The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 20, 2001 · Page 29
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 29

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Salina, Kansas
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Friday, April 20, 2001
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Page 29
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^ FRIDAY APRIL SO, 2001 THE SAUNA JOURNAL WHAT'S HOT / D2 BRIEFLY / D3 'STEEL MAGNOLIAS' / D4 TELEVISION tallgrass Documentary, book take a look at the people, issues at home on the range Musician Lyie Lovett discusses his lines in "Last Stand of the Tallgrass Prairie" with the documentary's producer, Aimee Larrabee. By LIBBY QUAID The Associated Press WASHINGTON — Walt Whitman found the greatest scenery not in Yosemite, Niagara Falls or Yellowstone, but in the unassuming countryside across America's midsection. "I am not so sure but the prairies and plains," he wrote in 1879, "while less stunning at first sight, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest and make North America's characteristic landscape." That is what the makers of a new documentary (airing at 8 p.m. today on Salina cable channel 8) say about the taUgrass prairie. North America's most endangered ecosystem. Swaying plumes of native grasses once stretched from Texas to the Canadian province of Manitoba, but today the tallgrass prairie gently rises and falls on only a few million acres in Kansas and Oklahoma. An audience gathered for a reception recently at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History saw a preview of "Last Stand of the Tallgrass Prairie," along with a book and exhibit. The ranchers, cowboys, American Indians and scientists — including Wes Jackson of The Land Institute in Salina —who appear in the documentary come from prairie country as do Kansas City, Mo.-based filmmakers Aimee Larrabee and John Altman, a cousin of director Robert Altman's and maker of more than two dozen documentary films of his own. Singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett plays host and actor Michael Murphy narrates. Altman's initial reaction to his partner's idea for a film was skepticism: "You want to make a film about grass growing? Maybe next we can do one on paint drying." Ultimately, their film reflects the soil as it lives and breathes. Cattle munch tender new shoots just as buffalo did centuries ago. Streaks of fire zigzag through a black prairie night. The wind rustles grasses with names like little blue stem, prairie smoke, prairie blazing star. The story is about nature and science, Lovett writes in his introduction to the book, "but mostly, it's a story of people and their connection to a very special place." Nature created the tallgrass prairie over millions of years, as the earth shifted and glaciers froze and melted. The Rocky Mountains' emergence created arid land to the east, where grasses began to take root. Plants on the western plains remained shorter, and the region ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Photos by The Associated Press Lyle Lovett rides across part of the Haw Ranch south of Emporia in February during a break from filming the documentary "Last Stand of the Tallgrass Prairie." became home to shortgrass and grass prairie, or, as some call it, all but 5 percent of the fertile mixed-grass prairie. Winds from True Prairie. tallgrass soil has given way to the Pacific combined with mois- In the 150 years since Euro- row-crop farming, particularly to ture from Canada and the Gulf of , peans settled there — in Manito- corn and wheat, domesticated Mexico helped create the tall- ba and from Minnesota to Texas, cousins of the wild grasses. LIBRARY Lehrers: A writing couple PBS newsman, wife will talk about their literary careers at appearances in Salina By KARA RHODES The Salina Jniinial JIM LEHRER KATE LEHRER He's a writer who also happens to be on television. At least, that's how Jim Lehrer would like people to think of him. But, as the executive editor and anchor of PBS's "The News- hour with Jim Lehrer," he knows better than most how hard it is to change public opinion. "Most people think of me as the television guy who writes books. I'd love to be thought of as the novelist who does TV," Lehrer said. "I see myself as someone who thinks with his fingers more than with his head or his mouth." That day of being identified as "Jim Lehrer, the novelist" — though there always might be at least an asterisk — may be getting closer with each book signing. Lehrer has published 12 novels, two memoirs and three plays. A Wichita native, Lehrer and his wife, Kate, are the featured speakers for a writers' workshop April 28 at the Salina Public Library The event, which also includes an evening presentation and book signing at Kansas Wesleyan University, is called