This week is not a muse but it is about a big part of our small town.  Thanks for sharing Jeffro.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Local Icon Passes

It's a sign we're all getting older - the people we looked up to and who influenced our lives are passing on. Such as this case - Sidney Taylor Warner, 75, of Cimarron, KS , died Aug. 21, 2009, at The Shepherd's Center. Arrangements are pending with Swaim Funeral Chapel, Cimarron.

That's it in a nutshell, but Sid deserves so much more. He had been fighting cancer, and it wasn't pretty, so as in most cases like this, it was probably better for him to return to the Creator rather than suffer. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a citizen of Cimarron who didn't owe some sort of gratitude to Sid, because his actions over the course of his life influenced us all.

Sid was one of the "big" farmers. His family also owned several insurance companies based in Cimarron, so he was responsible for employing a large portion of the population of our little town, plus the neighboring communities that commuted. Unfortunately, the tightening farming economy has even managed to pull down some of the best, and Sid was one of them. A lot of people claimed that it was because Sid insisted on "the best" when "just good enough" would do. An example often floated was the construction of new cattle pens and loadouts scattered across his pastures. They were always welded pipe set in concrete. The best. Instead of wood and wire or boards, or whatever - just good enough.

Nope, Sid wasn't all about the "best.'' His thinking was more for the future. Those pens he had built all over the place will still be there functioning with little maintenance fifty or more years from now. Sid built to last, and "just good enough" wasn't good enough. He also set aside a lot of ground for little wildlife conservation areas.

I say this because of how he lived, too. Sid could have afforded a whole series of expensive, showy cars to drive, but that wasn't what he bought. Nope, he had "field cars." Sid didn't drive a pickup because he needed a car more. Visiting landlords and family, various executives and dignitaries, and more apropos to me, Scouts - needed chauffeuring around. Pickups didn't have that kind of passenger room. So, for years, Chevy Biscaynes with six cylinder power and three-on-the-tree-dog-dish-hubcap-black-sidewall-am radio models were his choice. That was enough, they met his minimalist requirements, why waste money on flash? When Biscaynes were discontinued, Impalas were his choice (rather than Caprices, the higher cost trim level). He was quite upset when Chevy dropped the manual option so that automatics were the only game in town. If Sid needed a pickup to get somewhere inaccessible to his cars, he had a veritable fleet of four wheel drive Chevy pickups equipped with flatbeds, all forest green, with perhaps the Warner Ranch brand logo welded on the headache rack (shop made, by his welders in his "shop"). Nothing ostentatious, but functional. He finally succumbed to the SUV revolution - but only because what was basically a four door car with four wheel drive met his needs.

Sid always paid the help a bit more than the going rate. This included a legion of high school boys who helped drive his fleet of tractors during the summer. I was quite envious of the hours and pay they got - a lot of my classmates were able to buy pretty decent cars for themselves and have spending money all year long (if they managed the money properly, of course) working for Sid. In contrast, my dad didn't have that many hours or pay for me. There were a lot of college educations that probably wouldn't have happened if not for Sid.

Sid also gave back to the community in countless ways, but for me, the two most visible were his affiliation with the Democrat Party and his devotion to the Boy Scouts of America. Sid was the party in Southwest Kansas. He stood apart in a sea of Republicans. He had a lot of influence in Topeka, no matter the party in power. There were countless little things he did and expected no publicity or exposure in return. If there was some sort of community effort to raise money for, say improvement to the local library, well, the organizers could always count on a significant check from Sid. He didn't want the fanfare, he was all about results.

He was also the community Scoutmaster for years. He hauled me (and so many others) to the Spanish Peaks Scout Ranch several times in his "field car." Riding with him was a pleasure, because it was always informative, and he listened to us no matter the subject or how inane the conversations became, as is the wont of young teenage boys. He was adamant about keeping the campsite clean, even cleaner after we left than before we got there. It used to drive us to distraction when he'd announce it was "time to police the area." Sid would find the most insignificant shred of paper, kick it with his toe, and have one of us pick it up. Naturally, we thought this was indicative how he was better than us, but we were wrong. He was driving home the idea of responsibility - unflinchingly delegating the task at hand. He didn't care what we thought in that case - he was all about results. Results being young men with high moral standards and skills to meet the challenges of the world. Leaving the world a better place.

Sid was at home in a suit or Boy Scout duds, but his everyday uniform was pretty basic. Cotton blend button shirts, blue jeans, comfortable leather lace shoes made up the bulk of his wardrobe. That outfit served him during harvest, climbing on a combine or a truck to check his wheat, or meeting a dignitary at the airport. The
custom harvester who employed me for so many years cut most of Sid's wheat and all of his fall crops, so I had occasion to interact with Sid quite a bit over the years. He and my father's younger brother were roommates at Kansas State, too. I'd see Sid at the local cafe - when I actually go - and he always - always - spoke to me and asked about my family, and what I was up to. That was his way.

This was something he passed on to his children - Sara and Charlie - as well. Were you a casual observer watching the social interactions of the younger set, you'd have never guessed that those two were the "richest kids on the block." Some time after we'd all graduated, I ran into Sara at her dad's feedlot. I was there unloading grain, and we hadn't seen each other in years. The incongruity of our stations in life and how most people deal with that sort of thing struck me, so I mentioned it to her. The money she represented could have bought and sold me or many of my classmates with higher opinions of themselves with ease. The "stuck up" types. Farm kids, even in farming communities, often are seen as lower on the social scale than the "city" kids.

