www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Surprise, surprise, surprise -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Medicaid expansion a win-win for Kansas -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Term limits are first step -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Vote for what's right -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

The next governor -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Shultz is the pick -7/31/2014, 10:11 AM

Eyeing the children -7/30/2014, 9:01 AM

Speak from the heart -7/30/2014, 9:01 AM

Changing attitudes -7/30/2014, 9:01 AM

Time to replace Huelskamp -7/30/2014, 9:00 AM

Water vision -7/29/2014, 9:48 AM

No longer a supporter -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

The power of punctuation -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

Running for the wrong bus -7/28/2014, 9:04 AM

Old Old Mexico -- Culture and content -7/28/2014, 9:03 AM

The defining issue of economic recovery -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

In a world of sectarian violence, what can be done? -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

Funding DHDC -7/27/2014, 1:18 PM

Endorsement for Shultz -7/25/2014, 3:28 PM

Against the wind -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Do blacks need favors? -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Vote Huelskamp out -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Open meetings -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Leadership change needed -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Vote for Huelskamp -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Protecting unborn children -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Learning experience valuable -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

False equivalence -7/23/2014, 8:07 AM

Measles' scary comeback -7/23/2014, 1:27 PM

The 'big data' deal -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

GOP can't get out of its own way -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

War only will add to Middle East problems -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Avoiding taxes -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Take the win in Iran -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

The high court's high-handedness -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

Up in arms in the Capitol -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Firefighters weigh in on pay raise -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Backpacks for Kids -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Our unwillingness to defend ourselves -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

Remembering a man who championed freedom -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

GOP split -7/17/2014, 8:38 AM

New Kansas senator -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Who'll build the roads? -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Time to retire -7/16/2014, 2:20 PM

Reagan: In or out? -7/16/2014, 2:45 PM

'Unbroken' WWII vet more than a hero -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Savor the fruits of your labor -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Erasing candidate's standards -7/15/2014, 11:36 AM

Returning to Trail Wood -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

Leaving some in 'suspense' -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

Strangers in a remarkable land -7/14/2014, 9:11 AM

Courageous or spineless? Our actions decide -7/14/2014, 9:11 AM

Ambition: An unlikely gift to Kansas voters -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Beyond the outrage -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Water watch -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Scenic outlooks -7/11/2014, 9:18 AM

China's research trumps teaching -7/11/2014, 9:17 AM

Important slow news -7/10/2014, 9:42 AM

We've got a promise to keep -7/10/2014, 9:33 AM

The white combine calls -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Vote for family values -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Politicians making a mockery of my faith -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Missing tribute -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Rural students deserve 21st Century education -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

The education table dance -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

A new virus -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

Government as God -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

EPA affecting others -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

'Narrow' decision from the narrow-minded -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

The tax trap -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Rulings produce 'First Amendment fireworks' -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Firefighter salaries -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Economic freedom -7/4/2014, 11:54 AM

Protecting our independence -7/4/2014, 11:54 AM

Dan Johnson, 1936-2014 -7/3/2014, 7:12 AM

New Iraq offensive backfires -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

Setting things straight -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

'Crapitalism' -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

Feeding peace throughout the world -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Half way is still only half way -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Sherow a better choice -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Fireworks, part II -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Reality show made in Topeka -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

The justices and their cellphones -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

LOB defeated -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

Tragedy explored in 'Broken Heart Land' -6/30/2014, 9:14 AM

Mexico City: The adventure continues -6/30/2014, 9:14 AM

Even our youngest Americans are citizens -6/29/2014, 12:58 PM

Ban on fireworks -6/29/2014, 12:58 PM

It's time to teach active citizenship -6/29/2014, 12:57 PM

The education establishment's success -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Piecework professors -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Marriage for all -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Prairie chicken madness -6/26/2014, 4:17 PM

Omission control -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

Equal in the eyes of the law -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

Help wanted -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

The old red barn -6/25/2014, 9:19 AM

Beware the unimaginable -6/25/2014, 9:19 AM

Early critic of school testing was right -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Prickly pear cactus in Phillips County

Published on -9/4/2013, 9:54 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Ever hear of digging prickly pear cactus out of a pasture for 50 cents an acre?

I hadn't either until longtime Phillips County resident Max Schick told me his story.

Schick was a boy of 10 back in the mid-1930s when the U.S. government paid people to rid their grass of prickly pear cactus. He and his older brother toiled for two years on his family's 65-acre pasture to rid the land of these sticky, nuisance plants threatening the western Kansas short-grass prairie.

Extremely drought-resistant, the prickly pear cactus was thriving during the drought of the Dirty Thirties crowding out the grassland and food supply of cattle.

There's a bit of untold irony here as well, Schick says. Some of the grass survived only because the cattle couldn't reach it because of the cactus spines and stickers.

"Back then, the cactus hills dotted the pasture like fly specs," Schick says. "They were everywhere in the pasture."

On his family's farm, located approximately seven miles northeast of Logan, Schick and his brother dug the cactus out of the ground with a shovel. They couldn't afford gloves and were always fighting the little red stickers that broke off the plant sand became embedded in their clothes and skin.

Every night when they finished digging cactus, the two boys would go down to the pond and try to wash themselves clean of the prickly pear cactus.

"The pond was our shower back then," Schick says. "It's how we got clean."

The Schick brothers dug from breakfast to dinner and from dinner until supper time. After about two days of digging, they'd go out with a team and wagon and load up the cactus and haul it into the farmstead and throw them in a rick or stack.

"You had to dig each plant out of the ground and then take 'em clean out of the pasture," Schick says. "At the bottom of each cactus was a little bit of a root, about as round as your little finger and a couple inches long. If you didn't get the root and all, the cactus would sprout and grow again."

When the brothers finally finished prickly pear excavation project, their uncle and grandfather received payment from the government. The sum of approximately $32.50 was considered a gold mine back then, Schick recalls.

"I didn't get anything, my brother kept it all," he says. "I was just trailing along for the fun. At 10 and 7 miles from a town, we only went to three times a year, what did I need money for?"

Young Schick has no regrets about the two years of his young life spent digging prickly pear cactus out of his family's pasture.

He prefers to look at this period in his life that made him appreciate what he did have.

It was also during this time he discovered a treasure that still holds his interest 75 years later.

"I can remember it like it was yesterday," Schick remembers. "It was along about 11 in the morning and I was pretty tired from all that digging. There he lay in a low spot in the pasture a few feet from a cactus I was workin' on."

That's when the Phillips County farm boy saw his first arrowhead.

"It was about 2 inches long and worked on both sides," Schick says. It was made of flint with a round, good point -- a real beauty."

Since that day many years ago, the Phillipsburg resident still collects, trades and admires his Native American arrowheads. He's walked many a mile and worn out the knees on more than one pair of coveralls in search of his passion littered across the High Plains prairie.

At the spry age of 86, Schick reports he's "doin' fine."

And with autumn just around the corner, he's preparing for his pumpkin patch and telling stories with the youngsters. But don't kid yourself, he still finds time to look through his collection of arrow heads -- especially his favorites.

Hoxie native John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas who writes for the Kansas Farm Bureau.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos