The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas on June 19, 2006 · Page 3
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The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas · Page 3

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Monday, June 19, 2006
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MONDAY, JUNE 19,2006 REGION AND STATE THE HAYS DAILY NEWS A3 Custom wheat cutters facing hard harvest life this year By AMY BICKEL HUTCHINSON NEWS DIGHTON — Rain clouds brewed in the distance this week as Ray Froese watched his custom harvest crew circle across west-central Kansas wheat fields. If only moisture had come earlier, he mused — adding that he wondered at the beginning of the harvest season why he's still in the business. For the past 29 years, Froese, a custom cutter from Inman, has followed the custom harvest trail north to cut the nation's wheat crop. He hasn't missed a season, and making the yearly trek has become a passion. But looking at thin stands of winter wheat rippled by strong Kansas winds, Froese said the work this year from Texas to the northern plains is drying up. Farmers call and tell him they don't have a harvest this year because of the lack of rain. Froese estimates that drought and disease zeroed out at least 10,000 acres his crew normally would cut. "This is the hardest year I've seen as a custom cutter — the first time I've seen it poor all the way through the run," Froese said quietly as he stared out the window of his pickup at a wheat field in Lane County. "I think we'll get most of it cut before the rain starts." The number of those in the custom harvest profession — a career typically passed down through generations — continues dwindling, said Tim Baker, executive director of the Hutchinson- based U.S. Custom Harvesters. The first mass exodus happened after the 2002 drought. About 400 members still make the trip, but more might call it quits after this year, Baker said. "I did talk to one harvester," Baker said. "He said he would be doing well if he raised half as much revenue this year as he did last year." Besides drought, crews deal with high steel costs, which drive up the price of machinery. Fuel costs also escalated this year. A Minnesota producer told Baker it took him $10,000 in fuel to get his equip- ment from home to the first stop in Texas. And amid those costs, crews quickly cut through a short, thin crop, Baker said. Machines sat idle as crews sought other work. "Another harvester I talked to (Thursday) had a day and a half to go in western Kansas," Baker said. "Then he had a three-week gap until the next job." This week, Kansas Department of Commerce harvest offices across the state noted a surplus of cutters seeking work. Garden City had an extra 35 combines and 30 trucks Friday. The Dodge City area had more than 25 idle combines and nearly 30 trucks. Some stopped at Arlington's Cairo Coop Equity Exchange, manager Jeff Fountain said. "It seems like we've had a lot of customs cutters hunting for work — more than normal," he said. It was the kind of summer day that gives Kansas a bad reputation. Gusts up to 35 mph blew across the wheat fields, propelling dust from the back of the combines. Temperatures soared into the upper 90s. Froese didn't seem to mind the conditions as he talked about the custom cutter business. "This is all I've ever known," he said. "I don't know another life." Harvesting runs thick in his family. Froese's uncle helped start the movement north, inventing the first self-propelled silage cutter in 1947. Froese's father Waldo is the youngest of five boys — all of whom were custom cutters. Waldo Froese's six sons grew up in the business. Today Ray Froese and his brother Larry, 45, still make the trip, along with their wives, two sons and a harvest crew. They're passing the business on to the next generation, Froese said. Larry's son Lee and Ray's son Beau are partners. "It kind of gets to be a habit," Beau Froese said of the career. "I like the change of scenery, not going to a job that's the same every day." But it's tough, he said, especially for the younger generation. Yields this year averaged around 20 bushels an acre. Custom harvesters typically get paid by the acre, as well as for bushels harvested above 20 bushels an acre and bushels hauled. Yields below 20 bushels an acre means less money for the cutters. A good fall harvest will help sustain the operation, said Ray Froese, who remains optimistic. "It was starting to bother me at the beginning of the season," he said. "I now know it isn't going to be a great year, but we still will be all right on the deal." Larry Froese continued cutting wheat around Stockton this week while his brother cut fields in Lane and Gove counties. They stop next in Tribune and Colorado before going to Sydney, Neb. "There are times when it is a poor year that make you think whether I should be doing this," Ray Froese said. "But I still enjoy it, especially bringing my family along. That's what makes it enjoyable." Briefs Convenience store killings are deemed murder-suicide GREENSBURG (AP) — A variety store employee here is believed to have fatally shot his coworker then killed himself, authorities said. The bodies of 29-year-old Matthew Towner and 26-year-old Alicia Huebler were found at Duckwall's in this southern Kansas town late Friday. Kiowa County Sheriff Galen Marble said autopsy results indicate Towner shot Huebler in the head and then shot himself. Corrections The Hays Daily News staff takes care with its reporting and writing. But if we make a mistake, we want to know about it so we can let readers know the correct information. We encourage readers who find an error to con- Patrick Lowry, executive editpr,,, or Mike Corn, managing editor, or e-mail the editors at plowry @dailynews .net or mcorn@dailynews.net. Round and round , 1JT juuouii-iuouwm >i ^niiifjv, ' Hays Daily News s inside a rnetryngorf oup0 as *ha gives her grandmother, Elaine Werth, 10 a ride Saturday evening In a park in WaKeeney. Regan 1 Is the daught«r of Patrick and Connie Lewis of Gove. " rh tn <"^ lr """ " iv """ , ... , Taking a new look at life Insurance commissioner will lead Hays workshop By PHYLLIS J. ZORN HAYS DAILY NEWS More than just the bedroom occupancy rate changes when the children leave home. The family's insurance landscape changes, too. The parents' life, health, home and auto insurance could all need changes. