(An article I wrote for Kansas Magazine several years ago).

            Kismet residents can’t remember when there wasn’t a “Little World’s Fair.”  The first, called “Labor Day Picnic,” was celebrated 103 years ago—in 1915.  The town, (2015 population - 460 - give or take), located in Seward County, Kansas, was 28 years old. After a four-year hiatus during World War II, the event was resumed—in 1946—and re-named “THE LITTLE WORLD’S FAIR” in honor of servicemen returning from the war. 

          Activities early-on included, in addition to the picnic, a Chautauqua and foot and horse races.  Local businesses, proclaiming it to also be “Merchant’s Day,” passed out gifts and prizes.

          Today, the celebration attracts people from all over the world and from throughout the United States.

          Popular for both family and alumni reunions, many former Kismet residents choose this weekend to come home to visit.  The Little World’s Fair also draws others who have heard about it from friends, as well as people driving through the area.

          The Lions club has organized fair activities since 1966 when the Quarterback Club, the sponsoring organization at the time, disbanded.  The Town Criers, a Kismet Woman’s club and other organizations and individuals, work closely with the Lion’s Club members to ensure its success.

The number of The Little World’s Fair activities has increased over the years, but they still reflect the simple “down home” type of fun of earlier celebrations.  The events, which might include tractor pulls, stick horse races for toddlers and Grandma and Grandpa slow bicycle races, are planned for the participation and amusement of all ages.

Church services on Sunday initiate fair activities.  Events are planned for throughout the day.  Evening activities include bingo, followed by an ever-popular street dance.

 Labor Day morning, a frenzy of activity begins with registration for events at 6:30 a.m.

The mid-morning Labor Day parade features participants from area towns.  In the past, parades down Kismet’s Main Street, have featured two miles of floats, bands, vehicles, bicycles, tricycles, and horsemen.

Meanwhile, two huge vats, containing 200 gallons of ham and beans, are being prepared for the crowd.  Long before noon, people begin gathering for the free meal.  They chat as they watch Lion Club members, standing over huge vats, stir the steaming, bubbling beans with canoe paddles, while other workers lay out paper plates, plastic forks, bread and relish on long tables.  Entertainment is provided.

In celebration of the town’s centennial year (1987), the Lion’s Club financed and, assisted by others in the community, constructed a 400 square-foot building to replace the canvas tent which had previously served as “The Little World’s Fair” headquarters.

The carnival is the only entertainment brought in from the outside, and everyone pitches in to help.  Everything about the fair is done by Kismet residents, area farmers and ranchers.

Food, crafts and other items are sold by area organizations and individuals from booths set up at strategic points on and near Main Street.

Each year, prizes are awarded to contest winners, parade entries and costumes, and recognition is given to the oldest man and woman, the couple married longest, the person who has lived longest in the Kismet area and those who traveled the longest distance to attend.

Late Monday afternoon, one might hear a number of audible sighs as the last car disappears down Main Street.  The Little World’s Fair is over for another year and Kismet becomes, again, a quiet prairie town.

(I’ve talked to no one who knows why the little prairie town was named “Kismet.”  The word “Kismet” means “destiny.” (Think of kismet as your lot in life; or your fate).



My very first job was as a Harvey Girl,” said Marjorie (Marge) Smith, of Cherokee Village, Arkansas.  “It was 1930 and I was just out of high school, when I went to work at The Harvey House, in Kansas City.  As trainees, another girl and I squeezed orange juice and cut butter into squares and put them into cabinets under the counter.

“After our six-month training period was over, we became full-fledged waitresses.  My sister also worked for Fred Harvey and shortly after that, she and I and another waitress signed up to go to Cleveland, Ohio to work in the newly established Harvey House Restaurant there.

“What I remember most vividly were the uniforms we wore,” Smith laughed.  “Getting dressed was the hardest part of the job. Hairnets and corsets were a must.  We wore wraparound white skirts, black tops in the morning, white tops in the afternoon, tea aprons with bibs and stiff white collars which were pinned on with white-headed straight pins.  Everything was pinned on including the final touch, a black bow.

“My collar usually wound up being lopsided, but my sister always looked me over before we went in and pinned it on straight.  We had surprise inspections periodically at which time the supervisors looked us over carefully for such things as crooked collars and uneven bows.  They even checked our fingernails, made sure we were wearing corsets, etc.

“A Harvey girl had to be wholesome, clean, neat, cheerful—and willing to abide by the rules,” Smith said.

