Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Woman Before Me

This post was supposed to have a picture of my sweet little girl and her corn shuck doll. Apparently the corn shuck doll went to pre-school and stayed there..stay tuned for pictures should she be found..the corn shuck doll that is...not the 4 year old.

Yesterday was one of those days. The baby learned to climb the stairs and fall back down them (twice.) My four year old decided to practice her scissor skills creating the blizzard of September 2011 in my dining room. My 2nd Grader is practicing the piano, practicing his spelling words, practicing his vocabulary words while practicing his outside voice…inside.

Just another day at the Schlueter household, except that there was 9 pounds of hamburger to be browned for the school dinner the next day, material to be ordered for Sunday’s youth group, dinner due to the field and a landscaper to be contacted to finish the latest project on Main Street. While cleaning the dog’s contribution to the evening off the carpet, I had a thought….wouldn’t it be nice to live in a community that didn’t need me so much? A community where someone else could brown hamburger, teach youth or attend city council meetings?

Entertaining these thoughts, I headed to the field with supper.  As I arrived at the bin site, I could feel my brow unfurrow and my shoulders relax. I followed the kids out to the field where the stocks were newly shorn. Searching for the perfect shuck, I began to show Lizzie and Aaron the art of corn shuck doll making…..a skill I had learned some 20 years before from my Grandmother.

On the drive back into town, I began to remember the reason why youth group lessons and city council meetings are so important to me. I do them because just like that corn shuck doll there are some things worth passing to the next generation.  So forgive me this post as it is a little about keeping me motivated and a lot about those women before me.

Church Ladies: You said it was ok when I forgot a change of clothes on Baptism day (we dunk). You taught me about gossip when you wore a brown wig to GAs and asked me the following week who I told that you dyed your hair. You gave me handmade Christmas ornaments as a child and wedding showers and casseroles as an adult. You showed me I mattered.

School Moms:  You organized a haunted house to raise money when our school was failing and sold napkin after napkin. You organized pep rallies and helped with chemistry. You were proud when we won and even prouder when we accepted defeat graciously. You knew just when to be our advocate and when to back off and let us made our own decisions.

4-H Leader: Mud boots and craft projects, personal appearance day and demonstrations, a jack of all trades-that is what a 4-H Leader is all about. When I think about the patience it took to “teach”, I am in awe.  It was never glamorous work, but the practical skills you taught are priceless.

Civic Leaders: Halloween parades, reading groups, swimming lessons and rodeos, you put the “quality” in life in small towns. If there is a need, you fill it often without recognition and always without pay. Your motivation is your cause and your passion abounds.

Some communities are hinged together by threads thin and delicate, easily torn by a disregard for duty, a sense of anonymity and “freedom” from being needed.  In my town, the ties that bind are strong. Just as I am bound by the generation before me, I bind the generation after me.

 Just as I received from the women before me so shall I give.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Photography in Atchison County

Introducing Megan McAdams, one of our county's most talented photographers. You can find her pictures on ACDC's website, on this blog, and in the Tarkio Avalanche, where she spends her days as Reporter & Photographer. On any given weekend or evening, you can find Megan tromping around our county, capturing life and beauty as only she can.

Most know me as Megan at the Avalanche, but I didn’t always have a camera glued to my hand. Like most of us growing up in Atchison County, our first image-capturing device was our View Master (the children's toy that with a click of the button, would provide images from a Disney movie, etc.) and our first real cameras were disposable. In today’s technologically advanced society, cameras have not only become readily available, but also affordable. We’ve upgraded from cameras you throw away (along with most of your pictures when you get back dark, fuzzy images whose compositions are unrecognizable) to cameras as sleek and shiny as a new penny
that slide just as easily into your pocket when not in use, or big, powerful, fast action beauties with detachable flashes and zoom lenses.

