This book was begun as a study of a comparatively small local area; one that occupies a transitional position both as between the bluestem pasture region and the central wheat belt, and as between different degrees of subhumid Low Plains. The procedure of local historical research and writing could be followed with a reasonable degree of satisfaction only until the later part of the century. By that time the kind of sources used for the early period were no longer adequate for the study of the period after 1902. As a strictly local history, therefore, it has been closed with the turn of the century, 1901-1902. The four-county area was no longer a separate locality in the old sense. The boom of the middle eighties was so conspicuously a town and industrial phenomenon that the gradual differentiation between town and country was crystallized sharply. The county newspaper no longer recorded the common place efforts of the whole community in the style of the more primitive frontier society. The editors became interested in emphasizing the growth of the new Chicagos of the Plains, manufacturing establishments, street cars, water works. It no longer made any difference whether a farmer plowed or listed his ground; used a sled or a harrow to cultivate his corn, a header or a binder to harvest his grain, or whether it was too dry to plow in July or to sow in September, or how much wheat was winter-killed by the last freeze or blown out by the last wind or dust storm. News was the price of town lots and the arrival of the latest big "capitalist" whose only investment might be his hotel bill which he could not pay. The "doings" of the Society Leaders of the city became supremely important; the latest and the next dance, the progressive euchre party. There was a corresponding tendency on the part of the farmers to withdraw to themselves in Farmer Alliances and other class conscious organizations to exploit their grievances. With the collapse of the boom there was some reversion to things as they were but there could be no complete resumption of the unified community life. The differentiation of interest between town and country was a part of the pro-


An Epilogue 249

cess of becoming socially mature, the boom had only hastened and accentuated its worst features.

     Before a satisfactory history of agriculture of the state of Kansas as a whole can be written, similar histories of sample areas should be written with a view to tracing the evolution of several type-of-farming areas. Similarly a history of the whole hard winter wheat region should be based upon preliminary studies of a number of such sample areas with substantially different characteristics.

     The state of Kansas as well as the local community was undergoing a change in its outlook, different but equally significant. The state board of agriculture had early framed its activities primarily to advertise the agricultural resources of the state and to induce immigration. During the late eighties "there has not existed for some years the necessity of special efforts in the way of advertising the State" and gradually the policy of the board was reshaped in the direction of farmers' institutes, particularly the annual meeting of 1888 was singled out as a high point. This shift, indicated in the Sixth Biennial Report (1887-1888), was continued progressively until the Tenth Biennial Report (1895-1896), when

. . . probably more than any of its predecessors it is planned to be an agricultural volume instead of an immigration document. It is intended to be helpful in promoting the prosperity and advancement of the population the state already has, rather than to persuading the millions of less fortunate strangers that the mere fact of coming hither. . . . means a life of case, perpetual June weather, a steady diet of milk and honey, monotonous political harmony, and tireless pursuit by lucrative offices of everybody whomsoever.

     By 1888 the population of the state had reached a boom peak of 1,518,552 and in 1890 had retained 1,428,108. This was the outcome of only thirty years development from a population of 107,206 in 1860. The population of 1940 was only 1,801,028, or a gain of only 371,920 in a half century. Kansas was then and remained primarily agricultural. This relatively stable number of people supported decade by decade the heavier burden of government, education, highways and finally social security, over and

250 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

above the personal cost of a higher standard of living represented in the mechanization of society by telephones, radio, movies, automobiles, tractors and power machinery, and electrical equipment of the home and business. All this had to come out of agriculture, primary production and services, because relatively little could be derived from mining or manufacturers.