“In spite of all the strict regulations, I liked working at The Harvey House,” she added.  “The tables, set with white cloths and napkins, nice china dishes and vases with a red rose, were beautiful, the atmosphere was always pleasant and the customers  congenial.  Movie stars traveled by train a lot back then and it was great fun to wait on them.”

Although the salary wasn’t much, the tips were good, Smith said.

“We were told to always wear a smile; I think that’s why we were tipped so well.”

After a year in Cleveland, Smith got homesick and returned to Kansas City where she lived until 1939 when a friend wrote her that a movie was being filmed in Santa Fe, New Mexico and The Harvey House needed waitresses.

Smith decided to become a Harvey Girl once again and headed west. 

“The title of the movie was ‘The Light That Failed’,” she said.  “It was written by Rudyard Kipling (I still have the book).  We were told that the indoor scenes were shot elsewhere and that only the outdoor scenes were being shot in the Santa Fe area.  They said that this was because of the unusual cloud formations and because the desert made a good setting for the battle scenes.

“The movie starred Ronald Coleman,” she continued. “He stayed at Bishop’s Lodge, but the crew stayed at The LaFonda Hotel where the Harvey House was; that’s why they needed a lot of waitresses.  We had to get up at 3:00 a.m. to serve breakfast.  I usually served stunt men in the morning and makeup men in the afternoon.”

By this time, the waitresses were allowed to wear white Uniforms—similar to nurses’ uniforms—with aprons over them, Smith said.

“In the outside dining room where I usually worked, however, we were allowed to wear colorful fiesta dresses; mine was red.  They were loose fitting—and a lot more comfortable than the uniforms.”

            The Harvey House Restaurants, recognized as the first to offer railroad travelers quality service and good food, served on fine china, were founded by Fred Harvey, an English emigrant, who deplored the slow service, high prices and unsanitary food served on rail lines at the time.  Believing that travelers deserved better and that they would patronize good restaurants, he opened a lunch room for the Santa Fe Railroad in a small red wooden depot in Topeka, Kansas, in 1876.

This venture was so successful he began opening other restaurants up and down the line.

In 1883, the traditional male waiters (who tended to get drunk) were replaced by the first of the Harvey Girls, in Raton, New Mexico.

Early on, the Harvey Girls were called “the women who civilized the west” and Will Rogers is quoted as saying that if the cowboys were the fathers of the west, the Harvey Girls were the mothers.  So many of them left to get married that a new policy was introduced; before being hired, girls were required to sign a contract agreeing not to get married for a year.

“Fred Harvey was long-since dead by the time I went to work for the Harvey House, but I remember his son, Bryon,” Smith said.

In the 1930's, The Fred Harvey Company also began serving dining car meals.

With the decline of the railroad after World War II, the company began catering to automobile travelers, and soon Fred Harvey restaurants, hotels and retail shops began appearing nationwide.  Later, the expansion to national parks added greatly to the firm’s reputation for fine food and service.

The Harvey Company remained family owned until 1968 when the firm was sold to Amfac Parks and Resorts.  The name was changed to Xanterra in 2002.

Now the nation’s largest park management company, Xanterra continues the Fred Harvey tradition, not only in refined quality and hospitality, but also in the select merchandise and excellent service found in the Fred Harvey Trading Company shops at Xanterra hotels and resorts throughout the nation.

Marge Smith passed away in April of 2012 at the age of 101.

I have written several articles about the Mammoth Spring in the past.  This is one of them. 



This is the 125st reunion.

The reunion, which began in 1890, was originally called The Blue and Grey Reunion. In 1919, after WWI, the name was changed to Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Reunion.  The Air Force was added in 1975 and the name changed to The Soldiers, Sailors, Air Force and Marines Reunion.

 The following article, about the early days of the reunion, appeared in The Arkansas Gazette the day before the reunion opened, in 1953.


          The week long annual Reunion of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines which begins tomorrow at Mammoth Spring is a gala occasion for the young people of that community but for old timers, like Mrs. David (Grandma) Curtis, it brings back nostalgic memories of earlier reunions whose home-spun fun was a far cry from the gaudier events of today.

            She remembers when the Reunion was organized “back in the good old days” of 1890 by veterans who had served in the Union and Confederate Armies.  Captain Mack Archer of the Confederacy was elected president and Captain A.L. Cooper of the Union Army was chosen as vice president and it was called “The “Blue and Grey Reunion.”

