Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:45
Fall used to be my favorite season, but now that I am older, I am adding spring to the list of my most-liked seasons.
As a youth, fall was the best season because school was back in session and I liked seeing who would be in my classes that year and finding out how others had spent their summer.
It was also the time of the year when leaves were changing color and then falling to the ground, making for good times raking leaves into piles and jumping in them. Halloween was another highlight of fall with “trick or treating” and getting back home with piles of candy. It was also one of the few times my parents would give me free rein to eat as much candy as I wanted.
After October ended, there were still happy times coming with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner. I didn’t think I would ever budge on which season was the best, but I have.
Spring is a time for life. As far as the eye can see, everything in nature is waking up—flowers begin blooming again, the leaves magically reappear on trees, and for farmers, the crops are growing. People come out of their homes and begin working on those long-awaited outdoor projects that stopped when winter's cold temperatures forced them back inside. It’s also a great time to do some spring cleaning.
This past weekend, my husband, Randy, and son, Joey, were busy organizing the garage while I attended a Kansas Press Association convention. By the time I got back, the hard work was done. Even so, there were still a few boxes that needed to be looked through and decisions made on what to keep and what to throw away.
After letting those boxes sit on the deck for a few hours so that any spiders or other critters could take off, we all sat down and started sorting through the papers, books and miscellaneous stuff. Randy knows how much I dislike bugs and spiders. Many of the boxes hadn’t been gone through since we moved in a couple of years ago, and it was fun to see what was in them.
We found framed pictures, some of the family, and some brand new, but most of the stuff was old personal papers that didn’t need to be saved any longer.
I did find some treasures, though. A ceramic ghost our daughter had made in one of her high school classes more than a decade ago and some old pamphlets, maps and papers that we decided to keep, probably for the next time we decide to go through stuff.
One item I did pull out of the box had to do with the organization of a city and how it got its start. What was fascinating about this historical document was the story of a settler laying claim for land and the steps it took to make it a Kansas town.
The first obstacle was finding a water supply and digging a well that would be large enough to sustain people and livestock so that buildings could be constructed.
Once that hurdle was overcome, the next step was getting lumber, but because the town was far away from everything. It took two months for the supplies to arrive, which were only 60 miles away. Today, it’s hard to believe that a distance of 60 miles would take so long.
Lots sold for $10 to $25 once the town was plotted and most residents had cows, chickens, hogs and maybe a horse, all wandering the streets. No planning and zoning boards were in place yet. Of course, it couldn’t have been a sanitary arrangement.
Of course, when I thought about the times in the 1880s, it probably was also the food supply. Maybe they didn’t have grocery stores stocked with those kinds of items yet.
Another interesting fact about Kansas towns in this document, was that from 1850 to 1890, settlers founded almost 3,000 towns, but some 2,360 did not survive. Most of those places don’t even have a trace of ever existing today.
During the drought in the 1890s, farmers hauling hogs to market in some towns couldn’t find buyers, so they opened the tailgates of their wagons and just let the animals run loose through the city streets.
One newspaper account gave the impression that everything was going well, but other stories by settlers weren’t the same.
According to this particular article in 1892, the cost of farming one section of land in this particular part of Kansas cost $960. Breaking it down, the cost of plowing was $1.50 per acre. The cost of seed for one section was $704; harvesting at $1 per acre was $640; threshing and hauling was $1,280, and the total cost was $3,580. The yield on one section averaged 20 bushels and sold for 80 cents per bushel. Crops sold for $10,240 for a net profit of about $6,700.
It would be interesting to know how that compared to Marion County or other parts of the state in those days, but I don’t have those statistics.
The name of the city wasn’t what was important, but what was of interest to me was the work the settlers did to make it a place so that others could eventually come and establish homes.
It seems like I have gone off track a bit, but I get excited about finding things that were tucked away and later rediscovered. Sometimes I wonder why we don’t just throw boxes away we haven’t needed for years without looking through them.
Springtime is also a favorite because of the warmer weather. It’s not too hot for a nice walk or puttering around the yard. If I were to rank the seasons, though, I still think fall would top my list, followed by spring, winter and summer.
All-in-all, Saturday was a productive day for spring cleaning and learning new things at the press convention.