Fred’s Derby

February 12th, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Welcome to Emporia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRED’S DERBY

 

When I moved to this town,

Fred’s Derby was the place

for eggs and hash browns

when the bars closed down at 3 a.m.

 

Fred’s had been there forever,

a long, white building, windows on

the highway side of the diner,

dead flies on the window sill,

sad plastic bottles of ketchup

stationed on the Formica

huddled with the salt and pepper.

 

At the edge of town

where highways cross,

the building was part gas station

(that’s where the Derby comes in),

part restaurant, part bus depot.

 

Local police in 1982 still gave

troublesome transients a ride

to the Greyhound station,

handed them a voucher from a local charity,

pawned trouble off to the next county.

 

Those were still hobo days

of sorts. In my third-grade reader

I had learned about the good-natured

hobos with kerchiefs

who wandered through the 1950s.

 

In the ‘80s, a lot of guys still hopped trains.

Hitchhiking, however, was losing favor.

A few rapists and killers gave them all a bad name.

 

Once, in 1975, while riding with my brother

to Larned, Leon turned the car around to pick up

a lone young man along the highway. Leon made me sit

in the back with the guy’s backpack, the hiker up front.

The kid was suspicious that Leon had been going east

when he stopped for the west-bound thumb.

Maybe the hitchhiker thought we were going to kill him,

a brother-sister team, like the Bloody Benders,

who crushed skulls of unsuspecting travelers

at the Benders’ “bed and breakfast”

in southeast Kansas in the 1870s.

 

Hobos and hitchhikers

are gone from the scene,

Greyhound busses

no longer stop in Kansas.

Bars close at 2 a.m. now

and there’s nowhere to go but home.

Fred’s Derby

was torn down,

ketchup,

eggs,

flies and all.

~ Cheryl Unruh

 

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ABOVE US ONLY SKY

February 11th, 2015 at 7:20 pm

Today’s poem….

 

ABOVE US, ONLY SKY

 

On summer days

kids point to clouds -

fiery dragons and sleeping bears,

perhaps a dog chasing a butterfly.

 

Far off, along the horizon,

the sky sometimes makes jagged,

purple clouds, mountain majesties,

the only mountains we see in Kansas.

 

Then October’s long barrels

of gunmetal gray roll in from the northwest –

these clouds telegraph cold wind before we feel it.

 

December’s clouds break into pieces,

and fall into every pocket, sparkling white.

 

Puffy clouds, straight clouds, feather clouds,

reckless, flying-under-the-influence clouds,

middle-of-the-night clouds,

pre-dawn arrivals, cheeky clouds

that block our #%@# lunar eclipse.

We get them all.

 

Spring, the season of rage and rapture,

brings us heavenly hosts, holy ghosts,

and come-to-Jesus clouds.

From a green sky, funnels scrape

the plate of earth, leaving

only bones behind.

 

No sailors here, so the red at night is the

farmer’s delight – our sky a color wheel

spinning out black clouds, white clouds,

every-color-in-between clouds.

Petal pink and aqua blue rise with the sun,

lavender and tangerine shoot up the evening sky.

 

At the hand of these Kansas billows we are beaten

by hail the size of a fist, spit on with sleet,

drowned by the rain, scarred by lightning.

Here on the open prairie we are shockingly vulnerable,

our underbellies bared to the sky.

There’s no intercession on our behalf,

nowhere to hide.

 

And the clouds sneak a sly smile.

 

~ by Cheryl Unruh

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Man Meets Planet

January 28th, 2015 at 8:18 am

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My radio piece about Pluto aired this morning on Kansas Public Radio. Here it is: Man Meets Planet.

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And here’s the text version:

MAN MEETS PLANET                       

Kansans have always loved the sky above us. Brewster Higley, for example, sitting on the banks of Beaver Creek in Smith County in about 1873, wrote a poem which later became our state song, “Home on the Range.” It includes this stanza:

How often at night, when the heavens are bright, With the light of the glittering stars

Have I stood here amazed, and asked as I gazed, If their glory exceeds this of ours.

When I gaze into that glitter of stars, I look for Pluto. I can’t see it, of course, but I know it’s there. Pluto has a place in the hearts of Kansans because it was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh of Burdett.

Picture this: It’s 1926, a young man, 20 years-old, puts his eye behind a telescope, that he built himself, and looks between the stars over western Kansas.

At a time when Kansas farmers still relied on kerosene lanterns, Clyde Tombaugh must have had an incredible view of the Milky Way, and of the planets embedded in the night sky.

To build his telescopes, Tombaugh used pieces of farm equipment and he ground his own lenses and mirrors. Over the next two years, he made better telescopes and he drew detailed maps of Jupiter and Mars.

He sent his drawings to Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and they offered Tombaugh a trial job. At the observatory, he searched for Planet X.

Tombaugh studied photographs taken days apart, and by analyzing the difference in those pictures, he discovered Pluto – on February 18, 1930. He was 24 years old.

