What History Taught Me
- Written by Audrey Kalivoda
- Published March 29, 2011
What’s with the jokes on Kansas being flat? Come on people! Mount Sunflower, our highest point, is 4,039 feet. We have the Arikaree Breaks, the Flint Hills and miles of beautiful rolling hills. Not very flat, from my point of view.
The strangest Old West mythical place is the Garden of Eden in Lucas, which features some interesting works of art. The builder felt that the common man was forever being harassed by bankers, preachers and lawyers. Worth a stop!
The most untouched place is the great basin, south and east of Dodge City. Not a house, or car, in sight for miles.
Civil War Kansas is a neglected part of our history. Living in the South and learning more about the war has me thinking and learning more about the role Kansas played.
Tobe Zweygardt is the best! I met him six years ago when I started my Arikaree Breaks research. He spent his 89th birthday taking us all over the back roads. He’s happiest out in “his” Breaks. He told us about the time when, as a kid, he found cans sealed with lead—probably left from the 1865 raid on Julesburg, Colorado. I experienced such joy in being able to talk to someone who has that much touch with the past.
One of my Dad’s best lines is “It’s to hell and gone!” Our family spent a lot of time driving the back roads, and Dad would often look at me and jokingly ask if we were lost.
I grew up near a buffalo ranch. Mr. Lawrence had a pasture of buffalo about one-and-a-half miles from my parent’s house. I spent a lot of time filming these powerful animals. Sometimes I would pull up beside one in the safety of my truck and think about the Indians racing up on their ponies.
When I turned 40, I enrolled in martial arts. My parents are so supportive of me that they drove from Kansas to Tennessee to see the tournaments. Those are the things that stay with you.
One cut I had to make for the DVD which I wish I could have left in was the Alfred Stieglitz photo of the steerage in the immigrants section. Just didn’t work out. I love looking at the print. I look at the faces of the immigrants and wonder if any are connected to me.
Filming Palo Canyon is joy multiplied!!! I love that place. I have ever since I first stood on the rim 20 years ago. I filmed my first documentary there, 10 years ago, on a dare from a friend who works near there in Texas. My production company, Mesquite 90, is named for my favorite campsite (the best site in the park).
For my next documentary, I want to gather friends and take a trip on a wagon train to trace one family’s move west. So far, I am getting mixed response from friends, everything from “Yes, sounds like fun,” to “sounds like the trip from hell” and “where are the bathrooms?”
Jeremiah Johnson heads the list of my favorite classic Westerns, followed by The Good Old Boys and, of course, Lonesome Dove. When I’m in Tennessee and start missing the spaces, I put on Dances With Wolves with the sound off. I just want to see the prairie.
What history has taught me is remember where you came from. I’m Swede and Bohemian. When I go to the Swedish church in Brantford, Kansas, there is a picture of my great-great grandparents who helped to found the church. When I go to the Catholic church in Cuba, my Bohemian great-great grandparents names are etched in the cornerstone. Having that connection with the past helps me to see more clearly into the future. We need to pass the connection and the stories to our children and grandchildren. We all need those ties.
Audrey Kalivoda, Documentarian
Born in north central Kansas, Audrey Kalivoda moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and opened a photography studio. Her first documentary was on Texas’s Palo Duro Canyon, followed by the Arikaree Breaks in northwest Kansas, Nashville and her most recent project, Kansas: The Center of It All (visit Mesquite90.com for more information). Audrey still lives outside of Nashville, but she finds herself spending more and more of her time in the West!