My trigger finger fills up the memory card five times faster than most and my wrist aches from constantly being tilted to hold onto the camera, but man is the pain worth it! Atchison County’s beauty and ever-changing sights (yes, I said “changing”) keep my camera constantly at the ready.
Our rolling hills, luscious fields, crazy wildlife, and adventurous town folk attract my eyes to their sights so that I may capture the view. I (and others like me) not only take in these spectacular visions with our own eyes, but capture the image for the eyes of others. The priority isn’t just seeing, but stopping time and absorbing the view to be able to share it with others through pictures. I am “Photographer” – Hear me click!

Most people just see things for what they are: a smile, a sunset, a nursing calf in the field, a man playing his fiddle, a car traveling down the road. What I see is: a chubby faced cherub with chipmunk cheeks and a toothless grin exploring the wonders of life with the excitement of new discovery radiating off his or her face; streaks of blue, purple, and orange splashed across the sky with a burning orb of gold laying itself beneath the cover of the horizon while illuminating the fields and enhancing the color tones of everything in sight; a baby growing fat with the gift of life from its mother, content to suckle all day and without thought of the dirt and dung caked on its hide; hands so refined that the sounds of angels pour through their fingertips and enter the ears of the listeners, while the musician’s face shows immense devotion to releasing his soul through the bow and strings; and a step back in time as the rare classic, whether dulled with rust or shiny with sunlit polished paint, relives its glory days daring eyes to take another look.

Atchison County provides some of the best scenic views in Missouri. Tarkio Prairie, located east of Westboro, is one beautiful place that most people don’t realize exists. The prairie grasses, trees, ponds, wildflowers, wildlife, and walking trails provide miles of scenic views from dawn to dusk. The trails are always maintained so that hikers may take in the beauty that surrounds them, while not having to cut through weeds to do it. Another gorgeous spot is Charity Lake, located in the northwestern part of Atchison County. Wildlife is quite abundant in this area and almost every time I visit the lake, I see a deer or two, as well as the occasional turkey. I’ve even seen bucks fighting, hitting their antlers together to win a doe. One time, I took a picture of what I thought were beautiful trees and a clearing along Charity Lake’s southern border. Once I downloaded the photo and took a closer look, I realized that I caught a bow hunter standing on his tree stand waiting for a deer to wander past. The bluffs along Rock Port’s western edge also provide some breathtaking views, while looking towards Nebraska, and chances to see wildlife. A person doesn’t even have to travel two miles out of any Atchison County town before they have the chance to see beautiful, tall crops being harvested by gigantic machines occupied by local farmers. Nor does one have to travel far to see old barns that are many, many years old, but have withstood the test of time. Even grain bins, when set in front of the setting sun for example, provide gorgeous shots.

Within the last few years, the landscapes surrounding Tarkio and Rock Port have changed and are now dotted with wind turbines or what most of us call windmills. Though sometimes man-made machines in scenic views create an ugly landscape, these gigantic towers always seems to result in a magnificent portrait of the past and present, especially when a farmer’s old windmill is incorporated in the same photograph with a new wind turbine.

Even fence lines along fields provide great photo opportunities when sunflowers and other wildflowers grow up along their posts or Atchison County birds such as hawks, buzzards, and smaller birds perch on their posts and wires. The MANY creeks, streams, and ponds that weave through the countryside and dot the land provide opportunities for good-eye cameramen/women who spot a blue heron wading for a fish, or a
muskrat swimming to its den, or a turtle sunbathing on a branch sticking out of the water. These are also places that provide a chance to see a deer or coyote that has stopped for a drink. And, let’s not forget our farm animals. Some city folk go their entire lives without ever seeing a cow grazing in a field or a rider sitting atop a horse trotting down a country road. We rural residents tend to forget that we are blessed with these sights of farm life and these animals never cease to provide beautiful and sometimes hilarious photographs.

