, and a more gracious couple just couldn't be found. After stuffing ourselves yet again (thanks in part to the homemade cherry and rhubarb crisps made by Roger Pirodeaux) we went to the Jayhawk for the showing of Bloody Dawn, the documentary by Ken Spurgeon based on Tom's book by the same title. The theater hosted two showings, nearly full each time. We were joined by other cast members, including Russell and Judy Miller and Mark Berry, not to mention Ken's family and board member Vicki Houk.

On Sunday, Roger Pirodeaux toured Indian war sites with us. He drove his dad's pickup through fields and furrows and we were treated to incredible scenery and history.

The hospitality virtually spilled from the tiny town. We loved every minute of the companionship and can't wait to return.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Wyoming!

On July 10, 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state admitted to the Union.

To celebrate, they're giving away this '57 Chevy. . . sort of . . . .

The newsletter came from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody today, and it included the announcement of their annual Patrons Ball. Held the last weekend in September, this is absolutely the coolest event in the West! Tom and I were there three or four years ago, and I'm dying to get back. That's when they're giving away the '57 Chevy! Visit for info.

While Steve Forman and I were doing the promo for my radio show the other day, DJ Joey Baggz from our rock station popped in and asked if I would look at his project. He has set a goal of visiting 200 Kansas towns and photographing the not-so-obvious sites. His photos to date are displayed on his Facebook page (A sample of Joey's work is displayed below). Joey calls this his Kansas Project, and I urge you to take the time to enjoy and drop Joey a line saying Deb sent you.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Flag Waving

The 4th of July is coming up which means the annual Collins Park parade. Kids and dogs, bagpipes and calliope, flags and ribbons--it is all-American and a real spectacle.

The flags and banners are as pervasive as dandelions. I have always wanted to display the above Revolutionary era flag, but Tom won't let me. I have always liked this image. It's honest. While looking online for the photo, I came across information posted by Chris Whitten on the history of the various snake image flags. The one above is called the Gadsden flag for Col. Christopher Gadsden. Visit

Another interesting week in radioland. For those of you who have commented that you're having trouble with the webfeed, I've passed along the comments to management and we hope to have it fixed. Thanks for listening, online or on the airwaves, and please, call in with your questions.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Online, Offline

Folks, I have had so much trouble getting online, and staying online, the blog has just been impossible. I apologize to all y'all who have emailed and I've failed to respond. When the storms interfered with our computers, we lost some stuff, reprogrammed internet, etc., etc., but I'm still not steadily connected.

Had a wonderful visit with Durwood Ball, professor/editor/historian from the University of New Mexico. We showed him the sites in Topeka, Lecompton, and Leavenworth, and he gave us the benefit of his expertise and research.

I have some great guests lined up this week, so listen in, give me a call, and hopefully, sometime soon, I will re-enter the 21st century.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Good Times

Tom's cousins, Ezzie and Arthur, stopped by this weekend and brought photos of their trip to Springfield and Hannibal, Missouri. Arthur, who is a knowledgeable railroad buff, took the above photo. The bridge in the upper right hand corner is the Hannibal bridge over the Mississippi River.

Professor Durwood Ball, University of New Mexico, is visiting us this week. Friends of the Free State Capitol, Ghost Tours of Kansas, and a few odd history nerds are hosting the author at Blind Tiger Brew Pub on Wednesday evening. Email me for more information or visit

Dr. Ball is writing a biography of Edwin "Bull" Sumner, the army officer who kept the lid on Bleeding Kansas. I've always believed that Col. Sumner's shining moment occurred right here in Topeka. (see other blogs by myself or Tom.) We're so excited that he's coming to visit! He'll be on my radio show, Topeka Talks, KMAJ 1440 AM, Wednesday morning at 10 a.m., and will appear on Channel 27 with Ralph Hipp on Tuesday afternoon. Let's all make him welcome!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Nights of Twisters

Cheryl Logan passed these photos along to me and I wanted to share them with you. It has been a scary week in Kansas. We sat in our basement, which is finished and has sofas and a TV, watching the progress of the storms each night this week. When they were describing tornadoes on the ground in Salina, then Chapman (above), then Junction City, then Manhattan (below), we had no idea the destruction would be so great. There were two deaths--one of which occurred just north of Topeka. The little town of Chapman was devastated, almost as badly as Greensburg last year. Being a native Kansan and not easily sent to the cellar, Tom instructed me to grab my valuables and head below. I went to my jewelry drawer--thought again and then just grabbed a few photographs. A picture of your kids or your grandparents is worth a thousand baubles.

