The Desert Rat
A Division of


A matter of survival . . .

The Desert Rat Index
Next Nav

The Devil's Gridiron
Desert Rat in a Concrete Jungle

Traveling With Shelly

(Kansas to Arizona)



A Continuing Web Diary


We're building on a legacy of childhood memories with your help. Kansas relatives and friends are encouraged to contribute their own memories to this page to build a monument to childhood and growing up in western Kansas. Click the link below any diary entry to send a detailed email. We promise to post the message promptly.


Next Nav

Sent: Monday, July 26, 2004 10:15 AM
Subject: Got 'Em All

the pictures are good now all I have to do is start a photo album I have you and dad saved in a folder so will put them there for now love -sh

Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Windmill, Rozel, KS - July, 2004

Sent: Sunday, July 25, 2004 9:43 PM
Subject: Beautiful Pictures

beutiful pictures of me and my hubby first question the picture are on the same note as you sent them dont worry you will not clod up my email box you and Yv-- are the only ones I hear from I hear from MY DARLING AUNT E-- once in awhile .Iam not sure how to down load the picture you sent me of dad and you I printed off do I do the same thing I can start a photo album. On my camera I think I have take nine pictures than hook it up and download and the one where you blotched up you did but the two you sent of ch-- and me are wonderful .sorry I didnt get back sooner I was watching my favorite tv shows.Hawii 5 0 and the equilizer and Quincy Medical coroner and Sarha tall and thin -Sh

Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Sunday, July 25, 2004 6:23 PM
Subject: I Botched It . . .

Sh--, did you receive the first picture I sent you? If you didn't, please let me know because I think I botched the sending of it.


Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Sunday, July 25, 2004 12:05 PM
Subject: Two Ways Around

Yes it is hard to beleave .We have two ways to go around it. the sun is out for awhile .I was real happy to hear from Yv--. I sure do like her and love both of you. Hopefully they get the road fix tomorrow if it doesnt rain .the road was always ripple board and if you have good shocks you dont sem to notice. I remember the road from orwell to grandpas it was maddy but not like this they need to put some rock in the sand that would help.well i well close for now Love -Sh

Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Sunday, July 25, 2004 11:50 AM
Subject: Wow!

Wow, a washout? I remember when the road at Grandpa Koontz's used to wash out - out there south of the house toward the road from Orwell to Kinsley.

Still, that's something! The dirt must be coming in off a field or something? I never noticed when I was there, but can you go around the block to get away from it?


Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Saturday, July 24, 2004 2:17 PM
Subject: Told You Wrong

I told you wrong the water isnt over the road yet but the sand and dirt they have t the beginning of my road is real maddy and looks like washed out alittle bit but they will have it fixed monday 0r when it get s dry Love -Sh

Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Saturday, July 24, 2004 1:45 PM
Subject: Washout!

Guess what . yes it is misting out and our main road is closed because of the sand and and the raod has been washed out some but they will have it fixed by monday I do have another way to go to the store but a little bit longer but I would rather be safe than take a chanch on the road they have blocked off well let you go need to go check out the situation and let you know just how bad the road is and I know it didnt rain why you were I asked for nice weather for Love -Sh

Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Friday, July 23, 2004 4:35 PM
Subject: Hard to Believe

I am glad you had a save trip home. I know it was hard to beleave we good get that much rain.they are evev perdicting more rain. Tell Yv-- how for me and not to work to hard . Looking forward in seeing pictures. I have the instruction book that came with my cameras so hopefully it well tell me how. Well close for now .Love -Sh

Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Friday, July 23, 2004 4:22 PM
Subject: Bring It On

I'd love some rain! That's really amazing - I don't think I've ever seen five inches in twenty-four hours, or even twenty-four days, for that matter! It's hard to believe that I didn't have any rain while driving during my entire trip; with all that rain going on both before and after, it's really hard to believe! In the last two weeks, it didn't even rain while I was awake. There were two nighttime rains in Brookings while I slept, but that was it - one was about an inch and the other was about half an inch.

I sure enjoyed seeing you and Jo--, and Doc, and everyone else. And I got to see Aunt M-- and Uncle F--, too.

I haven't gotten into the pictures yet, but still hope to get them copied to my main storage place this afternoon before Yv-- gets home. Then I'll find that one I took at your house and send it to you. After that, I'll be going through them all and sending a few more to everyone who wants them, so you should get some more then, too.

