Monday, August 15, 2016

Six Flags MidAmerica

Welcome to Six Flags Over MidAmerica just outside of Saint Louis, Missouri!!

We did not pick the best day to go. It was overcast, very humid and often rainy, but we still had loads of fun!

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Fort Scott, Kansas

As I said in an earlier post, we planned to do a little sightseeing. Today, we stopped and explored Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Kansas. Established in 1842, this fort was one of a line of forts that was supposed to separate the white American settlers from the territories reserved for the Native Americans, a "permanent frontier" at the edge of the "civilized" lands. Named after General Winfield Scott, this fort was typical of the peace-time forts of the day, with no palisade or earthworks to defend it.

When the first Army units arrived, the site was nothing more than open prairie. Captain Thomas Swords, the new post's quartermaster, was tasked with the job of building the fort. Of course, he started with the five buildings that would house the fort's officers. Four were duplexes, each providing a six room home to two officers. The fifth was the post commander's home. The hospital and powder magazine were also built in 1843. Wood, other building materials, skilled masons and carpenters, and construction equipment, the erection of the fort was slow. 1843 saw the construction of the Dragoon stables, with their barracks being built the following year, along with the infantry barracks. Political events, including the Mexican-American War, mounting pressure from Americans moving west, and the resulting Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 which opened the lands west of the "permanent frontier" rendered Fort Scott obsolete by 1850. It was abandoned by the military and sold, at auction, to the settlers.

The 1850s, saw Kansas was the site of numerous clashes between the pro-slavery, anti-slavery and abolitionists. The pro-slavery group wanted Kansas to be a slave state. The anti-slavery and abolitionists wanted Kansas to be a free state. The clashes were numerous and bloody, earning that period of time the name "Bleeding Kansas." During this period, the Army returned periodically to keep and restore the peace, but they did not stay.

In 1861, the Union Army did return to stay. Here, they trained soldiers – white, black and Native American – for fighting in the Civil War. The post was enlarged, adding the commissary, the quartermaster and several troop barracks. At the end of the Civil War, the Army again sold the fort, at auction. to the settlers. Many of the buildings were converted to civilian use.

The surviving buildings include two duplexes, which housed four officers and their families, one dragoon's barracks, two infantry barracks, a hospital, guardhouse, dragoon stables, ordnance and post headquarters, quartermaster stables, bake shop, flagpole, and magazine.

The historic site also includes five acres of tallgrass prairie restored as part of an ecology-restoration project.

We definitely enjoyed this stop, although most of the buildings did not have good handicap accessibility. The stairs in the Dragoon Barracks and the Officer Housing are steep, thus being rough on my wife's knee and hip.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

On the Road to MidAmeriCon II - WorldCon 74

Well, we are on the road again — Hey, that sounds like a Willie Nelson song..... This time we are headed for Kansas City, Missouri, the site of MidAmeriCon II. MidAmeriCon II is the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, or "WorldCon." Each year, it is held in a different city – last year, Sasquan was held in Spokane, Washington and next year, WorldCon75 in Helsinki, Finland.

We left the ranch last night, planning to drift our way north. We are not expected in Kansas City until Tuesday, at the earliest. We hope to do a little sightseeing along the way. Last night, we laid over here in Texas. We plan to drive north into Oklahoma later this morning.

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Friday, August 05, 2016

Farmers and Ranchers Must Be Optimists

Julie Tomascik posted a blog entry yesterday, entitled "Farmers: The eternal optimists", on Texas Ag Talks. In it, she points to the insanity of those of us who grow the food that we serve on our tables. She wrote:

Farming and ranching is a gamble. Every year. And 2016 has been a mixed deck at best.

It flooded. Then the rain shut off. Drought now steadily creeps back in.

Anti-agriculture crowds continue to attack farmers and ranchers, while regulations are piled on. Increased costs for inspections, fees and certifications add to the growing list.

Commodity and livestock prices are down. Net farm income keeps dropping. And it’s forecast to be down 3 percent this year at $54.8 billion, the lowest since 2002.

Most would walk away. Throw in the towel and find a less stressful, more predictable career.

The sad fact is that many of us have walked away. But, we all need to eat. We do not want most of our incomes to go toward the cost of food. This means that either we import more food from abroad or we hire low-cost labor to grow and harvest our food. Actually, we are doing both.

We are importing beef from Argentina, fresh vegetables from Mexico, fresh fruit from Central America and packaged foods and beverages from just about every major nation. Importing food makes us vulnerable other nations' problems &ndash political, economic, climate and natural disasters. How do we, as a nation, stand up to another nation who provides a significant amount of our food? The answer is that we cannot, for if they decide to cut us off we are going to pay more to get our food from elsewhere or go hungry.

Farmers and ranchers are also hiring workers, when they can get them. Few Americans want to work in the hot sun, tending to and harvesting our fresh fruits and vegetable. To be honest, it is hard, sweaty work. If you are tending to livestock, it can be dangerous, as well. The price the farmer or rancher receives for what they produce is set by the buyers for supermarkets and processing plants. From the amount the buyers pay, the farmer must pay for the seed, the fertilizer, the water, the pest managers and the harvesters. Precious little, seldom more than pennies per pound, is kept by the farmer.

Think about it. For a farmer who grows melons exclusively, take a minute and calculate how many melons must be sold to earn a reasonable "paycheck." Yesterday, cantaloupes were selling for $0.95 each and honeydews for $1.19. Of that, the grower may get $0.35. When you subtract the grower's costs to grow and harvest that melon, the grower gets to keep about 7 cents. If the grower wants an income of $40,000, that takes about 571,500 melons! More than half a million melons! That is a whole lot of melons! You can do a similar calculation with any food item.

Given these statistics, and the fact that each crop is a big gamble, why do we choose do it? Each of us has our own answer. Would you city dwellers or suburbanites do it? Probably not. You would rather fight with traffic, put up with noise and crowding, than take on our risks. Most of you cannot even be bothered to raise a garden &ndash "It's too hard." "I haven't got time." "It's too much work."

Your garden would be measured in square feet. Our "gardens" are measured in acres and square miles. Feeding you sure keeps us busy!

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