Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Prize-winning blunder

Just to spice things up a bit, and get the confessions started, here is probably the stupidest thing I ever did.

The first serious prize I won was quite unexpected. I had entered a composition called (how original) “Composition for Piano, Brass, and Percussion” in the 1974 Symposium for Contemporary Music for Brass at Georgia State University. When the piece was accepted I arranged to go to Atlanta for the performance. At the time I was romantically involved with a young woman who lived in the area and I arranged to meet her there. I would go to the performances as required, but my real reason was so that we would have a few evenings on the town in Atlanta. Imagine my surprise when the judges, who consisted of the members of the New York Brass Quintet, voted my piece the winner. The prize consisted of a cash award for writing a piece to be premiered by the NYBQ the following year at the 1975 Symposium. I was totally unprepared for this honor. There was, however, a hang up. I was to be the guest of honor at a reception to be held in the evening after the Symposium was finished and my woman friend and I had other plans. So I informed the people at the Symposium that I would not be able to attend their reception. You can imagine how that went over. Well, we had our evening in Atlanta and I went home to compose the work for the NYBQ.

The Quintet were all gentlemen about the slight I had handed them in Atlanta. They gratefully accepted the piece I wrote and, not only premiered it the following year in Atlanta but also put it into their repertoire for the next few years. However, when I went to Atlanta the following year for the premiere, there were those at Georgia State University who were just a bit icy in their welcome. I had learned a serious lesson with this escapade, and I never again mixed my personal life with my professional responsibilities as a composer. Looking back now, I can’t believe I would have acted the way I did. However, it reveals a characteristic of mine, which is that when I make a plan I really like to stick to it.

A new tack

OK, CV fans, Wayne, our resident valedictorian, has set us a new topic. What is the stupidest thing you have ever done in your life? Or, make a list of stupid things. Put your thinking caps on and start those confessions coming in. One thing is almost certain--your blunders will provide entertainment to the rest of us, because we all seem to take pleasure in the foibles of our fellow human beings.

I'll be thinking, and I'm sure I can come up with some good ones. I'm reminded of our fabled Mikado production at CVHS. The Mikado sings: "My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time, To let the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime. And make each prisoner 'pent, and willingly represent, a source of innocent merriment, of innocent merriment." (Sorry, the picture is Nanki Poo, not the Mikado. I can still hear that long drink of water, Homer Morris, [or was it Bob Hays?] singing those lines!)

Get going CV fans!

Saturday, April 26, 2008


I imagine there are several people that read these bloggs that think I am intelligent. After all, I was valedictorian of the Class of 1955 at CVHS, went to college and became a respected doctor and had three wonderful, "smart" children. Doesn't that make me sound smart, too. Well, let me tell you a little story about how "dumb" some smart people can be.
Several years ago, when my wife Diana could still walk normally, we took a long awaited trip to see the Greek Isles. The plan was to fly from New York to Athens, visit the city for a couple of days, and then proceed to the Port of Piraeus where we would hop onto a ferry boat that would take us to the first of the isles that we had planned on seeing. It was beautiful. The waters of the Aegean were bright blue and crystal clear, the sky was blue and cloudless and the temperatures were just pleasantly warm. We were in for a wonderful 12 days of seeing the antiquities of the Greek Isles.
We stopped the first afternoon, walked off the huge ferry boat onto the beautiful Isle of Tinos. We walked a few hundred yards and found a hotel that had vacancies, settled in, and then wandered around the quaint little fishing village perched on the edge of the cliffs that surrounded the harbor. That evening we had a delicious dinner of fresh seafood, sitting on the terrace of the restaurant overlooking the harbor of Tinos, and drinking several glasses of native Greek wine We thought we must be in Paradise.
The next several days were very similar: Ferry boat, island, hotel, sightseeing, dinner and to bed, dreaming of the next day's adventure. We saw the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Delos, and Crete among others. My approaching Alzheimer's keeps me from remembering the names of all the rest of the idyllic places we saw. From Crete, we had reservations to fly back to the airport in Athens, from where we would climb on a big TWA 707, and fly back to New York.
Our short flight back from Crete was an early morning flight, and we got back into the Athens airport about 8 a.m. Our flight to JKF was scheduled for twelve noon, so we had four hours to sit peacefully in the transient lounge and read our library books, comfortably aware that we had successfully completed one of the nicest trips we had ever done.
Now you have to keep in mind that we have a couple here who are reputedly very intelligent. After all, one the Valedictorian of the CVHS Class of 1955 and a PhiBeta Kappa from the University of Kansas ( my sister always said that I had the brains, but she had the common sense) and the other a Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Oregon. How much more brain power could you want, sitting in the departure lounge of the Athens DOMESTIC airport. The problem was that these two geniuses with a combined IQ of about 270 had totally forgotten that there was a DOMESTIC Athens airport and an INTERNATIONAL Athens Airport, and the big TWA 707 was leaving from the INTERNATIONAL and we were patiently waiting in the DOMESTIC.
With tickets in hand we approached the Gate Attendant, who not terribly politely, informed the two stupid Americans that they were in the wrong airport and their big old TWA 707 was getting ready to take-off from the Airport which was a couple of miles away. We grabbed a taxi, but as the taxi approached the appropriate airport, we saw the 707 taxiing down the run-way and take off for JFK without us.
In spite of that, we did stayed married for many more years, but usually never brought up that aspect of our wonderful trip to the Greek Isles when entertaining our friends. After all, no- one wants to admit to being that "dumb".

