Looking For Stories

In my mind’s eye, I was walking up and down Cliff Dr. in Augusta, Kansas where I grew up. I was looking for stories, but wasn’t having much luck. Cliff Drive is only a block long, and most of the time I was growing up, it was a cul-de-sac. You entered on the north end and it was paved about halfway down the block. Then it continued as dirt, rocks, and ruts until it almost made it to 7th St. The final few yards were a vacant lot. The city didn’t acquire it, pave it, and make it a through street until I was in Junior High School.

 

Our block-long street contained a dozen homes, a small Church of Christ, a catholic school, and a convent or nunnery or whatever it is where nuns live. The house at the north end was occupied by H.H. Robinson, the Superintendent of schools and his family.

 

Like most residential areas, our block had a fluid population with people moving in and out regularly.

 

As I said up front, in my mind’s eye I was walking up and down the street and looking for stories among the neighbor kids. Sorry, I didn’t find any stories, but did come up with an interesting fact. Out of the group of kids that lived on Cliff Dr. in the 1940’s and 1950’s, none of us live there now, but there are five of us that are alive and kicking and in our 80’s. They are: Gary Casner, Joyce Williams, Norma Gardner, Bobby Stanley, and me. Who would have thought that?!

Dave Thomas

September 3, 2020

Mornings: The Early Bird

In June of 1950, I was 13 years old and fixing to be 14 in August. My Grandpa, George F. Sicks had invited me to spend the summer with him in Arizona. Granddad was living in the town of Safford which is on the east side of the state.

I caught a bus and headed west. This was big stuff for a kid that had hardly been out of Augusta, Kansas. Grandpa’s second wife, Mina, went to Los Angeles to visit her sister for the summer. Before she left, she made me show her that I could cook a steak and fix potatoes and vegetables to go with it.

Grandpa was a farm equipment salesman with an Allis-Chalmers dealer. He called on the farms and ranches in the area sometimes. One Friday afternoon, Grandpa came home from work early and said that we were going to the farm. The farm was clear down in the southeast corner of the state, a couple of miles from the New Mexico border and just west of the town of San Simon. Simon is pronounced in the Spanish way, with a long “o.” You say it like the girl’s name, “Simone.”

We left Safford, heading south, and in a couple of hours were in southern Arizona. We merged with U.S. Highway 80 (now Interstate 10), and headed east. San Simon is in Chiricuhua County and is a part of the Sonoran Desert. You can see for miles across the desert country, clear up the Chiricahua Mountains. This is the land of Cochise and Geronimo, so you need to keep your eyes open.

The farm adjoins the highway on the south side, so you can see the whole place from the car. It is 120 acres of steaming hot desert with no tilled land or much of anything. There is a one room adobe house, and that’s about it. The redeeming feature is that there are two Artesian wells on the place- one hot and one cold. Granddad had fixed up the hot well so you could take a shower outside. He built a screen around it so you could have a little privacy from the people driving down the highway.

Granddad showed me around the place and we messed around for the rest of the evening. He called the place his “farm,” but I believe that it was what would now be considered as the equivalent of a “man-cave.” It was a place for him to putter around.

Granddad and I spent the evening out in the yard where it was pretty nice after the sun went down. When we went to bed, I lucked out and got the cot. A little after sunrise the next morning, I was awakened by a pecking noise. I sat up in bed, wondering what was going on. Grandpa, who had awakened also said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s my road-runner buddy telling me that it’s time for his breakfast.” We got up and got dressed and Grandpa went to a cabinet and got a sack of chicken feed. He said, “A year or so ago, Mina went to visit her sister in L.A., so I stayed down here for a month. After eating, I would throw the table scraps out in the yard because I knew some critter would eat them. It turned out that the roadrunner was the lucky creature that came. He enjoyed the food and depended on me to provide it. If I didn’t show up quick enough in the mornings, he figured out that he could peck on the window and get my attention. I guess he has remembered our routine since then.” Granddad took a cup of grain and threw it out into the yard. The roadrunner scurried around like a chicken in the barnyard intent on getting every last bite. It’s been 70 years now, and I still think of that roadrunner from time to time. Who knew that a bird could think or reason or remember anything?

