Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Watch Out for Persimmons!

by Jay D. Mills (Volcan, Panama)

Growing up in the country northwest of Cedar Vale and later exploring along the creeks and river near town, I was always interested in fruit that could be picked off of a vine or tree. Some berries were good to eat and some were not. I remember picking wild currents, mulberries, cherries, apples, pears, and persimmons.

It was fairly easy to tell when most of the fruit was ripe by looking it, or by tasting a little bit. All except for the persimmons! It is clear when looking at a persimmon when it is not ripe, but not so clear when it is. Even after the skin is a deep orange and beginning to wrinkle, it may not be ripe. So the next option is to taste it.

I still remember fifty plus years later, the bitter, lingering taste of a persimmon picked before its time! And, since we were usually some distance from home without water or anything else to drink, the taste lingered on for a long time. Unless of course, you could find a ripe persimmon and eat it.

You might also enjoy “Orange Lemons, Green Oranges and Green-Yellow Lemons” on my Paradise Panama blog at:

- 30 -

Monday, November 26, 2007

#1 At the left is the route map, it can be magnified. The red section in the middle is the route of "Puffabillie" ending at Riobamba.
#2 At the right, the beginning of the switchbacks as seen from Chiva Express .

#3 A narrow gauge steam locomotive, not my
"Puffabillie", but close.
Note: I'm sorry I could not include these pics in the Train Memories post, but blog technology did not permit it. DFCox

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I am a train buff, have been since my early teens. I always take every opportunity to have an interesting ride or even listen to a CD of locomotive sounds. When I get motivated I want to create a post to hit some of the highlights of railroad history as it pertains to Cedar Vale. Right now though, I would like to describe my four all-time favorite train experiences. They all involve 3rd world countries--I guess that makes them more exotic and certainly involves vintage rolling stock. OK ?? Here we go--

This ride is one I took many times because it was such a civilized way to get from A to B. It is/was the Night Express from Guadalajara (Mexico) to the capitol, Mexico City. This fine old train was mostly formed from old stateside Pullman Cars and although they were a bit creaky, they were well maintained and had all "roomettes" with private lavatory.
One bought a ticket and boarded in Guadalajara at 10:00 PM. There was a club car where one could read a book, have a drink, watch people, make new friends, or all the preceding. The steward was available to convert the roomette into a bedroom whenever you wished. As the train rocked, pitched, and clickity-clacked its way to Mexico D.F.; the hypnotic movement and sounds could lull even an insomniac to dreamland. If the train didn't spend too much time on sidings during the night, we were passing the outskirts of Mexico City at 6:30 AM. On pulling into the Central Station one was already near the center of city, as opposed to a distant airport or a satellite bus station. What a way to go!! The one way ticket was less than $20. The train in the picture just shows the vintage of the cars. The train was pulled by a diesel Locomotive when I rode it in the '70s and early '80s while living in Guadalajara.


This soot belching steam train was the "Dry Zone Express" in Burma, from Rangoon to Mandalay. (I use the old names for the country and the city as they were when I was there)
In '75, when I visited, Burma was just recently opened to tourists. Six days was the maximum stay and the officials were very paranoid about goods you brought in--like cameras, cigarettes, etc. Money was exchanged at the official rate at the airport and we were warned against buying money elsewhere or selling any personal items. I soon saw why, the populace was starved for consumer goods and I was hounded immediately I left the airport to sell dollars, cigarettes or about anything. ---but I digress.
I learned about this way to get to Mandalay and I allotted 3 days, one day to go, one day there, and one day to return. I went to the station bright and early and my language barrier was intense, but the locals were on my side and I finally got a ticket on the sold out train. The cars on this train had sturdy wooden bench seats that faced each other. I finally settled on a seat with two giggly girls and three Buddhist monks. The train had a beverage bar which sold only local soda drinks. They ran out at 10:30 AM on a 10 hour run. The locals were well prepared for this and the fact that there was no food on the train. I must say that as people realized how ill prepared I was they offered me food and drink which I was loath to accept. As this was an express run, no stops were scheduled, BUT there were two stops in the middle of nowhere and and both stops a crowd was there selling food and drink. Both the food and the drink were highly suspect hygienically, but what's a guy to do?? I ate and drank, but immediately took a prophylactic dose of tetracycline which I carried at all times. It worked because I didn't sicken. This trip took the full 10 hours across the hot, hot, dry zone of Burma. I'm guessing it was over 100 degrees F. I spent a lot of the time sitting on the carriage steps between cars where the soot and embers from the locomotive were my companions, but it was better than inside the stifling car. The people were friendly and soon some from other cars were coming to try their English on me. One young student invited me to his families home to stay, but I declined as I had had enough adventure for the day. Would I do it again ??? YES, in a heartbeat if I had my health. It's the stuff of fond memories.


After Burma I arrived in Bangkok, Thailand. A Thai friend from the Bay Area, now living in Bangkok, had a studio apartment rented for me there. It was not that I was capable of coping on my own with the language and customs, but between he and his family and friends, I was seldom left alone and had a guide for almost anything I wanted to see.
Well I learned that the rail line that the Japanese built out west to the Burma border still existed and that a memorial park was there to honor the British prisoners who perished there. (My history is hazy--I don't think the Japanese ever occupied Thailand as it wasn't ever a colony of any European nation. I may be that thy had cowed the government into some concessions). Arunothai Somsokul, my guide, took me to the correct station-Bangkok has several-and we set out to the west. The first part of the journey was unremarkable, but we changed trains 50 miles out and now we were on a genuine semi-antique steam train which stopped every 4 or 5 miles gaining and losing passengers at every stop. Most of passengers were bearing goods to market at some stop. There were ducks, geese, chickens, pigs and goats, and I mean in the passenger car. At one point I went into the toilet and found that one of the venders had cleaned her chickens there and left the feathers and entrails in the toilet and lavatory.
At every stop there was food for sale and we ate very well. I was intrigued that the Thais do not have everything in plastic or tin, most of our purchases came nicely wrapped in a banana leaf. Completely biodegradable! Finally we reached the end of the line--literally, as no rails or roads crossed the Thai-Burma border at that time. We were in a large village, which had a hotel for us. That night we joined the street fair which had a few tired carnival type booths and the big deal was the Movie. An outdoor screen and B grade Hong Kong Kung Fu movies.
The next day I hired a local lad to lead me out to the memorial spot which was at the end of a two mile path into the jungle. I was the only visitor there and I took my time adsorbing everything that was there--mostly my mind was recalling the scenes from the Academy Award winning movie and dwelling on the foibles of mankind.


A few years ago I read an article in the "Smithsonian" magazine which told of an old mining railroad in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador which had been restored and where one could ride to the top of the Andes for the price of a ticket. I knew I had to do that, and sure enough, a year or two later I found myself landing at Guayaquil, Ecuador. Guayaquil is the largest city and main port of the country. My investigation revealed that although the train trip was designed to go all the way to Quito, the capitol, the road bed was passable only to the top at Copabamba and was some 60 kilometers shy of Quito at that time.
I got up early, checked out, and took a launch across the estuary and found the little train station. There were a fair number of tourists there for the adventure, all South Americans, as well as some locals going about their business. Our initial ride was a regular gauge train, passenger and freight, pulled by a diesel locomotive. We traversed the verdant coastal plain through many sugar plantations and fields of cane for about 65 kilometers to a bustling town right at the base of the Andes. After some delay all who were on for the whole trip were detrained and walked to the narrow gauge platform where the beautiful little "Puffabillie" steam locomotive awaited us. Our climb was to last seven hours, cover fifty miles, and climb 8,000 feet. Thrills abounded as we saw percipitous drop offs, rushing waters, and indigenous mountain people. There were many halts while we waited for track crews to repair washouts or clear slides from the right of way. At one point the railbed was so rough that the last car of our little train became uncoupled and was just starting it's solo trip back down the mountain until the brakeman ran back to our car and leaped aboard to whirl the ancient handbrake. The car screached slowly to a stop. Hallelujah!! He saved us from a major catastrophy.
We arrived at the site of the switchbacks. These are carved into the face of the mountain and consist of maybe 1/2 mile of track repeated seven times. The train pulls to the end of the track, then the crews throw a switch and the train reverses up the segment. The process is repeated and we chug forward the next 1/2 mile. This is repeated five more times til the train is able to resume climbing lesser grades.
The jaw dropping scenery and the shared perils had done a job on our group of passengers and we became a somewhat cohesive group during the journey. I found myself in conversation with Columbians, Brazilians, and Ecuadorians, mostly family groups. I even sat with some Colombian children while mom and dad sneaked off to the other car for some time alone.
Finally we arrived at 8:00 PM in the regional Andean town, Copabamba, which was the terminus at that time. We had to carry all our luggage up an upward sloping street at the sudden altitude of 9,000 feet while we searched for hotels and food. Oh well, I had done my all time # 1 train trip and survived. It's mine, I'll never forget it!