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My Life With O.D.Mills - My Father

This is the last of my series of articles on my early life on the farm near CV and in CV. It was the most difficult of all of the articles for me to write. Thanks for reading and sharing. Jay D. Mills, Volcan, Panama April 12, 2008.

Otis Daniel Mills, my dad, was born in Claremore, Oklahoma Territory, on October 6, 1897, the son of Orville and Emma Hawkins Mills. He lived most of his life in the Cedar Vale area.

When I was born, my father was 43 years old, and my mother was 40. We lived on a farm / ranch on Otter Creek northwest of Cedar Vale. In 1948 we moved into town, where I graduated from high school in 1959.

O.D. Mills didn’t like either of his given names, Otis or Daniel. He was an honest man and from all evidence he was respected and liked by most who knew him. As a young man, he worked for a time in the oil fields in Oklahoma and then returned to the family farm in Cowley County, near Cedar Vale. He was married to Nellie B. McGill and they had 2 sons, Carl H. now living in Arkansas City and Jay D. now living in Volcan, Chiriqui, Panama.

During the last 10 years of his life he was a "partner" with my brother in the farm and ranch operations. But mainly, he was a full-time tireless worker and promoter of the Cedar Vale Livestock Auction “Sale Barn”. He would spend several days each week traveling many miles in every direction from Cedar Vale persuading farmers and ranchers to bring their cattle to CV instead of sending them to other markets. His partners in the auction business were T. Fred Archer, auctioneer, and Ralph Snyder. The business grew from a small start into a thriving business in just a few years..

My brother Carl ran the scales used to stamp the official weight of the animals on the auction ticket after the sale. In the summers, during my high school years, I worked in the catch pens on the outgoing side of the auction ring. Someone would shout or announce the pen number, and I would have to run to open the correct gate, then close it quickly to be ready for the next animal(s) to come off of the scales.

My early memories are of my father working with the hired hands on the farm and listening to Walter Winchell on the radio on Sunday nights. Dad would sometimes take me with him in a wagon or on a tractor. He would also let me ride along when he was going a short distance on horseback and sometimes on longer rides.

One incident on horseback, when I was 4 or 5 years old, just about did me in. I was riding a big, gentle red-roan horse named Peanuts; not my own small pony. We were up in the hills in one of the pastures coming back from rounding up and moving cattle. For some reason, probably because I was lagging behind the group, I took a “short cut”. It took me out onto “Hogback Ridge”, a high and pointed hill with steep sides. Despite shouts of the men below, I urged the horse down the side of the hill. Under the grass were giant slabs of sloping, smooth stone. Peanuts was a wise old horse so when he slipped a little, he stopped. Then one of the men rode around and up the hill to save me. Luckily the horse was not hurt either.