Tarkio, Westboro, Fairfax, and Rock Port are filled with great shots, such as historical buildings and spectacular homes that have played a major role in our county and have housed over a century of family generations. In Tarkio, the Tarkio College campus, the Manse, the Walnut Inn, the North Polk one room schoolhouse, and many houses that are nearing or are over 100 years old and yet still look good as new. The churches have been around a long time and are some of the most beautiful, rural churches I have ever seen. And one doesn’t have to find a building or house in pristine condition to create a great photo. Dilapidated homes and buildings can capture the change of time (such as Tarkio’s old train depot). The golf course in Tarkio provides great scenic views (as long as you stay clear of golf balls flying through the air) with its many ponds, rolling green hills, white picket fences and beautiful trees. And as crazy as this may sound to some, our cemeteries are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen and also provide some spectacular shots, especially when you capture a photo of one of the oldest tombstones lit by the sun, standing as tall as it did in the beginning. During Memorial Day weekend, the cemetery roads are dotted with the Stars and Stripes and also provide some great views.

Last, but certainly not least, we can’t forget our townsfolk, the peanut butter that holds our county (the bread) together. We create some of the most hilarious and spectacular photos of all, with our daily happenings and our numerous community events. Our townspeople are strong-willed, strong of heart, entertaining individuals who provide the spices of life to our rural environment. We have raised extremely caring individuals, many of whom have made their mark not only in local society, but around the world. Our businesses hold Customer Appreciation Day events and open houses; the Tarkio Chamber of Commerce holds ribbon cuttings for new businesses; and local organizations donate food, clothing, shelter, and support to those in need. Even when a resident is suffering and in need of money to pay medical expenses, our communities come together to raise funds for that person, as well as to raise hope. In this last year, our county residents have shown their immense strong will and determination when fighting floodwaters and having to deal with flood ravaged homes, businesses, and crops, and many volunteered hours and hours to fill sandbags and help flood victims relocate.

I’m so blessed to have grown up in Tarkio and am so proud to say I’m a Tarkio, Atchison County, MO, resident. There are not words to describe how much I enjoy photographically capturing our rural way of life and I look forward to discovering more of Atchison County’s hidden treasures.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


It’s funny how differently you define concepts throughout your life.

neigh•bor [ney-ber] noun
  1. a person who lives near another.
  2. a person who shows kindliness or helpfulness toward his or her fellow humans: to be a neighbor to someone in distress.
From 5th grade on, I lived ‘in town’ on Main Street in Tarkio. It’s hard to decide what comprised my neighborhood then. Obviously, it included Bob & Maurice, whose backyard bordered ours, who were neighbors in every sense of the word. Bob was retired and wouldn’t let us ladies touch the lawnmower; literally, he almost pushed us out of the way every time we tried. I don’t know what we did for them in return, aside from giving them hugs regularly, but they were one of my earliest examples of neighborly kindness. Surely our neighborhood included the family who shared a driveway with us. One of our greatest forms of entertainment was watching the dad as he would fly into the driveway each night after work, only to stop abruptly right before he hit the garage door. Because Mom had a daycare, our home hosted a revolving door of traffic – it often seemed that everyone in Tarkio was our neighbor.

In college I lived in Lathrop Hall for 3 years. It was definitely a community, and my neighbors were my friends, my extended family. We leaned on each other, entertained each other and literally lived in each others’ one-room “homes.” But once I left the dorms, neighbors became those people who happened to live around me, who were loud from time to time or parked near my vehicle, and were friendly enough in passing, but ultimately just occupied a shared space.

When Keith and I got married, we bought a house several miles north of Columbia. Although it was sparsely populated all the way to our road, our home sat in a random subdivision of 9 houses. We moved in during the winter/early spring, and for months we thought we were surrounded by aliens because we never, ever saw any humans outside the houses. Technically we had neighbors then, but even though there were people living a yard away, I never felt like I was connected to anyone.

The year we lived in Maine was the first time since leaving Tarkio that I felt it again – a connection with others who lived in my general vicinity. We had neighbors on our dead-end street in town, but unlike Columbia, but we shared a driveway with an elderly couple who were friendly and caring, in a classic New England way. They rarely initiated contact – in fact, I don’t recall them ever coming to our door – but they were thrilled when we visited them, invited us in with open arms, plowed our half of the driveway when it snowed, and gave us a place to check in when there was an emergency. I will always be grateful to them for their kindness…but it just wasn’t the same as home.

