KNS

Courtesy, Enrique Rodríguez Franz

LIBERAL, Kansas — One woman thinks the COVID-19 pandemic was planned, man-made.

A man won’t get inoculated because he suspects other countries are using Americans as test subjects for their vaccines.

Three-fourths of this focus group gathered at a Liberal community center had heard the shots might contain microchips so the government can track people, even if most said they don’t buy that myth anymore.

Courtesy, Black Archives of Mid-America

HAYS, Kansas — On the night of Jan. 6, 1869, Luke Barnes, Lee Watkins and James Ponder sat in jail accused of shooting a white railroad worker in this northwest Kansas town.

By sunrise, the three Black men had been dragged from their cell by a mob of white townspeople and hanged from a railroad trestle over the creek that separates the town from Fort Hays, where the men were stationed in the U.S. Army. A Leavenworth newspaper reported that the town “indulged them in a dance in mid-air.”

David Condos / Kansas News Service

GREAT BEND, Kansas — Joey Bahr walks out to the front of his yard along a blacktop county road. He stops in a ditch and points to an orange-and-black sign that marks a buried fiber-optic cable.

But for Bahr, the cable running beneath his feet is off-limits. It’s owned by a neighboring internet service provider and is merely passing through on its way to a nearby town.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — In mid-May, Finney County’s top public health physician sent an email to state health officials repeating worries she’d made clear a month earlier to her local colleagues.

Finney County Health Department Medical Director Lindsay Byrnes warned that the coronavirus outbreak at the local meatpacking plant continued to put workers there, and the surrounding community, at risk.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Four Republicans and two Democrats are running for Kansas’ 1st Congressional District seat. It’s open because Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall hopes to win the  U.S. Senate seat held by Pat Roberts, who is retiring.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — A unity rally put together by an incoming Garden City High School senior drew more than 1,000 people to downtown Garden City on Wednesday night.

Carmen Robinson said she had the support of the Garden City Police Department for the rally, which was held in a park that filled up with hundreds before the event even started. 

"This is awesome," she said. "This is change."

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

DODGE CITY, Kansas — In the days leading up to President Donald Trump’s mandate that all meatpacking plants stay open, workers in western Kansas’ meatpacking triangle were worried that precautions now being taken aren’t enough to slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

“We're right next to each other in the locker rooms,” Brandon Vasquez said about the possibility of social distancing at the National Beef plant in Dodge City, where he’s worked for about a year. “The lunch line ... they put stuff on the floor where we should stay six feet apart. But a lot of people are not listening and there's nobody enforcing (social distancing) in there.”

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — The Finney County Emergency Medical Service department, with its staff of 23, is conserving its N95 masks and only using them when a patient is positive for COVID-19. Like large hospitals, U.S. cities and entire European countries, rural EMS workers aren’t shielded from the medical supply shortage. 

And that’s just one of the challenges rural EMS agencies across Kansas stare down as COVID-19 is being confirmed in their communities. They’re stretched thin, covering hundreds of miles, and seeing the ripple effects from the pandemic that’s shut down communities — something emergency plans hadn’t accounted for. 

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Before June 2018, finding cattle that were potentially exposed to diseases was time-consuming and complicated, requiring a patchwork of information from auction houses, feedlots, producers and meatpacking plants.

That’s when Kansas spearheaded U.S. CattleTrace, filling a void when it comes to tracing deadly diseases in live cattle and possibly opening up new global markets for beef. Nine other states have signed onto the pilot program, which has distributed 65,000 ultra high-frequency tags that are scanned just like your online purchases.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Wearing sweaters, small kids (of the goat variety) went springing over hay-lined pens in the Good Karma Micro-Dairy barn in Russell County. Here, Erin and Doug Renard milk goats and cows and make raw cheese, Greek yogurt, butter and gelato.

“As you noticed when you came here, there's no signs,” Erin Renard said. “One of the reasons there's no signs is expense. But the other reason was we couldn't even put 'raw milk' on the sign. Now we can.” 

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — On the last day of September, a bulldozer scooped dirt from an empty field between a hotel and a fence separating the land from a house-lined street in Garden City.

In 18-24 months, a massive $41 million sports complex, called Sports of the World, is slated to open at this site, with courts of all kinds — pickleball, basketball, volleyball. There’ll be a trampoline park and an outdoor recreation area with cornhole and a life-sized Battleship game. It’s expected to host cheerleading, wrestling and other sports tournaments, drawing in people from Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY — As a nurse, Betsy Rodriquez interviews teenagers who are sexually active and often shockingly ignorant about sex.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

DODGE CITY — Kansas is bathed in shades of blue that stretch north to south, east to west. That’s not a reference to politics: It’s what the state looks like on the Federal Communications Commission’s Fixed Broadband Deployment map. 

Courtesy of Della Rambo

GARDEN CITY — Three years ago, rancher and farmer Jay Young got intrigued by a YouTube video.

A North Dakota farmer championed the idea of cover crops — plants that would be considered weeds in many other contexts — as robust plants for his cattle to graze on.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY — Nearly all American cattle spend their final months in massive feedlots, munching on feed designed to fatten them for slaughter.

But not all that goes into the beasts transforms to beef.

Their four-chamber-stomach digestive systems continually seep all forms of gasses, including the powerful greenhouse gas methane they burp up silently and constantly.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

Every summer since 1922, locals and tourists have flocked to Garden City’s Big Pool. Once promoted as “the world’s largest outdoor free concrete municipal swimming pool,” it holds around 2 million gallons of water. “Holds” might now be an overstatement.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY — In the 1940s and ’50s, people of color couldn’t use the public swimming pool here. If they went to the movie theater in Garden City, Hispanic patrons could only sit in the balcony.

A few generations later, Garden City School Board member Tim Cruz served on the city commission and as mayor. He played a role in dealing with leaks in the city’s swimming pool, known as The Big Pool.

Pixabay

Crawling internet speeds in rural Kansas make trying to sell cattle online exasperating.

Instead of uploading photos and videos of cattle for sale from home, farmer and cattleman Jay Young drives to his parents’ house or into the town of Tribune in far west Kansas where internet speeds are faster.

Young has a broadband connection and says he’s able to create a cattle listing from home, but the slow internet brings on additional work.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

For years, one of the first stops for immigrant groups arriving in Garden City has been an apartment in a brick building.

A sign posted on the front door welcomes people in four languages. Inside, tables and chairs in the living room and kitchen form a classroom. Refugees learn English and the ways of American life from those who navigated the culture shock just a few years before them.

Regardless of religion or customs, for years refugees at LiveWell Finney County’s Neighborhood Learning Center have bonded while studying and learning to adjust to life in a small American city on the high plains.

More recently, though, the dynamic shifted.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

Saleh Mohammed fled his native Myanmar in 2015.

“Too much fighting over there,” he said.

As a member of the Rohingya ethnic minority, he was in particular peril. His life was in danger.

He settled in Garden City. Now 24, he may gain citizenship in a year. That, in turn, will put him in a position to bring over his family and free those loved ones from a refugee camp in Bangladesh.