Audio Feature | KCUR

Audio Feature

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Just off the historic Town Square in Liberty, Missouri, there is a spot that every year draws thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It’s a replica of the jail where the Prophet Joseph Smith and a handful of his followers were imprisoned for several months through the winter of 1838 – 1839.

The story is that Smith and his flock, having migrated from New York, clashed violently with militia in the Midwest.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

At more than 60 years old, Kansas City’s Buck O’Neil bridge is nearing the end of its useful life. And it’s one of thousands across Missouri that the state Department of Transportation can’t afford to replace.

In 2017, MoDOT gave the city two options: It could make major repairs, which would mean closing the bridge for two years. Or the city could make smaller repairs but keep it open to limited traffic.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Leavenworth Detention Center sits about 35 miles northwest of Kansas City, Missouri, just off the town’s main drag – a nondescript stretch of fast-food shops, strip shopping malls and mom-and-pop businesses.

The prison is a sprawling complex of squat white buildings ringed by chain-link fencing topped by razor wire. People charged with federal crimes who can’t make bail are held here.

One year ago, Hurricane Maria swept over Puerto Rico, bringing 150 mph winds. Nearly 3,000 people died, homes and buildings were ruined and farms were destroyed all over the U.S. territory.

According to Luis Pinto, a farmer near Yabucoa, southeast of the capital San Juan, the sound of the wind screaming through the trees “felt like the hurricane was crying.” Plantain trees were flattened on Pinto’s farm. In all, the storms caused $300,000 in damage to his crops, cattle, fences and roads.

Bob Jones Shoes has been a staple in downtown Kansas City since 1960. When the retailer announced it was closing its doors in August, many shoe aficionados in Kansas City were aghast.

They've flocked to the final days of the footwear mecca to find that last perfect "fit," take advantage of the going-out-of-business sale and pay their respects to what has become a local icon.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

On a recent Thursday evening, as commuters whizzed by on a busy Springfield street, a handful of activists gathered inside the First Unitarian Universalist Church.

“You’ll login with an ID and password, which I’ll give you,” Susan Schmalzbauer instructed the volunteers, who are part of Missouri Faith Voices, a multi-faith organization that pushes for equality across economic and racial lines.

“They’re getting ready to call people across the state,” Schmalzbauer said.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Among the many art installations in Kansas City's Open Spaces arts festival, one in Swope Park explores John Milton's "Paradise Lost." It's the Biblical story of Adam and Eve's temptation by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

New Orleans, Louisiana-based artist Dawn DeDeaux admits that it’s not go-to reading for everyone. The epic poem in blank verse dates back to the 17th century.  

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio

Less than two miles from the iconic Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis, a startup with 11 employees is brewing small batches of beers with names like Dead Druid King (made with oak leaves instead of hops), Cucumber Pepper Kolsch and Ozark Common.

Earthbound Beer occupies the site of a 19th-century brewery and fills several thousand aluminum cans each month in the limestone cellars 25 feet underground where brewmasters once kept their kegs cool with ice from the Mississippi River.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Since Christine Blasey Ford went public with her allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school in the 1980s, survivors in the Kansas City area joined thousands across the U.S. on social media by recounting their own experiences under the hashtag #whyididntreport

Countless others remained quiet, while a few survivors agreed to speak with KCUR about why they never filed charges. These are their stories.

Samuel King / KCUR-89.3

In the blocks around the square in downtown Liberty, the seat of government in western Missouri’s Clay County, there’s a varied amount of businesses, restaurants and shops.

There’s just as varied an amount of political opinions ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm election. Dustin McAdams tends bar at Rock and Run Brewery and Pub, and while he’s sure he’ll vote in this year’s election, he has no loyalty to one party.

David Kovaluk / St. Louis Public Radio

After the August primaries, it’s clear many people — young, black and progressive — played a major role in helping former Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell defeat incumbent St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch in the Democratic race.

“We’re saying bye to Bob and ushering in, hopefully, a new era in prosecutor politics,” Rodney Brown said weeks before the primaries. He’s a member of a local committee of young, black progressives called St. Louis Action Council.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Standing on the I-70 exit ramp at Independence Avenue on a cool fall morning is a thin guy, possibly in his late 30s or early 40s, his face weathered by the sun. He’s standing next to a backpack and holding a cardboard sign that says “anything helps.”

Further south, on the western edge of the Country Club Plaza a man in his 50’s wearing a tie-dye shirt carries a sign that says, “Broke as F---.”

Aviva Okeson-Haberman

It’s been a long week for St. Dominic High School senior Emma Story. But as the sun sets on a Friday night, Story is out knocking on doors in St. Charles for the Missouri GOP.

Story is a first-time voter who spends most of her free time — when she’s not practicing on her high school’s golf team — trying to get Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley and other Republicans elected.

“I’m really excited to really have a direct voice or direct effect in democracy this year,” Story said.

She’s not the only high school senior looking forward to voting this November.

MR King Images

Kansas City songwriter Amanda Fish has just proclaimed herself "Free." That's the title song on her newly released sophomore album, after 2015's "Down in the Dirt."

The record reflects Fish's literal and philosophical growth. The older sister of another Kansas City singer, Samantha Fish (who has a few more records to her credit), Amanda started playing music at 18 but set that aside to earn a living. By age 25, she was working as a security guard and unhappy, so she quit to go into music full time.