I forgot when we left your house that we hadn't talked about how to print pictures; I think you wanted me to show you that, didn't you? We may be able to do it via email, although it will be a little harder. I'll try to describe it to you when I send a picture.


Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Friday, July 23, 2004 4:04 PM
Subject: Finally Home

I got home at 9:30 pm, fifteen minutes after you sent the attached message. I drove 870 miles on Tuesday. I was going to make one more stopover, but I just wanted to get home to cuddle up with my soul mate. Boy was I tired; it took 13 hours. Then I had a few beers and slept late the next morning. It was Yv--'s day off. In her current assignment she works Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon, then gets Tue, Wed, Thu off as her weekend, so we had Wednesday and Thursday together before she went back to work this morning.

I'm still catching up on stuff that got behind while I was gone. Sorry I haven't written since I got home, but I just had to work real hard catching up some stuff; but now most of it's done. I really enjoyed seeing you and everyone else. You have a nice place there in Kinsley. I'd about give anything to live in a small town, but it doesn't seem possible with Yv-- still working. The kind of work she does requires her to be in Phoenix.


Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Friday, July 23, 2004 3:54 PM
Subject: Day Late and a Dollar Short

This message is a few days late and a dollar short; you may not have gotten the last two or three messages until now, and I don't remember what they said. It was really great seeing you and meeting everybody that I hadn't met before. I sure wish I had had more time to spend, and that Yv-- could have come along.

I didn't get far the first day after taking more pictures in Hanston and Jetmore. I finally took off late in the morning on Monday. Then I got to worrying about loosing my pictures if my laptop computer should accidentally break on the way home, so I stayed overnight in a hotel that had an internet connection in Liberal, KS, and spent the evening uploading my pictures to my server for safe-keeping. Then I got an earlier start on Tuesday morning from Liberal.

More in the next email.


Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send     Gallery

Next Nav

Sent: Friday, July 23, 2004 2:31 PM
Subject: Want Some Rain?

would you like to have some rain Ill send it to you we had almost five inches in least than twenty-four hours and they are predicting more rain. Will I will let you go love you. was real happy to see you love -Sh

Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2004 9:15 PM
Subject: Happy to See You

By now you should be home. I was really happy to see you. We are fine just a note to let you know I was real happy to see you Love -Sh

Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2004 9:38 PM
Subject: Liberal, Home

Well, I'm home. Went through all those hundreds of little towns south from Dodge to Liberal, across the Oklahoma panhandle and the corner of Texas to Tucumcari, New Mexico: Minneola, Fowler, Meade, passing near Missler, Collano, then Plains, Kismet, Shamrock and Hayne to Liberal; then across the Oklahoma panhandle: Tyrone, Hooker, Optima, Guymon, Goodwell and Texhoma; then Stratford, Conlan, Dalhart and Romero Texas; and finally Nara Visa, Logan, and Tucumcari. All flat, flat, flat... But the landscape got dryer and dryer. From Tucumcari I high-tailed it on across I-40 through Santa Rosa to Albuquerque, Gallup, and into Arizona.

Oil Well Near Burdett, KS - July, 2004

The oil wells are mostly gone from the Oklahoma panhandle. They've been gone a long, long time. Back in the day there were thousands of steel drilling rig towers standing in rows and columns, visible on the horizon in every direction -- even after most of the active wells were gone; but they're gone, too, scrapped for recycling cash. And the few wells that are left don't look the same as they used to -- they're either larger, pumping from deep in the earth, or tiny replicas of the past -- pumping only now and then, where time is required to allow seepage of oil into the well from surrounding geologic structures.

Somewhere around Grants, NM, I passed near the Bandera Volcano, with its ancient lava flows and ice caves. On some other occasion I hope to turn south on highway 53 through El Malpias National Monument and get a real look at it. Even so, I-40 passes through a five to ten mile long stretch of treacherous lava flows that are still young enough to prevent the growth of foliage and the foot of man on their jagged surfaces.

I re-crossed the Continental Divide at interchange 47 somewhere between Thoreau and Rehoboth, NM, about 25 miles east of Gallup.