But not with those two. I complimented Sara on that fact, and she was pretty tickled about it. She informed me that her parents had raised her not to think she was any better than any of the rest of us, and she had tried to live her live accordingly. Both she and Charlie are very active in the community and the Democrat party as well - carrying on the tradition. Leaving the world a better place.

I wish I could list all his achievements and honors over the years - I know he picked up a bunch of plaques and framed citations for this'n'that over the years. But that isn't the sort of legacy he was interested in. Just driving around the town, seeing the houses of his former employees, the families raised, the countless educations of the town's children, the enduring landmarks cast in trees, grass and durable, functional structures - well, that's more his speed. Results.

Sid, you left the world a better place, and I and many others owe you a debt of gratitude that can only be repaid by continuing to do the right thing, live a moral life, and leave this old world a better place for our descendants. I hope I have the strength to achieve a tiny fraction of what you managed to do. Au revoir, and rest in the bosom of the Lord.

And Thelma, Sara and Charlie - should you read this - you all have my deepest sympathies and condolences.

Jeffro Borland

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If you cannot reach me by clicking on the "COMMENTS" link, please email me at with "SID WARNER" in the subject line.

Jeffro.  No doubt Sid and his father Leigh, were way ahead of their time.  The Warner family farmed thousands of acres and started the Cimarron Insurance Co.  To my knowledge, Warner's also started Wheat Growers.  They always had a lot of employees.  I once heard the story and laughed when Leigh was asked a question one time.  He was asked " how many people do you have working for you"?  His answer was quick as he replied, "At any one time, about 1/2."  Sid was not his father as most of us are not ours, but Sid was his own man and as you say Jeffro, he did things his way.  I recall the first time I ever saw him was when he came home from college and I was working at the Mobil station.  I was unaware that he and my uncle Art Thomas were best friends at that time.  He was driving a really sharp nearly new silver Pontiac Bonneville.  Man, what a beautiful car.  All I could do was walk around it with my tongue hanging out.  I was probably 14 and driving an old Dodge PU so it was quite a site for me.  But as you said, he was not a man for show as he got older, If I recall correctly, he drove that car for quite a few years.  I am proud to be one of the scouts he mentored and am just as proud to have known him.  Sometimes I will tell a story about Sid and I where I got my little finger almost cut off.  Great guy and he will be missed.  Pete.
Jeff I really enjoyed reading your article about Sid. My Uncle Wayne worked for him for many years & when I would be out there visiting him & Aunt Fern, Sid would be out there at times. I would walk up to his big shed to talk to him & was always interested in what he was doing. He never got short with me asking questions as most people would with the "What is that?? "Why?" "What do you use it for?" & would take the time to answer every question so I would understand since I was just a kid. LOL I had a lot of respect for him & I loved the fact he never made you feel like he was better than you as some town folks did. So Jeff Thank you for the GREAT tribute to Sid & sure his family loves it also.

Cindy (Salem) Danial
Jeff wrote this tribute to my dad and we felt it was so "dad" that we asked his permission to have it read at his funeral.  Steve Hilker read it for us and did an excellent job.  Dad was always one to look at the big picture and how different situations would affect the group or community as a whole. He did the best he could to help people and be as fair as possible. He always enjoyed visiting with people of all ages and, as Jeff said, was interested in their circumstances and how they were getting along. I learned a lot about how to treat people, how to work, the importance of family, to take the time to help someone and try to do the right thing.

Dad believed highly in education, especially since his mom was an English teacher by profession and it carried to our family. Education didn't just come from school. As a kid growing up, it also meant talking about the weather, what the symbols on the weather map meant, i.e. isobars, cold fronts, etc. We also discussed what was being done in the field, be it planting, disking, irrigating, lots of moving pipe for the high school guys, or what was going on with the cattle. Calving when we had the Hereford cow/calf operation and later on about the feed yard, cattle prices, commodity prices, etc.

Along with these topics at the lunch or dinner table was the talk of various people who worked for us at the insurance company, ranch or feed yard, and folks around town. We learned from him and mom about their concern for those in our community, county and others we knew around the state. Many times these discussions included current events and how it affected us be it local, state, federal or international. He was good at explaining how those events would be relevant to those of us living in little ole Cimarron.

Whether it was reading about WWI, WWII, the Civil War, western history, biographies, magazines or newspapers, he kept learning and enjoyed it. There were times over the years, we would get glassy eyed when he would tell us what happened on such and such a date during the Civil War but he enjoyed being with his family, friends, helping his community, SW Kansas and doing what he could to make the world a better place. I can still hear him telling me, Sara would you go pick up that can over there in the yard and throw it away or now as I walk across the driveway here at our farm and see a piece of wire or something, I stop to pick it up and think oh boy, this apple didn't as far from the tree as I had thought. Thanks to those of you who made the kind comments regarding Dad and our family. It means a lot. Pete thanks for sharing Jeff's tribute.

Sara Warner Schartz

Forward looking citizens.  Your father was always one of those that wanted things better for the next generation.  We still have them in the community but we are loosing the battle on many fronts.  Hopefully, we still have enough forward lookers to keep Cimarron growing.  Your dad certainly was one of those men.  Pete.