May 21, 2004

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Contact: Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853.

KU chancellor joins faculty tour through 8 High Plains counties in western Kansas

LAWRENCE -- University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Engineering Dean Stuart Bell will join KU faculty on Wednesday, May 26, for the fourth day of the six-day 2004 KU Wheat State Whirwind tour of Kansas.

From Liberal on the Oklahoma border, the KU faculty bus will head north, exploring natural resources and history of the semi-arid High Plains region. Wednesday's route will travel through Seward, Haskell, Gray, Finney, Scott, Logan, Gove and Thomas counties.

Because the faculty are focusing on the history and economy of Kansas, "we hope to begin Wednesday with a visit to a drilling oil rig," said Don Steeples, KU distinguished professor of geology, who is co-directing the tour. Kansas ranks among the leading states in oil production and exploration.

"In addition to looking at the oil and gas resources of Kansas, we will also look at the use of windpower for energy with a visit to a wind turbine farm," Steeples said.

If an oil rig is ready to begin drilling near Liberal, Al Shank, a KU alumnus from Liberal, will guide the faculty to the rig for a firsthand view of the work of pumping oil. From Liberal, the faculty will travel through Haskell County to arrive in Montezuma at 10 a.m. to view a wind turbine farm at U.S. Highway 56 and county road 15.

At 10:45 a.m. staff members from the United Methodist Western Kansas Mexican American Health Clinic, 12 St. John Street in Garden City, will talk with the faculty about the clinic's health services and educational outreach programs, offered in English and Spanish. The clinic provides an overview of needs of families and individuals who provide much of the labor force for the meatpacking industry in southwest Kansas. Some clinic services reach into 35 counties.

Garden City Community College President Carol Ballantyne will meet the faculty for lunch at noon in the Endowment Room of the Beth Tedrow Student Center, 801 Campus Drive. Established in 1919, GCCC enrolls about 2,300 students each semester.

The afternoon will include a buffalo roam at 1:30 p.m. in a Logan County pasture leased by Charles "Charlie" and Kathryn Duff. The Duffs own Beef Belt Feeders of Scott City and raise both cattle and buffalo for meat.

In the past KU tours, faculty annually have rated riding into the gentle swells of the buffalo pasture, 401 U.S. Highway 83, on flatbed trucks with the Duffs as a tour highlight. Charlie Duff says that showing the buffalo isn't a business but that they have had regular visitors from New York and Boston. To get the buffalo accustomed to herds of people on trucks and to following a trail, the Duffs regularly ride through the pasture, leaving trails of feed cubes. "You can't drive buffalo they way you drive cattle," Charlie Duff says.

The pasture is on the far western edges of the Smoky Hill River Valley, an area known as a fossil hunter's paradise. Near the pasture gate is a fossil and rock gift shop operated by Chuck Bonner and his wife, Barbara Shelton, in an old limestone building that once served as a church. They stock the gallery with fossils collected from the area since 1928. The couple rely solely on wind and solar power for energy at the gallery.

A short distance away in Gove County, the faculty will visit another Smoky Hill River Valley site that annually has ranked a favorite on the tour -- the eroded chalk bluffs known as Monument Rocks.

In Oakley, the faculty will view another monument with historical significance: the recently dedicated, larger-than-life bronze statue of Buffalo Bill Cody, born 10 miles west of Oakley. Cody supplied buffalo meat for the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1868. The statue depicts Cody astride a galloping horse, "Brigham," aiming his 1866 Springfield rifle, "Lucretia Borgia," at a running buffalo.

In Colby -- the oasis on the plains -- the faculty will gather for dinner at 6:15 p.m. in the City Limits restaurant, 2227 S. Range Ave.

The six-day KU Wheat State Whirlwind tour is sponsored by the KU chancellor's office to introduce faculty new to Kansas to their new home state and to fellow Kansans.

Thursday's itinerary will include exploring history in Colby and Nicodemus, learning about water management in an area once described by early explorers as the Great American Desert, and spending time on a combine in Palco. In Rooks County, the faculty will visit with local innovative businesses with clients from throughout the United States.

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