In 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons space probe which is aimed toward Pluto, 4.67 billion miles away. The space craft is providing us with photos and data which expand our understanding of the universe.

In July of this year, New Horizons will come within 6,000 miles of the planet.

The probe is about the size and shape of a grand piano, and attached to that probe are ashes of Clyde Tombaugh. NASA has sent the man who discovered Pluto on a fly-by of his own planet. However, shortly after the spacecraft launched in 2006, astronomers reclassified Pluto, demoting it to a dwarf planet.

As we speak, New Horizons is flying through the open arms of space, where there is not a breath of air, cruising through deep silence, against the palette of black and light.

When New Horizons nears Pluto on July 14, I hope we will all pause to remember the Kansan who courted dark nights, the man who called out to Planet X – and it answered.

And perhaps out there in deep space, a star will reflect off of the spacecraft, a whisper of light, as Tombaugh sails through the afterlife.

Cheryl Unruh

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Sometimes We Cry

January 14th, 2015 at 7:50 pm

 

SOMETIMES WE CRY

 

On the city’s main street, wind blows things

up and out of the gutter, half litter, half leaves.

It’s winter now, January. Sitting in the coffee shop

I hear “Sometimes We Cry.” Van Morrison’s voice

scrapes the inside of my skin as it always does.

We have a past, he and I, this song and me.

I played it over and over one October morning,

years ago, as I drove toward a funeral.

The windshield wipers put me in a trance,

rain blurred the road,

Morrison broke my heart.

Today, looking out the window, I watch the wind

rearrange the world. I listen to the music without

tears, but the gray sky could drop rain at any minute,

and this saxophone solo is nothing but old sorrow,

a weight around my neck.

~ Cheryl Unruh

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Order Two Get One Free Nov. 16-17

November 16th, 2014 at 12:00 pm

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My essay books about life in Kansas make great gifts! People buy them and send them to relatives and friends who have moved away from Kansas and dearly miss our long views and open skies. And – people who still live here love these books, too.

I know you can think of two or three people right now who would enjoy my latest book: Waiting on the Sky.

So, for you early Christmas shoppers, today and tomorrow I am offering a special: Buy two copies of Waiting on the Sky and get the third copy for FREE! 

And there you have it, for $40, which includes shipping and handling, you’ll have 3 Christmas gifts taken care of. How easy is that?

This fantastic offer is only good today and tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 16, and Monday, Nov. 17, so get your order in now.

Place your order here. 

PLEASE NOTE: ORDER TWO COPIES (on Nov. 16 and 17) AND I WILL AUTOMATICALLY INCLUDE THE THIRD COPY FOR FREE IN YOUR ORDER!

YOUR COST WILL BE $40, SAVING YOU $20!!

What a deal! Order today!

Offer expires 11/17/14  at midnight, Central Standard time.

Any questions? Please email me: flyoverpeople @ gmail (dot) com

 

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Beaver Tree

October 29th, 2014 at 11:22 am

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Dave and I took a hike at Lyon County State Fishing Lake this weekend and we came across this tree that is about to fall, thanks to work of resident beavers.

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Paul Davis in Emporia

October 29th, 2014 at 11:21 am

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With six days until the election, gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis, a Democrat, is touring the state one last time before voters go to the polls on Tuesday.

He stopped at the Democratic headquarters in Emporia this morning.

He said that 16 months ago when he started his campaign, people said, “Paul you’d be a good governor but Sam Brownback can’t be beat.”

“Well, we’re certainly not having those conversations anymore,” Davis told the crowd.

The race is close, the candidates are neck-and-neck in the pre-election polls.

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Harry Lewis at Halloween

October 20th, 2014 at 9:48 am

From Waiting on the Sky: More Flyover People Essays:

“Under the shadows of cedars toward the cemetery’s north end lies Harry Lewis, a bachelor, retired from the U.S. Railway Postal Service. He kept to himself mostly, didn’t speak to kids, and he wore a city man’s hat.

“One Halloween, my friends and I dared ourselves to trick-or-treat at Harry Lewis’ home, doubting he’d open his door, afraid that he would. Harry answered, then stepped away into the darkness of his house. He returned with foil-wrapped cylinders, peeled back the aluminum and handed us each a nickel.”

 

Just a moment in time in Pawnee Rock.

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A Flyover Review

September 30th, 2014 at 7:00 pm

David Beeson, from way over the ocean in England, wrote a lovely review of my Flyover People book:

In praise of praise for a place called home. However flat.

 

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Little Library

September 20th, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Little library

Found this cute Little Free Library in Strong City this morning, near the park/caboose.

We also noticed that restoration work is being done on the Strong City Depot.

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Gazette article

September 14th, 2014 at 9:47 am

So, this story about my new book, Waiting on the Sky, was in the Emporia Gazette prior to last Thursday’s reading at the Lyon County History Center.

 

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