Jul 262011

Brian Goes to Argonia, Kansas

In an earlier post, only about a week and a half ago, I wrote and showed pictures of a Fun Flight I made to Beaumont, Kansas. Beaumont is Easterly of my home field in the Flint Hills. The fields were a multitudinous shade grouping of greens. Rivers and Creeks looked normal. Cattle were in evidence everywhere. So, on 7 July 11 I had an opportunity to grab some air and elected to head West of town. I decided to make Argonia my destination. It is only about 35 miles Southwest of Wichita. My airfield, Selby Aerodrome, is just a bit south of the Wichita City Limit outside Haysville, Kansas.

I’m sure you have been hearing about the drought lately. Unless you are directly affected by it, though, it probably is just another tidbit floating by in the constant storm of news items we are barraged with daily in modern life. I am posting a lot of these pictures below to give you an idea how close this drought has become and how it is affecting fellow Kansans to the West – just outside of the Wichita Metro Area actually.

The ambient temperature when I took off was 105 degrees. Lately 100+ has been the rule rather than the exception. The highest I flew on this 3 hour trip was 1800′ AGL. I don’t carry a thermometer but even at that height above the ground the temperature still seemed at least 95 degrees.

This is the first indication I saw that maybe parts West of Wichita were a lot drier than parts East. They are a bit distant but you can see two ponds completely dry in this shot. I would have flown over them but I just thought at first that maybe the people living there had decided to turn off their wells or something...

Then within a mile of the first shot I saw this scene and decided to get closer to show you the pond.

This is from about 600'. That is just dark dirt. No standing water.

I turned back to get on course for Argonia when I spied this pond off my right wing.

That's when I decided to make this part of my flight theme. It may not be obvious from the shot but it was very hot sitting in my 40 mph wind. The breeze gave NO relief.

This dry pond is nestled in a grove of trees. Around this section is cut wheat. It did not have the appearance of having been a good yield.


This pond still had a little water in it but it was filled with algae from the heat. I suspect it dried out in the next few days, too.

Although there are no dry ponds here I took this shot to indicate the general dryness of the landscape.

I had finally come under the shade of a cloud system so I took this one to show the shadows the clouds were making across the ground.

This pond was being kept half full by water pumped from a well.

This scene was nearby the previous one and likewise was pumping water out of the ground to keep both their pond AND a pivot system going.

I was struck by the intensity of the ambient heat, the brown-ness of the landscape and the beautiful white clouds and blue sky. Also, keep in mind I am sitting out in the 100+ degree wind.

This is not a drought picture per se. It is a property off the end of the Argonia Airport runway, though, and I can't figure what they are raising in the little huts. Let me know if you know.

Upon touchdown on the runway I had just passed this tractor plowing adjacent to the runway. As soon as I could peel myself out of my Naugahyde seat I snapped these next two shots.

Very dry.

This was taken in the early part of my walk to town. I am on the runway and you can see my plane next to one of the hangars.

I know you wanted to see my MXL again

As I walked down the street I passed the Sr/Jr High School.

Here's my evidence in case you thought I was trying to pawn off pictures of other well known Kansas towns such as Altoona, Americus, Arcadia or Axtell as Argonia. (And those are just a few from the "A" list...)

I grabbed the Argonia Convenience Store's version of a Big Gulp, added about 2.5 gallons of gas/oil mix to my tank and got back in the air. This shot is just after I lifted off the runway looking West from about 100'.

I saw this last time I went to Argonia. What I am talking about is the large trench in the lower right of the frame. They are covering something with a white plastic sheet holding it down with old tires. What would that be? Anyone?

This guy really benefitted from the Rurual Electrification program. It is just a trailer all by itself.

This shot is to amplify on the previous caption. This is being off by your self.

Another dry cattle pond for the collection.

Close up. I'm at about 600' AGL.

This is a really nice farm that my photo does not do justice. The lens is too wide so everything looks too far away. It was too turbulent down this low (approx 150' AGL) and I didn't want to get too close. Notice the nice tractors parked in a row on our side of that barn to the left.

A lot of people seem to be taking advantage of the dry weather to re-contour and deepen their ponds.

A country Church w/ graveyard in the foreground with a nicely shelter-belted farmstead behind it. I am at about 1,000' after riding a thermal free from about 600' looking East North East.

Not too far from my home field, Selby Aerodrome, the construction of the Casino continues. If you have any money you don't really need be sure to visit them and deposit it there soon...

I took this last picture because, you know, it is starting to look pretty dry on the south side of Wichita also.

On the way back from Argonia I did some hedgehopping out away from all the farm houses and cattle. When I do that I drift over the fields at about 8 to 12 feet AGL. As I crossed one field I got the distinct impression that I had just opened the stove in our kitchen after it has been pre-heated to 350 degrees. It was an amazing blast of hot air significantly hotter than the rest of the 100+ degree ambient temperature. Intense!

After landing back at the Selby Aerodrome I thought of the old Westerns. Remember when the guys would dismount from their horses and before talking to anyone stick their heads under the faucet while someone poured water over their head?

Right next to the hangar is a faucet similar to those old well heads. Believe me, that cold water sure does the trick after a day on the trail!

Blue Skies & Tailwinds!

Brian FitzGerald