Have been looking at images of tornadic destruction here and in Iowa, as well as the flooding in Cedar Rapids. Mother Nature remains unconquered.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Vern, etal

It has been an interesting week.

This morning, I interviewed via the phone, former Kansas Attorney General Vern Miller. In case you never heard of the General, he once raided an Amtrak train and arrested the folks for serving liquor. He jumped out of car trunks and surprised felons; he wrestled murderers and robbers. He is pictured above, second from left, in the midst of KU student protesters. While campaigning, Miller promised to "leap into the drug-ridden hippie communes of Lawrence with both feet." Truth is, he leapt into EVERYTHING with both feet. He earned his law degree while serving as sheriff of Sedgwick County and was in Topeka readying for the bar exam when the devastating tornado of 1966 struck the town.

I also interviewed this week: TV journalist Bill Kurtis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a scientist from NASA, an herpetologist, the guy who publishes Mother Earth News, the guys who produce Sunflower Journeys on KTWU, politicians, fundraisers, friends, and relatives.

This is why I always wanted to be a reporter. I can't wait for the next week when I interview former governor Mike Hayden, a novelist from Colorado, CEOs, CFOs, and maybe a few UFOs.

Basil's Birthday

Today is the birthday of Basil Rathbone (left), born in South Africa in 1892. He served as a captain (intelligence officer) in the British Army and was cited for bravery. His younger brother died in the Great War.

In an interview with Edward R. Murrow in 1957, Rathbone related the story of how he disguised himself as a tree to get near the enemy camp to obtain information.

"I went to my commanding officer and I said that I thought we'd get a great deal more information from the enemy if we didn't fool around in the dark so much . . . and I asked him whether I could go out in daylight. I think he thought we were a little crazy. . . . I said we'd go out camouflaged -- made up as trees -- with branches sticking out of our heads and arms . . . . We brought back an awful lot of information, and a few prisoners, too."

It just stands to reason that Sherlock Holmes would have been an intelligence officer. Don't you agree?

And by the way, what a beautiful man.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bonjour and Beauvoir

From the Vicksburg (Mississippi) Post:

Beautifully restored Beauvoir reopens on Jeff Davis' bicentennial
By Gordon Cotton

BILOXI - Bert Hayes-Davis stood on the porch at Beauvoir and phoned his wife, Carol, in Colorado Springs. Hurricane winds were picking up in the Gulf, and Hayes-Davis told his wife, "I hope a hurricane never hits it."He was the last member of the Davis family to stand on that porch, the last of the descendants of President Jefferson Davis to leave the ancestral home on the Mississippi Coast before Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005.

Last Tuesday, June 3, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Jefferson Davis, his great-great-grandson, Bert Hayes-Davis, stood on the rebuilt porch and told a crowd of thousands, "We saw the worst. We've gotten the best. What a birthday present."Though much of the Coast was destroyed by Katrina, after the winds subsided and the waters receded, the house was still standing. The outbuildings were gone, the roof damaged, the porch blown away, many of the artifacts lost forever - but Beauvoir was still there. More than $4.5 million dollars later, and with the help of untold volunteer man-hours from people from all over the United States, the house stands restored, looking as it did the day Jefferson Davis left it for the last time in 1889.Beauvoir is again the jewel of the Coast.

