Saturday, November 29, 2008

Here is Dana McGill at age 85 in the Kansas Masonic Home (1970)

As we go through life our destiny brings us in contact with hundreds of people with disparate personalities. Some we embrace into our lives, others we keep at arms length, and some we just leave behind as we live our lives. Dana is one that I just left behind. When this picture was taken I had not seen him for ten years.

Our lives intersected twice. First when I was a teenager, stockboy, and occasional checker in the L.C. Adam grocery department. Maurice Smith was the manager, and others of the staff were Chloe Rish, Arthur Hassard, Treva Littrell, and Dana--who was the delivery man. At that time we took a lot of phone orders which one of us would fill, make the charge ticket and place in a metal box/basket. Dana would load these into the old '34 Chevy truck with a special bed to protect the mechandise from all weather. He would then make the rounds and take the order into the homes of the elderly and infirm who needed this service usually placing the goods right by the kitchen sink.
I realized that Dana was not quite like the typical rural and small town folks that peopled my limited world. He had a rather formal air about him and you almost expected him to remove his hat and bow to certain ladies. He didn't seem much interested in the usual male passtimes like telling ribald jokes, hunting, fishing, chewing tobacco, etc. As a result he seemed rather remote and took some ribbing from the men in the seed house across the alley. When it got too heavy he would react and seeth and bang the grocery baskets around. He gradually managed to avoid The seed house crew except when they made a point of teasing him. I felt sorry for him when this happened.
My grandfather and others told me a few things about Dana. He was Nelly Mills brother, uncle to J.D. and Carl Mills and he moved to Cedar Vale from the Hicks Chapel Community where the family home was located. I learned that Dana was an actor at heart and always performed at all the rural "Literaries" giving readings, comic and dramatic, with great ferver and flair. This just didn't fit the mold for behavior of 60 year old men in our little town. I could see that Dana didn't have a lot of peer friends. J.D. Mills tells me that Uncle Dana was always ready to take him in his Model A Ford out to Hoosier or other outings, but that his Dad (Otis) wasn't real happy about his spending time with Uncle Dana. Don Shaffer informed me that Dana tried to inlist some of the local youngsters to start a Boy Scout Troop ( I was away at University by then) but at the organizational meeting none of the prospects showed up. Surely a very sad moment for Dana.
My second life intersection with Dana occurred in 1955 just after I graduated from K-State. My Father decided that my graduation present was to be him sponsoring me and paying the fees for me to become a 3rd degree Mason. I had limited time to learn all the necessary ceremonies and replies as I was soon going on active duty with the Air Force. The Local Lodge agreed to step up the interval between degrees if I could hack it. Dana became my coach and I spent quite a few hours on many different days with Dana in his little house just up the hill from the Methodist Church. He was an excellent tutor. He knew all the ritual well and he enjoyed teaching it so someone, especially because so much of it is dramatic and he could give full voice to his thespian instincts. I enjoyed my crash course and also my mind was working better then. I can still hear Dana's voice quavering with emotion at certain junctures as he was making a point. Well I made it through all three degrees in short order. Thanks to Dana!
My life took me to Europe in the Air Force and then when I got out I was very wrapped up in starting my veterinary practice and my thoughts seldom were on Dana. It is now in the late autumn of my life that I realize I learned a few things from Dana that were much more important than the Masonic rituals. I knew a man who lived his life true to his beliefs and inclinations. One who didn't cave to a different style just for the sake of impressing people and having lots of friends.
I found Dana's obituary in the Cowley County records. He died in the 80s a couple of years after the above picture was made. He is buried in the beautiful little Maple City Cemetary just a few miles from where he was reared. So his mortal remains are back home, but I hope his soul is soaring somewhere where they are orating, declaiming, and acting and where is doing his share of it with the smell of grease paint and gas lights in his nostrils. RIP Dana


Phil Foust said...

Beautifully remembered and written, Don. (You did Dana proud!) Was not Dana's dad the prototype country doctor?

As I remember Dana; a personal memory of a baseball game of long ago surfaces. Somehow (and surprisingly) my bat came into contact with the ball and the result was an important home run. Dana gave me a dollar ... and Cloy Brazle gave me one of his advertising pens.

DFCox said...

Thanks Phil, maybe J.D. could tell us something about his grandfather McGill as a country doctor.

Pat Pate Molder said...

Don - A wonderful article about Dana McGill. Thanks ! Phil's speaking of Cloy Brazle surely brings up a lot of stories about him. Of course, I remember Cloy and his wife, Retha, and their two sons, Clinton and Waldo. I went to church with them. Retha was such a sweet dear Christian lady and a wonderful cook.