I checked the internet to see if this trip is still available. It is, but in a different form. I now goes all the way to Quito and is marketed by some travel agents. They have retired the "Puffibilly" and the old cars. They now have a self contained diesel car that they call "Chiva Express" which means goat--In this case it must be mountain goat. I know it would be much safer and cheaper to run than the old steam train. It would still be a great experience for some, but the glamour would be gone for me.
Note: Photos for the Andes portion of this post are sent separately--by necessity. dfc

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The White Family of Moore Prairie, Kansas

By Gary White

This is the piece that resulted from Don Cox's question about the Whites of Moore Prairie.

Moore Prairie Cemetery in rural Chautauqua County, Kansas lists sixteen occupants with the name of White. I can identify all of these people as relatives of mine. How this came to be will center around one rather shadowy individual, Caleb White (1839-??).

Caleb and his new wife, Eliza Head White (1839-1920) arrived in New York from Liverpool, England on June 22, 1864. Life in England had been hard for Caleb. In the 1851 British Census twelve year old Caleb was listed as the only offspring of Samuel and Philadelphia White, who are identified as “Paupers—Formerly Farmers.” How Caleb met Eliza and when they were married is unknown, but there is little doubt about their reasons for leaving England for the New World.

The Whites began the move west along with that steady flood of immigrants who were seeking a better life in the U. S. They must have taken several years to reach Kansas, because their first two children Philadelphia (1865) and Samuel Fredrick (1867) were born in Illinois. By 1870 they had homesteaded on Moore Prairie and little Alice was born. My grandfather, Howard Charles was born in 1872 and Daisy in 1876. Shortly afterwards, Caleb just up and left, leaving Eliza alone in the wilds of frontier Kansas with five small children.

Those of us who muck about among the dead folk searching for our connections to European royalty are bound to turn up a few pitiful characters and an occasional scoundrel. Caleb White may fit into both of those categories, although Eliza was later known in the family for her sharp tongue. Whether that came before or after Caleb left I don’t know. Anyway, Eliza gathered up her little band of farm hands and, by God, made a go of it on the homestead on Moore Prairie. Philadelphia became “Della” and Samuel Fredrick became “Fred,” thus erasing any connection with Caleb’s parents in England. Eliza seems to have been determined to start all over again in her adopted country and she systematically cleared Caleb White out of her life.

There are two pieces of family folklore about Caleb that I heard from my father. One says that Caleb had been a sailor and found life away from the sea onerous. I doubt that bit of folklore, considering that his parents before him had been failed farmers and every census record I’ve found shows that he listed his occupation as “farmer.” My guess is that that story was just made up by Eliza to cover for the real reasons that Caleb left. The other story is more believable. My father said that several years after he took off, Caleb returned, but Eliza ran him off the place. That totally fits with what I know about my great grandmother, and tends to confirm Caleb’s status as neer-do-well.

By 1885 the White family was all quite grown up. Della, age 20 was listed as a housekeeper, Fred, age 18 is a “farmer,” Alice, age 15 is listed for “housework,” and Howard, age 12 is a “farmer.” Only little Daisy, age 9, has no listed occupation. That is quite consistent with the picture my father painted of the family. He described the White’s as a family with grim determination and no nonsense or fun. This shaped my grandfather’s character, and I remember him as a rather bleak character, who just wouldn’t stop working, even after a failed prostate surgery left him incontinent and weakened. My father said that he had a similar upbringing to his father, and if there was an easy way and a hard way to do anything, his father always chose the hard way. That he didn’t pass that same grim determination on to me is a tribute to his ability to rise above his upbringing.

Fred grew up and married Hannah (1875-1949). They created a place of their own on part of the homestead, making them Eliza’s neighbors. There they raised seven children, Ray A. (1900-1959), Ralph L. “Boots” (1901-1971), Orville (1905-1948), Ward L. (1907-1997), Lynn (1909-1970), Thelma (1913-??), and Buel O. (1915-1974). What a bunch of farmers that crew must have been. For the most part, all of these children remained in the Moore Prairie area and all of them procreated, thus accounting for the list of White occupants in Moore Prairie Cemetery.

My grandfather, Howard Charles (1872-1954) married Mary Florence Witham (1876-1964) and they had four children, H. Fern (1903-1989), Sylvia O. (1908-2001), my father, Charles Howard (1911-1991), and Vernon D. (1915-1973). Eliza lived with this family until her death in 1920. The H. C. White family was not prolific, and I turned out to be the only child any of them had. Fern never married, Sylvia married Charlie Smith, but they had no children, my father married Lila B. Call and I was their only child, and Vernon only married later in life and had no children. So, while all the Whites of Moore Prairie were and are relatives of mine, none are what I would consider close relatives. However, we all carry some of that Moore Prairie limestone in our bones and have all been hard workers all our lives.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Railroad Memories

by Gary White
Last week we were driving south down highway 285 through Colorado back home to Santa Fe. Near the New Mexico border, highway 285 crosses the tracks of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway, a narrow gauge rail line that crosses through some interesting mountain country along the Colorado/New Mexico border. Just as we came up to the station an old coal burning steam engine crossed in front of us pushing three cars of gravel to be used to maintain the track ahead.

Suddenly I was back in Cedar Vale again at the train station on the south edge of town, where the Missouri Pacific railway connected Cedar Vale with points east and west. I was about seven years of age and my mother and I were waiting to take the train from Cedar Vale to Sedan. My father had needed to pick up some oil or other products from Leo Chrisman, the Standard Oil agent in Sedan. As a lark, he had left mother and me off at the MOPAC station, where we purchased tickets from the station agent, our neighbor, Dewey Burch. We were going to have a train ride to Sedan, where dad would pick us up for the drive back the Cedar Vale. I could hardly contain my excitement when that huge, black engine roared into the station and we boarded the only passenger car for our big ride. The passenger car was just like you would see in the old Western movies. There were ancient steel seats, covered with worn and cracked leather. At the end of the car was a primitive toilet and a water bottle and small cone-shaped cups that you could pull from a dispenser and get a drink. Of course, I would need to use the toilet and get a drink of that railroad water! That was just part of the excitement of the journey. All the windows were open because it was summer, and of course, the compartment was not air conditioned.

Were Frank and Jesse James or the Dalton boys out there waiting to hold up the train? Would we be attacked by indians in full war paint? My imagination was running wild as we pulled out of the station, and began to cross through territory that was totally unfamiliar to me. I had seen all the roads around western Chautauqua County, but the railroad crossed through areas where there were no roads. Out across wooded areas, through deep cuts through the hills, and alongside farms and ranches we went, and it was all just as I imagined it would be. That is, all except for the continuous rain of coal soot that poured into the windows and greatly distressed my mother, who was the soul of fastidiousness. All this was just part of the thrill for me and I didn’t mind my clothes getting covered with small black specks. Mother tried in vain to brush them off and that just spread them out, making the spots bigger.

All too soon we pulled into the Sedan railway station and there was dad with his big red tank wagon truck waiting for us. What stories I had to tell, and tell them I did, with eyes wide with excitement from the adventure we had just had. I can remember how my dad laughed as I told my stories and how mother fumed a bit at the black spots on both of our clothing.

All this passed in front of my eyes as I waited the few minutes for the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway engine to push those cars past us and clear the tracks for our continued journey. Very soon we would be in home country, where the place names suddenly are all in Spanish—Rio Arriba, Tres Piedras, Ojo Caliente. Now I knew we were nearly home.

Taking Care of the Old Folks

by Gary White
My grandparents’ 401Ks were their children. As subsistence farmers there was no “retirement plan” in place and, as they aged and became infirm, their children gradually took over more and more of the farm operations.

In the case of my paternal grandparents their eldest daughter, my aunt Fern, stayed at home and assisted them for their entire life. In the final years of my grandfather White’s life, I can remember the Sundays when my father, my uncles Vernon and Charlie Smith, and I went into the woods to cut firewood for the grandparents. Charlie Smith had all the necessary tools and we each took turns with the axes and saws and brought in enough wood to heat the grandparents’ home for the entire winter. We also got together when it was butchering time so that the grandparents would have meat for the winter. Aunt Fern raised a huge garden and canned fruit and vegetables for their winter needs. When my Grandfather White died in 1954, the children bought a house in Sedan, and Grandmother and Fern moved in town together. The sale of the farm provided their living, along with what Aunt Fern could bring in by cleaning houses in Sedan. When Grandmother White died in 1964 Fern lived out the last of her years in that house. Her “retirement” was provided by the savings she had accumulated in her earlier years as a cook and house keeper along with the house that was free and clear.