Today, we get to live in a big old farmhouse in northern Atchison County – on a Century Farm, how cool is that. We get to be a part of this house’s history, and in that history are a host of families who have called this Farmers City neighborhood home for decades. Our two closest neighbors are a mile away in opposite directions. I grew up with one of those families, and the other has shown kindness that only comes with sharing a road in the country. Out here, my neighborhood is not contained by a road or a couple of blocks. I’ve never mapped the exact parameters, but I’d estimate that it goes at least 4 miles in any direction.

I’ve spent some time analyzing the difference between life here and life on our little road north of Columbia. Are the people in rural Atchison County innately more kind than those who lived on Tracy Court with us? [My totally unbiased opinion is, um-OBVIOUSLY! ;)] Not necessarily. But, they were different. We did have cows in our backyard there, but I’d venture to guess that our Tracy Court folks weren’t there because they loved the land. More likely, they were there because (like us) they didn’t want to have neighbors quite so close. And that translated to a kind of indifference – we didn’t need each other, we weren’t friends, we had our own lives and this is where our house happened to sit.

This is the thing unique to rural neighborhoods – we are few, we are far between, and we need each other. Sometimes it’s for little things like a cup of sugar (because driving 10 miles back to town when you forget something is ANNOYING). In the winter months, we keep each other company (even over the phone), dig each other out after storms and discuss road conditions. Our remoteness makes it that much more enjoyable to drop off a plate of cookies and sit for a spell, or be a part of the Christmas cantata at the church up the road. I suppose community happens in all kinds of neighborhoods, but out here, it seems to be more of a sustainer than a byproduct. Out here, we really do need each other – and I love it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

More than a Prescription

Good morning! This fine post comes from my good friend Rebekah Gebhards. Rebekah is a wife, mommy, devoted friend and PharmD. Rebekah is dedicated to her profession and to her patients and speaks eloquently of the comrade between medical professionals in our community. I consider myself lucky to have a medical team that includes Rebekah, that knows me and my family by name and not condition. Just one of the many reasons that those of us that stuck around...we're the lucky ones.

Rebekah with her husband Chris and adorable son, Gabe (2)

Growing up as a child on our family farm in rural Tarkio, there were many different career paths that I considered pursuing.  First I wanted to be a teacher just like my mom and educate future generations on the elementary school level.  Then I had a change of heart and decided that journalism was what really caught my eye after spending time in Mrs. Schmidt’s language arts class.  However looking back on my childhood experiences, it is now easy for me to see why I picked pharmacy as my profession.  As a child I can still remember the first microscope set my parents gave to me and the hours that I spent analyzing plants and insects, and the many impromptu “biology” lessons we had on our front porch when dad would bring home another animal he had found somewhere on the farm.  Science had always been my favorite subject, and I can still remember making a lighted model of the heart in 7th grade after my grandfather’s quadruple bypass heart surgery and being one of top finishers in the bridge making contest in physics.  One other particularly defining moment as well was watching my grandmother suffer through surgery and chemotherapy for breast cancer and finally coming to the realization that I wanted to do something to impact the field of medicine. 
            So off to Drake University I went, this country girl from a town that no one in the “big city” of Des Moines could pronounce to compete with students from schools 10-20 times the size of Tarkio High School.  The workload was a bit intimidating at first, but having received a solid background at THS and having learned to juggle many activities at the same time, I quickly acclimated to my new life.  Over the summers I was privileged to have the opportunity to work in rural community pharmacies, large retail chains, and city and rural hospitals.  Once I got through the basic sciences, I was captivated by the clinical aspects of my pharmacy classes and was excited about where my career might take me.  After marrying my high school sweetheart in 2003, I had one year of rotations to complete before I would receive my degree.  As many of my classmates were preparing for clinical residencies after graduation, I too thought that would be the career path I would choose.  I was the top candidate for an ambulatory care clinic residency in Des Moines through the University of Iowa working with physicians to manage patients’ cholesterol, diabetes, and anticoagulation services.  I was so excited to be embarking on this new adventure in life, but as it turned out the Lord had different plans for my family.  My husband learned of a math opening at Tarkio High School and was offered the position, a house opened up for us on one of the Gebhards’ family farms, I was offered a part-time position in Auburn with fill-in opportunities in Rock Port and Tarkio, and the funding for the residency program I was considering fell through.  After many hours of prayer and consideration, we knew the Lord was directing us back home to Atchison County.
            I am so thankful that we decided a little over 7 years ago to come back to our roots and that I get to practice pharmacy in an area that I can truly call home.  I love that when a patient walks through the door I know them by more than their medical history; each one is more than just another prescription.  The small town atmosphere fosters a more personal approach to healthcare and treatment can be individualized by being able to see the entire picture versus just a small snapshot.  We are also very blessed to be surrounded by wonderful doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and allied healthcare professionals that are truly concerned with the individual, not just the disease being treated.  The camaraderie and commitment I have experienced amongst those in patient care in Atchison County is second to none, and it greatly benefits the health and well being of those in the communities that we serve.  Practicing as a pharmacist in our corner of Missouri is not just my job, I consider it an utmost privilege to serve a community that has had and continues to have such a great impact on my life.     