Now, I don’t speak the roadrunner’s language, but I will try to express in English what the bird might have been thinking. Imagine that it is evening and that the roadrunner has been craising all day and comes by the farm in the evening. He thinks, “There is a car. The man must be here in the house. I like the man. He feeds me.” The next morning, the roadrunner is in the yard. “Where’s my breakfast? I’m hungry! The man must be in the house. Last year I figured out how to get his attention, so I know now how to get him. I’ll jump up on the window ledge and peck on the window. Yep, he’s getting up, so it won’t be long until breakfast.” Then, a little later, “That was delicious. Now that I don’t have to spend the morning foraging for food, I’m going to go down the road a piece and find that roadrunner chick and see if she wants to go jogging.”

Dave Thomas

4/30/2020

Mornings: Sedona

Step out the door of your motel at sun-up in Sedona, Arizona and feel your mouth drop open. When the sun hits those red rocks, it jars your senses. This must be the place that God and Mother Nature put in some overtime. As the sun strikes the multitude of facets on the side of the mountain, you see one brilliant shade of red after another.

The evenings are just as grand, but much more subtle. As the sun sets, the color of the mountains fades from bright red to shades of purple and then to grays and then to black. I don’t have words to describe the beauty of the area. Go see for yourself. It’s a magical place.

Dave Thomas
04/18/2020

Mornings: Company For Breakfast

Pat and I had gotten up just a few minutes before and were just sitting down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. We heard a noise outside, and Pat got up and opened the curtains. There was a donkey with his lips almost against the window. He must have been as startled as us because he cut loose with Hee-Haw, Hee Haw, and it was loud enough to shake the house! We recognized the donkey as the pet of the Noble family that lived several houses up the hill from us.

We had been visited by the donkey a couple of times before. We had a Shetland pony for the kids that we kept in a corral next to our back fence. In the previous visits, the donkey had come down the back fence-line, but, for some reason, this time he had come down the street. I had my jeans on and was wearing flip-flops or thongs or shower shoes or whatever you call them. I went out to the shed and got a lead rope and came back and snapped it onto the halter the donkey was wearing. I headed for the street to take him home, and he was well-mannered and led on a slack rein, walking beside my shoulder.

We got to the street and started up the hill but it was tough going for me. The asphalt streets in our development had been sealed a couple of days before, and a fine layer of sand had been spread on them. The footing wasn’t that good, and I kept scooping up sand with my flip-flops. I was relieved when we got up the hill to the Noble’s house. However, about this time, the donkey must have realized he was almost home and he snorted and whirled around and started running back down the hill. I dug in my heels and yelled “Whoa” as I held onto the end of the lead rope. It was a wasted effort! That donkey was going downhill as fast as he could go, and I was out on the end of that rope with my heels dug in and looking like a water skier on a slalom course. Our wild ride finally got us to the bottom of the hill and as we got to our house, I could see Pat in her pajamas and housecoat out in the front yard pointing at us and laughing like a crazy woman. The donkey stopped and I looked back up the hill, and here comes Noble, laughing. He was kind enough to say that he had seen the donkey escape but had to get dressed before he could come out. As you have read, I got no respect at all. It may have been caused by the donkey, but I made a complete ass of myself.

Dave Thomas
7/13/2014 originally
Reposted on 04/13/2020

Mornings: Daybreak

We recently had a rainy November morning. Any rainy morning in Southern California is a happening. I’m thinking now of a rainy morning that occurred many years ago, probably 1965 or 1966.

It was 6:00 am, and I had shaved, dressed, and had breakfast, and was ready to go out and feed the horse. The horse was a three-year-old bay filly named Sweetie. I know it sounds like a corny name, but she was so mellow, I couldn’t call her anything else. There was a gentle rain falling, so I pulled on my boots and windbreaker, grabbed a flashlight, and went out the back door. Sweetie was standing in her shed, looking out the door, and watching me cross the backyard. As I slipped through the fence, she came up and nuzzled my arm. (You can’t kid me. I know that your greeting is 25% that you are looking for companionship, and 75% that you want to be fed.)

