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Journalist Sarah Smarsh grew up in what she calls a working-poor family in south central Kansas. Her new memoir, Heartland, is out Tuesday. It’s a look at Smarsh’s childhood through the lens of the national politics and the forces of poverty.

KMUW’s Beth Golay talked with Smarsh at our studios.

Watchdog groups say changes to the 2020 census could make it harder to accurately count people living in rural areas, which could ultimately lead to future funding shortfalls.

People Of The Plains: I Lost Him In Afghanistan

Sep 16, 2018


Paty Bedoy had no idea her life would change after seeing her husband Genaro deploy for what would be his last time after being home for the birth of their daughter.

Her life took a dramatic turn after Genaro died in Afghanistan. A young married couple who were looking forward to spending the rest of their lives together had that cut short.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Joel either eats or saves every morsel of leftover food.  And, though I much prefer that he simply pops the last three tater tots in his mouth as we carry the dishes to the kitchen, if for some odd reason, there is even one crumb left, Joel will keep it.  I try to surreptitiously throw away the two shrimp and three macaronis left in the dish before Joel preserves with the idealistic dream that someone will eat these items for lunch tomorrow. 

Hundreds Of Separated Families May Get A Second Chance At Seeking Asylum

Sep 14, 2018

Hundreds of migrant families who were separated at the border may have a second chance at seeking asylum in the United States after the federal government late Wednesday reached an agreement with those families’ legal representatives.

The Kansas Food Bank is expanding.

Construction is set to begin this week on a 21,000-square-foot addition to the food bank’s existing warehouse near downtown.

Brian Walker, president of the food bank, said the current space doesn’t have enough room for the food bank’s nearly 5,000 yearly volunteers -- a number, he said, that continues to grow.

The $5 million expansion will include a space for the volunteers, who currently work in the main warehouse.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Alexander Graham Bell famously said, “When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  We don’t have this problem in our house, because no doors are ever closed.  Cupboards, drawers, toothpaste tubes, toilet seats, milk jugs, toy chests and mouths -- all are fated to remain ever gaping.

A lack of referees may make Thursday – and even Saturday – games a regular occurrence – in a state known for "Friday Night Lights."

The gap in refs may be attributable to a seemingly mythical prospect in Texas: There's too much football, so high schools share stadium space.

Colorado Voters Will Make Big Decisions In November

Sep 4, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

In two months, Colorado voters will make big decisions that will shape both Colorado and the rest of the nation for years to come.

As The Denver Post reports, if Republican Walker Stapleton is elected governor, it will be the state’s first Republican in 12 years to hold the seat. On the other hand, if Democrat Jared Polis is elected, the state will take a step closer to becoming a Democratic stronghold. 

Here are a few other storylines to watch during the midterm elections.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Listeners, you already know that I have a bit of a time quieting my mind.  I race from one topic to another, trying to quickly jot things down before I forget.  I have a list app on my phone, I carry a small notepad, and I’ve been known to write on my own skin.

If someone is yelling, singing, or conversing with me while I’m making a list, that distraction causes . . . glitches.  I’ve opened up my little notepad to find the following to-do list: “Get milk, iron slacks, don’t eat that – it will make you sick, buy Joel’s birthday gift, and scratch my back.”

People Of The Plains: Fortitude, Faith And Fitness

Aug 31, 2018

Sharon Hayes

Wife, mom and grandmother Sharon Hayes has taught fitness classes for 36 years and has been a teacher for 17 years.

She won her battle with breast cancer and is currently living out an incredible life and she doesn’t take any moment for granted.

She loves and enjoys life. She has four dogs, one cat, and 23 chickens.

She loves driving her Harley Davidson three-wheeler or riding with her husband on his Harley.

Thanks so much to Laurie Howard, Development Director at the Hope & Healing Place, for stopping by HPPR to talk about the "Wings of Hope: Butterfly Release & Remember." 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

We scheduled our family vacation during county fair week this year, in hopes that an exciting trip would distract from the annual expensive foray into the deep-fat-fryer of rural tradition.  My kids have never been involved in 4H (we have more than enough aitches in our lives as it is without adding four more), so we have no obligation to attend. 

The Colorado Rockies are packed with natural beauty, huge vistas, pretty flowers and adorable critters.

But when I backpacked the 160-mile Collegiate Loop on the Colorado Trail last month, I discovered a great little community of strangers out on the trail. Here are just a few of the notables I met on the trail.

Thanks so much to Lou Ann Garrett for stopping by High Plains Morning to share information about the 9th Annual Louise Daniel Women‘s History Luncheon and Women’s Equality Day Celebration, which will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday, August 24, in the Great Hall of Polk Street United Methodist Church, 1401 S. Polk in Amarillo. This year, they’re honoring women in the oil and gas industry—past and present—in the Texas Panhandle.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Some people take using the restroom in peace for granted.  Before I had kids, I never gave much thought to expelling my own waste.  In fact, multitasking was often a natural pairing with using the restroom.  I could mentally compose a grocery list, for example, while simultaneously doing my business. 

Syed Jamal, a Lawrence, Kansas, scientist arrested in January for overstaying his visa, will be able to present his case to an immigration judge, preventing his imminent deportation.