            The Mammoth Spring, one of the seven wonders of Arkansas and located near the site of the “Civil War Battle of Spring River” on the Missouri-Arkansas border, seemed an excellent site for drawing the boys in Blue from the north and the boys in Grey from the south.  The official opening was announced at sunrise on the first day by the roar of a canon and a belch of black smoke over the Mammoth Spring.

            Children popped eagerly out of bed to get ready for the fun.  Housewives bustled about their kitchens, preparing extra food for visitors.  Men gathered in groups as old friends drifted in and on the little hill overlooking the spring there was a hustle and bustle of activity as wagons, drawn by oxen and mules, began to arrive.

            Grandma Curtis smiles as she remembers the year she had five children bedded down around their tent.  And the time she fried up a wash tub of chicken for a get-to-gather with friends.

            There was always horse-trading and horse shoe pitching among the men while the women gossiped and exchanged recipes.

There was a “midway” which was lined with eating stands and stages where plays were given and songs were sung by various organizations   In the background stood the rows of tents which housed the veterans and their families.

            There was a parade, led by a fife and drum corp and all the children marveled at the tall, bewhiskered old gentleman whose neck seemed to be a mile long as he marched diligently along blowing shrilly on his tiny fife.

            Floats drawn by horses and mules carried the UDC and the GAR, dressed in blue and grey, singing songs.

            As the parade marched down the main street of Mammoth Spring, amid cheers of bystanders, then crossed the bridge, ending at the Reunion grounds, which were thronged with gay and laughing  people, there was a great amount of back-slapping and hand-shaking and reminiscing and speaking was the order of the day.

            Races and contests were held between the old soldiers and prizes were given for each event.

            The children also had their games but the main attraction to them was the mule-drawn merry-go-round.

            At sunset, the cannon was fired again, a huge bonfire was built and everyone sat around telling stories of adventure in the Civil War and singing songs such as “Old Black Joe” and “Tenting On the Old Camp Ground.”

            In 1919, the management was turned over to the newly formed American Legion Forest-Stone Post No. 55, which has carried on the custom since that time, calling it “The Reunion Of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.”

            The pillar of the Reunion is Earl Sterling, who has acted as Adjutant of the Post since it was formed and who, it is believed, holds the national record for length of time in that office.  Many young people of today cannot remember the time when they have not seen Earl bustling around the Reunion grounds from sunup until far into the night seeing that all was well.

            Only four years have been missed—1918 during World War I and 1942, ’43 and ’44 during World War II.

            It has been years since the last Civil War veteran attended the reunion (In 1904, 161 Civil War Veterans were reported to have attended) but there are still a few widows who register each year.  Grandma Curtis is one of these and it is believed that she is the last one in Fulton County still drawing a Civil War pension.

            The familiar old cannon, though silent now, still holds its place of honor but all else, it seems, has changed.

            Though daybreak finds the housewives making ready for guests, they will arrive, not in buggy’s and wagons, but in automobiles, buses, trains and even airplanes.  And there will be speeches and tales of adventure and courage of battles of five wars instead of the one they had then.

            There will be eating stands on the midway and stages for the amateur contest, the radio musical show and concerts.  The children will peer into the cages at the wildlife exhibit and there will be baseball, dancing, swimming, boating and fishing.    

            But the gaudiest attraction of all is the carnival whose brightly lighted midways, games of chance and peculiar whirling gadgets to ride have taken the place of bonfires, the contests, the mule-drawn merry-go-round and the fife and drum.

            As “Grandma” Curtis says: “It’s all very gay for the young but we old folks miss the spirit of get-togetherness we had in the ‘good old days’.”

            Nevertheless, she will be sitting in her chair on the midway laughing and talking to all the folks who knew her “way back when.”

Edna Bell-Pearson (Edna B. Ungerer)

1953—The Arkansas Gazette


As always, attendees anticipate a reunion with family and friends.  Carnival rides have long replaced the old mule-drawn merry-go-round, but there are still games, prizes, food, talent shows, bingo, and other “home-spun” activities.

The last veteran of WWI attended in 1983.  Veterans who had served in four wars—WWI, WWII, Vietnam and Korea— registered that year.  Reflecting the decline of the number of Veterans from those wars, most of the veterans who registered in 2013 served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The annual Mammoth Spring Reunion of the Blue and Grey became so popular that, in 1893, the U.S. War Department furnished a cannon.  The cannon, a U.S. Model 1861 4.5-inch Ordnance Rifle was fired daily, at sunrise and at sunset, during reunion week.