On the interstate I plowed onward late into the afternoon, and unbelievably, the San Francisco Peaks came into view on the distant horizon well before sunset. I photographed a storm while driving -- the usual storm that the Peaks harbor -- in the sunset, but the pictures didn't come out very well. And somehow I made it into Flagstaff before dark. Realizing I had a good shot at reaching home before having to stop for the night, I pushed onward and soon was on I-17 headed south.

I drove about 870 miles today and got home around 9:30 pm. I'll send this tomorrow; Iím too tired to reconfigure the laptop for my home internet connection tonight.


Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Monday, July 19, 2004 7:50 PM
Subject: I'm In Liberal

Just a quickie; I only made it Liberal for the night. Found a nice motel with an internet connection and have been uploading pictures for over an hour. I suspect I have another two hours to go, but at least they'll be backed up properly in case of laptop disaster.

Sure enjoyed our visit; already wish we could do it again.


Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Monday, July 19, 2004 8:21 PM
Subject: Hey L--

Was so happy to see you. I hope you enjoyed yourself.Hope you had a nice safe trip home Love -Sh

Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send

Next Nav

Sent: Monday, July 19, 2004 1:02 PM
Subject: I Only Made It to Dodge

Stockyards at Dodge City, KS - July, 2004

Well, It's 1:00 pm and I've only made it to Dodge City so far. I went back to Hanston and took a bunch of pictures of the town, tried to find the house I lived in back in 1944 -- but it was gone; and took some pictures of a very old windmill that someone has refurbished and put in their backyard a block north of Doc's. Before I left town I stopped at Doc's and said goodbye to everybody.

Then I drove to Jetmore and took more pictures, and finally got underway. Much flat land, and a video of a working oil well -- while I was parked on the side of the road a local stopped to see if I was broken down and needed help -- then I arrived in Dodge.

I looked for a motel with an internet connection so that I could backup my pictures to my server, but there wasn't one. I'm eating a good lunch at a Mexican Food restaurant right now, and then I'm on my way down highway 54 through Liberal.

-Matt Dillon

Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send     Gallery

Next Nav

Sent: Sunday, July 18, 2004 11:02 PM
Subject: Our Visit

Dear Sh--:

Shelly - July, 2004

It was great visiting with you and Ch-- this afternoon, and eating pizza. I'm glad Lo-- wanted to come along. We drove to Kinsley the direct way, over the back roads and past St. Peter and Pauls Church, and then returned via the pavement. Kinsley is quite a large town now, pop. 1589, and I continue to marvel at how flat the area is. Also, I wasn't disappointed with the millions of sunflowers along the way -- just like I remember as a kid. After we got back we went to the Jetmore graveyard where most of the Koontz' are buried and then to the Hanston graveyard where the rest of the family are buried. I took a lot of pictures in order to have a record of the names. I enjoyed the fact that there are still a lot of those quarry-stone fence posts in Hodgeman County, especially at the Jetmore graveyard. When we got back to Uncle Lo--'s, we went through a bunch of his pictures.

Lo-- has quite an elaborate baseball hat collection - several hundred of them. He says he hasn't purchased any -- they've all been given to him. One hat heís really proud of commemorates Hanstonís football team. They've been winning statewide off and on for years in both football and basketball, and lately they've been winning every year. He also has a T-shirt with the 2003-2004 winning scores on it. It's a shame that they're talking about having to combine the Hanston and Jetmore school systems. Hanston's has more modern buildings, provides a better education, and has the best sports teams, but Jetmore wants nothing to do with any sharing plan. One such plan would be having the grade school in one town and the high school in the other. But Jetmore, I'm told, will not stand for shipping their kids to Hanston. Since they're three times the size, they're likely to win despite what it will do to Hanston's athletic prowess.

Uncle Lo-- also gave me a Koontz Family Reunion T-Shirt from last year with pictures of Great Grandma and Grandpa on it. Very nice!

Well, I wish I had a lot more time to stay around, but I have to be on the move in the morning in order to make my return schedule to Arizona. I really enjoyed our visit with you and Ch-- and Jo--, and everybody. And I really enjoyed staying with Uncle Lo--.

See you on the net.


Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send     Gallery     Pictures

Next Nav

Sent: Saturday, July 17, 2004 10:17 PM
Subject: Leslie C. Koontz Farm

Dear Sh--

Goats Emerging From the Dry Sawlog Creek on the Old Archer Farm - July, 2004

I really enjoyed Sera's birthday party today, seeing you again after all these years and meeting Ch--. And it was nice meeting C-- and Kat--. I guess the last time I saw Doc was when he visited my mom's, YOUR FAVORITE AUNT, back in 2000, and my nephew, Cu--, took that hair picture. I hope Hanston's sheriff wins another term in office and C-- gets to keep his deputy job.