My maternal grandparents lived on their farm until Grandfather Call passed away in 1952. In his declining years he was helped out more and more by my uncle Harold, who had a home for his family on a portion of the farm. After his death, all the children got together and built Grandmother a little house in Sedan on the back of my uncle Lee’s place. Her “retirement” was provided by the sale of the farm and periodic contributions of food and money by all her children. When my uncle Lee died, in 1960, the remaining children bought a small trailer home for grandmother and she lived out her final years until her death in 1973 in that trailer which was always parked near to one of her childrens’ homes.

In my parent’s generation, regular retirement programs were in place and both of my parents retired from their employment with pensions. My father drew a regular pension from the Standard Oil Company (AMOCO, and now British Petroleum) and my mother drew a pension from the telephone company, ATT (now broken up into regional divisions). In addition, they had engaged in regular savings during their employment years through employee stock plans with Standard Oil and ATT. I was freed for the most part, from regular work to support them. My role was as financial manager of their assets after my father’s death in 1991. My mother moved to Ames, Iowa where I was teaching and we set her up in a retirement complex in north Ames. This gave her independence and professional support when her health declined in the last two years of her life. Mother died in 1998, two months before the death of Elyn’s mother.

Elyn’s parents were in a similar situation to my parents. They had both retired with pensions from Iowa State University and moved to a retirement community in San Diego, California. They had also engaged in regular savings during their employment years and they had assets that could be used to supplement their pensions. The retirement community provided day to day support as needed and our role as their children was as financial manager of their assets after Elyn’s mother died in 1998. Elyn’s father lived on in the retirement community until his death in 2006. In his declining years, Elyn took on the role of care manager, watching out for his medical needs from wherever we happened to be living by regular phone conversations and periodic visits. The health care system in southern California was not as reliable as the system in central Iowa and regular oversight was needed to ensure that he had the care he needed.

Elyn and I are now engaged in our own financial planning so that we can live comfortably without needing financial support from our children in our declining years. I had a regular retirement program in my employment at Iowa State University and, in addition, engaged in regular saving. Assets inherited from our parents supplement our income along with royalties from the sale of our books. How we will deal with the increasing need for care in our declining years remains to be seen. At least we have long-term care insurance to take over some of the financial burden of those years.

As I look at the next generation, I see quite a different pattern emerging. Fewer and fewer companies have regular retirement programs and young people seem to move from job to job and are much more often self employed. The entire burden of saving for retirement is increasingly placed in their laps. Are they saving? The statistics are not promising. Will their “retirement programs” again be the responsibility of their children? Will "extended family" again be a living pattern for them? Only time will tell how the next generation of “old folks” will be cared for in their declining years. The Social Security system doesn’t look like a good bet as a source of significant income.

The wheels of time turn and there will always be a generation of “old folks” to be cared for. I’m sure they will work it out in some way. People always have. At least, it won’t be my responsibility to figure it all out.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Peanut Butter Goes With ... Almost Anything

by Jay D. Mills

One of my favorite snacks / sandwiches when I was a young lad in Cedar Vale was made with peanut butter and syrup. I would place a good amount of peanut butter in a bowl and add plain Karo syrup, mix it up good and spread it on bread. It was great! Oh, I know about the traditional peanut butter & jelly combination and it is good also. And for years I have enjoyed peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

But have you ever tried peanut butter with:
- Mayonnaise? (mixed up as with syrup) another childhood favorite
- Cream Cheese? (just finished one & it was delicious)
- Bananas?
- Raisins?
- Chocolate?
(a natural in my book)
- Pickle?

I've read about many more, but these are the ones that I remember trying. Maybe you can suggest an even tastier combination. - 30 -

Sunday, November 18, 2007


by Gary White
There are events that stand out in my memory so starkly that I know exactly what I was doing at the moment. These milestones mark moments when I sensed that everything would be different from that moment on.

On April 12, 1945 I was sitting on the floor of our living room across the street from the telephone office in Cedar Vale, Kansas listening to the radio. A news flash interrupted the music programming to inform me and the world that President Roosevelt had died. Since he had been president for my entire life, I didn’t know what to think. Was it the end of the world? No, things pretty much went on with little change and the event faded into history.

On November 22, 1963 I had my high school choir from Dolores, Colorado down in Cortez rehearsing for a massed choir festival to be held that evening. We took a break for lunch and the news was relayed to us that President Kennedy had been shot. All the directors got together to decide what we were going to do—should we continue rehearsing and go on with the concert? Should we all go home and reschedule the event for some time later? If so, when? There was a lot of discussion about the difficulties of finding another time in all the various high school schedules and some sentiment for simply going ahead. However, the consensus that developed was that we would postpone the event for some future, undetermined time. We simply couldn’t think of going on after the event in Dallas. Of course, it was impossible to reschedule and that choir festival never happened. Was this the end of an era? How would the world change from that moment in time? Well, change it did, but not catastrophically. The event, however, didn’t fade into history and questions continue to be raised about what happened that day in Dallas, Texas. Our lives settled back into their usual routine and little changed from day to day.

On September 11, 2001 my daughter and her partner were visiting us in Boulder, Colorado. They were sleeping in late that morning and I was on the computer looking at the morning news. I read about the first plane flying into the World Trade Center tower and ran immediately to turn on the television. I was watching the event live when the second plane impacted the other tower and I continued to watch as the towers began to fall. By that time my daughter was up and I told her that this was truly the end of an era and that our individual and collective futures would be different than before that morning. So far, that prediction has proven accurate. Now I am reminded of the current “threat” level every time I go to an airport to fly. I have to take off my shoes to go through security and have had my luggage opened and pawed through by strangers more times than I can remember. Only time will tell if my prediction of the end of an era will prove true.

Other events are not so easy to pinpoint. Where were you on the day that global warming started? Where were you on the day that the delicate balance that must be sustained for us humans to survive on this planet was irreversably tipped? Or, has that day happened yet? Now that is a milestone to watch for. Where will you be on that day?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Climbing a 14er

by Gary White
It was the year between my Masters Degree and beginning work for my PhD at Michigan State University. I had taken a year off to teach in the public schools in Dolores, Colorado, a tiny mountain town tucked deep inside the Dolores River canyon in the southwestern corner of the state. It was during this year that I met David Engle, the pastor of the local Methodist Church. David had been a student of Paul Tillich, the great Christian existential philosopher at Harvard. What he was doing in this small mountain town was a mystery. Perhaps the Methodist Church needed a place to hide someone of his radical persuasion, or perhaps David simply needed to be in the Rocky Mountains. In any event, David was intellectually so far above the members of that small congregation that they never once noticed that his prayers didn’t end with “in Jesus’ name” and phrases such as “Lord and Savior” never passed his lips. He was a Methodist pastor that an agnostic like me could get close to and I agreed to sing in his church choir (having turned down the opportunity to lead it).

I could sit through all of David’s sermons, which were beautiful essays on ethics and humanism. Even my Grandfather Call would have been happy with his preaching. I remember that Grandfather had once told the local minister that he would only come to church the Sunday that he preached of “man’s duty to man” instead of “man’s duty to God.” He proudly said that he had never had to make good on that promise. David became my best friend and confidant during my one year in Dolores.

Along with being an intellectual of major accomplishment, David was an avid mountain climber, having been an instructor in technical climbing in a mountaineering school earlier in his life. Early in the fall, David hatched a plan that we would climb one or two of the fourteen thousand foot peaks in the Dolores range, just north and east of town. That was a huge challenge for both of us since I had never been at all athletic and was not particularly confident of my abilities as a mountain climber.

David was the most patient teacher I have ever met. He began by taking me out on short hikes, increasing the distance and challenge by easy degrees. He was always instructing me about climbing safety, showing me how to tell if an avalanche or rock fall was imminent and how to traverse loose rock fields safely. He taught me the basics of rappelling over cliffs on a rope, and how to belay a partner in dangerous situations. He told me about the dangers of euphoria due to oxygen starvation at high altitudes and how to know when and where to take cover in case of sudden thunder storms. The result was that I actually felt ready to attempt a 14er by the spring, and when it was safe to do so, we made our plans to climb Mt. Wilson in the Dolores Peaks.