Nov- elKansas, which features writers with a Kansas connection. Kate, who is from Texas, also is a writer. She writes novels, short stories, articles and reviews. Her most recent novel and historically inspired work, "Out of Eden," received the 1996 Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Novel. It is based in Kansas. Kate said her life as a full-time writer is different than her husband's writing style. He writes during free time at work, though they both need the same discipline to keep at a sometimes difficult task. "I just keep at it," she said. "Some days you're just plodding. Putting one word in front of the other. But six weeks later, that day's work might look really good." For Jim, the discipline is in making time to write every day. He begins writing when he arrives at his office around 8:30 a.m. and does so until his first editorial meeting at 10:15 a.m. His only writing rule: "Keep your bottom on the chair." See LEHRERS, Page D4 Writers Jim and Kate Lehrer will speak at two seminars April 28 in Salina. They are: • An afternoon writing workshop from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Salina Public Library, 301 W. Elm. The v/orkshop already is full, but a waiting list has been started. To register, call 825-4624. • An evening presentation and book signing from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Sams Chapel at Kansas Wesleyan University. No sign-up necessary MUSIC Austin keeps holding on to country music career File photo Dariene Austin has taken a break from performing while being treated for a noncancer­ ous growth In her throat. Singer will return this summer to perform at Bennington Rodeo By DAVID CLOUSTON The Salina Journal Bennington native and Nashville singing artist Dar­ iene Austin is "Holding On" to her success. Her latest CD by that name has done great in Europe and through sales on Internet music sellers such as CD Now and Amazon.com. What's up next is a visit this summer to perform in her hometown and a new CD she's working on that should be released late this year or early in 2002. "I'm getting tons and tons of magazines that are doing arti­ cles on me. I can't read most of them — they're in a foreign language — but my picture's there. It's exciting,'' Austin said, chuckling, speaking by phone from her home in the country music capital. Austin's new CD will have 12 songs, including some gospel and some country. She plans on performing some of the new tunes June 1 at the Bennington Rodeo, her second straight performance there. She said she's been writing songs in between remodeling her home and appearing by long-distance hookup on European radio programs to promote "Holding On." "We're having a meeting (soon) to decide what we're doing with the CD," she said. "I think it'll be released in Eu­ rope again. I'm just on for the ride, enjoying it." Austin enjoyed mainstream success in 1986 when she was nominated as best new female vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. She's developed a following overseas of late, and she's turning more attention to her songwriting career through her own publishing company, Vine Creek Music. She's been holding back on performing the past six months while being treated for a non­ cancerous growth in her throat. Now she's looking forward to a chance to sing again in Bennington. "I love to come back and see the family," Austin said. "I was back there a couple of weeks ago. My mom (Mattie) had a birthday, she was 86 years old, and we had a party for her." Austin comes from a big family Her two sisters and three brothers still live mostly in the Salina area. Another brother, Roy, and her father. Earl, are deceased. Making it on her own Austin left home at 17 to pursue a music career and has lived in Nashville since 1974. She started singing and tap dancing at age 3. Austin feels blessed to have had the career she's enjoyed. She said she likes the music popular in country circles now, but, as a songwriter, she's partial to tunes with stronger lyrics, not something always compatible with today's mar­ ketplace. "There are really good songs in this town sitting on the shelf," she said. Likewise, Austin said she can appreciate the crossover success artists such as Faith Hill and Lee Ann Rimes are enjoying on the pop music charts. She was considered crossover herself earlier in her career. "I think it has broadened the market. But a lot of radio stations are saying, 'Hey, wait a minute, we want traditional country,' " she said. "If it's a good song, it's a good song. 1 don't have a problem with crossover." • Reporter David Clouston can be reached at 823-6464, Ext. 131, or by e-mail at sjdclouston @saljournal.com. SUGGESTIONS? CALL ALAN STOLFUS, ENCORE! EDITOR, AT 823-6363 OR 1-800-827-6363 OR E-MAIL AT siastolfus@saliournal.com

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