We walked to the shed, and I entered the door on the storage side, and picked up an old coffee can and filled it with a couple of inches of sweet mix. I took the sweet mix into Sweetie’s side of the shed, and dumped it into the feed box. She went after it like a kid going for ice cream. I had to be careful in how much I gave her because the stuff could make her high as a kite- like a kid on a sugar high. I took the can back to the storage side, and I grabbed an armload of alfalfa and brought it back over and dumped it in the manger. Sweetie went after it right away, and I started stroking her neck and talking to her. As she munched on her hay, she moved a little and pressed her shoulder up against me.

It was warm and dry in the shed, and we were comfortable with each other, so I continued to stroke her neck and talk to her while she had her breakfast. After a few minutes of this pleasant interlude, I headed back to the house. Nothing big, just two beings sharing a moment before starting the day.

I exchanged my boots for dress shoes, and the windbreaker for a sport coat, kissed my wife, and left for work.

Dave Thomas

3/12/2020

David Church and Family

David Church was born April 8, 1841 in Allen County, Ohio. He was the oldest son of Reuben Whipple and Mary (Reece) Church. He is first found in public records in the 1850 Census of Jackson Twp., Allen County, Ohio, where he is listed as a nine year old along with his parents, his sisters, Hannah (11), Mary (4) and brothers, William (6), and James (2). The first-born sibling, Rebecca Jane died in 1844 at the age of seven. His youngest sister, Nancy Ann, was born in 1851.

The 1860 Census shows David as a 19-year-old farm hand living on the farm of his uncle, Elias N. Church, in Davis County, Kansas.

October 7, 1861, David enlisted in the army at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as a private for a period of 3 years and was assigned to Company F of the 6th Regiment of Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. He is described as being 21 years old, 5’ 6” in height, with dark complexion, black eyes, and black hair and his occupation at the time of his enlistment was “farmer”. There is no record of his activities until August 24, 1862 when he was wounded in a skirmish at Coon Creek, near Lamar, Missouri.

The battle at Coon Creek is documented and I have found three reports to date. One, is from a history of The 6th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry , and the other two were written by field officers on both sides of the battle. The reports are given in a series of books known as “The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies” that was published by the War Department in 1885.

First, from the history of the 6th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry: “ On the following day, Colonel Cloud returned, with a part of his command, to Fort Scott, leaving about four hundred (400) men, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Bassett, to rest a day, with orders to return to Fort Scott on the 24th. On the morning of the 24th, Lieutenant Colonel Bassett started with the detachment of the Second Kansas, leaving the detachment of the Sixth, under command of Major Campbell, to follow in the rear. The advance had proceeded but a short distance, when a rebel force, of about one thousand two hundred, (1,200) under command of Shelby, was discovered moving south. Colonel Bassett at once united his forces and started in pursuit of the enemy, who, upon observing the movements of the Federal troops, turned aside, and took position on Coon Creek, to the right of the road. The position of the enemy was naturally strong. Adjoining the timber were two cornfields, with a lane running between them and the timber. The advanced guard, in attempting to force a passage through the lane, were encountered by heavy fire from the enemy, which resulted in a loss of three or four men wounded. Colonel Bassett then formed a line on the north side of the field on the prairie, and ordered Captain Green, with twenty-six (26) men, to deploy to the right as skimishers, and pass through the cornfield, dismounted, and at the same time sent Lieutenant Gordon, with a detachment, to the left, for the purpose of ascertaining the strength of the enemy, and bring on a general engagement. As Lieutenant Gordon approached the timber, the enemy poured in a heavy fire upon his men, wounding the Lieutenant in the head, and several of his men, and compelled him to fall back. Captain Greeno, with his detachment, at once crossed the fence and entered the timber, and advanced a few rods, when about three hundred (300) of the enemy suddenly raised from a ravine, and sent a volley into the line of skirmishers and charged them. The men raised from the ground, where they had been lying down to escape the enemy’s fire and repulsed the charge with their revolvers. In the meantime Captain Greeno was wounded in the right hand and left arm. Two (2) of his men were killed and a number of them severely wounded. The Captain, finding that he could not contend against so large a force of the enemy, ordered his men to fall back.

