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


Mornings: Smells Great

After school let out at Augusta High School following our junior and senior years, John Luding and I worked for two or three weeks for Paul Slagle, a contract baler. When the alfalfa matured in May, Paul would go around to local farmers and bale the hay after it had been cut and raked. Paul would pick John and I up at our homes a little before 6:00am, and take us to whatever farm we were working that day. When we got out of the pick-up, and our feet hit the ground, it was like the fragrance of that fresh cut alfalfa enveloped us and everything in the vicinity. The scent was so overwhelming. Since that time, whenever we are driving through the Imperial Valley or any other alfalfa producing area, the smell takes me back to that time years ago. I love it.

Dave Thomas

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.


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:
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


Uncle Dave’s Basement

Uncle Dave’s Basement

My great uncle, Dave Peebler, and his wife, Rachel, built their house at 124 High Street in 1923. It was a nice place with three bedrooms and a bath upstairs, and a full basement downstairs that had 2 bedrooms and a bath as well as a bunch of free space. In the basement, was a gas range for cooking in one area, and a Maytag washer in another. The furnace, a part of the central heating system, was there as well. Part of the free space contained a workshop area and part of one wall was covered by floor to ceiling shelves for storage.


Over the years, I had many connections to the basement as well as the rest of the house. This story probably should start with my Mom. Mom’s mother died when Mom was only eight years old. Mom’s dad couldn’t care for her, so she was passed around to different family members until she was taken in by her Grandmother Minnie. Later, when she was in high school, she was taken in by Uncle Dave and Aunt Rachel. I think that after her high school graduation, she stayed with them for a couple more years. After Mom married Dad, they lived in an apartment above a store downtown. This was during the depression, and Dad was doing what he could to find work and keep some money coming in. He wasn’t able to bring in enough to keep us going, so when I was about three years old, Mom, Dad, my sister, Sylvia, and I moved into Uncle Dave’s basement.


I only remember two things from this time period. The first was that I had violated two rules of the house and ended up getting hurt. The first rule was, “Don’t run with a pencil in your hand,” and the second was “Don’t try to hurry down the stairs.” I had gone upstairs to get a pencil and then ran through the house to the stairway. I fell down the stairs and jabbed myself in the middle of the forehead with the pencil. The worst part was that for the next few years when Mom or Aunt Rachel needed an example, they would point to my scar and say, “Here’s what happens when you don’t follow the rules.” The other thing I remember from the time we lived in the basement was that one day I realized that my Dad wasn’t around. I asked Mom and she said he couldn’t find work and so he had gone to Western Kansas. He was working in a store out there. Fifty years later, when I became interested in genealogy and family history, I found one of Dad’s uncles had a general store in Atwood in Rawlins County, Kansas.


Things got better in the summer of 1941 when Dad was hired by the local refinery. We moved out of the basement and into the house at 19 Cliff Drive. In a short time, two brothers, Ray and Russ Larsen, moved into the basement. In a few months, the war started, and the brothers were drafted. The last time I saw Ray while he was in a Class A uniform, he was wearing the stripes of a master sergeant. While the guys were in the Army, their clothes and their personal items were stored in one of the bedrooms. After the war, Ray lived in the basement for a year or two. I don’t know where Russ was, but a few years later he came back to town. He and his wife, Sarah, opened Larsen’s shoe store on the west side of State Street, across from the bank. In their store, they had one of those magic x-ray machines that you stick your foot in and see the bones of your toes and the outline of your shoe.


During World War II, almost everyone had a Victory Garden. The war had caused quite a shortage of food. The able-bodied men who would normally be raising crops on the farms had been drafted. Then, what crops were produced had to be processed and sent overseas to feed the thousands of men were sending over there.


Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave had an acre or so out on Custer Lane, at the edge of town. They put in a large victory garden there and let my folks have a garden there also. When the green beans came in, Mom and Aunt Rachel decided to work together and can a lot of them. They set up the basement as their efficient green bean canning factory. I don’t know how the process works, but I know Mason jars, pressure cookers, and a stove are used. We heard Mom and Aunt Rachel talking about pressure cooker explosions being reported, and that they must be careful. Well, sure as heck, one of the jars exploded and green beans and glass went flying across the room. Sylvia had some bad luck as a piece of glass hit her in the forehead, and she was cut badly enough that she probably still has the scar. The rest of us and the basement were pretty well covered with green beans.