We picked a beautiful, sunny Saturday in the late spring and made our ascent. The plan was to drive high enough so that we could make the entire climb in one day and David could be back in time for his sermon on Sunday. If you haven’t actually climbed a 14er there is no way that words can convey the experience. If you have climbed, you will know what I’m going to try to describe without reading further.

In the first place, the climb is very strenuous and you have to pace yourself very carefully. The rest breaks and taking in food and water are carefully planned so that you can be at the summit before the afternoon thunder storms move in. Being on top of one of the highest mountain peaks in the Rocky Mountains in a thunder storm is deadly and many climbers have been struck by lightning. David was impeccable in pacing us and circumventing dangers from falling rocks and sliding snow and, in due course, we made the summit.

There is no way to describe the euphoria of standing on the summit of a fourteen thousand foot peak. All during the ascent you are looking at the face of the mountain, walking over huge fields of loose rock with the sound of mountain streams underfoot. When the summit is achieved, the whole 360-degree panorama suddenly opens up and you can see forever in all directions. You know you must be short of oxygen because there is an overwhelming desire to just stay there forever. My judgment was so impaired that David had to be quite stern with me when it was time to start down.

The trip down the mountain was just as strenuous as the ascent. We took the easy way of sliding down snow fields whenever possible, but even so, my knees took a beating. By the time we were back at the pickup I was almost unconscious from shear fatigue and I hardly remember most of the trip home. However, in the days and years following I have savored every moment of that beautiful day and I remember my friend and teacher David Engle with great love and affection. We made other climbs together and they were beautiful experiences, but that first day of standing on the top of the world will always be the day I remember.

Perhaps you did not know him ...

Jesse G. Foust was my dad. A better man have I not known!

Dad was born in 1907 on some ranch land close to Hoosier, Kansas. Hoosier was a busy little hamlet and a cattle and hay shipping center. Laura and Phil Foust were Dad's parents. Originally from Indiana, my granddad came to the area with his father and sister (after his mother had died). My great-grandfather was seriously injured in Tennessee during the Civil War. As the battlefield litter bearers were removing him they noticed a flicker of life. After a metal plate was inserted into his skull he lived a full life. Though a farmer in Indiana he was a stone mason after arriving in Kansas and was involved in building bridges. He is buried in the Dexter cemetery along with my dad and grandparents.

Granddad was "a cowboy and rode wild horses"! That was the thought of grandma's parents and they did not want him dating their daughter, (Laura Wesbrook). This did not deter them and they eloped one night to Sedan for a marriage ceremony the next day. My grandfather later farmed and was a barber in Cedar Vale during most of his life. Later, he was the janitor at the Cedar Vale Grade School. Stories of his barbering days included (if my memory is correct) that a shave and a haircut was ... yep, two bits.

Dad was graduated from Dexter High School where he was a good athlete and a trombone player. Dexter had a good baseball team and advanced to the state tournament where they were defeated by Lawrence. Their basketball team was difficult to beat on their home court in the high school basement with low ceilings. Following high school he went to a business school in Winfield.

During those years he caught for some good baseball teams and was offered a minor league contract. Those were difficult times and he thought it best to "go to work". He was a telegrapher on the railroad in some southwestern states. My Uncle Ray broke his leg playing baseball in Sumner County and dad was sent to relieve him briefly as a depot agent in Riverdale. My Granddad Britton was the section foreman there and this was where my dad met my mom, (Rena).

After being married they moved to Cedar Vale where my dad was bookkeeper for the local Ford dealership. Dad was transferred to Fort Scott by Radliff Ford and we lived there for awhile until he found employment as a bookkeeper at Shell Oil Refinery in Arkansas City. Shell decided to shut down and move employees that wished to transfer to Indiana. Instead, Dad accepted the managerial position at Wallingford Grain Company in Winfield. His dream was to own a farm and he saved and borrowed for the purchase of some acreage between Cambridge and Moline.

World War II intervened and it appeared to him that he would be drafted into the service. He sold the farm and moved his family to Riverdale in order to be close to mom's parents. He was the manager of Wallingford's seasonal grain operations and a security guard at night at Boeing in Wichita. He was deferred from the service because of age restriction change. During this time, I started my work career by running the lift for the trucks and trailers to dump their wheat in the grain elevator. Mom ran the scales and dad scooped and scooped in balancing the wheat load in the railroad grain cars.

He applied to be the tank wagon man for the Winfield Co-Op and was accepted. Later, he was installed in the same job for Socony Vaccum (Mobil) Oil in Cedar Vale. Dad built a home there but for whatever reason my mother and sister were never happy in Cedar Vale.

Dad moved us to Dexter in 1952 where he accepted the job as tank wagon man for Mobil Oil. Dad worked very hard all his life until his early death somewhat caused (in my opinion) by a broken heart. He had entered the Cedar Vale hospital for an extensive checkup and while he was there my mother was brought into the hospital in serious condition because of what was whispered to be a drug overdose. After Dr. Hays informed him of the examination results dad joined me in mom's adjoining room where I heard him fall in the restroom. Resuscitation was attempted until the staff quickly removed him to his room next door, (shared with Roy Smith). Efforts to revive him from his massive heart attack were to no avail.

Dad was intelligent and a good father. He was a person with no known enemies and he was always ready to be of help. At Dexter, we lived close to the railroad tracks and he never could turn down a tramp's request for food. It is my belief that he was an exceptional man. In enduring a difficult marriage he quietly and without complaint sacrificed life and happiness for his family. His funeral was held in the "new" Dexter gymnasium in order to contain the large respectful throng.

Jesse G. Foust was my dad. A better man I have not known!

In Megalithic Sites

by Gary White
I place my hand over your hand print and trace your spirals, painstakingly cut in the hardest stone you could find, without benefit of power tools. I wonder what messages you intended to send and what language you were writing. What did you see and experience deep in the caves and caverns you found and built all over the landscape of Europe and the British Isles? Did you see that the stones were just entries into other realms and were your spirals and zigzags the tracings of what you saw there?

Or were they just graffiti? “Harry + Sally—True Love;” “Kilroy was here;” “What I think, you will think;” or these little pebbles I’m dredging up out of my own memories, worn smooth in the telling and retelling to myself and others?

This much I know: it was an insult for me to ever think of you as primitive and stupid. An insult to you and an insult to me, because we are not so distant relatives, you and me. For me, whose feet have never truly known the earth and whose eyes have never truly mapped the sky to look down on you whose knowledge of such things so eclipses mine is the true stupidity and I freely acknowledge it to you now.

I have had the map of my own DNA drawn. I see my essential self moving slowly up out of Africa, through the Middle East, and across the map of Europe to finally leap to these shores just a few generations ago. Yes, you and me, we are one. Your flesh is my flesh. “We are family.”

So I place my hand again over your hand print and say, “Hail and farewell, brother and sister.” I think that a glimmer of understanding is beginning to develop in our collective consciousness here and in this time. We have all of us passed this way and will continue so long as the earth is hospitable to our species. Is that what you are trying to tell me? I get the message, loud and clear.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

“In a Little Spanish Town . . .”

by Gary White
So go the lyrics of a popular song from my youth. I actually had the opportunity to live out that dream in the years after Elyn and I were married. Elyn had done the research for her PhD in Cultural Anthropology in Spain. Her topic and her passion had been the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage that crosses the Pyrenees from France and then from east to west across the northern part of Spain. We traveled there in a summer and I met the family who had become her Spanish family when she was living in Spain and walking the Camino. I had always wanted to live in a foreign country long enough to move beyond the tourist status and this looked like the perfect opportunity. Her Spanish family invited us to come back to Sahagún and live, so in the summer of 1997 we packed up our things, sold most of them and moved to Spain.

First we walked the Camino, just as Elyn had done in 1982 when she was doing her dissertation research. Then we moved into the apartment that our Spanish family had found for us on a upper floor of a hardware store in downtown Sahagún. The apartment was luxurious by any standard and cost us a fraction of what we would spend in the U.S. for similar accommodations. My Spanish was nearly nonexistent, having forgotten all of my high school Spanish, but Elyn was quite fluent and I was willing to learn.

Living as a resident in another country is much different from being a tourist there. We had to negotiate such necessities as getting phone service, getting internet connections, the post office, the bank, grocery shopping, etc. In all these areas our Spanish family was more than helpful and in short order we were firmly established in town. Elyn’s language ability made everything work smoothly.

Our apartment had been decorated by the owner of the hardware store below. He was an accomplished interior decorator by Spanish standards and we had heavy Spanish furniture, an elaborate chandelier above the huge dining table and chairs, walls that had many coats of finish on them, and the standard persiana window coverings that all Spanish houses have to protect them from the heat of the afternoon sun. There were balconies in the front and the back overlooking ancient ruined churches and the bustling downtown area and two luxurious full bathrooms with the latest fixtures. The kitchen had a dish washer and a clothes washer of the latest design, along with complete sets of dishes, glassware, silverware, and cooking utensils. We only needed to unpack our personal items to be completely at home.