Read the rest of this story, and the other articles in Gordon Cotton's series at the
(photo by Bill Haber * The Associated Press)
KMAJ Line-up for the Week (subject to change):
Listen in, y'all--1440 on your AM dial or online at, and call in with questions and comments: 785-297-1440, toll free 877-297-1440.

mon/june 9
8 Jerry Berger, candidate for DA
8:30/David Kehler, Butler Co. ext agent, wildflower/prairie tour
9 Open Lines
10 Judy Coder
10:30 Jim Hanni, AAA
tues/june 10
8 John Sellers, library of congress
8:30 Steve Baccus, pres. Kansas Farm Bureau
10 Nasa representative
10:15 Louis Kraft, actor, author on Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland
wed/june 11
8:30 Beth Cooper
9 Bill Kurtis/Michelle Martin, cookbook9:30
10 Cathy Duncan, Jayhawk Theater
10:30 Randy Floyd, hillbilly

thurs./june 12
8:30 Carol Neumann
9:00 Bryan Welch, Mother Earth News
9:30 Dave Kendall, KTWU Sunflower Journeys
10 Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County, Arizona

friday/ june 13
8:15 Vern Miller, former Kansas AG
9 Larry Tenopir, Local Democratic Party
10:30 Topeka CVB

Monday, June 2, 2008

Rubes and Geronimo

A week full of drama:

Since hosting the morning talk show on KMAJ AM, my schedule has just been turned upside down. But it has really been fun. Author/historian Louis Kraft was our guest last week and what a pleasure to spend time with him. (Louis is the author of Gatewood and Geronimo and Lt. Charles Gatewood and his Apache Wars Memoir.)

Cartoonist Leigh Rubin, creator of Rubes (above), was on the radio with me (along with Mike Myers from Creators Syndicate) and then Louis and I attended Leigh's presentation at the local library. There was a standing room only crowd. In fact, they turned away so many folks that they plan to have him back. That was Tuesday. Wednesday was Civil War Roundtable in Kansas City and Thursday was here in Topeka, with Louis speaking each night. It's obvious his background is in drama. Louis (left, in costume) performs a one-man show as Ned Wyncoop, Indian agent extraordinaire. It is a riveting story -- a decent man trying to stop the Plains Indian Wars. The newly established national historic site at the Washita Battlefield in Oklahoma will host this performance in December so we're organizing a field trip.

Speaking of drama, I also interviewed Tom Smith via telephone from sunny Southern California. Tom and I chatted about the new Indiana Jones film, which I went to see by myself because no one would go with me! Tom did visual effects on the first Indiana Jones--one of my favorite films. His inside dish: Harrison Ford is a great guy and the female lead candidates tried out by baking cookies. Apparently, Karen Allen is a good cook. Locals will recall that the Kansas City and Topeka Civil War Roundtables hosted Tom last year about this time. The topic was the fiction he wrote about ancestor William Clark, Massacre at Baxter Springs.

I haven't been to see Sex and the City yet. Can't take that much drama this soon!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Graduation Weekend

Tom and I could not have enjoyed more our visit with Jack Holt (above). If he looks familiar, perhaps it's his movie star dad you recall--Tim Holt. Jack really does bear a striking resemblance to his father, co-star of the classic Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Jack's grandfather, also Jack, attended Virginia Military Institute and became somewhat of a legend in rebellion.

Jack was in Lawrence over the weekend for KU's graduation. His girlfriend, Laura, has a son who just earned a film degree. We met at Starbucks and Jack regaled us with stories of the Holt Clan (we have common Virginia roots). Tom and Jack nearly were derailed while swapping tales of adolescent idiocy, which lasted WAY beyond adolescence for each of them. Today, Jack and Laura headed back to Washington where Jack is the Pentagon's "new media specialist." Watch the blog as I share more from our interview.

A great day on the radio today with Steve Foreman, and have gotten so many email comments. Thank you, thank you, and thank you!

On Saturday, Tom and I scouted the itinerary for our wine tour. I just want to share one of those photos with you, just for the sake of temptation. . . .

Happy people sampling wine in a church converted to winery. Come worship the grape with us!

Turn On, Tune In. . .

. . . on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as I guest host the morning talk show on KMAJ (1440 AM). If you're not in the listening area, listen online at:

Yes, I have hit the bigtime, as the opening act for Rush Limbaugh!

Such a great weekend I don't even know where to start. We did the reconnoiter for the upcoming wine tour and I'm more excited than ever after visiting the sites; we had coffee with the Pentagon's internet guru, Jack Holt (and talked about his film family), and then ended with dinner at the Row House with our smart friends. (It was the grand prize for a trivia tournament benefitting blind athletes. Team Turner won and we were royally rewarded!)

Stay tuned for details.