Later, when I was 6 or 7 years old, dad was traveling around the local area and he would take me with him in the car. I was always happy to go, but often had to wait long periods of time for him to finish his business and return. At some point, when I was a little older and stronger, he would put me on his lap and let me steer the car down the gravel country roads.

My dad took me fishing and hunting with him from early childhood up through the last teenage years while he was alive. He came to my basketball, baseball and football games when he could, and supported by interest in sports, -- to the point of conspiracy with the football coach -- see my article on “Why I Couldn’t Wait to Leave Cedar Vale” in the 2007, November archive of this blog. He was naturally disappointed, to say the least, that I was not interested in farming or ranching, but in the end seemed to accept that I would make my living in some other way.

I remember my dad as a stern disciplinarian who was always ready to back up his words with a firm swat to the backside. I don’t believe that he was unfair, but it sometimes seemed that way – especially to a teenager. I had little opportunity to change that opinion in person, as he succumbed to a cancerous brain tumor just after I graduated from high school. In later years I had to come to terms with some guilt that I felt about our relationship. Now, I would not trade him for any other dad, although some good candidates have surfaced on the blog and elsewhere.

Let the dead past bury its dead and regrets, for today is the only day that I can live in!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

News from Reva Sawyer

Iris Magnus (Kenneth's wife) called me this evening to tell me that Lin Casebolt passed away last night. His wife, Linda, had called them. Lymphoma was found just a few weeks ago and she said the doctor was shocked at how fast it took Lin.

The last address I have for them is:
Linda Casebolt
12 Hilside Ct.
Kettle Falls, WA 99141

Also, for those of you who might not have heard and remember Gordon Thompson, he passed away last week. He was only 69.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Take Care All, Reva

Just in from Ross McConaghy

Hi dear CVHS friends.

Three weeks ago my doctor wanted me to have a chemical stress test. The test showed I needed to have an heart catheterization, which I did last Wednesday. The tests gave me some surprising results. The doctor informed me that I had had a heart attack at some point however the damage to my heart was minimal, but I did have some clogged arteries and needed to have heart by-pass surgery. I am scheduled to have the surgery next Wednesday the 9th of April at 7:30 in the morning. The surgery will be done at the Heart Hospital of Baylor in Plano, Texas where the heart cath. was performed. Not knowing when I ever had the heart attack and all the things that have led up to this, I feel the Lord has opened up doors to this hospital and Doctors. It is a 5 star hospital and the doctors are highly recommended. After my recovery period my golf game should improve considerably and have already challenged one of my golf partners.

Would appreciate your prayers and we plan to attend the CVHS reunion in May.

Love Ross & Gloria

Hang in there Ross. We are all rooting for you.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Railroad Memories of Cedar Vale

Railroad Memories of Cedar Vale

This is an 1880s map of railroads in Chautauqua Co. The green line shows the Denver, Memphis, and Atlantic RR. The red line was the Chicago, Kansas Western RR. At this time the state of Kansas offered a subsidy to the first railroad to go from border to border across the county and the race was on.

The D.M.&A. (later bought by the Missouri Pacific) took the northern route of Wauneta, Lowe, Sedan, and Peru while the CKW (later bought by A.T.& Santa Fe) built across the southern route through Niotaze, Chautauqua, Elgin, Hewins, and then to Cedar Vale.
It seems the D.M.&A. (Mo Pac) won the race and kept building to Dexter, Ark City, Winfield, and points to the west, but the CKW (Santa Fe) stopped in Cedar Vale and made it their western terminus. Both RRs had a depot and stockyards and the CKW had a turntable to head their trains back east to Wayside, Independence and on up to the Kansas City Stockyards.