Our Spanish family, the Luna-Tovars took us in, just as they had Elyn many years before. We were invited to all the family dinners and outings and if we didn’t appear daily at the little book store that had been in the family for two generations the matriarch of the family, Paca would appear at our door and exclaim “have you died?” Not only were we welcome in the family, we had family obligations to fulfill.

At first, the novelty of everything kept me totally entranced. Grocery shopping was a new experience. There was the place that had the best meat, another for fish, a third for fruits and vegetables, and a small supermarket for the cleaning supplies and other non-eatables that we needed. Paca informed us of the best places to go and we would move from shop to shop accumulating what we needed.

Every Saturday there was a open air market on the streets below our apartment. There we could get nearly everything we wanted, from clothing to freshly roasted chickens. The streets filled with people from the surrounding areas and there was much pushing and shouting as people vied with each other for the attention of the sellers. One thing that became very obvious to me immediately is just how loud the Spanish people are. They seem to all talk at the same time and to shout at each other. At first I thought they might be angry, but that is just their way of being in the world. Soon I could push and shout with the best of them and every Saturday was a lot of fun and excitement.

Sundays were always the Luna-Tovar’s family dinner, which we were expected to attend. These dinners would start in the early afternoon and extend through the evening hours. There were seldom fewer than a dozen people in attendance, and just as on the streets, everyone talked at the same time in loud voices. There was much joking among the family and I took my share of the jibes, even though I was not good at retaliating. Much was made of my great size and indeed, I was taller by far than any member of the family. In fact, I was nearly the tallest person in all of Sahagún. The food was plentiful and we were expected to eat generous quantities. Lamb that had been roasted to perfection in the wood burning oven was absolutely heavenly and there were a large variety of vegetables prepared to perfection. The family made its own wine, which was served in generous quantities and they had hams that had been dried in the attic above the house until they were the standard Spanish ham that is prized all over the world. Paca was the master chef who could prepare the tortilla español in her special way and bake the best flan I had ever tasted. In the middle of the afternoon there was usually a lull in activity as everyone took a short siesta, but soon the family began to gather to eat again from the leftovers of dinner and the party was on again in full force.

I was totally unprepared for the rhythm of Spanish life. Spaniards usually get a rather slow start on the day and arrive around 9 AM at work after having little or no breakfast. They eat several small snacks during the early part of the day and close up shop at around 2 PM to go home for the afternoon siesta. Lunch, which is usually the largest meal of the day, would be served at around 3 PM and there would be a quiet time or even a nap, before returning to work at 5 or 6 PM. Shops would open again and remain open until around 8 PM. Then it was time for a light dinner before the evening activities began. People came out on the street en-mass in the evening. A typical evening would start with un paseo, a walk outside of town with conversations with neighbors and friends. Then the town square would fill with families. The adults would drink, play games, and socialize while the children ran and played together on the plaza. Just when I would think it was time to go home the real evening activities would begin. Bars and night clubs would be filled and drinking and dancing went on until after midnight. The hours for sleeping are short and when we complained that we needed to go home to sleep, we were told, “The more you sleep, the less you live!” We quickly became known as “sleepyheads” and our family teased us unmercifully for our American habits.

We were very happy in our little Spanish town until, in the spring, we began to feel a subtle oppression. Spain is a society where oppression is a strong part of their history. First, they were oppressed by the Spanish Inquisition, which ruthlessly stamped out all diversity, and ran the Jews and the Moors out of Spain after executing many thousands of them. The Inquisition was followed by an equally ruthless fascist state run by Generalissimo Franco. The country only emerged as a full democracy in the 1970s and many vestiges of both the Inquisition and fascism still exist. There is a national police force, created by Franco that remains a heavy handed presence in every small town. The Catholic Church was aligned with the fascist government and exerts itself in all areas of Spanish life. This is not a country that tolerates much diversity and we began to feel the subtle oppression, even though we were tolerated as the outsiders that we were and our Spanish family treated us with love and affection. I began to want to breathe freer air and we knew that our time in Spain was over.

The illness and death of both of our mothers added the final touch and we found ourselves on our way home. I did achieve my goal of living in a foreign country long enough to not be a tourist, and I was happy to be back in the U.S. again.

Why I Couldn't Wait to Leave Cedar Vale

by Jay D. Mills

When I was 7 years old and in the first grade, my parents moved from the farm on Otter Creek into Cedar Vale. At the time it was great as we were just 2 blocks from the grade school. In a sense, we didn't so much leave the farm as we brought it to town with us.

The new place in town had been my grandparents place. On 12 acres at the northwest edge of Cedar Vale, it had a large 5 bedroom, 1 bath house; a garage, 2 barns, a chicken house, and a brooder house, for hatching chics. We had several horses, some cows, chickens and pigs on our "city" farm. This was the best of both worlds for a young farm boy. I continued to ride the horses into my early teens, and even later in parades. But I was never a real cowboy! I didn't rope or enter rodeos, except for barrel races.

I made new friends in town, and we spent many hours playing cowboys & Indians; or good cowboys & outlaws in and around the barns and in the hay bales. We later tried to light some hollow dry weeds to smoke them, but it really didn't work out so I never took up smoking. We roller skated down to the opposite side of CV to Hewins Park Pavilion, skated there round-and-round, then had to skate uphill to get home. These were the happy, carefree days of childhood.

Then it happened! My father was only interested and involved in farming and ranching, along with the livestock auction "sale barn" that he started with Fred Archer (Diane & Linda's dad) and Ralph Snyder. So, before I was even a teenager, my father applied all of the pressure that he know how (and he was good at it) to get me to join 4-H. It didn't happen, but my dad kept trying. Since we had the farm in town, someone had to milk the cow. As soon as I was 11 or 12, as I recall, I was assigned to milk the cow by hand. Not too difficult, but it took time away from my other activities and I resented the chore. Then my dad got me to help out at the sale barn in the summer by paying me. I spent the money on radios!

I just wasn't interested in the ranching life or farming, as I had discovered radios and electronic gadgets. And I was really interested in science and the new discoveries that promised to help us and change our lives. I didn't realize at the time that it was really the people running huge corporations who would profit the most from these innovations, not the users. Or that we would be made to believe, through advertising and news stories, that we wanted and needed all of these things to be happy and "to make our lives better."

So, although it disappointed my father greatly, I spent most of my time taking old clocks and radios apart -- and occasionally fixing one so that it worked again.

As I entered high school, I became increasing aware that my interests were not those of the "red neck" crowd who seemed to dominate the CV scene. From my viewpoint, they seemed to believe that being "dumb" and acting stupid was what the world was about. If it wasn't about cussin', girls, sports or fightin' they just were not interested. They were particularly hard on anyone like me who made good grades and was interested in other things. Oh, I tried basketball (B team bench), track where I excelled as a sprinter, and later did well in football after my father & the coach conspired to get me to "...just try it, you can quit anytime you want".

Although I had some good times in high school, they were not the best days of my life. My interests were in science, electronics and radio...subjects in short supply in Cedar Vale in the late 1950s. For better or worse, school in Cedar Vale was always very easy for me. So in high school, with a shortage of challenging subjects, I spent my study halls reading Popular Science, Science & Mechanics, and Aviation Week magazines. I was really up-to-date on the latest science and equipment of the day. Aviation Week was so far into the cutting edge that the Russians had multiple subscriptions to keep up with our latest military applications.

I had girl friends but I was really socially awkward and didn't understand what the boy - girl thing was all about. For me it involved raging hormones and little else. I must have been really, really slow at relationships because it took me 2 failed marriages before I even began to work it out. And, regrettably I let 2 (or more) excellent life-mates get away in my high school and early college years.

All of this is to say that I couldn't wait to leave Cedar Vale behind and join the much more interesting, wider world beyond. I though at the time, that I would have a career as an electronic technician of some sort. This would have been a logical and productive life, but my father had other ideas. No one in the family had ever graduated from college and he was determined that I would be the first. He even personally ran off a recruiter from a technical school that I had written to for information.

So, even though my father was in the hospital in Wichita with an inoperable brain tumor when I graduated, and passed away shortly thereafter, off I went to Kansas State in the fall to become an Electrical Engineer. It took me two years to find out what engineers really did all day. Then I immediately switched to Radio/TV Broadcasting and eventually graduated from Oklahoma State with a BS in Radio/TV. More BS than anything else, but who knew?