Colonel Bassett, finding that the enemy outnumbered his force, and posted in a strong natural position, withdrew his troops, and marched in the direction of Fort Scott. The following day, August 25th, 1862, the detachments of the Second and Sixth Kansas rejoined the main command at Fort Scott.”

The next two paragraphs are excerpts from the two field commanders. First, the report of rebel commander, Colonel John O. Shelby: “My men were well mounted, being on as good horses as the country afforded. We traveled south in the rear of the Federals that were following Cockrell till we reached Coon Creek, about 12 miles northeast of Carthage; there we came in contact with the Federals under Colonel Cloud, consisting of the Sixth Kansas (mounted) and the Third Wisconsin Infantry. After three hours’ fighting, we succeeded in driving them back.”

Next, the report of Union commander, Brig, General James G. Blunt: “About 300 of my advance of cavalry, while returning from Carthage to this place, by easy marches, on the 24th instant, suddenly encountered , 8 miles south of Lamar, the forces of Quantrill, Hays, and one Colonel Shelby, from Lexington, with a force estimated at from 800 to 1200. After a short skirmish our troops were compelled to retire, with the loss of 5 men killed and 15 wounded. On learning of the affair, I immediately sent out re-enforcements, but the rebels had moved rapidly south.”

David Church was one of the Union men wounded. A form entitled “Officer’s Certificate of Disability” states “That on or about the 12 day of August 1862 at Coon Creek, State of Missouri said David Church was disabled in the line of his duty by being shot by the rebels in the face, in the arms, through the third finger of the left hand, and through the abdomen, all buckshot wounds. Also said David Church contracted small pox at or near Newtonia, Mo. and had to be left in a log cabin in the enemy’s country.”
“This occurred under the following circumstances or causes, to wit: By order of Col. Campbell, myself and 30 men to drive the rebels out of a corn field into the timber at Coon Creek, Mo. David Church being one of the 30 men was wounded at that time.”
This document was signed by Captain William Gordon.
A “Certificate of Disability For Discharge” was issued by the Assistant Surgeon of the camp at Elm Springs, Washington County, Arkansas and David Church was discharged from the Army on January 9, 1863.

May 6,1864, in Junction City, Kansas, David married Susan Lavina Conner who was born January 4, 1847 in Woodstock, Champaign, Ohio. Three years later, the family moved by covered wagon to Augusta, Butler County, Kansas and homesteaded a piece of land seven miles southeast of town. They built a stone house on the property that became a local landmark. Years later, when David’s son, Will, raised a barn on his own property, he used some of the stones from the old house as foundation stones for the barn. One of the stones had the year 1874 chiseled into its’ face and can still be seen.

David and Susan had 4 children.
Francis Eben (Frank) Church b. Aug. 19,1866 d. Jun 5,1946
William Robert Church b. Jan. 14,1869 d. Jul. 1,1950
Minnie Belle Church b. Feb. 16,1871 d. Feb. 21,1857
George Benjamin Church b. Jun 8, \1873 d. May 11,1950

The U.S. Census of 1870, shows David, Susan, Francis E. and William R. living in Walnut Township, Butler County, Kansas.

In late December, 1875 or early January, 1876, the family left home by wagon for Junction City, Kansas. I’ve heard two stories regarding the reason for this trip. The first, was that David was so sick that he was going to seek medical care at Fort Riley. The second, was that he was going to try and find work with one of the relatives in the area. Whatever the reason, David’s condition became worse and he died on January 4th, before they arrived at Junction City.

In 1852, David’s family had moved from Allen County, Ohio to Troy Mills, Linn County, Iowa. David’s father, Reuben W. Church, became the owner of the National Hotel in Troy Mills. I mention this relocation because David was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Spring Grove Twp, Linn County, Iowa and that is the final resting place of his parents, brother, and sister. The records show them as follows:

William W. Church Feb. 15,1899-55 years 5m 12d G.A,R. marker
Co. H 14th Iowa Inf. Co. K 6th Iowa Vol.