Key to the graphics on the right:

Across the top is the southern edged of Cedar Vale as it was in the 20s and 30s. By enlarging you should find both depots, both stockyards, and the A.T. & S.F. turntable near the upper left.
The Dandies on the RR bridge are from circa 1915. The shorter fellow is Madison Holroyd Sr. The others are prominent Pioneer Scions I'm sure, but have been unable name them for sure--I'm thinking Mortimer Dosbaugh and Percy Parks. They are on the north bridge (Santa Fe). The parallel bridge behind them was the Mo Pac Bridge.
The next picture is the same group of friends on the same day posing on a vintage locomotive in the Cedar Vale Rail yards.
The last photo shows the Mo Pac on the downgrade coming in from the west from Hoosier toward Taussig and Cedar Vale. The body of water is the Cedar Vale Country Club Lake. Local citizens convinced the RR to make a fill at this place rather than a trestle and the lake was formed.

Random Memories and snippets:

A train arriving in the wee small hours of the morning when no agent was there and blowing that wonderful, mournful steam whistle til someone came to the depot. I know this disturbed many, but I was happy and snug and drowsy listening to it.

Prisoner of War trains that carried German Prisoners to camps in Elkhart, KS and northwest OK. Yes they came through here and were well guarded. Interesting articles have been written about the German boys and how some of them fell in love when helping on the Western Kansas farms. Many stayed here I guess.

The lore I've been told about the elegant Surry that the Baird House Hotel maintained and which met every passenger train.

In 1940 when Wendell Wilkie ran for President on the Republican ticket against FDR he made a campaign stop in Coffeyville and the Mo Pac ran a special train. I think half the town went and oh how I wanted to stow away. and see the spectacle.

Much before our times, but an important part of CV history; In 1904 The Missouri Pacific ran a special train to the St. Louis Worlds Fair. They picked up excited passengers across Southeast Kansas including Dexter, Cedar Vale, and Sedan. Near Knob Noster MO. the train ran head on into a westbound freight. 30 people were killed and 50 injured. There were dead from Cedar Vale, Dexter, and Sedan. The entire story cannot be told here but for those of you who want to delve into a fascinating part of CV history I highly recommend the following short, illustrated book. There Will Be a Wreck! by Lyndon N. Irwin 3902 N State highway UU Bois D'Arc, MO 65612.

Over the years of railroading in our town, many people got their paycheck from the railroad, lived here and spent here. There were section hands, Depot agents, and freight haulers. The names that I can remember are Kyle Sanborn, Ed Venters, Lieb Myers, Wiley Newton, Cyrus McCormick, Charles Ellis, Joe Ellis, Allen Keller, and Dewey Burch in Cedar Vale plus Mr. Akin and the Wineger Brothers in Hewins. I expect you will remember more and I hope you will comment them into the blog.

I personally remember the yearly mad scramble of wheat harvest when our valley was still heavily farmed. The long days. the long lines of Pickups, trucks and trailers, the harvest nerves and short tempers and the waiting to see if we would get enough grain cars to load so we could keep buying wheat. I got proficient in testing loads for weight, moisture, and purity. I also had to get into dusty grain cars and scoop wheat to the ends. There were big levers which used properly under the wheels of a rail car could get it moving and out of the way so a new car could be placed under the down spouts. All a part of my Cedar Vale extra-curricular education.

Velma Kare's dad, Lyman Fesler, told me of having a job in 1937 when he was a teenager, of helping to remove the Santa Fe tracks. They started in Cedar Vale and a locomotive and flat cars would back in from the east and the crew would pull spikes and load the rails on the cars. He told me how many buckets spikes he was expected to fill every day--several. At the end of the day the train would chuff off to the east and unload-or get new flat cars-then back in to yesterday's quitting place for a new day. Lyman had a young friend who stepped backwards off a bridge, fell to the rocks below and was killed. He told me this story 60 years later and it was still on his mind.

In the initial rush to build across the county, trestles and bridges were used as this was faster. After the contest was over the Santa Fe imported a crew of Italian stonemasons to replace trestles with arched stone bridges. They have left a beautiful gift of their craft behind. The bridges are still there (from Chautauqua to west of Elgin) and are still in good condition and artfully proportioned. The easiest one to see is the multi photographed arch on he river road west of Elgin a few hundred yards beyond Robbers Cave. I became interested and found them all.