So, gentle reader, I escaped Cedar Vale to join the wide and exciting world of ...... everything else. Since leaving I have worked as a professional photographer, news film reporter, radio news reporter, entrepreneur - 3 businesses w/1 success, salesman, and finally into computers in Silicon Valley, CA. Throughout, I have maintained my avid interest in ham radio that began in Cedar Vale when I was a junior in high school. I finally got my license when one of my closest friends, Jim Hubbard, a class behind me got his license first! And I have continued to do photography throughout the years.

The final ten years that I spent working in the Technical Support and Software Testing end of computers brought me out of deep financial hardship into having some savings and retirement benefits. But not enough to live very well in the U.S. unfortunately. So I said goodbye to my daughter, her husband and her triplets in Nashville and moved myself to paradise. I expect to see them all here in Panama this coming summer. My simple Paradise Panama web site is up and running if you care to look.


Elinor and Fred all over again.

Visiting Grandparents

by Gary White
When I was growing up in Cedar Vale, Kansas my parents and I visited with my grandparents nearly every weekend. Both sets of grandparents were living on farms outside of the neighboring county seat town, Sedan. My father’s parents lived on what was known as Moore Prairie, a flat limestone prairie that is somewhat bleak in appearance. My great grandparents had homesteaded the farm in the late 19th century and my grandfather had built the house and outbuildings over the years. My mother’s parents, the Call family, lived a few miles north and east of the White family, but their area was heavily wooded and had several small creeks that emptied into the Caney River. The neighborhood was called the Rogers neighborhood and had had a one-room schoolhouse of that name in the time before the county schools were consolidated. Both of my parents had received their entire education in those one-room rural schoolhouses.

Our usual pattern was to visit the two sets of grandparents on alternating Sundays. There would always be a big Sunday dinner cooked on the wood stove in my grandmother White’s kitchen or on the gas stove in my grandmother Call’s kitchen. My uncles had drilled for oil on the Call place and struck mostly gas, which they piped into the house. The Calls heated the house, cooked their food, and lighted the place all with natural gas from their own wells. My uncles also siphoned off what they called “casinghead gas,” a liquid that they burned in their pickups. It was the first unleaded fuel, many years before it had been mandated by law.

The alternating Sundays couldn’t be more different for me. When we visited with the Whites I would be the only child, since none of my father’s siblings had children and I was an only child. I was quite the apple of my grandparent’s eyes and always treated with something special. When we arrived, my grandmother would have hot rolls just out of the oven, which I soaked in her fresh-churned butter. I can still remember the taste of those butter ladened rolls and have never been able to duplicate the flavor. On the alternating Sunday, when we visited the Calls, I was one of a half dozen or more cousins, since all of my mother’s siblings had children. While I was not given the royal treatment there, I had the advantage of having several children my own age to play with. We roamed the woods and creeks around the farm, picked wild strawberries in season, and often got into poison ivy. I can’t count the number of times I endured the terrible itching of poison ivy as I was growing up, and I was quite surprised to find that as an adult I seem to be immune to it. I’ve walked through poison ivy repeatedly and never have been infected with the itching rash.

On Sunday afternoons at the Whites we would play games like Pitch or Dominos. When I was old enough I joined in the games and enjoyed the banter of my grandfather, father, and my uncle Vernon as they teased each other as men are prone to do when playing games. I could also go to the parlor where my grandmother had an old reed organ. When I had begun piano lessons I could play hymns and familiar songs on that wheezy old instrument that was in doubtful tune. Sometimes I would go upstairs into the upper bedrooms, which were papered with old newspapers. I enjoyed reading the comics on the walls and developed a taste for the newspaper columns of Will Rogers, a humorist and sometimes movie actor of earlier times. He had come from Oklahoma and often appeared with a lariat rope that he did tricks with while delivering a running satire on the events of the day. The newspaper columns were pretty much like the live performances but, of course, referred to events that took place long before I was born. I remember several of Will Rogers’ sayings. A typical example would be, “I belong to no organized political party--I’m a Democrat.”

When we visited with the Calls, I would play with my cousins for most of the afternoon, but always tried to spend some time sitting at my grandfather Call’s feet. Mark Call was a deep thinker, an agnostic, and a socialist. He was also a pacifist, being totally against the war that was raging in Europe and Asia at the time. I can remember him saying that if Roosevelt had had to build all that war material to get us out of the depression, well, he should have just taken it out to sea and sunk it there. Grandfather Call was a life-long Republican, but not cut from the same cloth as the current crop of that political party. He was adamantly opposed to organized religion and detested capitalism in any form.

All in all, I received a balanced view of the two political parties--Democrat on the Sundays at the Whites and Republican on the alternating Sundays at the Calls. Most of all, I took in my grandfather Call’s socialist, agnostic, pacifist views and have made them my own. I thought that grandfather Call was the smartest person alive and absorbed everything that he said. While I have considerably broadened my view of the world with the passing of time, I remember so clearly those Sunday afternoons sitting at grandfather Call’s feet and listening to everything he said. I still think he was a pretty wise old man and I would love to hear one of his monologues again, delivered by the light of a gas lamp next to the old gas stove in their ramshackle farm house in rural Chautauqua County, Kansas.

PS: I hope I'm not violating my own rules about political commentary with this piece, but I couldn't relate that part of my history without politics entering in.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cedar Vale Miniature Village

by Gary White
I remember in my youth in Cedar Vale, Kansas that there was a house in my neighborhood in the southwestern corner of the town with the most unusual appearance. The house was not remarkable, but the yard was unlike anything I had seen. It was filled to the brim with miniature houses, all in neat rows and identified by the name of the owner. This was the home of Frank and Ida Zimmerman, a couple in their 80s. Frank, it seems, was the master carpenter who had built all these houses. There was a high hedge all around the house, so that we had to enter through the gate. Just inside the gate was a box for paying admission to the village, which represented Cedar Vale in the 1930s or even earlier. The Zimmermans were always on hand to give us a guided tour and point out all the buildings that we knew and to talk about them. After the tour, there was usually some refreshment that Ida had prepared for us. They always seemed very happy to spend some time with any of the kids in the neighborhood.

As unusual as the yard was the garage, which was covered with old license plates, mostly from Chautauqua County Kansas. Inside the garage was Frank’s workshop and a very old wooden school bus. It seems that Frank had built the school bus in the 1920s and used it to haul children to school for many years. The 1930 Federal Census lists Frank’s occupation as “Bus Driver--School Bus." Perhaps this long experience with children accounted for the warm welcome we all received in visiting their little museum of Cedar Vale’s past. I never thought about what their motivation might be for being so generous with their time. Now I rather think that they were interested in preserving some of the history of the town and educating us kids about that history.

The miniature village ceased to exist when the Zimmermans were no longer there. Frank went to Sedan, where he died September 1, 1958 at the age of ninety. Many of the original houses in the miniature village now reside in the Cedar Vale Museum where another generation of young people can admire them. If you have further information about the Zimmermans or the miniature village, please comment.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pool Hall Memories

Either no women were allowed in the Pool Hall in Cedar Vale, or no respectable woman would enter the establishment. So, from the time I was a small boy, my mother would send me into the wicked place to fetch my dad who could be found in the smoke-filled back room, smoking a cigar and playing Pinochle at one of the two or three tables.

He was never ready to leave, so I’d sit and watch them play out the hand, or a few more hands. I was never sure what was so bad about the place. It seemed OK to me.

Fast forward to my teenage years when I began to hang out there myself and learned to play pool; Alabama or 8 ball, Rotation, and Snooker. I was a pretty good player but the same muscles that made me a good sprinter in track and football made me an erratic pool shooter. And the more excited I became while playing, the wilder I got. Oh well, luck sometimes trumps skill!

I believe that they served beer there but by the time I was 18 and could legally have a beer, I still hadn’t acquired the taste. Now I enjoy a glass of wine or beer with my dinner.

As I recall there was one snooker table, with the smaller more difficult pockets, and maybe 3 regular pool tables. All of them were full sized and we didn’t know about smaller “quarter” tables then.

My friend Jim Buchele had a full sized snooker table on the third floor of his parents' house on southeast Main Street. It always amazed me that they could get that large table all the way up the narrow stairs to the third floor. I found out years later that most of the tables come apart and the top is actually 3 pieces of slate that weight only about 200 pounds each.

- 30 -

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Childhood Memories & A New Beginning

Somehow my earliest childhood memories in Cedar Vale and the process of making a new beginning in the Republic of Panama have become related.