R.W. Church died Feb. 4, 1894 73 years 5 months

Mary, his wife died Aug. 29, 1852 age 33 yrs 9m 5d

David, died Jan. 4, 1876 age 34 yrs 9 months

Hannah, dau. of R.W. & M., died Aug. 23, 1856 age 17y 2m 6d

Susan married Lewis Baum February 24, 1878. They had four children:

Pearl Emmitt Baum b. Aug 27, 1879 d, Feb, 4, 1968

Abigail Antonette Baum b. Nov. 24, 1881 d. Sept. 11, 1955

Peter Earl Baum b. Feb. 12, 1883 d. Feb. 9, 1960

Melissa Mae Baum b. Mar. 6, 1886 d. Sept. 8,1832

Susan filed for a widow’s pension July 2, 1877. She filed again as Susan Baum after she and Lewis were married. Apparently, this pension required continual updates as July 9, 1888, Lewis Baum filed an affidavit in which he testifies to the health of David Church. The affidavit looks to have been written by N.A. Yeager, the Notary Public, and then signed by Lewis Baum. It reads: “That he knew David Church personally from June 1870, he lived about one & ½ miles from affiant from that date up to December 1875. I saw him and worked for and with him a great deal during that time; he complained a great deal of his side and had a constant hacking cough; and was physically unable to do any heavy manual labor and only able to perform the lightest kind of labor a fraction of the time.”

Lewis Baum died January 30, 1907. Susan, who was known as “Grandma Baum” died February 13, 1930.

References:

U.S. Census, 1850, Jackson Twp., Allen County, Ohio.
Family history provided by Vivian (Church) Wilson, Cora (Tague) Walters, and Arletta Wilson.
U.S. Census, 1860, Davis County, Kansas
Army of the United States, Certificate Of Disability For Discharge, January 9, 1863, signed by Wm. L. Campbell, Lieut. Col.
MUSEUM OF THE KANSAS NATIONAL GUARD, Historic Units, “The 6th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry”, pp. 5,6. This is a 22 page document that can be downloaded from the Internet at:
http://skyways.lib.ks.us/museums/kng/6ksvls.html
WAR OF THE REBELLION, A Compilation Of The Official Records Of The Union and Confederate Armies, Chapter XXV, pp. 978,979,980. Published by the War Department, 1885.
WAR OF THE REBELLION, A Compilation Of The Official Records Of The Union and Confederate Armies, Chapter XXVI, pp. 257,258. Published by the War Department, 1885
OFFICER’S CERTIFICATE OF DISABILITY, signed October 25, 1881 by William Gordon, Capt.
Family history provided by Vivian (Church) Wilson, Cora (Tague) Walters, and Arletta Wilson. Family History gives the marriage year as 1864 but on request for pension given in a later year, Susan L. Baum states that she and David Church were married May 6th, 1865.
Obituary, Susan L. Baum.
Conversation in 1997 with Will’s daughter, Vivian (Church) Wilson.
Family history provided by Vivian (Church) Wilson, Cora (Tague) Walters, and Arletta Wilson.
U.S. Census, 1870, Walnut Township, Butler County, Kansas.
Notes from a 1968 conversation with David’s grandson, David S. Peebler,
Notes from a 1997 conversation with David’s grand-daughter, Vivian (Church) Wilson.
The Records of Spring Grove Cemetery, Spring Grove Township, Linn County, Iowa. Compiled August 19, 1965, by Linn County Heritage Committee, Lois W. Cronbaugh and Phyllis W. Wannermark. This is LDS Family History Center Microfilm Number 850410.
Family history provided by Vivian (Church) Wilson, Cora (Tague) Walters, and Arletta Wilson
Affidavit signed by Lewis Baum, July 9, 1888.
Family history provided by Vivian (Church) Wilson, Cora (Tague) Walters, and Arletta Wilson.
Family history provided by Vivian (Church) Wilson, Cora (Tague) Walters, and Arletta Wilson and obituary of Susan L. Baum.

 

Dave Thomas

1997

Names

Maybe I’m not traveling in the right circles, but it just doesn’t seem that there are as many nicknames in use today as there were when I was growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Are we being too politically correct and thus losing the color and entertainment value of our “handles?”