Attorneys for Jamal, who was born in Bangladesh, announced Tuesday that the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled last week to send his case back to an immigration judge.

“It gives us a chance to have our day in court,” said Alan Claus Anderson, Jamal’s neighbor and part of his legal team.

It also blocks Jamal’s imminent deportation.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I’ll never understand the content of modern kid videos.  Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up without a television, and I’m just out of touch with video media in general.  But seriously, what’s the deal with these “unboxing” videos? 

My son will watch Youtube videos of 35-year-old guys taking their latest Lego purchases out of a shipping box, and saying things like, “Dude, this is the latest iteration of the Millenium Falcon.  Unlike the 16th and 17th versions, which contained only 4726 and 4728 pieces respectively, this particular box contains 4732 pieces!

Bureau of Land Management

The Federal Bureau of Land Management is hosting a series of focus groups in the Texas Panhandle, hoping to forge a plan for what to do with the thousands of acres of public land just north of Amarillo.

As MyHighPlains.com reports, the Cross Bar Ranch will one day soon be opened to the public — all 12,500 acres of it.

Kansas officials will soon have an up-to-date map of broadband service availability across the state as a way to help close the coverage gap.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Joel does the dishes.  Always.  I’m ashamed to admit this because Joel works all day – as do I – and it doesn’t seem fair that he’s then left with the household chore that I despise most of all. I do struggle from time to time with the old-fashioned idea that doing the dishes is the wife’s job. As a big proponent of equal rights, I’ve decided to deal with the guilt. 

Colorado Rural Transit Being Stretched Beyond Capacity

Jul 30, 2018
Creative Commons

Many elderly and disabled rural Coloradans rely on transit to get to doctor’s appointments or even to go grocery shopping. 

As the Colorado Independent reports, Colorado logged 14 million rural transit trips in 2016 – more than any other state.

Because of greater demand, not enough buses and not enough drivers, the wait time for shuttles in eastern Colorado over the last two years has stretched from 24 hours to one week. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

You’ve heard about Joel’s hard-working side.  You’ve heard about his bumbling husband role.  You’ve heard about how sociable he is.  But you haven’t heard, unless he’s cornered you at the coffee shop, about his mischievous bent.  Joel is wont to play practical jokes.  And since he’s mastered the well-intentioned -- but forgetful -- guy part so convincingly, he’s ideally positioned to trick people.

The butt of his jokes might, initially, feel mild skepticism: Surely Joel can’t really think this travel-sized tube of toothpaste is Clementine’s prescription skin cream, can he?  Surely, he hasn’t been applying this for the last week instead of the cream from the drugstore.  And yet, the rash is still very angry . . .

Wikimedia Commons

Judges typically have two options when sentencing drug crimes: prison or probation.

But next month, Ellis County in western Kansas is opening Kansas’ 13th drug court in Hays.

From Texas Standard: 

Texas has almost a dozen medical schools, but it also has a rural healthcare worker shortage. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is set to vote tomorrow on whether to approve another medical school.

Huntsville-based Sam Houston State University thinks it can address Texas’ critical shortage of doctors in rural parts of the state. It’s seeking accreditation this week for its proposed college of osteopathic medicine.
Dr. Stephan McKernan is the associate dean for clinical affairs at the proposed school. He says the goal is to teach students from underserved, rural areas.

Esperanza Yanez can spot a sick cow just by looking at it.

"The head hangs down and they don't eat," says Yanez, who immigrated from Mexico two decades ago and has been caring for cattle ever since.

While learning to communicate with animals takes years of patience, Yanez says the true language barrier exists between the dairy workers and the veterinarians who rarely speak Spanish. Medical terminology can be confusing, and to avoid embarrassment, Yanez says she and other workers may feign comprehension.

While most civilian coffee sippers aren’t aware of the world’s many coffee competitions swirling around us, right now our High Plains home is serving as one of 10 cities across the US to host the 2019 US Coffeechamps Preliminaries. This weekend in Amarillo, local caffeine peddlers Krystal and Patrick Burns of Palace Coffee Company welcome the regional competition as a celebration of the best baristas and brewers on the scene today.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I’m starting out today with a shout out to the Kansas City musician, Kelly Werts, who composed the theme song for this show, “The Little House Rag.”  I’d like to thank Kelly for writing such a catchy little ditty.  You can hear more of his folksy music at wertsmusic.com. 

While we’re on the subject of music, I may as well fill you in on how different Joel’s and my musical tastes are.  A person who doesn’t like country music on the High Plains is practically committing sacrilege. 

High Plains Public Radio & the Amarillo Art Institute present the 3rd Annual Chase the Sunset: Art & Music in Palo Duro Canyon!

On Saturday, August 11th, HPPR & AAI invite kids of the High Plains to CHASE THE SUNSET with a celebration of art, music, & nature to bid the summer a final farewell.

From Texas Standard:

A legal services nonprofit based in San Antonio has gained a national profile – fast and in a big way: Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES. For many who are frustrated with the immigration policies of the Trump administration – especially family separation – donating to RAICES became a way to do something. The nonprofit ended up collecting more than $20 million through a Facebook fundraiser.