For the past 3 weeks my dog Blue and I have been (permanent) residents of the small farming and ranching community of Volcan, Panama. As a quick aside, yes the similarity between Volcan and Volcano is more than coincidence!

Maybe it is because this is a new beginning for us, or perhaps it is because I found the CV blog and that got the brain cells firing. I'm not sure the reason, but I've been thinking about my first memories and I would like to share a few with you.

My first memories are from the farm that my father O.D. and mother Nellie had on Otter Creek, about 6 miles north and 2 miles west of Cedar Vale. Our address was Rural Route 2 and our phone was a party line from Cedar Vale, even though we were in Cowley County. My great grand parents homesteaded that farm in 1871.

I was almost a year old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and I don't remember that event. However, it was very related to my being raised as an "only child". By the time I was 4 and beginning to notice the larger world, my older brother Carl had enlisted in the Navy. So I really didn't have a brother until I was 6 or 7. And with no other children around, I mostly related to adults until I went to school.

I remember my first horse Ginger, 3/4 Shetland, a brown & white "Indian" pony. I was 4, maybe 5 years old. My dad or one of the ranch hands would saddle the horse and I would lead him up to the board fence and position him so that I could climb the fence and get aboard. However, being older and wiser than me, Ginger would move so that only his head was near the fence. After some fussing and crying, my mom would help me into the saddle and off I would go.

Up the 40 or 50 feet to the main road which was 2 graveled tracks. We'd turn right and go about 1/4 mile to the first turn in the road, at which point Ginger always turned around and headed home. This was usually accompanied by shouts of protest from his rider and small boots kicking his sides, but all having no effect.

I remember going to Cedar Vale in our old Ford. Gasoline was rationed, as were many items during WWII. One thing that is still vivid in my memory is getting my hair cut, on the raised board, in the barbers chair. I still remember all of the pictures of the men (I don't remember any women) who were serving in the armed forces on the walls. I was told that some of them were dead. That was scary for a small farm boy who saw death close-up on the farm all of the time. Also, my mother took me to the movies with her and the newsreels were full of airplanes, bombs and explosions. Every time an airplane flew over the farm, I wanted to run and hide.

My mother, bless her soul, always tried to do too much before getting ready to go anywhere. So, she was always late and that brings up another early memory of Cedar Vale and the Methodist Church where we were members. I spent many Sunday mornings arriving 10 or 15 minutes late for Sunday School ... and it was always embarrassing for me. Somehow, after 60 years, I find it unimportant. At the time it was devastating!

Memories are funny things. Things that we think we remember, many times are things that our families repeated so many times that they become "our" memories. One such memory for me is my first public word(s), uttered in Herb's Cafe, "
hot dog"! I was glad, on my visit to C.V. in 2004, to see the stools and back bar in the museum. I must have liked the place, since I ate lunch there almost every day during my 4 years of high school: chili with beans; cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, dill pickle & mustard; cold ham sandwich (w/same - mustard) and a slice of custard pie. These were not different meals but all at the same lunch and always the same, provided they had the custard pie. My metabolism ran at a much higher rate then. ;-()

I have many more memories of Cedar Vale; some great, some OK, and some not so good that I will share as the months pass. That is, provided that I do not share the fate of some of the earlier "undesirables" who were, I understand, tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail. Never having witnessed this type of event, I assume the "rail" refers to the railroad tracks.

My e-mail address; please replace (symbol/punctuation) as appropriate. jay(at)jaymills(dot)org --- yes, org as .com and .net were taken. (This post edited 11/14/07 to insert links, etc.)

My latest simple web site is ready and the address is: For more Panama pictures, go to and scroll down to the Travel section for 3 sets of pictures of my earlier trips this year.

In the immortal words of Roy Rogers, "...Happy trails ... 'till we meet again." Or something like that.

Bill's funeral

OK ex CV band members. I'm trying to recall the members who made up the brass quartet at Bill Leonard's funeral. TD sent me the date of death: November 28, 1952. I know I was second trumpet, but who were the others? Phil, were you around then? You would be my best place to start, but others may know something as well. Help, please.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Mr. Beggs and the High School Band

by Gary White

I just realized that I never posted my article on Mr. Beggs to the CV blog. Sorry if you have already read this one, but thought it ought to be here to complete the picture.

In the sixth grade I started trumpet lessons with Mr. Beggs, the band director of the Cedar Vale schools. Mr. Beggs was himself, an excellent trumpet player, and I tried very hard to live up to the high standards he set for himself and his students. I remember my early lessons were a struggle for me. I was trying so hard to get everything right, and more than once, I broke into tears when I couldn't perform up to our mutual expectations. Mr. Beggs was always kind, but a bit cool. He answered my frustrations by telling me that I would be able to do it if I would just practice more each day.

Somewhere in my second year of study, I must have had a breakthrough, because I can remember Mr. Beggs asking me to join the high school band. I was in the seventh grade at the time, but Mr. Beggs would pick me up at the grade school and drive me to the high school for the rehearsal. There were two or three other grade school students who were given similar treatment, but I felt very special, because I was the youngest. I thought that playing in the high school band and having my own band uniform was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. Now that I look back on it, I'm sure that Mr. Beggs simply needed to fill out the trumpet section, but at the time, I was sure that it was because of my superior musical ability.

I redoubled my efforts and practiced the trumpet every available minute after school, trying to reach the level of the high school players. Don Schaffer, who was three years older, and already sitting first chair in the trumpet section, particularly inspired me. Don could play the most demanding solos, higher and faster than anything I had ever heard. He was at least as good as Mr. Beggs himself. I gradually worked my way up in the section over the next few years, so that when Don graduated and began studying music at the University of Kansas, I took his place as the first chair in the trumpet section.

Mr. Beggs always showed his appreciation for my effort, but kept my ego in check by finding some more challenging solo for me to master. And, of course, there was always Don Schaffer, who came home from college playing circles around me. Mr. Beggs encouraged me to play by ear as well as performing from printed music. He was a member of a local dance band, and an accomplished improviser on the trumpet. In the last year or so of high school he occasionally invited me to join him on the bandstand at local dances, and we shared the solos. This experience of playing by ear was excellent training for my ear, and a good starting point for later compositional work. The most important lesson that I learned from Mr. Beggs was that I would have to set very high standards for myself to be successful in music. I sensed that he had to work very hard to meet his own professional standards, and I tried to emulate him as best I could.

It was because of him that I chose a career in music, and I certainly owe him a debt for instilling high personal standards, which were indeed necessary for success in the music profession. Mr. Beggs went on from Cedar Vale to direct bands in larger school systems, but he devoted his entire life to the public school band. In 1980, when I learned that Mr. Beggs was retiring after nearly forty years of teaching, I wrote a piece for band and dedicated it to him. This work, called Homage, became my first published composition for band, and it was a proud moment for me to be able to send Mr. Beggs a copy of the published score.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


By Diane Archer Bradbury

I was in the first grade the year George Beggs began teaching in the Cedar Vale school system. The Beggs family consisted of George (or G.A.), wife Madge and Madge’s twin brothers, Ronnie and Donnie Warren, who were also in the first grade. The twins were being raised by George and Madge because their parents had died. Eventually the Beggs also raised Roger and Joyce Warren, both younger than the twins. I have so much respect for them raising these four little kids. Later, they had their own daughter, Georgia.

My first experience in band was playing snare drum in fourth grade. By sixth grade I was playing in the high school band along with a friend and fellow drummer, Susan Alexander. The other drummers were Donna Burch and Nadine Stanhope and Susan and I admired these high school girls so much - a true case of hero worship.

About my 8th grade year I asked my parents for a saxophone as I was getting bored with playing drum music. Since my parents, Opal and Fred Archer, knew the Beggs, they asked if there was a need for more saxophones in the band. There was not. End of story.

But wait. In the fall of my freshman year, Mr. Beggs came to band practice one morning carrying a large music instrument case. After showing me the most beautiful, brand new baritone saxophone, he asked if I would like to play it. I was so thrilled that I wasn’t concerned about its size, for in my joy it was not heavy or bulky or cumbersome. At the Christmas concert that year I played a solo, “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and I realize now Mr. Beggs wanted the community and especially the school board to see what their money bought.

Mr. Beggs was one of, if not the first band teacher in our area to start a stage or dance band. This was right down my alley as I enjoyed the old standards and big band songs and played a lot of popular music on the piano at home. Our arrangements were what is referred to as “standard arrangements”, some fairly easy and some very challenging. I asked Mr. Beggs to try to find an arrangement of “Night Train” as done by Buddy Morrow, featuring the bari sax. I know he tried, but it was not to be.

