Creek buffer strip pays off
This year's conservation buffer strip award goes to Tom and Carolyn Norman.
The couple have established grass buffer strips along the banks of Stranger Creek just north of U.S. Highway 24-40.
"The purpose of it is to clean the water," Tom Norman said.
He explained that when the creek rises into his fields, the grass, which will reach a height of five or six feet, will filter the water as it flows back into the creek.
In turn, the buffer strips help protect the crops, catching some debris and preventing it from reaching the field.
Gray Rader, district conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the buffer strip award is presented by the Leavenworth County Conservation District to encourage landowners to establish strips along streams.
Norman's parents, Bill and Fern Norman, farmed the ground years ago, even before the highway was built at its present location in the late 1940s. Currently, Tom and Carolyn's son, Brian, lives on his grandparents' home place.
It's likely that later this year Brian will move to the Kansas City area, and Tom and Carolyn's daughter, Kristen, a recent Kansas University graduate who has been accepted into the KU
McCall said she's been grateful, through the years, for assistance provided by the conservation agency.
"I don't know what we would have done without them," McCall said. "Because they helped us plan what to do where, and where to put our terraces and a good place for ponds."
Making the most of it
In looking back at her years on the farm, McCall chuckles at how much things have changed -- how the $8,000 she and her husband paid for the 160 acres, which included two houses, seemed like a huge price at the time. Today, that $8,000 would barely pay the price of a good used car.
McCall and her husband each put down $1,000 on the farm.
"So we only owed $6,000," she said. "But honey, that payment once a year was hard to come up with in those days. Our payments were $200 a year, but you know, $200 was harder to get then than $2,000 or more now."
The couple was frugal.
"We started out with what we had to have," McCall said. "Like a refrigerator and a washing machine."
Alone now for the past 18 years since Don died at 69 from leukemia, McCall is anything but alone. In the last year she split off her property, so that her three children will have equal shares of it when she is gone. In a house next door that has a connecting driveway live her son, David, and his wife, Beth. McCall's daughter, Marilyn Marquis, and her family live on the south end of the property. And another son, Curtis McCall, and his family live on the west part of the property.
Fridays are fun days for Beth, Beth's aunt Betty and McCall.
The three take off in Beth's car, equipped with a cell phone, compass, maps and only a vague idea of where they may be going.
They don't always end up there. For instance, a recent destination point of a mall in Kansas City never matured. But a fun trip to see the sights in nearby Atchison County did. It's as much a delight as it is a goal for the women to discover something about a community they hadn't known. It may be the best spot to stop for ice cream, a park long forgotten, now revisited, or scenery they may not have expected of a Kansas town.
But whatever it is, it's likely that the journey rings with laughter. McCall's face lights when she smiles. Her laughter is contagious.
She has few regrets -- especially when it came to meeting the love of her life.
McCall was a high school senior in Carlsbad, N.M., when she met Don. He was in the army, seven years her senior. Three years later, when he completed his military service, the couple married and moved to Leavenworth where Don had worked at the Veterans Administration Hospital before being drafted. He had been raised in WaKeeney, west of Hays, but preferred northeastern Kansas.
"He didn't like the country out there," McCall said. "He lived through the dust storms."
Her first months in Kansas were tough, said McCall.
"I missed my folks a lot," she said. "I was the middle daughter and I missed my two sisters terrible, especially when Don went to work."
Since her husband died, McCall has learned to live with the gnawing ache of life without him. But overall, she said, things have been good.
"It's been a nice life," McCall said. "I would still love every minute of it -- I do love every minute of it, but it's just sad that Don had to go so young. ... He was such a good man."