Another time, Mom and Aunt Rachel decided to make soap which was in short supply during the war. They acquired lye from someplace, and used it to make their own. After that, we had plenty of soap on hand.


After a fantastic cucumber harvest, they decided to make pickles. They had crocks all over the basement. They made dill pickles, sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles, and relish. It was stored for the family. We were in pickle heaven.


We didn’t have a washing machine or a car after we moved to the house on Cliff Drive. On laundry day, Aunt Rachel would haul us up to her house. Sylvia and I were young, so we had to tag along. One day, I was so bored I asked Mom if I could help with the washing. She was wringing out a load and said I could help. After receiving instructions and warnings to be careful, I started feeding clothes into the wringer of the old Maytag machine, and it wasn’t long before the thing grabbed my fingers and pulled my hand clear into the wringer. I let out a yell, and Mom stopped the machine. She opened up the top and got my hand out. No broken bones- just another case of humiliation.


My next memory of the basement involved Uncle Dave’s guns. In one room, two guns were hanging. One was a double-barreled 10 gauge, and the other was an over-and-under with a .410 on top and a .22 on the bottom. I don’t know where Uncle Dave got them. He wasn’t a hunter.


I had traded for a .22 when I was 12 years old so I could start rabbit hunting. I also wanted to hunt ducks, so Uncle Dave let me borrow the 10 gauge whenever I wanted. I shot at some tin cans with the 10 gauge, and I’m telling you, the recoil was pretty nasty. I don’t think I ever shot a duck with it. That was probably a good thing for I hate the taste of duck meat.


Pat and I got married in 1957, soon after I joined the Navy. One of the perks of graduating in the top five of my class at Aviation Electronics school was that I got to pick my next duty station. So, California, here we come! We got to San Diego in 1958, and that has been home ever since. We soon had Russ, Doug, and Terri, and as they grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, we tried to go back to Kansas every year or two.


Uncle Dave had always enjoyed estate sales and farm auctions. When he retired, he went to a lot more of them. If he found a good buy, it usually ended up in the basement. So, the basement was full of all kinds of odds and ends, and ready for the kids. Uncle Dave had always encouraged them to go downstairs and explore.


One of the main attractions was the black walnuts. There was a black walnut tree in the back yard, so Uncle Dave always had a keg or a bucket full of them. There was a work bench in the basement with a vise mounted on it. Using a nearby hammer, you could crack the nuts against the vise. There were always a couple of nut picks handy so you could dig out the meat.


Another favorite was the hand drill. We used to call it a “hurdy-gurdy.” There was an old wind-up Victrola phonograph with a stack of records that ranged from Perry Como to Turkey in the Straw. There were several whet stones. Uncle Dave prided himself on being able to put a keen edge on any kind of blade. Russ tested the blade of an axe, and cut his finger when barely touching it. There were several items that Uncle Dave built himself. There was a table saw that doubled as a work bench, a battery charger for his truck battery, a bit for a horse, and a hunting knife. There were old monkey wrenches and a 36 inch Stilson pipe wrench. There were drill bits for wood and metal, and taps for cutting threads. There was a stack of National Geographics in one corner. Who can throw away those beautiful pictures? There was a pair of World War I puttees. Who knows why? The basement was full of new things to learn and new nomenclature to use. For instance, in addition to the table saw, there was a bucksaw, a crosscut saw, a rip saw, a keyhole saw, and a coping saw. The kids learned a lot from Uncle Dave and his tools and junk. He often let the kids pick something from the basement to keep. Terri really liked an old saxophone she found, so she took it home and still has it. Doug remembers Uncle Dave calling them to come up from the basement for lunch which included what Uncle Dave called “Smearcase,” a name for cottage cheese derived from an old German term. The kids thought that was pretty funny.


Uncle Dave passed away first. A few years later, Aunt Rachel passed. Their daughter, Maxine (Peebler) Fisher came down from Denver and settled the estate. She sold the house and all of it’s contents to our friend, Keith Scholfield, a realtor in Augusta. Keith said it took several days and a lot of truckloads to clear out that basement.

Read It Again

Our granddaughter, Michelle, is a very bright young lady and a college graduate. Despite these attributes, she has her lapses just like the rest of us.

