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Category Archive: Aging

Nov 14

The late musical legend and entertainer’s entertainer, Al Fike, inducted into Holt County, Missouri, Music Hall of Fame, Nov. 28, 2015, in Forest City, MO.

Al Fike Estes Park.jpg

“Al Fike and his beloved Rocky Mountains” reprinted with permission by The Estes Park Trail-Gazette, originally published in the Time of Your Life edition, Autumn 1989.

Al Fike, longtime music educator in Holt County and nationally-known entertainer, is one of the inductees in the new Holt County Music Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be held at 7 PM on November 28th at the Historic City Hall on The Al Fike Stage in Forest City, MO. More information about the ceremony can be found on this link: https://www.facebook.com/forestcitymo/?fref=nf.

Al Fike Stage

Al Fike’s life story is on the link below directing you to the biography I wrote about him. It was a pleasure helping him record his memories of his amazing musical career. It was not published until after he died, although we worked on it together a few years before then. Al would indeed be honored and delighted to be inducted into the Music Hall of Fame in Holt County. I can just hear him saying “Ain’t ya glad you come” (a saying he used to begin his shows). Here’s the link to my book if you want to take a look: http://kayhoflander.com/books/al-fike/


Al began his professional career in 1948 in Central City, Colorado, after years of teaching music and serving as a school superintendent in Missouri. Al Fike became a living legend, preserving and enhancing the traditions of the American musical stage as no other performer has ever done. The Al Fike Show was an opportunity to see an entertainer’s entertainer perform (and teach).



Aug 12

We know a rare bird when we meet one — from archived columns first published March 7, 2008, in the Examiner, an eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper

Editor’s Note: From archived columns first published March 7, 2008, in the Examiner, an eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

whooping crane flying


“A rare bird on this earth,”
—Juvenal, a Roman poet and author of Satires.

Each day I receive a dictionary word of the day in my email inbox. Today, it is a Latin word “rara avis” (pronounced RAIR-uh-AY-vis), a rare or unique person or thing.

Immediately, I thought of my friend Nancy, a rare bird herself.

Not incidentally, Nancy was an avid bird watcher and that pursuit is part of what brought us together. I will explain in a bit.

I did not know her last name, not for the longest time anyway.

Still, I count her as a one-of-a kind, a rare find of a friend. We met in an exercise class in which we only use our first names. Over time we came to know one another, and eventually we got around to mentioning our last names.

You may have noticed I speak of Nancy in the past tense, but not with sadness although that would be a perfectly fine thing to do. Nancy lost a short yet valiant battle with lung cancer just weeks ago. Since she never showed a spec of melancholy, I will try not to either.

The “ladies of the three o’clock class”, as we affectionately call ourselves, loved Nancy. She was in her early 70’s I think, but one could not really tell for sure. She was sprite, witty, and doggedly determined to make her weight-loss goal. If you do, then you get to be a queen for a day and are awarded a paper crown, flowers, and heaps of praise.

In the last months of her life, Nancy came to exercise class with an oxygen tank in tow and worked hard to meet her goal. Nancy did not quite make “queen” before she died, but she was close.

So, last week the ladies of the three o’clock class gathered outside on an exceptionally windy day, said our good-byes to Nancy, gave her a symbolic crown, and released balloons in her honor as our “queen for a day.”

I promised I would get back to how I met Nancy because it had a lot to do with rare birds.

The first time I noticed Nancy she was wearing a sweatshirt lauding Squaw Creek National Game Refuge and its famed Eagle Days. Since I grew up just across the road from the refuge and knew about the rare eagles there, it was a natural way to strike up a conversation. So, talk about rare birds we did, on many a day.

Last week at the balloon release in Nancy’s honor, wind currents quickly caught the balloons taking them high above us where they soon mingled with birds, all manner of birds.

Nancy would have loved seeing those birds sail with her balloons.

A fitting good-bye to a “rara avis”, rare bird herself.

Jul 13

“Making hay while the sun shines was once serious business.” From my archives: “Remembering summers past, a series”. First published in The Examiner, an eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Putting Up Hay

In recalling summers past, one would be remiss not to include the practice of “making hay” that took on huge, community-like proportions in the month of July.

At the risk of sounding antediluvian (old-fashioned, antiquated, or as in one who lived before the Biblical flood), I feel compelled to explain “putting up or making hay” for those too young to know the terminology.
Haying was a vital, communal, and social event in the 50s and 60s. The world stopped when it was time to “make hay.”

Incidentally, you can’t “make hay” when it is raining. Grass must be cut and left to dry in the sun because it is next to impossible to cut wet grass and if you bale the dry grass when it is raining, the hay will rot. Farmers would try to cut the grass when it was likely that the sun would shine all day and continue shining for a couple of days more.
Timing is everything because baling hay is a race against Mother Nature. Mowing too soon right before a big rain can ruin the crop. Typically, the hay is baled in mid-day when the sun is blazing.

Thus, the term “make hay while the sun shines.”

Putting up hay (meaning putting hay in the barn) required long days and grueling work under the blistering sun.

Dinner was before noon so that crews could get started when the sun was its hottest.

Women and children always ate after the men, no exceptions. Heavy dinners of fried chicken or steak, potatoes and gravy, homemade rolls, and pie or cake were the typical fare. Iced-tea, sweetened with what seemed like 5 pounds of sugar, was dipped from a 5-gallon bucket.

Farmers shared equipment, tractors and wagons. They worked each other’s fields and no money was exchanged. Only the boys on the crew were paid.

Joining a hay crew became a quick lesson in life for them, too.

The young guys were offered a choice of pay, $1.25 per hour or 2 cents per bale. Since 2 cents per bale did not sound like much, novices often opted for the hourly wage, but they only did that once.

In four hours, a crew could load 1,000 bales and earned $5.00 if paid hourly.
If they opted for the 2 cents per bale they would make $20.00.

Doing the math, it figures that if a small crew put up 1,000 bales a day with each bale weighing 50 pounds, they would be lifting nearly 50 tons a day since they had to lift each bale twice, once on the wagon and once in the barn.

It was good exercise and good money in those days.

But by the mid-70’s, farmers could not find enough young men to work the hay crews, so they began opting for new technology, round balers which produced the big round bales one sees in fields today.

Farmers could manage the baler alone effectively ending the need for hay crews and the community of people it took to put up hay.

So when our kids hear, “You had better make hay while the sun shines”, they rightly assume “act while conditions are favorable”.

We baby boomers, however, could be remembering this instead–better get that hay put up before it rains.

It was another time.

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