     Oil and gas were the only major new resources to bring in new wealth and they might provide the Plains region with the necessary fuel for industrial development. Only to a minor degree was such use made of them, however, the primary effort being directed toward extracting and selling them outside the area. On the basis of experience in exhaustion in the East, Kansas was warned when the Iola field was being developed, but without precautionary results. In 1895 Iola had a population of 1,565 which jumped to 6,153 in 1900 and 9,032 in 1910 and then came the decline in the wake of gas field exhaustion. Should the mid-continent oil and gas fields continue the policy of extraction for sale outside, instead of a regional policy of conservation and development within, it will be only a few years until the Plains region will be dependent again upon the outside sources for fuel and power; coal and electrical current.

     So far as the Mennonites were concerned, their contribution falls largely into the category of the accidents of history and there is no evidence yet available to demonstrate that they understood even remotely at the time the significance of what they were doing, and it was years afterwards before they knew anything unusual had been done. Beyond the fact of bringing hard winter wheat from Russia, their positive contribution lies largely in the high quality of their farming and their shrewdness in adjusting successfully their traditional agricultural system to the new American crops, machinery and environment. The spread of the hard winter wheat throughout Kansas was almost entirely, if not altogether, a folk phenomenon, the common people following their instincts even against the advice of experts in agriculture and the discriminations of technicians of the milling and baking trades. The average practical farmer based conclusions on results, not on

An Epilogue 251

theories or science. It was a demonstration which contradicted flatly T. C. Henry's dictum that experience and science eventually arrived at the same conclusion, but science arrived earlier. But this was before the twentieth century, the Triple A, the loss of faith in the common man and surrender to the bureaucracy of so-called experts. It was an instance where the common man won on agricultural grounds over the experts and technicians, proving them wrong, and compelling them to adapt themselves also to the change in wheat. And since that time similar conflicts have recurred over new varieties within the hard wheat group with the victory still in the balance in some cases.

     Important as was this emergence of the hard wheat regime, it was nevertheless not strictly speaking a creative act, but rather the outcome of a process of selection from wheat varieties already extant. Even the work of Carleton belongs in this category. Creation of wheat varieties came in a limited degree in the work of the Experiment Station and of Earl G. Clark in producing Kanred and Blackhull. In the truest sense, however, deliberate creation came only in the hybrid variety Tenmarq and work of that type where the plant breeders planned deliberately beforehand to combine certain characteristics. The original importations and adaptations of the sorghums and alfalfa fall into the category of selections, and only in the case of Atlas Sorgo, or other products of hybridization did creative work appear in these divisions.

     In the use of existing machinery and the invention of new machinery the common man was doing more, much more, than selection, he was engaged in creative work in the best sense. The instances were not merely isolated accidents, but a widespread inventive impulse among the common men which manifested itself particularly in lister cultivators and in adaptations of the lister idea to wheat culture. In connection with machinery also there was the acquisition of skills in the handling of machines and soils; skills that cannot be set down in a book, but which can only be acquired and transmitted from person to person by precept and practice. Managerial ability plus these skills make one man a success while the lack of them make his neighbor a total

252 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

failure even with identical machinery and what may appear to the uninitiated to be the same procedure. Except in the best years, the critical margin of tolerance is so small in Plains agriculture that only those possessing both the skills and the managerial ability can have a reasonably safe chance of success. Peculiarly it is more conspicuously in the field of political adaptation that the plainsmen have failed, in common with those of other regions, in making adaptations and in the exercise of creative ability comparable with their achievements in adaptation to environment of many other aspects of their way of life.

     The creative capacity of a man or a particular group of men seems to be limited, one principal creative act or related group is usually the measure of capacity. Innovation then unconsciously undergoes a transition into conservation of the gains, and finally defence against further change. The next major step in innovation awaits new personalities to mature another creative sequence.