I’ve noticed also that people are getting away from shortened names and going for the formal version of their names. “Dave” has become “David.” “Doug” is now “Douglas.” “Russ” is now “Russell.” “Steve” is now “Steven” or “Stephen,” etc. Let’s get back to the short names, and the names with pizz-azz.

Following is a list of same of the names I heard when growing up in Augusta, Kansas:

Heavy Stevens- He was stocky, but not really heavy

Red Casner- Yes, he had red hair

Red Phillips- Another red-head

Red Larrick- Another red-head

Poot Mann- This may have something to do with a flatulence problem?

Peaches Guest- He had rosy cheeks that looked like peaches

Stub Warren- Built like a fire plug. After oil and gas leases were signed for his farm, he and his wife came to town in their new purple Cadillac

Slim Huddleston-

Runt Canfield-

Jap Hurst- Short for Jasper

Corky Smith-Played the drums in high school pep band on the back of a flat bed truck during V-J Day celebration

Corky McNary-

Cat Leedom-

Let’s all resist formality and go for short names and nicknames that are interesting or funny.

Dave Thomas

November 14, 2019

Graveyard

It was one of those hot August afternoons in Augusta, Kansas. Jack Watson and I were on our bicycles and cutting through the Elmwood Cemetery. The cemetery was a great place to go riding as the street was level and smooth, and the large, old elm trees provided a canopy that shaded the entire area. As we rode, we noticed movement behind some of the monuments and as we got closer, we could see that it was a horse. We didn’t want to scare it, so we walked our bikes between the plots and headstones until we got close enough for a better look. We were both amazed and speechless at what we saw. Neither of us had ever seen a horse as swayback as this. He was so badly deformed it looked like some monster had chomped out a big piece of his back. Just looking at him, you could almost feel the pain he had suffered over the years. It was strange, but his condition didn’t seem to bother him now. He was as quiet and docile as could be.

We stood around and talked about his deformity and wondered what we could do to find his owner. Also, instead of referring to him as “horse,” we thought we should give him a name. Since we found him in the cemetery, “Graveyard” seemed like a fitting name. It also seemed perfect since he certainly looked like a bag of bones. Graveyard was wearing a halter, but we needed a lead rope in order to move him. We decided to take him to my house because there was a vacant lot across the alley from us. We thought we could picket him there while we looked for his owner. Jack’s house was the closest as he lived on Ohio Street, so he jumped on his bike and rode home to get some rope. He returned with a few feet of clothesline. Then he attached it to the halter, and we were in business. We left the cemetery going south on Ohio Street, and then turned west on Clark Street.

We hadn’t gotten too far down Clark Street before a man in a pick-up pulled along side us. We all stopped, and he got out of the truck and said, “Thanks for finding my horse!” He said the horse was a retiree that he was giving a home. We talked another minute, and the guy got back in his truck. He stuck his arm out the window, and we handed him the lead rope. As he drove off he said, “If you had left him alone, he would have come home by himself!” That possibility had never occurred to us.

 

This is not Graveyard- he looked a lot worse than this.

 

Dave Thomas

August 29, 2019

It’s Not Easy

Today, I have to depart from my usual type of storytelling. We have a topic here that can no longer be denied.

A famous frog once sang, “It’s not easy being green.” That’s true, not only for frogs, but also for peas. People are always bad-rapping the pea and only because they have never learned how to properly prepare it. Nowadays, the pea is used more for its color than it is for its nutritional value. A cook or chef will plate up a pork chop or a chicken breast, add mashed potatoes and gravy, and then realize that what they have dished up really looks boring. So, to add a little color and excitement to the plate, they toss on a bunch of peas. It’s true, that they have added some color, but they have also added a component that is cold and dry and boring as hell. What a crumby way to treat a pea.

To properly prepare peas, open some canned peas or frozen peas, and put them in a pan. Add enough water to cover the peas well, and then do a good job of cooking them. When the peas are hot and well-cooked, ladle them into a side dish and make sure you add enough juice to cover them. Add a sliver of butter and some salt and pepper and you have a tasty dish that is ready to serve.  Eat the peas with a spoon so you get plenty of that delicious juice.  Bon Apetit!

That’s all I have to say about peas.

Dave Thomas

August 8, 2019