Our high school vocal music program was taught by Mr. Beggs for several years though I’m sure it was not something he yearned to do. We had a good choir and he enjoyed working with smaller ensembles. He also directed the church choir at the Methodist church in which I sang alto and occasionally substituted playing the piano and/or the organ. I never felt needed in the alto section as there was one lady, Vera Sheldon, who was there to be heard.

There were three in my class who had a strong interest in music, Patsy Kelly, Barbara Woodruff and me. Mr. Beggs decided to teach a class in music fundamentals our senior year, 1958-1959. This was a freshman college level class and included learning to write four part harmony, etc. It was just another special thing Mr. Beggs did for the benefit of what he considered his advanced students. Or maybe it was the three of us who considered ourselves advanced. This was Mr. Beggs’ last year teaching in Cedar Vale and I felt so grateful that he was there for our twelve years.

What lucky high school students we were to have had the influence of Mr. Beggs. He had our respect; we would have done anything for him. He was even tempered, had high expectations of his students and worked hard to provide an excellent band for Cedar Vale High School, which was known over the years for it’s superior music program. The pride of Cedar Vale!

After marriage and two children I divorced and moved to Winfield where I pursued a music education degree at Southwestern College. I graduated, remarried and was offered a job teaching vocal music in the Oxford school district. This was a positive experience and provided me with many good memories.

My oldest son plays trumpet and is teaching a jazz combo class at Friends University as well as playing in the Friends Faculty Combo. I give Mr. Beggs some credit even for his expertise though they’ve never met. Surely my influence counts for something and a great deal of my knowledge and inspiration came from Mr. Beggs.........I can hear him now playing his rendition of “Sugar Blues.”

A Note from Your Administrator

Blogs are sometimes subject to spamming, just as our email is. From time to time you may see something totally extraneous to the purpose of our blog come up for a short time and disappear. That is your administrator at work. I've had to do very little of this cleaning so far, and if it becomes oppressive I have restrictions that I can put on the blog as to who can post and who can read. I've chosen to leave the door as open as possible and it has worked fairly well so far.

Another issue that sometimes comes up on blogs is what is known as "flaming." That is a response that attacks another blogger and is considered the poorest of "netiquette." I have seen absolutely none of that, but if it were to show up I can delete it and if it were to continue I can uninvite contributors.

On a similar note, we are coming into the next election cycle and if previous elections are any indication, this one will be bitter and divisive. I'm sure that we all will be supporting candidates and donating our time and money to their election. I am stating my firm intention to keep this blog an "election-free" zone. Posts that are in support of candidates or posts that defame any of the candidates will not be tolerated. Posts that deal directly with the political parties are also out.

One other area of concern is forwarding of materials from other sources. My email is sometimes filled with forwarded stuff and I delete it without reading it. I will do the same for other forwarded material on the blog. One exception is when someone who is unlikely to be a regular contributor sends me something that I think will be specifically of interest to the group. I will forward that to the blog, but I want people to put up their own posts so I am actively discouraging the practice of sending me stuff to be put up. Put up your own posts!

With this said, I hope you all continue to enjoy our exchanges and will feel free to contribute. I'm having fun with this and hope you are too.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Time Machine

By Gary White

Do you remember the comic strip Alley Oop from our youth? Dr. Elbert Wonmug had a time machine that brought Alley and all his friends into the 20th century, or 20th century folk back to the stone age. Far fetched you say? Wait a minute CV friends.

Just today Wayne and I were blogging (that’s what we do these days) about Judy Gorton, a common friend from KU days. Then Wayne wrote about “little Nadine Foster” and Nadine came clearly into my memory just as I remember her—no bigger than a minute and faster than greased lightning. Judy Gorton exists in my memory as that 20-year-old beauty, with dewy complexion and a smile that would melt any young man’s heart. Dick Williams is still that slim, blond youth that I last saw at CVHS graduation. These folks still exist, just as they were back then even though they must be in their 60s or even 70 by now. Is that a time machine or what? Our time machine is our memories and that’s why I’m having so much fun bringing all the past back and hearing all your stories. Keep the time machine going friends. Dr. Wonmug has nothing on us!

Real Heroes Never Die

Real heroes live forever, at least in the mind and heart. The dictionary says a hero is a person who is an ideal or a model. I remember back to 1943 and the heroes of a six year old boy. No, they were not Ted Williams nor Stan Musial; they would come later. At that time Ted Williams was flying Marine fighter planes and as a six year old, I did not even know of him yet. My heroes could have been Bill Mauldin, the New Mexico cartoonist who created G.I. Joe and Sad Sack for the daily papers, or Ernie Pyle who lived in the trenches with the soldiers fighting in Germany, France, or the Philippines and giving us all the details of the battles. My heroes could have been Roy Smith, who could pitch a baseball faster than Nolan Ryan or Walter Johnson; or Grant Utt, who could hit the baseball farther than Babe Ruth. These people I have mentioned were all "ideals" or "models" of sorts, but they did not meet my immediate criteria, for they are all dead. And as I said at the beginning, real heroes live forever and never die.
So as a six year old, my heroes did not play on a baseball field in Boston, nor write war articles from the battlefields of France, and I did not even know Roy Smith and Grant Utt at that time. No, my heroes lived right across the street from my house and were both only six years older than I; but in the eyes of this six year old, they were both models and ideals. They provided inspiration, entertainment and fascination, and the thing that really made them heroes in the viewpoint of the six and seven year old boys in the neighborhood was the fact that they were kind enough to us little fellows to spend their time with us. How many twelve year olds today will do that??
Don Cox lived directly across from our house and Maurice Jones lived next door to him. I don' t know about the Jones boy, but Don Cox still lives, so along with the attributes mentioned above, he was my real hero.
Don and Maurice had set up the most wonderful "airplane" cockpit on the front porch of the Jones house and under the supervision of the two older boys, we little ones were allowed to "fly" the plane. They had taken a large cardboard box, cut it to the shape of an airplane instrument panel and using their compasses and protractors had drawn life-size, lifelike instrument gauges on the cardboard. Then chairs were placed appropriately so the pilot and co-pilot could fly the plane to far away destinations. They probably had more fun watching the excitement of the little kids than the fun they experienced in making the mock-up for themselves.
One evening little Jackie and Jim Foster and little Bobbie Hays and Nadine Foster and probably a few other town kids were playing in the vacant lot beside our house when Maurice Jones came running up and said we should come with him. He had something to show us. So we all dropped out bats and balls and started running after him as he headed for the old Episcopal church in the next block. As we approached, he began to look frightened, and asked us to follow him but to make no noise or something bad might happen. So, we quietly followed him as he drew near to the ground level windows that looked down into the darkened basement of the spooky old church. He carefully placed two or three of us at each of the windows and again cautioned us to be very quiet. But, then a frightening screaming, moaning sound came from the depths of the basement and an eerie flashing light revealed a sheet-covered apparition reaching out to children, beckoning them down into that dungeon. Maurice screamed, "Run" and run we did, all the way back to our homes, and I imagine Don Cox is still laughing from that dark, dank cellar.
One day I was privileged to be invited up to Don's room to see his collection. He had the most fascinating group of model airplanes, in various stages of construction, scattered around the room. Some of the finished models were suspended by string from the ceiling. World War II fighters and bombers, Japanese dive bombers and Messerschmidt fighters, all carrying on their aerial battles from the ceiling of Don's room. These were the old balsa wood models, covered with tissue paper and hand decorated. I was entralled, and immediately ran home and started begging my parents to buy me a model plane. When they did, probably only about 50 cents, I found that it was much easier for a twelve year old to build one of those models, than for a six year old. As I would glue one end of the tiny balsa sticks to the fuselage support, the other previously glued end would pop loose, and then the tissue paper would tear and so it went.. I never finished that plane, but I never told my hero.
Those two heroes could also do magical things in communication. I will never forget watching Maurice Jones standing on the "widow's walk" atop the Cox's house, dressed in his Scout uniform, and Don Cox standing on the roof of Grandma Cox's house way across town, also dressed in that elegant uniform. They could visualize each other over the tops of the trees and using their semaphore flags, they sent important messages over houses, probably to save the life of some damsel in distress. I became of Boy Scout years later because of the example set by those two heroes. Unfortunately, I found that being a Boy Scout was really not that exciting, but there were some good times.
So, I do not know the whereabouts of Maurice Jones, but Don Cox, my other hero, still lives in Cedar Vale and has evolved into a 265 pound gentleman who rides the streets of town on an electric scooter, and I am sure he is still bringing inspiration to all who know him now, just as he did sixty-four years ago. He will always be a hero ( as long as he lives).