One of the major events planned in 1914 was a dedication ceremony for the old Civil War cannon which had been recently restored and relocated.

Mammoth Spring, Arkansas lies smack on the Missouri border. Just across the line is Thayer Missouri.  Mammoth Spring, being in Arkansas, had sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War while its neighbors to the north, just over the state line in Missouri, had supported the Union.

Because of the proximity, Union and Confederate soldiers often found themselves coming together at The Mammoth Spring, a favorite recreational spot.  According to early day historians, these gatherings were not always as cordial as they might be.  Disagreements often arose about the war and old timers reported that many a blow was exchanged.

After all, they decided then, the war was over and it was time to establish peace between the two factions.  Toward this end, “The Blue and the Grey Reunion” was organize in 1890.




            Less than 10 years after its grand opening, in 1988, the Mid-America Air Museum, located on the former Liberal Army Air Field—(now the municipal airport)—was fifth largest general aviation museum in the United States.

It still is.

            “Home to 108 aircraft, The Mid-America Air Museum is the largest aviation museum in Kansas and the 5th largest in the nation,” said Jim Bert, museum director.

Eighty thousand square feet of the 86,000 square foot building—formerly a Beech Aircraft assembly plant—are devoted to aircraft exhibits and displays.  The remaining 6,000 square foot area accommodates aviation-related exhibits, an Aviators Memorial Chapel, a library, a 180-seat theater, administrative offices and a gift shop.

During World War II the Liberal Army Air Field provided training for 5,493 B-24 “Liberator” pilots or “Aircraft Commanders.”  The idea for the Mid-America Air Museum originated during a B-24 reunion in 1986.

Jim Bert, who was appointed museum director in November, 1987, was responsible for setting up the museum.  Bert also directed the first three air shows—in 1988, 1989 and 1990.

Bert left the museum in 1991 to accept the executive director position at the Strategic Air Command Museum in Nebraska.  He then went on to direct two historic sites.  In the interim, he also earned an MA in museum studies.  He returned to the Mid-America Air Museum, as director, in September 2009.

“I have always had a strong feeling of personal concern and interest in this museum because it was my first museum directorship and I was its first director,” Bert said.

The grand opening and dedication of the museum, accompanied by an air show, was held during Liberal’s Centennial Celebration, in 1988.  General Larry D. Welch, a 1952 graduate of Liberal High School, made the keynote address at the dedication ceremonies.

The celebration included a Liberal Army Air Field Reunion and a Vietnam Remembrance Reunion.  20,000 people attended the air show alone.

            “Some 14,000 people visited the museum during its first year,” Bert said.  “Attendance now averages over 1,000 per month.” 

            Aircraft on display fall into five general categories—vintage aircraft; military (examples include an F4U-5N, F-86,TBF, and a B-25 similar to ones used in the 1942 raid on Tokyo by General Jimmy Doolittle); Kansas built general aviation; Sport, Experimental, and home-built; and The Golden Era (1930’s and 1940’s).

Types of aircraft include hang gliders and ultra-lights, all situated around children’s interactive displays.

            The museum displays one of the best collections of liaison aircraft in existence, Bert said.

            “Liaison aircraft probably had as much to do with winning World War II as some of its more famous big brothers,” he said.

The majority of the vintage planes, most in flyable condition, are from the prestigious collection of Lieutenant Colonel Tom A. Thomas, a World War II Air Force hero with 78 combat missions to his credit.  He was also an avid aircraft collector.


“A large portion of the museum's success can be directly attributed to Col. Thomas,” Bert said.  “Col. Thomas loaned over 60 airplanes to the museum for display early on—in the late 1980’s.  In the fall of 1997, he donated 52 planes to the Mid America Air Museum.”


*More about Col. Thomas—page 5.


Some of the more interesting planes include:


A 1929 Pietenpol—the oldest plane in the collection—a small two-place, high-wing monoplane, powered by a modified Model-A engine.


“We also had the good fortune to add a Vietnam-era Marine OV-10 “Bronco” aerial observation aircraft to our collection of liaison planes,” Bert said.

The museum is especially proud to have on display Dwayne Wallace’s Cessna 165 “Air Master.”  Wallace, nephew of Clyde Cessna, introduced the Air Master to the Cessna line of planes in 1934.  Wallace died in 1989 and his wife, Velma, loaned the plane to The Mid-America Air Museum in November, 1991.

