Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tonganoxie...This is My Town! A Confession.

This is an old photo of "the main drag" in Tonganoxie, KS. Even with the improvements of a concrete road, sidewalks, and flowering still looks very similar today.

I have a confession to make. I never wanted to be a part of this community. I never intended to get married. And if I did, it would be to some white-collar type, living in the same super-sized city that I was definitely going to be living my career-girl adult life in. I grew up in a town of roughly 100,000 people and what I knew was that that was way too "small town" for me. I was getting out of there and moving somewhere "real" as soon as possible. I never expected to fall in love with a farm boy, let alone move to a tiny place with an almost unpronounceable name. But that's exactly what happened. As many of us have learned, life is seldom what we expect.

After my husband and I had our children came the decision of where they would attend school. At the time, we were living in the Lawrence school district and I was more than happy that my children wouldn't grow up in "tiny town." I was sure they would miss out on so much if they would be forced to attend school in Tongie. My husband didn't share my views, and he was unyielding on the matter. He graduated from Tonganoxie High and he was adamant that his children would do the same. He didn't want his children to be "just another number" in a larger school district. After many long "discussions," he eventually succumbed to my wishes and said he would support whatever decision I made. In an attempt to appear as if I was flexible, I said that our kids could at least start school in Tongie. I knew at some point in the near future, he would see reason and we would move our kids to their rightful school district, and I would get to say: "I told you so."

Our kids started school in Tongie and when we decided that we were outgrowing our old house, we moved down the road and (inadvertently) into the Tonganoxie school district. At that point, I decided that if I really was stuck in this small town, I might as well make the most of it. I signed up as a "room mom" and went on every class trip and helped plan every class party for my children and their classmates. I would immerse myself in as many things as possible, so that if I noticed any detrimental affects that my children were suffering from being exposed to small town America, I would have the ammunition I needed to yank them from the Tongie school district and send them to Lawrence. I would dutifully make this sacrifice for my children.

It wasn't long before I realized that this little community wasn't really all that bad. I took a good look around, and I realized that my children had some really amazing teachers.  In the classroom, I got to know lots of really great kids. I was more than a little humbled by the things I saw around me. Over the years, I've come more and more to love the people here, and I love the community itself. Last year, "Team Tongie" was formed; an organization of students and patrons that raise money to help classmates and their families that are suffering from "hard times," and it hit me as hard as an unforeseen slap across the I almost took this community away from my children; how they almost didn't get the chance to see what it was like... living in a tight-knit community that took care of it's own; how I almost made them miss out on so much; how I almost missed out on so much.

With the knowledge that comes from a few years of experience, I can say today that I feel I am truly blessed to be a part of this community. Just the other day, at the early graduation ceremony of a classmate suffering from the late stages of bone cancer, I looked out over a crowd of young faces assembled at the high school; the auditorium so full that kids were actually sitting in the aisles, and I saw a community of kids that truly and deeply care about one another. I saw so many adults that support and love these children. I saw kids that have learned (maybe the hard way and way too young) what is important. I saw kids that bolster one another through the tough times. I saw kids that aren't afraid or embarrassed to show their classmates that they're hurting, because they know that they will be understood and supported. And one thing I know for sure is that I am as proud of these kids as if they were my own. So very, very proud. And in my stubborn ignorance, I almost missed it.

As a new school board member, I had the great honor of Connor Olson being the first student of Tonganoxie High School that I got to watch come across the stage and graduate. That is something truly special that I'll keep with me forever.
Many prayers going up for this family.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sawing Logs

We have, in the past, harvested our own trees off of the farm to make things for ourselves. Things like furniture. The men in this family like to do woodworking for a hobby. (A new desk, bed, or kitchen table is always appreciated by the wives.) My in-laws took that concept one step farther and used our own lumber to make all of the woodwork in their house...from floors to cabinets. They used a combination of different woods and it is gorgeous! (You'll have to take my word for it.) Anyway, Ted's dad, Jim, has won some awards for his stewardship of trees. As well as harvesting them, he plants them, too.

Recently, he decided to sell some. That involves people coming out to select the trees they want, bidding on them, and then the actual harvesting of the selected trees. It was an interesting process. First, they took a rifle and literally shot the big limbs of the trees near the trunk; that was so that when they cut the tree down, those limbs would easily break off without any damage to the trunk (which is the only part of the tree they want). The rest of the tree gets used for firewood by us. Here is just one of the stacks of large tree trunks (now called "saw logs") that is waiting to get loaded onto trucks. By the way, they mostly wanted walnut trees.

Here is a guy that came to load up some logs. He sat in this little crane attached to the truck and picked up the logs like they weighed no more than tinker toys.

He'd pick up a log with the large "grabber thingie" and swing it around. "Grabber thingie" is a technical term used only by people who know what they're talking about.

Then he sat the log down gently on the truck. (I think he's done this a few times.)

Then he'd grab another log...

swing it around and set it down.

He loaded a log about every 30 seconds. It was pretty amazing to watch.
Farmer Jim was there to say goodbye to his trees. (Well, he was there, anyway.) I imagine he's planning on where to plant the next trees. Did I mention that he's always planting trees?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Diggin' Ditches!

Yesterday evening, we had a great wind blow through that brought a lot of rain with it. It decided to dump it all at once...sideways! Nothing too unusual about that. This is Kansas! Extreme weather happens all the time here. Furnace on in the morning, air conditioner by the afternoon.
After most of the rain dumped, Ted went to drain puddles. He can get in the field to plant faster if he doesn't have to wait for "small lakes" to dry up on their own. He had drained most of the water by the time I showed up with my camera. (I had supper to get done.)

This is the water that has drained off of the field and under the street, where it will meet up with a creek.

We still got more rain later on, and we had lots of lightening...even as Ted was working.

His faithful dog Buddy was trying to help out by digging a few holes of his own.

Ted decided to unplug this drain since the water was just about to go over the top of his parent's driveway. Then lightening struck. Close. Really close. And Ted has kind of used up all of his "get out of jail free cards" where lightening is concerned. So he immediately threw his hoe in the back of the truck and decided it was time to call it good.