     The difference in behavior among individuals, private organizations and governmental agencies is immaterial in these respects. The difference lies rather in the degree of power wielded and the corresponding opportunity for abuse of that power. The private organization is more powerful than the individual, and the government agency than the private organization. The power to carry through an undertaking is an important point to stress-to inaugurate innovation, whether for good or ill, when new hands seize control and finally to strangle change. The individual, the private organization and the public agency are equally ruthless in their instinct to retain power, but the three are different in their ability to defend their entrenched position when in control. It is this fact that makes governmental bureaucracy of the second quarter of the twentieth century a particular menace to agriculture. [1] It was during the years just preceding the turn of the twentieth century that this factor of government oversight was seen taking over direction and control from the common man. The power of government to get things done made it attractive under the stimulus of scientific innovation, and the fruit of that power

An Epilogue 253

was eventually the regimentation and strangulation by the Triple A.

     The record of the development of Kansas agriculture is an impressive demonstration of the extent to which this community in the interior of the North American continent is after all an integral part of the world system. Its wheat, sorghum, alfalfa and livestock were derived from Europa, Asia, and Africa, and its essential surplus markets were overseas. In these respects Kansas had not followed any policy of isolation. Its people and religions were as cosmopolitan as its agriculture. In all matters of immediate practical importance to its way of life, the region was more than receptive to outside influences, it sought actively after such agricultural products as were more adaptable to its peculiar requirements than the corresponding indigenous or traditional crops. It is on the political front that adaptation to changed environment has failed to make comparable adjustments either in local government or in international relations. In the international field, however, North American continentalism and absorption in the development of its interior offset such an international outlook as some of its purely regional experiences might have inspired. [2]

     The principal accomplishments in crop adaptations were in the nature of selections. That step was important as it established conclusively the groups of plants which possessed the best possibilities for further development. Of course, other new groups may yet be added, but those already proven afford a good basis for a subhumid agricultural system. The possibilities in the direction of scientific creation of new varieties from these groups have scarcely been explored. Botanically, wheat is a grass and already experiments under way suggest the possibilities of a perennial wheat possessing high yielding qualities and milling values. Such varieties would make an important contribution toward soil control against the hazards of working the ground for annual crops and might place wheat growing on a basis somewhat similar to grazing lands. The outcome, however, lies with the future. When, for partisan purposes, political farmers advocate the abandonment

254 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

of the Plains as an agricultural area, it is well to recall that the American people have been operating only a short time as the history of civilizations are measured, fifty to seventy-five years, and in that time have made a substantial contribution to adjusting themselves to this subhumid environment.

     The bread-eating civilization and the rice-eating civilization have largely divided the world between them, and the rice-eaters have been rapidly becoming bread-eaters. Wheat has been becoming, therefore, of increasing importance to the twentieth century world. High gluten wheats are the best bread wheats and as Carleton so often pointed out, aridity and high gluten quality seem to be inseparable. So far as the North American continent is concerned, the Plains region, which produces hard spring and winter wheats, is the only source of supply of such wheat. Instead of abandonment, the long-time demands of the world for bread would seem to call for more effective utilization of subhumid areas, not only of this continent, but of others. A large part of the meat supply of the continent is derived also from the subhumid grass lands as breeding grounds, and these are linked in a regional interdependency, as in the case of the Southwestern Great Plains, with the Kansas-Oklahoma Bluestem Pastures and the Corn Belt. [3]

The problem of adaptation to a subhumid environment requires a recognition, therefore, of the validity of the claims of both interests, wheat and meat, in the development of the Prairie-Plains and its way of life.

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1. Anyone who may have any lingering doubts about the outcome of the regimentation of a planned economy should make a detailed study of the fruits of the Colbert system as it was analyzed in the cahiers of the French Revolution. As a graduate student in 1916-17, under the direction of Professor Frank E. Melvin, the present author made a substantial sampling of those documents for a different purpose, but someone should present the factual record as set forth in the cahiers for its economic and social significance to America of the nineteen-forties.
2. James C. Malin, "Mobility and History," Agricultural History, 17 (October 1943) 177-191.
3. James C. Malin, "An introduction to the history of the Bluestem-Pasture Region of Kansas," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, 11 (February 1942) 28.