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Day celebrates Old Settlers, old traditions

9/3/2013

By GAYLE WEBER

gweber@dailynews.net

RUSSELL SPRINGS -- When you choose to live in a small town, you give up certain amenities.

In Russell Springs, that means you're a ways from the grocery store and a gas station, but mayor Brett Ayers wouldn't trade his way of life for anything.

And it's days like Sunday --  the 58th Old Settlers Day --  that remind him of that.

"Our numbers are dwindling," Ayers said, acknowledging how hard it is to get younger generations to attend such events. "But it's great to see this many people show up here."

Old Settlers Day featured a parade, cow chip throwing contest, community potluck dinner and recognition of some of Russell Springs' finest -- those born in 1942 or before.

That included Jean Lowe, who was born in Russell Springs in 1925 and guessed she might have been one of the oldest in attendance Sunday.

"I get to see so many people," Lowe said of Old Settlers Day.

This year, her daughter and son-in-law from Arkansas were visiting her in Colby, so they all came down for Sunday's activities. They didn't venture out into the cow chip throwing contest, but many did, including Nina Engel, a foreign exchange student from Germany who attends Triplains High School in Winona this year.

Engel said she had been fully briefed by her host family -- the Bergstens -- about what she was tossing in the air, just laughing it off as a new experience in America.

"I like the view," she said of her first impressions after three weeks in western Kansas. "You can look so far."

"People don't think we have any fun out here," said Shelly Plummer of Winona. "We have to make our own fun."

And that they did Sunday. The secret -- according to Plummer's husband, Shawn -- to throwing a cow chip the greatest distance is to get one with some weight to it. Of course, a stiff north breeze blowing in the face of the competitors didn't help matters either.

But it's a tradition people like Shawn Plummer love to pass down through the generations; he grew up throwing cow chips in Russell Springs, and now his kids and grandkids are doing the same.

Likewise, Ayers grew up coming to Russell Springs whenever he could as a kid to visit his grandparents. The Page City native has chosen Russell Springs as his home now as an adult.

"People take care of this town. They love this town," he said. "It's great to live in a community like this -- that people love where they live."