The price of wheat at the elevator in Ellsworth, Kansas is $2.77 a bushel today. A good luncheon with meat and potatoes and vegetable and beverage can be had for about $5.00. But a farmer may happily invest $160,000 in a gleaming new Sterlized John Deer combines green John Deere combine. By the way, they're trying to keep the Karnal bunt from moving up north from Texas. Overseas wheat buyers won't accept wheat from areas afflicted by Karnal bunt. So the independent combine operators who are moving north have to get their machines completely sterilized.
A good farm manager wouldn't think of second-cropping his fields; it's short-sighted. But acreage may be rotated from wheat to milo to feed crops. Most farmers here raise some stock as well. A white-faced Angus hybrid puts on a few more pounds.
There are two newspapers in Ellsworth, and one in Wilson. By the second or third day everybody knew Nancy Thornburgh had relatives in town doing genealogy. And everybody helped, too. For example, the Koraleks let us drive out to photograph the old Cadwell home, which was built by Z. Jackson, who also built the Opera House (now torn down). Incidentally, we learned that, although every single person in Ellsworth county is a died-in-the-wool true blue Kansan, committed to wheat and cattle and the Republican party, about half of those Kansans have Czech names like Koralek, because entire villages from Bohemia came Quarried stone fencepost over to homestead.
About half our time has been spent hunched over microfilm readers, reading old marriage records and obituaries. We found two great uncles who briefly owned a department store in Wilson and paid to have long flowery biographies placed in a book entitled Biographical History of Central Kansas. But for the most part, these people went to high school, then got married, farmed the land, raised cattle and families, and went to church.
Every family history has some tragedies, too. One 9-year old didn't know about western flash floods; he and the team of horses were drowned. An old sick bachelor committed suicide.
We read quite a bit of other news and gossip, too, all jumbled together. The big social organizations here were the Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias. A hundred years ago there were racist stories; fifteen years after that we were fighting the Huns. And the paper was unabashedly Republican.
When a combine moves through the wheat, clouds of chaff blow out behind Cake pan lending library and the kernels shoot up to a bin behind the driver. Trailer trucks full of wheat are parked at the elevators. (It rained last night, so, as all the local papers noted, the wheat harvest will be on hold for a few days until the wheat dries out again.) Everybody waves to everybody on the dirt roads, but not necessarily on the state highway.
One of the libraries has a few bookshelves filled with cake pans of various unusual shapes. One can borrow these, just like books. The children like to pick out the shape of cake pan to have for their birthday parties.
As we did the genealogy we found ourselves choosing favorites. We especially like the mother of twelve, Rosma Bell Cadwell, because, in the family picture, at age 51, she still looks beautiful, dark and slim with a commanding eye.
We spent a week in Ellsworth, and although we thought we were doing genealogy all the time, it turns out we were learning about a town and a county and its people and their way of life.