Weather is new every day, technically speaking, but weather trends can linger indefinitely, it seems. For the second year in a row the same weather trend tops our list of top stories for the year 2012. In anticipation of our traditional “top 10 list,” we looked for other issues and events that shaped our corner of the world more profoundly—both in the immediate and the long term—but we came up dry. Forget the future forecast, here’s our attempt to predict the past.
1. Drought. The early wheat harvest was a unique twist on the warm winter we experienced; we even had enough timely rain to bring in a decent crop. But fall crops were baked by the lack of moisture in summer with many producers looking for creative ways to salvage some economic benefit from their shriveling fields. We’ve said it before and probably always will say it: In Marion County, as farmers go, so do the rest of us.
2. Jail jubilation. To paraphrase Gerald Ford when he kept President Nixon out of jail by pardoning him, “Our local nightmare is over.” With the completion of our $3.5 million county jail, we learned that robust debate, rethinking options and public involvement can sometimes culminate in a reasonably economical and efficient solution to an issue the county was forced to prosecute. Others may say the jury is still out on that one, but we’re ready for release.
3. Tabor College tragedy. The beating death of student-athlete Brandon Brown was despairing on so many levels. The loss of the 26-year-old son, father, student, friend and teammate seemed to exceed the common descriptor of “senseless.” If good can come from such a situation, which drew considerable local and even national media coverage, we pray for campus unity and the reconsideration of values and choices that led to such a profound loss.
4. Street smarts. Hillsboro replaced more than a mile of city streets this summer, and the practical and aesthetic improvement was stunning. Best news: The cost of the three projects exceeded $1.65 million, but by tapping into some federal funding, plus using a prudent bookkeeping maneuver to reinvest money used to pay off old street bonds to begin paying off new street bonds, the endeavor was essentially painless for local taxpayers.
5. Marshmallow madness. OK, the concept was kind of crazy, but county lake superintendent Steve Hudson and his team pulled it off in fine form as 1,282 people came together to officially put Marion County in the Guinness Book of World Records for most people roasting marshmallows at the same place and time. If we only had that much cooperation in all elements of county life. Even Gov. Sam Brownback thought the effort was worthwhile.
6. Glory girls. As in 2011, this year began with a third-place finish at the state basketball tournament for the Hillsboro High girls; it ended with this year’s hoops team being undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Class 3A. In between, the softball team won its first state title in school history, Emily Sechrist claimed gold in state track, and this fall the Trojans accomplished another school first by winning a second consecutive state volleyball title. A golden age, indeed.
7. Safety first. Hillsboro received word in fall that its applications were approved for two state grants totaling almost $900,000. The two projects should enhance public safety. About two-thirds of the amount will go for much-needed exit lanes at U.S. Highway 56 and Adams Street, and the rest for better sidewalks through the Safe Routes to School program.
8. Bluejay rebound. After a 3-7 season a year ago, the Tabor football program went 8-2 this fall and just missed the national playoffs. Though the team faced extreme challenges and disappointments, the evidence suggests that coach Mike Gardner is a local version of K-State’s Super Snyder by rebuilding a football program not once, but twice.
9. Oil toil. Not much actually happened on the oil-drilling front in 2012 beyond the signing of leases for the right to start hydraulic drilling “soon.” But even that raised the energy level in this county. By the way, anybody planning to see that new Matt Damon movie?
10. Political precipes. Beyond the federal fiscal cliff, foolishness on the state level promises to make life in rural Kansas even more fiscally challenging than it already is. We can take comfort in knowing that if school funding continues to be in conservative gun sights, our children will never learn of such nonsense.
May 2013 be our luckiest year yet. —DR