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

on the radio, sky

Sometimes We Cry

January 14th, 2015 at 7:50 pm




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


Poetry & Haiku

Order Two Get One Free Nov. 16-17

November 16th, 2014 at 12:00 pm


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. 



What a deal! Order today!

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

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


Waiting on the Sky, Waiting on the Sky book

Beaver Tree

October 29th, 2014 at 11:22 am


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.

landscape, nature

Paul Davis in Emporia

October 29th, 2014 at 11:21 am


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.

Kansans, life on the ground

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.




life on the ground, Waiting on the Sky, Waiting on the Sky book

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.




Flyover Book, other people's stuff

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.

small towns

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.



Waiting on the Sky book

Thurs. Sept. 4 at 6 p.m.

August 28th, 2014 at 3:36 pm



I’m thrilled to be giving a book talk/reading at the future home of the Lyon County History Center, 709 Commercial in Emporia, on Thursday, Sept. 4, at 6:00 p.m.,

The Lyon County Historical Society is in fund-raising mode, working at bringing in money to renovate the building in downtown Emporia. Right now the museum is in the cramped, yet historical, Carnegie Library building. But, there’s not enough room for exhibits or to store artifacts. Or to have a large community gathering.

Anyway, I’m excited to have my first Emporia reading from my new book here in this new but empty building. I’ll read from Waiting on the Sky and will talk a little about my writing process and about the Flyover People column that I wrote for 11 years for  The Emporia Gazette.

Greg Jordan, Director of the Lyon County History Center, will speak about the plans they have for developing the building and will give tours of the facility after my talk/reading.

I will happily donate half of the profits from the book sales that evening to the building fund. So, come, listen, tour, and purchase a Flyover People or Waiting on the Sky book to help contribute to the *new* Lyon County History Center. Be a part of our history!



E-town, events, history, Waiting on the Sky book

Review by Terry Needham

August 17th, 2014 at 6:17 pm

terry needhamTerry Needham


And today, a lovely review came in from Terry Needham, an author from Illinois. Terry’s review of Waiting on the Sky:


Cheryl Unruh is one of my favorite Kansas authors. She gives this place called Kansas a voice. Sometimes it whispers, sometimes it roars . . . and occasionally, but rarely . . . it is silent. Still, whatever you hear, you also feel, when you read the words by Unruh. Because she gives not only a voice to the elusive and surreal spirit that is Kansas, she reveals its soul. A place of boundless space, timeless presence, and infinite blue skies or vast starry nights. A haunting history, eternal now, and beckoning future . . . that beguiles you to get to know her . . . Kansas . . . and feel her heart beat, revealed in the exquisite and lovely words of Cheryl Unruh.


I believe brief book reviews are best. Get to the point, before the reader’s mind starts to wander away. Yet, dear reader, indulge me a moment longer, for when reviewing this book, the words of the author best express what I feel—

“Here, we step into that space between questions and answers, a place where we are satisfied with the unknown.”


The poetry in her words, as when she describes emptiness—

“The streets, normally as empty as a yawn, were suddenly busy with grain trucks . . .”


Or, the glorious imagery as she fills the reader’s mind with light—

“Once as I was traveling eastbound through Rice County, the evening sun spread its love over a wheat field. I could barely stand the intensity of golden light on golden grain.”


Or, the tender expression of the bonds that connect us all—

“What matters most in this world is the love we give . . . It is love that connects us.”


And, the reassuring voice that haunts our memories—

“We’ve each left our footsteps and our thoughts on various pathways in our lives. And we can go back anytime to retrieve those memories; they’re still there, right where we left them.”


Or, the tender urge to simply keep our focus on what matters—

“It’s all well and good to see the big picture, but sometimes it helps to narrow one’s focus, pay attention to the light and take the best shot we can.”


Plus, the inevitable conclusion, to a never ending story that is Kansas—

“Eventually we will each leave this state by choice or by default, but our lives and our stories will always be a part of the wind, a part of the land, a part of Kansas.”


Thus, in reading—Waiting on the Sky – More Flyover People Essays—you will discover that Kansas and her people and places are rooted in the heart and soul of the Great Plains, and given an eloquent voice by this gifted writer, Cheryl Unruh.


Terry Needham is the author of an entertaining fantasy novella for young (and older) readers: The She Wolf; and also of a fascinating memoir of his family, When I Was a Child based on a true story of love, death and survival on the Kansas prairie. Other books by Terry are Kitty Claus, and Pesky Poems. Terry lives in Illinois.


To purchase Waiting on the Sky, visit Quincy Press.

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To purchase Terry Needham’s books, visit his Amazon page.

Waiting on the Sky, Waiting on the Sky book, writing