After we left, Jo-- and I drove out to Grandpa's old farm and looked around. The herds of goats along the stretch of road where the Sawlog creek runs on the east side of the road surprised me. When I was a kid, cattle and wheat were by far the main products of the area.

We didn't stop at Cl--'s old farm, the Houck Place. I wish we had, but there was too much to see. The house looked well-kept, but Jo-- said it was empty. I wish I'd have gone into the pasture behind his house and checked out the Buckner Creek. The last summer I was there, there was a torrential rain that flooded a lot of places and swept some cars off the Jetmore highway. Ca-- got his '52 Buick in the creek with water up to the dashboard by trying to cross the bridge at the south edge of town. I had been to Lincoln, NE, to meet up with my high school buddies, and they convinced me that I needed to return to Brookings right then in order to save my relationship with Ca-- Chr-- that had developed over the previous school year.

Goats Grazing on the Old Archer Farm - July, 2004

So the guys drove me all the way back to Hanston, but we couldn't get back to Cl--'s farm due to high water. Ca-- drove us out via a circuitous route that placed us on the bank of the swolen Buckner opposite Cl--'s farm. The drive included jumping a three-foot washout in that bodyless Model T truck he called transportation. The washout was where the dirt of the road met the concrete of a bridge, and the sides were absolutely vertical. Jumping it was a crazy idea, and it worked only because we were so ignorant of what could have happened. So we got to Cl--'s and then had to swim the creek to get my stuff. I think that was myself, S.A--, C.H--, and Cor-- Pr--. Two of us had never learned to swim, so we found a large log, launched it, and paddled the 75 feet across the torrent hanging onto it. Cor-- Pr-- didn't want his new shoes to get wet, so he threw them across before we swam it; unfortunately the first shoe didn't make it, and was last seen as it plunked into the muddy water and disappeared. When we got back with my clothes, Hi-Fi amplifier, speaker, records, and other stuff that we had packed in boxes, we just threw them in and pushed them across ahead of the log. Unbelievable, none of it sunk, and we were soon on our way back to Brookings, minus one shoe. It was too late for the relationship -- there was another guy; but I always did put Kansas ahead of girlfriends, and I'm not sorry to this day.

I looked at that tree again on the corner near Archer's, and I swear it hasn't changed one iota in over fifty years. We went up into the pasture where Lo-- built the dam. It's really a nice dam and would back up water clear around to Archer's and the next farm over; but that was during the wet years and itís now empty; even so, the grass was long and very green from all the rain, and there were fat cattle standing down by the windmill and watering tank. There was quite an outcropping of chalk in that pasture when I was a kid, but we didn't go looking for it.

Dead Tree Still Standing On Northwest Corner of the Old Stambaugh Property - July, 2004

The farmhouse, of course, is all gone -- house, barn, windmill, shop, powerhouse, "garriage" (garage), and all. I guess after the fire came through back in the late eighties and wiped it all out they brought in a bulldozer and buried the little that was left. The chicken-coup that I remember as a very young kid was long gone before I quit visiting in the 50's, but I still remember the Bullsnake that we found in it one time that had swallowed an egg whole, crawled partway through a knothole in the chicken roost, and swallowed another egg -- he was trapped there waiting for the eggs to digest to the point that the shells collapsed. We helped him out by crushing the eggs through his body and he took off like a shot. The only things we found left of the farm were a bit of foundation where the barn was, the windmill tower -- laid down along a fence on the north side of the garriage, a couple of quarry rocks and rock fragments, and the old well -- it's capped with a cement head put in back in 1957. I opened the metal cover and found a pressure tank below ground and an electrical box, but the pump is gone. I wonder if the well is still usable?

The Quonset shed in the pasture on the hill above the house is still standing, but doesn't look like it's been used in many years. There were still buffalo wallows in that pasture in the 50's; I would like to go back and see if they can still be found. The main irrigation well down in the middle of the section has been capped with one of those modern circular spray irrigation devices, and the huge tree windbreak around it is long gone. Gone, also, the concrete reservoir that we used to swim in as little kids. So it was a melancholy visit.