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger will be in Hays on Friday to discuss insurance topics relevant to empty nesters and seniors. Praeger's presentation will be part of the Insure U curriculum. Insure U is an insurance education course developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Insure U is being conducted by state insurance commissioners across the country as part of an initiative to educate young singles, young families, established families, empty nesters and seniors about their insurance needs and options — and also teach them how to avoid insurance fraud. Home, auto, life, health, long term care and Medicare supplement insurance — as they relate to empty nesters and seniors — will be discussed during Friday's one-hour session. The Hays forum is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church, 2900 Hall. "There are actually four components," said Charlene Bailey, spokeswoman for the Kansas Insurance Department. "She has chosen to talk to empty nesters and seniors when she makes her presentation." Insurance needs often change significantly at different stages of life, Bailey said. For example, people could qualify for certain discounts on auto arid homeowner's policies once their children leave home. There are important insurance decisions to consider during this phase of life, making this a good time to re-evaluate needs. Bailey said Praeger hopes to be able to continue making presentations across the state over the next several months. The goal is both to reach as many Kansans with information about insurance as possible and to eventually present information specific to each life stage. "A lot of people across the United States really have a lack of knowledge about what their insurance can do for them or what their needs are," Bailey said. Participants will be given handout information to take with them when they leave, Bailey said. Educational forums will be held at five Kansas communities including Hays and Colby. The Colby forum is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Conference Room of the Thomas County Office Center. Reporter Phyllis Zorn can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 137, or by e-mail at phylz&dallynews.net. By STACIE R. SANDALL HAYS DAILY NEWS WaKEENEY — Real Country Cafe in WaKeeney is a favorite stopping point for truck drivers, families, retirees and folks just passin' through. The relaxing atmosphere, delicious coffee and country cuisine provide a prime environment for conversation. During the lull between pouring coffee and taking orders, waitress Linda Conness sat down a few minutes, but kept an eye out for new customers. Conness is new at the wait- ressing game, a job 180-degrees different from her previous career. After nearly two decades of crunching numbers, the WaKeeney newlywed decided it was time for a change. "I'd never waitressed before and just decided, last October I wanted'to do''something difftenici ent," Conness saidr"rve".<!>. :! <, worked with the public all my life. I came out here and applied for a part-time job. I went full-time in a week's time, and I absolutely love it." Conness, who grew up in Lawrence, has a degree in accounting. She worked for Internal Revenue Service for 17 years as a manager and instructor, teaching tax prepar- ers how to audit tax returns. Conness said she has always loved numbers and loved working for the federal agency, but though it pays a lot less, she enjoys waitressing because of GofieeTalk of an occasional Series poured out of area coffee shops; the people. "I get to meet people from all parts of the country and truck drivers that have been everywhere," she said. "I get to hear some good stories." Conness hears some good stories from the local coffee drinkers. She has their java- drinking patterns down like clockwork and knows who comes in at ,w. Jjat time throughout the day. Not only that, Conness has gotten to know many of them like family already. Every night a group of middle-aged ladies and one of the husbands comes out. Conness affectionately calls them the "ladies of the night and ,the pimp." During a recent hospital stay, Conness said she received flowers with a card saying, "From the Ladies of the Night and the Pimp." Reporter Stacie R. Sandall can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 136, or by e-mail at ssandall@dallynews.net. Wreck near Colby injures toddler COLBY — A Missouri toddler was taken to Citizens Medical Center in Colby after a two-vehicle accident Saturday afternoon 14 miles west of Colby. Daniel J. Miller of Arnold, Mo., was eastbound on Interstate 70 just after noon when his vehicle hydroplaned. The Kansas Highway Patrol re• ported the vehicle crossed into the westbound lanes. It struck a vehicle driven by Donald W Kuss of Red Bluff, Calif. Miller's passenger, Aaliyah Miller, 3, was taken to Citizens Medical Center with possible injuries. No one else was injured. In what promises to be a tough re-election race, Kline fighting to control image By JOHN HANNA ASSOCIATED PRESS TOPEKA — Phill Kline wants voters to know he's done a bang-up job as attorney general and, more importantly, that others think so, too. Kline adorns his campaign biography with plenty of positive blurbs, like the ones publishers use to entice people to read a new book. There are usual suspects, fellow conservative