**More about Dwayne Wallace –page 6.

            Other outstanding aircraft on display are:

            Max Conrad's Piper Comanche which set several distance records for its size, including a 7668 mile non-stop flight from Africa to Los Angeles

An Aero Commander L-26: (“The smallest ever Air Force One” was an Aero Commander used by President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1956-1960 for flights between the White House and his farm in Pennsylvania).

A World War II TBF “Avenger.”  This plane, a relatively slow bomber, which carried a three man crew and a one-ton pay load, is reputed to have sunk more Japanese ships than any other type of airplane.

(An Avenger bearing the name “Barbara”—for his fiancée, Barbara Pierce—is the plane President George Bush flew during World War II.  The president received the Distinguished Flying Cross and three air medals during the conflict and was the youngest aviator in the Navy when he received his wings in 1943).

***List of aircraft—Page 9.

 “The Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Cosmosphere museums also loan us aircraft and artifacts from their inventories.” said Bert.

            In addition to the aircraft on display in the museum, other planes are parked on the airstrip’s old flight line, waiting for restoration and/or a permanent display spot.

Unfortunately, the museum has never been able to acquire a B-24 Liberator—the plane responsible for Liberal’s unique status in Kansas’ aviation history.

Since 1989, the Museum has hosted numerous air shows, featuring The United States Air Force Thunderbirds, The United States Navy Blue Angels, The Navy Leapfrog Parachute Team, The Army Golden Nights Parachute Team, an A-10 Thunderbolt Attack Jet Demonstration Team, an F-15 Eagle Fighter Demonstration Team and other fight demonstrations and displays.

“Major air shows, once a museum staple, have become too labor-intensive and expensive to produce,” Bert said.  “However, a cameo air event was held in 2010 to raise funds for a new museum exhibit.  A group of loyal and hard-working volunteers organized and raised funds for the event that generated over 4,000 in attendance”.

The underlying theme of the museum, Bert said, is the preservation of American aviation heritage and the recognition of Kansas’s and Liberal’s contribution to that history.

“The objective is to feature not only the air base and Kansas’s war time participation but also Kansas aircraft production—Beech, Cessna, Boeing, Lear—and to pay homage to Kansas aviation pioneers and personalities such as Amelia Earhart, General Larry D. Welch, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Glenn L. Martin, aircraft manufacturers Dwayne Wallace, Walter Beech and others.”

            Outstanding displays feature air-related articles and memorabilia.  Exhibits include “Supersonic Flight,” “Five Centuries of Flight from Leonardo da Vinci to the Moon” and a NASA exhibit featuring artifacts and displays.

Others detail the history of the Liberal Army Airfield, Liberal native Gen. Larry Welch, Col. Tom A. Thomas, whose aircraft forms the nucleus of the Mid-America Air Museum aircraft collection, and the B-24 raids on Ploesti, Romania, during World War II.

A replica of a World War II bachelor officers quarters, built and donated by D. Arthur Wagner, a New Mexico supporter, stands near the air base display.  The room is complete with magazines of the era, a pilot’s information file and flight manual, clothing, rations, toilet equipment and other authentic items.

A popular feature of the museum is a hands-on aviation science exhibit which demonstrates the principles of flight in a way children can understand.

“We are particularly excited about a major new exhibit, now in the planning process,” Bert said.

This exhibit will tell the story of 20th century farming and ranching in North America and will feature the International Flying Farmers, crop dusters, the farm family and the science of agriculture.  Planes featured in the exhibit are a 1947 Luscombe 8A Silvaire “the plane designed by farmers for farmers,” and a 1959 CallAir A-9 crop duster.

            “The public has always been most generous with donations, including aircraft, airplane parts and equipment, memorabilia of all kinds, books, pictures, clothing and numerous other artifacts,” Bert said.  “We are looking to them for memorabilia, photographs and/or records that will help to make this one of our most outstanding exhibits.”

            The museum also hosts guest speakers and special events such as veterans’ recognition activities, fly-ins, and other educational programs.  It is popular with a variety of groups including school group tours, Fraternal Organizations, aviation affinity groups, senior citizens, ex-prisoners of war, the Flying Farmers, the Kansas Aviation Kaydets Alumni Association, the 99s, members of the Kansas Pilot’s Association, and other flying organizations.

