Column published in the Smith County Pioneer, February 13, 2014

HOME ON THE RANGE
By El Dean Holthus, Trustee

Many of the readers know me, some think they know me, many do not know me and I have been guilty of sending mixed signals so I want to establish the following before you read the column. I am a Kansan by choice, the grandson of a German immigrant; he and my father built the house where Kathy and I now live, where we raised our boys and where I was born. This house and Kansas have been my home for all my years (81+) except for the time in military service. This column will be dedicated to Kansas, its rural communities and their leaders.

We began the celebration of the anniversary of Kansas statehood with the showing the documentary, “The Road to Valhalla” which shared the bitter fighting that preceded and followed Kansas becoming a State; more about that later when I address the criticism of our State flag and our Capitol building in last week’s issue of the Pioneer.

Two events, directly related to Home on the Range, occurred on January 29, 2014, Kansas 153rd birthday.

The first was local when I had the chance, along with other grandparents to visit and share information with the 3rd grade class of UDS 237. My presentation was on Home on the Range and how the song and Cabin is related to Kansas History. The class was divided into groups of 5 students and after each of us had made 5 presentations the class was brought together so they might sing “Home on the Range” to close the first session. I had a delightful time and the students were attentive, informed and well behaved.

The second was a story, by Beccy Tanner of the Wichita Eagle telling of the restoration of the Higley/Home on the Range Cabin and its re-dedication scheduled for October 3-5, 2014. This story was immediately picked up by the national wire services and went all over the country; in addition I want to thank Sherry for running it in last weeks Pioneer.

On January 30, USA, on its state news page, carried a summary of Beccy’s article using the Cabin address of Athol, Ks. This provides further evidence that people outside Kansas know and appreciate our great state so also should those that live and work here.

Beccy Tanner is a special friend of Home on the Range, a friendship which manifest itself in an article published in January 2011 in the Eagle telling of the plight of the Cabin and the need for restoration. This article triggered the beginning of fund raising in the Wichita area that grew to include the entire Nation and produced the funds to complete the restoration.

I was feeling really good about having celebrated Kansas Day, about having our beautiful renovated Capitol Building dedicated, planning of the Cabin re-dedication and the successful showing of the film depicting the struggles of and those who died so that Kansas might become a free State; then in last week’s paper, David Steinle, writer for this very paper chose to ridicule our Capitol Building and our State Flag, in so doing he made fun of everything about Kansas and those things symbolic to Kansans (go back to start of column). I was so angry that someone from Louisiana would choose to ridicule and make light of the symbols of our great state that I was ready to renew the Civil War. I am too fat to fight and too old to march so in lieu of war I am taking this means to reply to Mr. Steinle.

The first is his reference to our flag, saying, “it is the least inspired design of any state or Canadian province”, continuing, “Calling it uninspired is too kind, I consider it a major eyesore and cringe when I have to look at the ugly flag representing this great state”. I would like to describe this “uninspired, ugly flag” to you and to Mr. Steinle; it is blue with our State Seal centered having a sunflower above the seal and the words KANSAS across the bottom of the flag. The state seal contains landscape with a rising sun, river and steamboat (commerce), Settler’s cabin and a man plowing a field (agriculture), wagon train (American Expansion), Indians hunting fleeing buffalo (history), and a cluster of 34 stars (at the top of the seal) identifying Kansas as the 34th state of the Union and the State Motto, “Ad Astra Per Aspera” which is Latin for, “To The Stars through Difficulties”. This motto is above the cluster of stars.

Contrary to Mr. Steinle who considers my flag “ugly and uninspired” I find it beautiful and inspiring with its design inspired by the great struggles that Kansas went through to become a state; this flag with its symbols describes the growth and foundation of the economy of the state of Kansas and most of all the motto describes the horrific battle and struggles between Freemen and Slave Holders as to whether Kansas would be a member of the Union or the Confederacy.

I am also proud of my State Capitol Building BECAUSE it follows the design of our Nation’s Capitol Building; I am proud to be a Kansan but more proud to be an American and so with Kansans and the peoples of all other states that have TRUE identifiable Capitol Buildings, stand tall, shoulder to shoulder, proud to be citizens of the United States of America.

I guess I am preparing for those who want to replace Home on the Range as our state song. Our song is the number one state song around the world, taught in the schools of Japan and Denmark, sung in Russia, Poland and China; even in the hill country of the Philippines by tribes with their own language; no other state song can come close to this world wide popularity. Two years ago I was asked by a reporter for German Public Radio why I thought Home on the Range is so popular? My answer to him and to all of you is this, “Close your eyes, listen or sing the words and I ask you, does it not make you think of your home regardless of country of origin”? He agreed.

Wildcats, Jayhawks and Shockers may fight within like brothers and sisters but they are Kansans first and if you are from another state and choose to ridicule our great state and its symbols buckle up for a fight. David, if you dislike Kansas so much, I will make your reservations for you to leave and return to Louisiana.

Not related; Kansas is the “Number One Basketball State in the Union”.