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Its Sept. 1, I have to write about football. so whether you are an Indian, Bulldog, Hornet, Rocket, Panther or Bluejay, our story is all the same....those of us who stuck around..we're the lucky ones.

If you find yourself on the top of a hill somewhere in Northwest Missouri on a Friday night, you will notice the very dark fall sky, the harvest moon and the glow of Friday night football lights from the surrounding little towns. From my house in Tarkio I can’t see the lights, but I can hear the announcer as he opens each game with the National Anthem and “Here Comes Your Tarkio Indians!” 

I’ve been climbing the bleachers at Kyle Field in Tarkio for 25 plus years. First it was in the mid-80s to watch my Grandma dress as an Indian and to ride a golf cart on the field when my uncle was the homecoming king candidate. As a little girl, I lived to catch the rubber red coin purses thrown by the cheerleaders and the baton twirlers as they marched around the track in their sparkling red and white.

In the 90s, I went up and down, down and up, in and out, out and in the bleachers as a jr. high kid. When I sat still, I watched our team as we won game after game all the way to the state championship. My family followed the team all the way to Columbia. Our sea of red, so mighty in Tarkio, looked tiny in the chasms of Faurot Field.

By the end of the 90s, I was playing in the pep band first quarter, working the concession stand in the second and doing the Macarena with the cheerleaders in the 4th. I sported my letter jacket to each game and huddled in the bleachers with my friends, family and community as my classmates punted, hiked and kicked their way through the football season.

Ten years ago, I returned to Kyle Field as a mother and a sister. I chased my young son up and down the bleachers and watched my brother as he lead the team in blocked field goals. Today, I watch again as all three of my children wear red and white, my husband officiates and my high school classmates coach instead of play.

High school football is glorified wherever you live. There is something about the atmosphere; the community and the home town spirit that makes the football field a destination not just for that Friday’s game, but season after season, year after year.

But football is a little different in small town America. A little better you know. You see there are 29 boys on the Indian squad this year. There are 8 guys on offense, 8 on defense and a “host of Tarkio Indians” needed on kickoff returns.

So you see, 6 years from now, I’ll have a boy on that team. It won’t matter if he is 5 8” or 6 4” and no one will care if he weighs 130 or 175. He might not be the fastest or headed for college level football, but he’ll be needed, he’ll be an important part of the team and he’ll get to wear that jersey just like his grandparents, cousins and uncles before him.

He’ll be an Indian too.  And you can bet I’ll be right there in the bleachers…..