We went by the Orwell Schoolhouse; it's falling down, but I took pictures of what's left -- that's a sorry end to such a well-kept brick building. I guess it got too expensive for the surrounding farming community to keep up. We noticed the Sawlog creek has water in it down by Orwell. Lo-- tells me it's because the White Woman Creek, which runs into it a quarter mile below Orwell, is fed by springs that are still running. The Sawlog is completely dry right now. I never saw it dry as a kid, but Lo-- tells me that he's seen it that way a couple of times in his life. Apparently the area is still undergoing the severe drought that's been going on for several years despite the temporarily heavy rains you've been having this season.

I recall that back in the fifties there was an old farm-house standing alone on a hillside a couple miles southwest of Orwell somewhere, that was vacant and had been vacant for many years. It looked like it had just suddenly been deserted. No-one had come by to clean it out, and there were household and personal belongings there -- clothes, books, pictures, letters; even stuff a person would carry in their pockets -- scattered about the house. From the disarray, it looked like it had been visited many times by many different people over the years. I went there once with L.Zie--, picked up a couple of small pocket items, and never went back. I quickly developed a level of discomfort that we and others over the years had molested the place at all; it no doubt was left by a couple who died more or less of old age or who got sick and had to go to a nursing home -- who apparently had no relatives, or at least none who cared about anything in the house -- even enough to clean it out, properly dispose of the personal stuff, and put it up for sale. What really hurts me today is that we or someone -- probably many people -- had a chance to round up as many pictures and letters as they could, look up the correspondents, and give it all to them; there is no doubt that someone alive today would be very grateful for the information about their relatives. But we didn't; we were kids then, and just didn't think about what it might mean to someone.

From Orwell we headed back toward Hanston, stopping to visit for a moment with L.Zie-- and his wife, who were working in the yard when we went by. L.-- told us he had had an antique car worth a few thousand dollars stored in the Lo--'s barn when the farm burned. I didn't catch what kind it was, but maybe a '55 Chevy. We didn't stop at Aunt Iris and Uncle Roy Stambaugh's old place. The house was still standing, and in retrospect I wish we'd stopped and looked around, but it was completely overgrown with weeds and trees. They always had a lot of trees, though.

Their place was another one of those houses that met a fate similar to the one I described above. They had no children, and when they quit farming they moved into town for retirement. Roy repaired TV sets for years. But they left a lot of stuff in their farmhouse that they never found a need for in Hanston. It was kept locked, but after a few years someone broke in and stole their pedal organ, a beautiful natural wood instrument that I will never understand why they left behind. After their health began to deteriorate it was too late to clean out the house, so they invited kin in to take what they wanted; beyond that it was left as-is, and except for infrequent ransacking is still there today. It's very sad when that happens.

Seeing Iris and Roy's place and then talking with L.Zie-- reminded me of the time L.-- bought that fancy Model A from Uncle Roy. It had four doors, complete with curtains on the side windows. That was in the summer of 1957, I remember, and he paid $10 for it. We went over there to pick it up. I was about 16, and it had been parked there in the farmyard all my life. It had 1932 license plates, so I guess it had been parked there 25 years. We pumped up two tires and added a little air to a third. He reached under the front and closed a drain petcock on the radiator, and we filled it with water. He put a battery in it and checked the oil, which was pretty black, but still high enough on the dipstick. Then he got in, turned on the ignition, and hit the starter. Er-ER-er-ER-er-ER-er-ER... It started in about three and a half revolutions of the engine, and we drove it home! Back in the day, they made 'em where they ran no matter what. L.-- had a Model A Coup Roadster, too; it was one of those without a top. It had had a rumble seat that he had removed, I'm sorry to say. That was a going machine -- there wasn't anywhere that it wouldn't go; and it was great running around the area in it. The paint was long gone, but it was still a prize to get to ride in it.

