WICHITA — Since leaving the Wichita advertising community for retirement in the Flint Hills four years ago, a lot of Ed Shank's behavior has been pretty typical of retirees.
The former co-owner of Armstrong/Shank, which today is Armstrong Chamberlin Strategic Marketing, is an avid birder who is learning to garden vegetables and flowers. He takes long hikes with his Irish terrier, Lili, through big ranch country. Generally, Shank spends time enjoying his surroundings at his home 60 feet above the west fork of the Little Falls River, complete with a dam and waterfall below his house and prairie vistas and hardwood forest trees for his and his wife's viewing pleasure.
"It's just a truly wonderful place, and most people in Kansas have no idea ... how spectacularly beautiful it is," Shank says.
That's why he's also having what you might call a working retirement. He's written a book called "Prairie Sparrow" and, while waiting to publish it, is now writing another. Shank also has proof he's been working in the form of a movie he's made called "Cowboys."
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"Part of doing the movie was a way of informing people of how beautiful it is and that it's worth preserving," Shank says of the Flint Hills.
He says he spent a lot of time watching his neighbors move cattle, and "I just finally became curious enough that I wanted to get on their ranches and film them."
Shank says prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. He says some people see it strictly for what it can produce, though.
"If it doesn't generate income, then it doesn't have any value to them."
His view is "the beauty itself is enough to justify leaving it alone."
Or have ranchers work it.
"Thanks to them, we still have a tallgrass prairie," Shank says.
He chose to spotlight the Perrier family and their Dalebanks Angus Ranch in Greenwood County, though Shank interviews other ranchers in the area as well. Part of the reason he says he selected the Perriers is that they work their cattle by horseback.
"Very few people anymore work cattle by horseback," Shank says.
Shank says part of the reason he made the film is "in recognition of the intelligence and hard work of my neighbors."