ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BRENDA CONYERS
Barbara Anderson of Burns is a woman of many words. Besides publishing the Burns Blaze with the help of her mother, Minamae Bierman, and teaching second grade at Cassody, she writes poetry and song lyrics.
“I love the prairie-it has become a part of me,” she said as she recollected how she often begins to put poetry and songs together as she looks out toward the Kansas Prairie.
Anderson says the words to a song come to her at different times-when she’s quiet as well as when she’s with her family.
“All of her songs have a story behind them,” said husband, Lou, postmaster of Burns, who recalled that “Under the Kansas Sky” was written after a camping trip.
At least one of her poems was published by well-known cowboy author, Jim Hoy of Emporia, in his book, Cowboy Verse of Kansas.
Anderson said writing lyrics has been a team effort for her husband and herself.
“He has the humor, and I am so serious,” she said. “We balance each other.”
Anderson first made a cassette recording of her music several years ago, with the help of Amy Handle Cool.
“Amy helped with the background harmonization, and did such a good job,” Anderson said.
A second recording was made on a compact disc that included the following song titles: “Under the Kansas Sky”-for which the CD is named-“Tallgrass Prairie” and “Preachin’ Prayin’ Cowboy.”
The couple agree the CD has a much better sound quality.
“I didn’t want the songs to get lost,” Anderson said. “I want them for my family and my grandchildren.”
Lou and Barbara have a blended family and have raised six children. They are the grandparents of two children with another on the way.
When recording the CD, Anderson said she put guitar chords to the poems, then played and sang for Chuck Haigood, the producer for Crimson River Recording Studio in McPherson.
“He’s the one who made the music flow to the words as he put the chords to keyboard music and added percussion sounds,” she said.
While the prairie is the primary subject she likes to write about, Anderson writes and sings about other issues she feels are important.
She wrote two songs, “Crocodile Tears” and “Make Believe,” which addressed violence in the schools.
WIBW disc jockey Jim Cates invited her to participate in a telephone interview for a radio show to talk publicly about those two particular songs.
“The media has a big effect on kids,” she said. “Violence has just become too commonplace to them.”
Anderson said she recognized adults could censor what children watch.
“But if it isn’t good, it isn’t good,” she said. “Why should adults watch something that isn’t good for children?”
While the prairie has been a song topic near to Anderson’s heart, she has also shared that love with her primary school at Cassody.
She said the school has carved out a corner of the town and made it into a miniature prairie.
After talking and planning, Anderson, along with the other teachers, helped and watched as students hauled in limestone to lay a rock bed and plant native Kansas shrubs, trees and flowers. The children even planted a butterfly garden with flowers that attract butterflies, she said.
There are 52 students at Flinthills Primary School, which serves kindergarten through the second grade.
Anderson has used her talent with words to write plays for the students, which they have produced and performed.
Several years ago Anderson wrote an American history musical play and took the students to Newton to record their presentation.
They sold 200 cassettes and used the money to buy computers for the school.
Another class took an “Anderson Musical” to Topeka to perform in the rotunda.
“It was a wonderful experience for the children,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s latest creative project has taken a turn from using words to write poems, songs and plays to making words come alive for young readers.
Several years ago Anderson took a popular Star Wars book and made a theme bag for her son.
“I just made a bag and put little pockets along the side,” she said. “Then I bought the characters that were in the book and put them in the little pockets. He loved that bag and played with it forever.”
That first bag has ended up with other forgotten toys, but Anderson did not forget her idea.
She shared it with a friend, Sandy Heyman, an internationally known quilter from Burns, who liked the concept.
Now the two women are busy developing theme bags for children.
The partnership, called Books and Beyond, has already made several theme bags.
Each bag is made to fit the theme of the book, with pockets along the outside and special items pertaining to the story tucked safely away in the pockets.
The hardback books are available from the women as well, but offered separately.
Among their collection are the following:
— “To Market, To Market,” by Anne Miranda, has a crazy hat with all kinds of animals that stick to the top.
— “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” by Hans Christian Anderson, has wooden figures Anderson has carved of a one-legged soldier and ballerina, a paper boat and a rat puppet.
“We believe these theme bags will allow the children to go beyond reading into the world of make-believe,” Anderson said. “We want them to step outside the ‘box,’ and we want to encourage them to use their imaginations.
“We want them to play with whoever reads the books with them, and to nurture a togetherness with someone special.”
The bags will be on display and available for purchase at the French Market in Wichita April 27.