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Others will be more generic suffragettes and flappers, hippies and civil rights protesters. Participants range in age from 8 to The show starts with clothing dating back tothe year the arboretum was founded. While the models take their turns on-stage, Wichita Eagle correspondent and former fashion writer Bonnie Bing will offer commentary as a band provides a soundtrack of more than a century of music. Oh no, we forgot this person or this decade. Or somebody would say my niece would make a fabulous Louise Brooks. Gentry expects one of the most admired outfits to be an intricately beaded blouse and underskirt from that soil sister Sally Kimball will wear.

Sullivan might be a showstopper as well. Gentry provided many of the costumes from the s forward, while another collector, Pat Watt, furnished clothing from the Edwardian and Victorian eras. Guitarist Ken White has woven together a score of 25 songs. Macy noted that long-term weather forecasts showed a possibility of rain on Sunday. Robin Macy says there are a few things every single girl has: a cat, French roast coffee and an aloe vera plant on the kitchen windowsill.

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Well, Macy couldn't even keep the aloe vera plant in her tiny rental house in Dallas alive before she bought the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine on an impulse in She was 38, a schoolteacher, a singer and a radio-show host in the big city, and it was 17 acres of disheveled majesty on the back ro of a state that belonged to her boyfriend, not her.

She saw a for-sale on the ornate gates, she saw an old hand-hewn stone table among a wreckage of vines under amazingly tall trees, and within 45 minutes she was on the phone to a real estate agent to buy the only mature tree museum between the Mississippi River and the Rockies. I could teach school. I could play music. But I never had that 'This is what you need to do,' that sense of purpose that I think a lot of women get when they have children.

This was the purpose. Macy took the purchase of the arboretum not only as a from God that she should restore this overgrown gift, but also as a that she should marry her boyfriend, who lived in Derby. He stayed for three years.

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The arboretum was not his destiny. Macy keeps a cat named Lulabelle that came with the place. And she has much more than an aloe vera plant on her kitchen windowsill now that she has to pinch herself every morning to be sure it's not all a dream. Not, "Can you believe I own this? She calls herself "the steward. The original Dixie Chick who got out of the band before it hit the big time. A geometry teacher who does "the Lord's work" in a Collegiate classroom in Wichita.

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A natural stage presence who pins up her sand-and-gravel-colored curls Marie Antoinette style, leaving one ringlet to fall down her neck. But when she's at home, in the storybook house she had hand-built from the wood of dead pine trees at the arboretum, she wants to fade into the background. That happens easily enough. Once school is out she slips off to work under the decidedly un-Kansan trees that surround her — towering cypresses, incense cedars, loblolly pines, a Dawn redwood.

Despite her work and the helping hands of family, friends, students, teachers and locals whom she calls "my angels," Macy hasn't yet hit upon a financially feasible way to reopen the arboretum. Visitors do still show up at the gates. The arboretum's closing didn't erase it from outdated maps or back-ro tour books or people's memories.

A woman arrived one day asking to buy the old stone cross in the formal garden, now covered in ivy. It was in front of that cross that she had decided, 18 years ago, to keep the baby she was carrying as an unwed teen. Macy wasn't selling, but she invited the son to visit. As long as you don't sue me if you fall and break your leg, she tells visitors, you're free to come in and look around. It's not just weeds, it's the litigious nature of society that has overgrown the trees, made it impossible for Macy to open the arboretum the way she wants to.

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She rents it out for weddings as one small way to make money but, to be honest, she hates doing it. The brides and grooms, naturally, are more intent on the event than on the setting. And for Macy, who lays a carpet of pinecones for the wedding party and has her dad ring a dinner bell that echoes across the woods at the end of the ceremony, the arboretum should be the focus, not the backdrop for anything.

More in her line, she has acoustic concerts on "the Big Z" — a zoysia lawn that she cuts on a riding mower — and wonders about opening up the arboretum for corporate retreats, writers' workshops, art classes. She'd like to be able to quit her teaching job and devote all her time to the arboretum as her new classroom. For now, she wakes at dawn to pull honeysuckle and Virginia creeper, transplant vinca vine and creeping sedum, cut down volunteer Japanese tree lilacs and sugar maples that sprout like dandelions, drag 37 hoses to water the trees, and muse on moving a group of cedars that's blocking her balcony view of the state's biggest Trident maple.

I play ayear-old guitar. I like old clothes and old furniture and old dogs and old music, because it still has some optimism in it. Older people to me are not about the flash. They're rooted. And moving to Belle Plaine was like moving to You can run up a tab at the lumber yard, and people offer to help. And my students, when they come out, are always surprised that this is not just something out of a Faulkner novel or a rerun of Mayberry. There's still a world like that. After her divorce, Macy recalls, she woke up one morning in with a broken heart and a broken tractor.

It was then that she met Matthew Mark Luke Bills, a year-old bachelor farmer who lives down the road and can fix anything with an engine, even Macy's Ferguson. He's become an unlikely best friend of Macy's, ing her for holidays at her parents' house in Oklahoma and often for dinner at Joe's, the local cafe.

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Of all the people the arboretum has touched since Macy bought it, she wonders who needs it most: herself, or Mat Bills, or her parents, who drive up regularly from Edmond to help out, or the students who have found a window there to a world that is not artificial. There's so much entertainment. They're raised with constant stimuli. The arboretum to me is the antithesis of it. It's entertaining, but it's slow, and beautiful.

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Crack in the teacup, I turn it into art Change in my fortune, I draw a different card All at once among the ashes a farmer sows new seed Every wish may not be granted but what comes is what we need. Robin Macy, owner of the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, 30 miles south of Wichita, is in the midst of renovating it and trying to figure out how to open it to the public once again.

If you have ideas, you can e-mail her at info bartlettarboretum. BoxBelle Plaine A Web site, www. Donate Contact -Up. Reflect Gather Sustain.

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Altogether quite a production, as Macy and her fellow organizers acknowledge. Freshly dug tulip bulbs will be given away and vendors will sell food. Arboretum Finds its Steward. It was the most divinely appointed thing that had ever happened to her.

It had been closed sinceunoccupied by its aging owners, on the market for three years. Now her son was graduating from high school, and she wanted the cross. Robin Macy thinks she was born 50 years late. Reach Annie Calovich at or acalovich wichitaeagle. Ideas for the Arboretum? Home Sitemap Search. Box Belle Plaine, KS

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