A few years ago, Pat and I were living in Keller, Texas, a small community on the northern edge of Fort Worth. Michelle had come from her home in San Diego to visit us in the period between school terms. We had been showing her around and decided to go to San Antonio so she could see the Alamo and River Walk.

Michelle volunteered to drive, and we were happy for the chance to relax. One morning, we headed south and in about an hour and a half, we were approaching a town. Michelle glanced at a sign from the corner of her eye and snorted. “What kind of people would name their town ‘WACKO?’” Pat and I both laughed and said, “Read the sign again, Shell!” She took another look, and said, “Oh. It’s WACO!” She laughed with us as Pat and I watched her face turn red.

Dave Thomas

November 21, 2019



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


If you didn’t see the Ken Burns documentary “Country Music” on PBS in September, you really missed a winner. We really enjoyed hearing the singers and the songs we have enjoyed over the years. Check the PBS programming and catch this show the next time it comes around.

As much as I enjoyed the show, I’ll have to admit that I was disappointed that they didn’t include two of my favorite songs. These two prize winners are: “If You See Me Getting Smaller, I’m Leavin’,” and “When I Get Done Leavin’, I’ll Be Gone.”

Dave Thomas
October 3, 2019

Ringers, Leaners, and Bull’s-eyes

The city of Augusta, Kansas had a parcel of land that became a site for horseshoe pitching and an archery range. On West 7th Street, go about half a block west from Walnut Street, and on the north side, you will find a small, red brick building that is a pump house for the city’s water system. The parcel that the pump house sits on is a city block long. It runs from 7th Street to where the old high school tennis courts were located. It’s a green space, but I have never heard it named a park. One day, we noticed that a group of men had gathered just north of the pump house. Naturally, we had to check this out, and we soon learned that these men had formed a horseshoe pitching league, and were going to dig the pits. At the time, I knew most of the men, but, for the life of me, I can no longer recall all of their names. The one I do remember is Newt Dennett. Newt was the spark plug of the outfit, and he was heavily involved in the construction of the pits as well as organizing the tournaments after. Newt must have been self-employed. I think he sold insurance or real estate. He seemed to have plenty of time to help with the construction project and later spent a lot of time practicing the pitching of horseshoes. That was a lucky thing for us neighborhood kids as he taught us the rules and how to properly pitch horseshoes.

Like most kids, I apparently didn’t pay attention to the important stuff. I remember that there were four or five perfectly aligned pits with matching pits about 15 or 20 feet away. (I don’t know what the spec for the distance was.) The pits were exactly the same size. The target pegs were exactly vertical and in the same spot in every pit. Thinking about it now, I realize that there must have been a welded metal structure for each pit that was jig built to the exact dimension.

One weekend, a couple of the men drove a truck to another town and came back with a load of fine, gray clay. The clay was smooth and pure. They filled the pits with the clay, and it proved to be the perfect material for the job. Having been taught the proper way to pitch horseshoes, I wanted to get serious about the sport. I didn’t have money to buy a set of horseshoes, but I had a good collection of rusty old shoes I had found at farms around the area. They didn’t work. Real horseshoes aren’t much good for pitching.

The horseshoe fad lasted for a few years, and then fizzled out. There were quite a few tournaments, and the local guys had some good times.

Meanwhile, up toward the north end of the property, an archery group was busy with their hobby. They had a nice professionally- made target. It was made of straw placed into about a 4 foot diameter circle, and it was about 12 inches thick. It had a cover made of oil cloth with the bull’s-eye and circles stenciled on it. The target was hung on a big easel. IT was kept in a shed or locked box about 4 feet by 3 feet in size. The archers were good folks, and didn’t mind answering questions for a bunch of kids.

One day, the storage shed disappeared and we had no idea were the archery group had gone. A few weeks later, I was with my great uncle, Dave Peebler, who was visiting his rental property that was located at the northern most part of Custer Lane; it butted up against the golf course. I looked over and saw the archery club guys and their target. I went over, and the leader of the group recognized me and started telling me about their new location. He was a wiry little guy, friendly, and always ready to talk about archery with any kid that showed up. It turned out that they had moved to their new location under the cottonwoods at the extreme west end of the golf course because most of their members lived up in the north end of town. I was glad that they were happy in their new home.


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