Imagine a 13 or 14 year old boy alone in a boat on the Country Club Lake catching crappies at dusk on a summers evening. The ol' Mo Pac steam train leaves Cedar Vale 5 miles east and in the still evening I can hear it all the way--through Taussig, and as it hits the grade up to Hoosier.
I sit there aching for it to arrive as it goes slower and slower up one of the longest grades in Kansas. Finally it lumbers across the dam and I hold up my little string of fish for the crew to see. I'm rewarded with grins, waves and thumbs up signs. What a beautiful day !!!

Main Sreet News Flash

I learned this morning at the local Coffee Shop that a grocery store will be returning to Cedar Vale's main drag. (Cedar St.) It will be at 707 Cedar St. and I think this was the Woodruff Cleaners which Wayne told us about when he was on the Main Street series. Maybe later it was Chuck Fields Grocery. If so then it will come full circle. It is the 2nd (or 3rd) shop uphill from the old post office. The Baptist Minister and his wife--Mark Davis--are going to take the plunge.

Another subject--Yesterday a large funeral was held at the local Funeral Home. Loren Sweaney died of complications from COPD and Heart problems. He was class of '52 and married Mary Jane McCall, class of '54. They had a Harvesting operation which worked from the Texas border up into Canada so there were many people across the nations wheat belt who were long time friends of theirs.

Gordon Thompson

Got around to read my e-mail's this morning. One was from Linda Murphy (Archer). Her e-mail was dated April 1 and stated that Gordon Thompson, (Class of 56) had died. No other particulars are known my me at this time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

News from the CV Lookout

My latest copy of the Cedar Vale Lookout just arrived. It was dated March 20, so delivery on April 2 is to be expected here in Santa Fe (we still get deliveries of parcels that were mailed by pony express!) It contained a treasure trove of news from and about our bloggers.

On page one there is a photo and long article about our own Naomi Helpingstine Remer and her concert that took place in CV on March 29. If I had known, I would have told her to "break a leg" (or perhaps, given the history of injuries by our bloggers, that would not have been a good thing to say)! Anyway, congratulations, Naomi.

On the inside page is Wayne Woodruff's long article on his CV heros, featuring our own Don Cox. Congratulations to both.

By the way, if you live far from CV and would like to keep up to date with happenings there, I highly recommend a subscription to the Cedar Vale Lookout. Call Susan Shaff at 620.758.2995 and get the news started coming to you every week (or every week or so if you live in the desert southwest).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bad Hombres We Could Have Done Without

Memories of growing up on the farm include mostly good ones of riding horses, getting to ride in wagons and on tractors, swimming in the creek while the field hands took their “baths”, going to town in the car, party-line phones, rural mailmen, farm hands talking with me, relatives coming to visit, cattle, horses, mules, pigs, chickens, and dogs. They also include memories of snakes, and the occasional “con-man” huckster.

I remember one con-man who came to the house in 1946 or 47 while my mother and I were home alone. He insisted that we needed the out-house pit pumped out or (he said) I would surely get Polio. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and my mother decided to get rid of him by letting him back up his pumper truck and pump out the sewage. She gave him a check on a Cedar Vale bank for the large amount of money that he demanded. When he arrived at the bank in Cedar Vale, as quickly as his old truck would go, not only was the check written on the wrong bank (clever wasn’t she), the County Sheriff was waiting. We never heard from him again.

Another incident at the farm was perpetrated by an unknown low-life. I recall that when I was somewhere between 4 and 6 years old, I was riding with my dad nearly a half-mile down the road and on the other side of Otter Creek from the house. I spotted one of our cows in the pasture limping and told dad. He investigated and found that someone had deliberately tied a piece of smooth wire just above the cows hoof and twisted it tight. If we had not noticed it, she would have lost her hoof and died. I don’t think we ever found out who did that cruel act.

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