There were a lot of Model A's around the Hanston area in those days. L.D-- used to have one that we would drive to Larned on dates. It was a going bomb, too. He would always center the car on the dividing line and put the peddle to the floor, but there was never anyone else on the road. One time we were out on the road north of Cl--'s farm acting up -- driving back and forth on the road and in the ditch. It was very muddy that day, and we enjoyed slipping and sliding around. Unfortunately, we slipped off the road at one point, teetered for a second or two, and ploped into the ditch on the car's side. We couldn't get it upright by ourselves, so we borrowed a tractor that was sitting out in a field and pulled the Model A upright. Then we returned the tractor, got back into the Model A, and resumed our play. Tipping over didn't seem to hurt the Model A at all. The last summer I was there he offered to sell it to me for $50 with a trunkfull of parts that he said would guarantee my return to South Dakota. I didn't buy it. I wanted to, but I was saving my money to offer that hardware store in Jetmore for that jacknife they had on display. It had four blades, and was about 20" long with the blades closed. It was a display model not intended for sale, and they wouldn't take $50 dollars for it; but I tried. They said it was the most they'd ever been offered. I'd have offered more, but that was the extent of my earnings for the summer.

And then Doc used to drive those two Model A's to deliver mail in; do you remember that? Your dad would take those out when it rained or the roads were muddy; they would cut through the mud much more effectively than a modern 50's vehicle. He did it for many years, right on through the eighties. He'd always have one on the road and one in the shop. When he had a breakdown, he'd just walk home and pick up the other one, and finish delivering the mail; then he'd tow in the broken-down one and repair it in his spare time.

We took a detour into the Brent Place; you know, that pastureland along the Sawlog that Grandpa owned. The tracks through the pasture were about the same, but it hadn't been grazed and the grass was out of control for western Kansas. I was going to walk the creek, but it was dry and there was too much tangled grass. The creek was obviously still running, though -- beneath the surface -- judging from the health and proliferation of the foliage. Seeing those grapevines out there reminded me of the many times I and my friends wandered the creekbed when I was a kid. The Sawlog ran all the way from the White Woman south of Orwell to the Buckner, near Hanston, about seven miles. We used to fish and catch crawdads and turtles -- Red-Eared Sliders, as I recall -- but we always let the turtles go again. We always worried about snapping turtles, but I never saw one. What we did see from time to time, though, was some kind of water turtle that was solid gray in color, real flat, and looked like he was stretched out from front to back. His neck was long and his head stretched out, with a long pointed nose. I don't know what those were called. The usual fish were Bullheads, but there were also some catfish Grandpa called Channel Cats that were a lot harder to catch. Sometimes we'd stay out all day.

We used to go fishing with Grandpa Koontz and other family members, too. One time we kept hearing the deep croak of a Bullfrog nearby. After a while Grandpa looked over the edge of the bank we were sitting on and there he was sitting about six feet below us on the bank. He was huge. Grandpa took one of the fishing lines and began dangling it down around the Bullfrog. The baitless hook rubbed all around his face, but he didn't move. I guess he thought it was some kind of insect, but he didn't bite it. After a little while, the hook was centered perfectly under the Bullfrog's chin with the hook pointed inward. Grandpa gave a mighty yank and the frog went sailing through the air on the end of that line. When it hit the ground Grandpa pounced on it. We cut him up for bait, and Ca-- fried the legs for supper that night along with the fish we'd caught. They thumped once or twice, but they didn't jump out of the pan as has sometimes been reported. The whole episode was a very big deal to me as a kid, and as a result I've never forgotten it.

One time I was out with L.-- in the earlier days, and he showed me how you could break off cigarette-length pieces of dead grapevine and smoke them like cigarettes. You could draw air through the vine, and it would stay lit just like a cigarette when you smoked it. I don't know what it would have done to our lungs, but we didn't inhale it; we just thought we were big stuff smoking it. We were probably about 12 or 13, and grapevine was about the most mischief you could get into in those days -- there were no drugs around and no peer pressure like in the cities, and we weren't ready to try real cigarettes.

Another time I was out with C.Ar-- poking along the creek in the same area and decided to take off through the pasture toward the road. We climbed up out of the creekbed, and started off across the pasture. After a good walk we ran across a lively Hogsnake. I was very impressed that his nose looked just like a pig's. I'be never seen another one like it to this day, but I suspect they're fairly common in the area.