Republicans such as Sen. Sam Brownback, and not-so- usual ones, such as Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston, a Dempcrat. Kline is trying to control his image in a tough race against Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, the Democratic nominee. "It's a sign of someone who thinks he has a career," said Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political scientist. "You want to make sure you get credit for what you're doing." A Republican incumbent in a traditionally GOP state such as Kansas shouldn't have trouble winning a second term. That's particularly true for an attorney general who has consistently argued for tougher criminal sentences, taking the position that If building new prisons Is expensive, there's still no price on justice. At least since Vern Miller, who liked to Jump out of car trunks and bust drug miscreants personally during his 1971-75 tenure, Kansans have liked Super Sheriffs as attorneys general. Kline was part of the successful movement to impose a minimum 25-year PHILL KLINE BIOGRAPHY NAME: PhiH Kline. AGE: 46. Born Pec<."3ij"1'9S9. HOMETOWN: Topeka; grew up in Shawnee. PARTY: Republican, EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in public relations and political science, Central Missouri State University, 1992; law degree. University of Kansas, 1987. CAREER: GOP nominee In 2nd Congressional District, 1986; served InKansas Houalj 199^2000; OOP nominee In 3rd Congressional District, 2000; worked as attorney in pri- sentence for first-time sex offenders preying on children. He has worked to increase the time police and prosecutors have to bring criminal cases and to lengthen penalties for child pornographers. He touts endorsements from 89 of 104 county sheriffs. He has defended the state's capital punishment law twice before the U.S. Supreme Court. Foulston was impressed enough with his December appearance before the justices to write of feeling exhilarated afterward. "He had eloquently and effectively represented the people of Kansas," she wrote in the spring edition of The Kansas Prosecutor, the trade magazine for Kansas county and district attorneys. "No one could ask for more." Kline has a longer list of things favoring his re-election. Morrison will contest him on all points — his campaign has a "cleanup crew" — but Kline was diligent about promulgating a message even before Morrison entered the race. "When you are seeking the trust of the people for a second term, you let them know that you did what you what you said you were going to do," Kline said. "I think that's part of the credibility of the elective process." Yet it's not Kline the prosecutor who gives Kline the candidate trouble. It's Kline the conservative culture warrior. That Kline is a vocal opponent of abortion who's trying to gain access to information contained in the patient records from two abortion clinics — to prosecute rapists with child victims but also to dig up evidence against the clinics themselves. He inspired a federal lawsuit by declaring that a plain reading of Kansas law requires doctors to report all suspected instances of underage sex to authorities as possible child abuse, even if it appears to involve only consenting teenagers. He unsuccessfully defended the Legislature's right to set much harsher sentences for offenders because their illegal acts involved gay sex rather than straight sex. PAUL MORRISON BIOGRAPHY NAME: Paul Morrison. AGE; 52, Bom June 1,1954. HOMETOWN; Lenexa; native of Dodge City. PARTY: Democrat. EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, criminal justice, Washbum University, 1977; law degree, Washburn University, 1980. CAREER: Johnson County assistant district attorney, 1980-89; district attorney, since 1989; Kansas Sentencing Commission vice chairman; named Prosecutor of the Year in 2004 by Kansas County and District Attorneys Association. Last year, he volunteered to defend the State Board of Education In court If Its conservative majority mandated stickers in textbooks saying evolution is a theory and not fact, an idea the board didn't entertain. That's the guy who has angered moderate Republicans, the one Morrison switched parties to run against. Morrison derides Kline as a professional politician with an ideological agenda making good legal decisions less likely. "My world Involves fighting crime in a substantive way, day in and day out," Morrison said after filing for office. "Phill Kline's world is a world of politics, posturing and press conferences." For Kline to win re-election, moderate Republicans and independents either have to forgive his conservative politics or view them as a reasonable cost to get a tough-on-crime attorney general. Kline plays down his role in the culture war. "I think there's been a lot of media attention on things I spend very little time on," he said. Kline also dismisses the notion that he's a professional politician, pointing to his past in private business and as an attorney in private practice. By contrast, he said, Morrison has drawn a government paycheck for a solid quarter-century. But Kline had an unsuccessful congressional campaign on his resume before Morrison ran his first race for district attorney. Before Morrison had finished his second term, Kline had made a name for himself as a leading conservative in the Kansas House. Beatty contends Kline qualifies as a professional politician — though the political scientist doesn't use the term derisively. Kline, he said, is playing the game successful national politicians do — in which being responsive to voters and getting credit for It is vital. Certainly, Kline is seeking credit for fighting crime — and enlisting others to help him tell the story he hopes will stick with voters. Morrison is hoping voters see him as the best person to fill the role of Super Sheriff. \>

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