Year In Review: Pratt Tribune part 2

Venkata Pratty
Adult channel catfish and blue gills splash into the Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake from holding tanks on a private fish contractor's truck in July 2019.

2019 - top stories reviewed by The Pratt Tribune

Fish released into refilled lake - July 2, 2019

Fisherman are known for their patience. They sometimes have to wait a long time to catch a fish or get a bite or sometimes they don’t catch anything.

Fishermen at the Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake will have to have a lot of patience as the fish are slowly replaced over several months in that body of water. The lake was drained and the fish removed to make repairs on the inlet and outlet valves and tubes.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism was able to purchase some adult channel catfish and blue gills and get them in the lake on July 2, said Lowell Aberson, KDWPT fisheries biologist.

The fish were purchased from a commercial producer in time to get them in the lake for Independence Day.

“There will be some fish in there to catch,” Aberson said. “We were lucky to get these for the Fourth of July. There may be more later. We don’t know about availability.”

Eventually, KDWPT will provide channel cats, blue gill, largemouth bass, wipers and walleye.

Since the lake is being filled with water directly from the Ninnescah River, there will be some crappie and carp that make it from the river into the lake. Some stream fish have already been seen in the lake.

But for now, fishermen will just have to be patient. They might get lucky and get one of the restocked fish or one from the river. But it will take time to build up the fish populations in the lake.

After all, the worst day of fishing still beats the best day at work.

Woman wins Pratt County Fair demolition derby - August 2, 2019

Rachel Newell went for a little drive last Friday. She took out her 1973 Cougar and ran into another car, deliberately, several times.

Newell and her husband Brandon Newell took part in the Pratt County Fair demolition derby on July 26. When the dust had cleared, Newell had won the competition and was the first woman to ever win the derby at the Pratt County Fair.

The field was small, just six cars, but there was lots of bone crunching hits as the drivers tried to knock each other out of the competition. Newell had no mercy as she rammed her car into the other vehicles including one driven by her husband.

Newell took a hard hit herself and, for a time, the event was stopped while EMTs checked her out while she was still in her vehicle. After a few minutes, she said she was ready to go again and the derby continued.

At the end, it came down to just her and her husband. Brandon’s vehicle wasn’t moving very well and Newell gave it a couple of last hits, but not too hard, and won the competition.

Newell has been involved in demolition derby for four years but this was the first time she had driven this particular car.

Skyline and Pratt Schools join national prayer event - September 27, 2019

On September 25, students, teachers, parents, and administration of Skyline and Pratt Schools took time out of their morning to say a prayer for different areas of the community. Some prayed out loud, while others kept their words to themselves. Their participation was part of a nationwide event that happens every fourth Wednesday in September in public and private schools.

“The kids at Skyline, the teachers, staff, support personnel, everyone, matter to me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to pray together with students and others for those I care deeply about,” said Mike Neifert.

Neifert, a local pastor and cross country coach at Skyline, is the sponsor for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), a group of athletes that meet regularly to worship and grow closer to God and that helped organize the prayer at the pole event.

At Pratt High School, students met Wednesday morning around their school flag pole to join their voices in prayer with others across the nation for the annual See You at the Pole event.

Student Colby Barradas played guitar and sang “Death was Arrested.” FCA/FCS president Kahrie led students gathered in prayer. At Pratt, the event was also sponsored by FCA / FCS organizations.

Pratt School Board gives approval for new Ag classes - October 26, 2019

With agriculture the base of a wide-variety of job opportunities in Pratt County, USD 382 Board of Education members voted unanimously to add an agriculture teaching position for the 2020-20 school year at their October 14 meeting.

“Agriculture encompasses a wide variety of career tracks that our students will be well-positioned to take advantage of with these new offerings,” said Superintendent Tony Helfrich. “This opportunity for our students will help them more readily seek growth prospects in agriculture jobs after graduation.“

Principal Steve Blankenship presented a likely schedule of agriculture-based classes (the finalized schedule would depend somewhat on the hired ag teacher’s strengths) and the two career pathways that would be added. The ag teaching position will also include FFA sponsorship for an extra-curricular club experience.

Sheldon receives kidney transplant - November 21, 2019

Oct. 14 is a date James Sheldon will always remember. It was the day he felt good for the first time in 20 years. On that day, Sheldon received a kidney transplant and his life changed forever.

“Symptoms I’ve had for 20 years were gone the day I got my kidney,” Sheldon said.

While Sheldon has had health issues for 20 years, he was just diagnosed with a polycystic kidney two and a half years ago. The ailment runs in his family. His grandmother, two aunts and one uncle all died from the disease.

Sheldon received his new kidney from a living donor at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. Finding the donor was nothing short of a miracle.

Sheldon, who is on the Pratt Police force, was in a kidney chain, one of 30 at the medical center, and his chain was extraordinary. His wife Beth tried to donate her kidney but it wasn’t a match. A woman named Cara decided she wanted to donate a kidney and went through the living donor program at the KU Med Center.

A little boy, Wiley, was born with two bad kidneys and had been on a feeding tube all his life. Doctors struggled to keep him alive long enough to get a kidney.

A man named Mark West wanted to donate a kidney to Wiley but was not a match. That’s where Cara stepped in and her kidney was a perfect match for Wiley. Then West found out his kidney was a perfect match for Sheldon.

“Everything was orchestrated by a higher power,” Beth said. “I now know there was a reason I couldn’t donate to him.”

Since the surgery, Sheldon is on anti-rejection medication and his immune system is low. He is on a couple of other medications but eventually he will get off those and get his immune system built up so he can go back to work.

Like Sheldon, Wiley’s improvement has been amazing. The first time he smelled food after his transplant, he wanted to eat food, something he had not done for most of his life. Wiley, who is 3, has an excellent appetite, Sheldon said.

There is another surgery ahead for Sheldon. He still has his original kidney. It will never stop growing so it will have to be removed. But doctors want to wait until the transplant is completely healed before doing the second surgery. No date is planned for the second surgery but it could be six months, Sheldon said.

Now that he has a good kidney, Sheldon has big plans. He wants to get into shape and run a 5K race in just seven months.

Siemens named a 2019 Distinguished Kansan - December 26, 2019

Whether taking a restaurant order, working with a community devastated by a tornado or finding pathways out of poverty for those less fortunate, Jeanette Siemens of Pratt has always been a listener.

“I’ve found the best way to help people is to really listen to where they are at, why do they think they way they do, what influences them, what are their real and pressing needs,” Siemens said.

It is that listening characteristic that enabled her success as a former Dairy Queen owner with her husband Jerry. Listening was key when she served as the manager of the Pratt Chamber of Commerce and then the Greensburg Chamber of Commerce rebuilding that community after the 2007 tornado. Listening made her an effective advocate for the poor as she established Circles of Hope programs in several southcentral Kansas communities. And her abilities to listen, and represent, made her the perfect candidate for a position on the recently formed Kansas Leadership Center advisory committee.

Recently named a Distinguished Kansan by the The Topeka Capital-Journal, Siemens said she was humbled by attention.

“My goal, formed from many years of association with the Kansas Leadership Center, is just to help others develop the competencies to be good leaders, anytime, anywhere,” she said. “I guess it all really does start with listening.”