Codgers, Doc & Chuck - July, 2004

Then one time in that same pasture we looked up and saw a shimmering mound in the distance -- shimmering in the intense sunlight. It was weird -- looked like it was about three feet high and six or eight feet across, and it was shimmering like mad. We couldn't figure that out. It was quite a ways off, so we kept walking toward it. It remained a mystery until we were pretty close and then it began to look like a large cow lying on its side, but we still couldn't figure out what the shimmering was; all we knew was that it was more than heatwaves. When we finally approached, it turned out that the cow was dead and quite bloated. the shimmering was caused by millions of maggots completely covering the torso (hope you weren't eating).

So we headed back to the old Osborn place and I stopped to look at that bridge across the Sawlog that had been put in backward back in the 40's. It was on that road that takes you from the main road to Grandpa's toward Jetmore. But the bridge was either gone or completely covered with weeds. There were cattle grazing around there, and the road had been closed many years before, and the grass and weeds were too tall, so I can't figure out exactly what the deal was. There was still a cut down to the creek where the road probably was, if we had the right place, but I couldn't see any bridge. Actually, it wasn't so much a bridge as a low dam, put in with the roadbed at a gentle slant so that any water that built up would run over the top and immediately run across the road and drop off the other side; but it was somehow put in backward -- so that the water came from the low side; and when I was a kid it was always full so that you had to drive through about an inch of water on one side and three inches on the other.

We finally got back to town near dusk, and I met Jo--'s husband and took their picture together. We tried to get him to go out for a hamburger with us at that little restaurant, the only current Hanston business besides the Farmer's Co-op. But he wouldn't go, so we went by ourselves. He seems like an easy-going, really nice guy. He's retired, of course, like Ch--, and he's had a little trouble with a hip replacement. I asked Jo-- to come with me to Kinsley tomorrow to see you and Ch--, but she said she couldn't and that it would be OK to say goodbye tonight, so I won't be bringing her.

I didn't know it until I got back to Lo--'s for the night, but I got bit up something ferocious by the chiggers this afternoon walking through the tall grass in several places. Even so, it was quite a wonderful day despite all of the changes over the last 45 years. But you know, I meant to stop at one of the Buckner Creek bridges, or maybe drive down to it from Uncle Cl--ís old place, the Houck Place, but I never thought of it when we went by.


Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send     Gallery

Next Nav

Sent: Friday, July 16, 2004 11:23 PM
Subject: Arrived in Hanston #2

So once I hit Kansas I continued through Belleville and Concordia, just missing Minneapolis and Lindsay, into Salina.

In Salina, as I said, I stopped to see Aunt M-- and Uncle F--. They inquired after Yv-- and of course asked me to stay the night, but I explained that I was due the next morning in Hanston for Sera's birthday party. Both of them looked good, although Fred looks like he's getting pretty fragile. He took me to the basement to show me his pen and pencil collection, over 6000 of them, mostly mounted on large display sheets. There was every conceivable shape: railroad spike, hammer, naked lady, bent straw, pens that looked like pencils and pencils that looked like pens, and novelty pencils such as with erasers on both ends. It was quite an enjoyable visit, but too short. My schedule would have easily allowed me to stay with them if I hadn't promised to be at your party, but I only found out they were in Salina the day before while talking with mom. While looking at the pen and pencil displays I backed up against the fireplace hearth, lost my balance, and went down with a glass of water in my hand smashing it on the hearth. I was so embarrassed. I hope it wasnít a favorite glass.

Approaching Rozel, KS - July, 2004

So I left Salina via I-70 west, passing through Trenton, and just barely bypassing Hedville, Glendale and Juniata. After 25 miles I turned southwest on 156, through Ellsworth and Holyrood, passing near Claflin. At Great Bend the highway changed to 56. I continued southwest through Air Base, Dundee, and Pawnee Rock to Larned, which I remember well as a kid, then took 156 west.

I passed near Frizell and Sanford, where my dad's family lived for a while when he was a kid. At the junction of 156 and 183 I remembered the story my folks used to tell about the time we passed through there and the sign said "Junction." My dad, who was driving said, "Junction." He always read the road sounds out loud, so I was used to hearing the pronouncements. We'd been through several junctions that day, and I responded, "When are we going to get out of Junction?" I was probably only about 5, and it turned into a lifetime family joke.

Grain Elevator, Rozel, KS - July, 2004

Next we passed through Rozel, where I remember as a kid there were many trees along one side of the highway and then a mile or so on many along the other side of the highway. From a distance they looked like they overlapped, forming a passageway beneath. As kids, we always called it the "tunnel." Rozel is a thriving little town of 187, just short of the 200 or so population it takes to be listed in Just out of Rozel I stopped and took a picture of an oil well; there are more than ever in this area.