Despite recent rainfall, more than half of Missouri is still in a drought, hitting hard at one of the state’s key economic engines: agriculture.

Missouri hay — the primary feed for livestock — has hit its lowest production levels in 30 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ideally, each acre of pasture produces two tons of hay a year, which would be two of those large circular rolls often seen in farm fields. In 1988, the average acre in Missouri only yielded 1.2 tons, and this year it’s been 1.5 tons.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

It’s late summer, and the drone of insects is a sound that Lonnie Kessler has come to dread. A similar chirping means he’s minutes away from another seizure.

“It sounds like a thousand crickets all at once in my head. And so that really alerts me this is going to happen right now,” Kessler said. “And then I lose consciousness.”

Gary Smith has worked at the grain elevator at Okaw Farmer’s Co-op in Lovington, Illinois, for 40 years. On his desk sit two computer screens, where he tracks corn and soybean prices online at the Chicago Board of Trade.

As he explained, trade moves fast: “Just bam bam bam, and within a few seconds it could change a nickel or a dime against your favor.”

Anne Kniggendorf / KCUR 89.3

What if the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 failed to detonate?

A writer and an artist ask that question at the Truman Library and Museum as part of Kansas City’s Open Spaces arts festival, which has a roomy-enough sphere of exhibitions for various thought experiments, both the viewers’ and the artists’. 

Greg Echlin / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City-area officials celebrated in June when the U.S., Canada and Mexico won their combined bid to host the men’s World Cup soccer tournament in 2026. That’s because the city is one of 17 in the U.S. that have a chance at hosting matches.

“Kansas City is probably shining as much as it can and we still have so much room to grow,” Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James said June 14.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Certain affordable housing projects in Missouri have until Oct. 31 to take advantage in $140 million in tax credits. But nonprofits and developers are concerned the state board charged with approving the tax credits won’t act in time.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

When Josh Collins first got the letter from Bank of America more than two months ago, he thought it was a scam.

The letter wasn’t on the glossy paper typical of what he’d seen during his two decades with the bank. And it asked him some unusual questions, like if he had international accounts.

Back in 2012, one of the major employers in Montrose, Colorado, a sawmill, was in receivership and on the brink of collapse. At the time, local media reported that the cost of logging timber had become prohibitively expensive, and the log yard was nearly empty.  

These days, logs are stacked high next to a humming mill. Production is up 20 percent from even just 2016.

William Burkle Photography

A legitimate rock star is leading a life of quiet anonymity in Johnson County.

As front man for the abrasive rock band Sevendust, Lajon Witherspoon has spent decades cultivating a rebellious image. When he’s not on stage, though, he embraces tranquil suburban domesticity.

“I've been wanting to be a part of this Kansas City lifestyle for a long time,” he insists. “I don't think people know that I even lived here.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

DeLaSalle Education Center has long been the last resort of Kansas City teens who haven’t succeeded anywhere else.

“Back in 1993 when I went, this school for bad kids,” Christina Boyd remembers. “If you had behavioral issues, if you fell behind too far in school, if you were a teen mother, you went to De La Salle when no one else wanted you in the school district.”

Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department

Starting in the mid-1990s, Capt. Dan Cummings worked as an undercover cop going after meth suppliers in his hometown of Independence, Missouri.

He had grown up seeing what meth could do, so for him the work was personal.

“When I was a kid, a cousin brought a bag of this white powder in and said, ‘Man, hey, you gotta try this stuff. Man, you can go forever,’” Cummings says. “He did. He’s now passed on.”

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Some restaurants just have a corner on the market for a particular dish.

In this case, that would be Kitty’s Café and its pork tenderloin sandwich. The longtime Kansas City establishment is on 31st Street, just east of Martini Corner and just west of the longtime non-profit Operation Breakthrough on Troost Ave.

It's more diner than restaurant, with six stools tightly together at the counter tops. Outside, there's some patio seating, but Kitty’s is not a destination-stop kind of place. Most of the orders are take-out and you can only pay with cash.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Down a winding road in Swope Park, on the other end of a short walk through the grass, there's an old, abandoned pool where, in the days before penicillin, sick children came for hydrotherapy. In recent weeks it's been re-filled — not with water but with silk flowers, teddy bears and candles for Ebony Patterson’s art installation.

Jeremy Bernfeld / KCUR 89.3 file photo

The Kansas City Royals are on pace to break a team record. It’s not one they’ll be proud of.

In 2005, the team lost 106 games. There are 29 left this season, and whatever the Royals’ record is by then, it may not be the worst in baseball.

This weekend’s series between the Royals and Baltimore Orioles will have a say: Two teams mathematically eliminated only four years after they played each other in the American League Championship Series.

The United States and Mexico announced this week there’s a tentative deal in their renegotiation of the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

A new book, "Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies and the Destruction of Mexico," looks at the connections between the agricultural and food trade policies that the policy has brought about.

Consumers are buying more certified organic fruits and vegetables every year, and in the Midwest and Plains states, much of it is grown on small farms.

To comply with organic rules, some use livestock to provide natural fertilizer. Two separate studies in Iowa are trying to quantify the soil health, yield and, eventually, economic impact of grazing animals on the fields after vegetables are harvested.

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