From Rozel it didn't take long to get to Burdett (pop. 256), Gray (pop. 0), and finally Hanston (pop. 259). I hear cousin Jo-- used to teach school in Burdett. With the surrounding farming community, I imagine they have quite a few high school students; and they have a nice bed and breakfast there, something even Jetmore (pop. 932) doesn't have.

The giant grain elevator is gone that used to be in Gray, and there are two large grain bins sitting where the house and empty store used to be. So Uncle Doc's hometown is no more. I think the largest population Gray ever had was when Doc was a kid, so counting his parents it may have been as low as three, but I think he had a family of five. It's nice to see Gray still on the map, though.

Hanston, KS - July, 2004

So I hit Hanston about 5:00 pm but rolled on through to Bosse (pop. 1) and Jetmore to secure a room. The office door was locked at the only motel in town, so I knocked. I stood there surveying the rubble surrounding the office door while I waited, and it wasn't very encouraging. Mercifully, no one answered, and I left as quickly as possible. From there I decided that my best bet was the Bed and Breakfast in Burdett, some 22 mines back down the road; so I eyeballed Uncle Lo--'s place along the highway on the way back, and 25 minutes later walked into the little cafe there and inquired about the Bed and Breakfast. They said they were it, but they were all full for the night. Not surprising, even considering the completely empty highway, because there is nothing else between Larned and Dodge City. So I drove back to Uncle Loren's at Bosse.

Bosse is to Jetmore as Gray is to Hanston, 3.2 miles east. Like Gray, there was one house and one large grain elevator many stories high when I was a kid; and like Gray, the elevator is gone. But the house is still there in Bosse. At 75, Uncle Lo-- lives alone in the house and works at the only job in Bosse -- filling amonia tanks. It is a Farmer's Coop enterprise. Empty four-wheeled trailer-sized tanks are towed in behind pickups and exchanged for full ones. Lo-- fills the large tanks from an even larger permanent tank on the property. The ammonia is used as fertilizer in growing crops. The job requires filling one to five tanks a day at his own speed. He keeps half a dozen lined up and ready to go, so there is never a need to wait for him to fill a tank, but most farmers do anyway, because such contact provides the main method of communication in the area, discussing current issues for the twenty minutes to half hour it takes to fill a tank. It provides a short break, and then they're off to work again. Lo-- could live in town, retired, but he likes this job as a means of getting his exercise and a reason to get up in the morning. As a result, he looks and acts quite healthy.

So I arrived at Uncle Lo--'s unexpectedly, and he seemed to enjoy it. He gave me a spare bedroom, so I'll stay here the three nights I'm around. We went out to Jetmore for a pizza, but that place was closed so we had a really delicious juicy hamburger at a new restaurant next-door. Jetmore looked completely deserted every time I went through it today; I guess they don't have a lot of nightlife there. Then he took me all around the countryside in the dark showing me all of the old and new stuff. Even in the dark I recognized one old tree in the slough grove just east of the corner of Rural Route 1 and the road past Archer's old place to Grandpa's. So we went from Jetmore to Hanston, seven miles south to Grandpa's farm, 11 miles east via some back road to Jetmore, and wound up back at Lo--'s; it took less than an hour.

Bedtime; see you tomorrow.


Sort:   Date     Title     Subject     Comments (0)     Nav     Top     Back     Send     Gallery

L. Fox



Prev Chapter     Send     Next Chapter

Copyright (c) 2004-2011
Larry K. Fox

[ Home | The Chronicles | New Articles | Excursions | The Adventures ]
[ Change My Life © | The Ugly American © | Shadow Walker © ]
[ Desert Rat | Rainforest | Mortimer | Guest Articles ]
[ Labyrinth | Gallery Ring ]

[ Letters | Bibliography | Favorite Links ]
[ Maximize Browsing | Guestbook ]
[ Contact Us | WebMaster ]

The Cortez Chronicles name, this web site
and all articles and pictures posted herein (except as noted),
Copyright © 1997-2011, Larry K Fox,
All Rights Reserved.

Of course, it runs NetBSD!

Last updated on Monday, 11-Apr-2011 11:05:04 MST.
This page accessed 12567 times.