 “We have a great museum,” Bert said.  “You'd be hard pressed to find an aviation museum with the diversity of airplanes we have anywhere else in the world.  We are proud of the scope of our displays and exhibits.  We have something of interest for every aviation enthusiast from hang gliders to Mach 2.

“However, he added, “the real strength of the museum, lies in our general aviation collection.

            “Tourism is one of America’s biggest industries,” he said, “and The Mid-America Air Museum has proved to be a great family tourist attraction.  Ultimately, the museum’s core values are, and will remain, those of honoring America’s veterans and educating our youth.”


 The Mid-America Air Museum

2000 West 2nd Street

Liberal, Kansas 67905

Phone: 620 624-5263

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

10 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

General admission $7; senior citizen $5; school aged children $3

Director: Jim Bert




After shooting down his fifth German while flying his P-40 fighter, Col. Thomas was captured in Sicily during World War II.  He was hit by ground fire while engaging a German FW-190.  While recuperating in a Sicilian hospital of burns and 2 broken legs, he had the unusual experience of meeting his German opponent, as well as the Italian gunner who downed him.  Fortunately, he escaped from the enemy and returned to service to complete a total of 78 combat missions.


When they became available, Col. Thomas later flew a P-51B.  He was awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Clusters, 11 other air medals, a POW medal and a Purple Heart.


Through the years, Col. Thomas, an avid collector, built a collection of over 70 antique, war birds and vintage aircraft.  For his 65th birthday in 1985, he flew 65 of his airplanes in less than eight hours as a celebrational challenge.  Col. Thomas died in 1998, leaving 52 of his collection of planes to the Mid-America Air Museum.


Aerocommander, Aeronca 7AC Champ, Aeronca Chief/L-16, Aeronca K, Aeronca L-3B, Avid Flyer, Beech Bonanza, Beech Staggerwing, Beech Starship, Beech 18/C-45, Bell H-13 Sioux, Bell Iroquois AH-1N (Huey Cobra), Bell Iroquois UH-D(Huey), Bellanca 190 Cruisemaster, Bellanca 260 Cruise Air, Breezy, CallAire-9 cropduster, Cavalier SA 102-5, Cessna 120, Cessna 140, Cessna 175, Cessna 195, Cessna Airmaster 145, Cessna Airmaster 165, Cessna T-50 Bobcat, Cessna XT-37 Tweetybird, Chance-Vought A-7D Corsair II, Chance-Vought F-4U-5 Corsair, Chance-Vought F-8H Crusader, Culver V, Curtiss Wright Junior, Douglas A-4D Skyhook, , Dragonfly, Ercoupe, Fairchild PT-19A, Fairchild PT 23, Fairchild 24-C8F, Funk B-75, Globe Swift, Grumman TBM Avenger, Grumman S2F-1 Sub Tracker, Grumman F-14A Tomcat, Hughes OH-6 Cayuse, Interstate Cadet L-6, Koala 202, Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star, Lockheed F-104C Starfighter, Luscombe Observer Silvaire 990, Luscombe 8A, McCulloch J-2 Gyroplane, McDonald Douglas F-4D Phantom II, Moni Motor Glider, Mooney Mite, Mustang II, North American B-25J Mitchell, North American F-86H Sabre, North American OV-10 Bronco, Northrop Q19 Target Drone, Northrop T-38 Talon, Northwest Porterfield, Phoenix Hang Glider, Pietenpol, Piper Apache, Piper Aztec, Piper Comanche, Piper J-3 Cub/L-4, Piper J-4F Cub Coupe, Piper Tri-Pacer, Piasecki Hup-3 Retriever, Pober Pixie, Quickie, Rally 3 Ultralight, Rand KR-1, Rearwin Skyranger, Rearwin Sportster, Republic F-105 Thunderchief, Ryan Navion/L-17, Ryan D-16 Twin Navion, Ryan PT-22 Recruit, Skybolt, Stearman PT-13, Stearman PT-17/N2S-3, Stinson V-77 Reliant/AT-19, Stinson L-5 Sentinel, Stinson S10A/L-9, Taylorcraft/L-2, Thorpe/T-18, Rutan Varieze, Vultee BT-13, Willie II Biplane, X-28 Ospry Air Skimmer.

Will add updated information as soon as I can obtain it.

Originally  published in KANSAS! Magazine


Clyde Vernon Cessna is believed to have built the first of over a quarter million planes manufactured in Wichita, Kansas—later hailed “The Air Capital of the World.”

Cessna, who grew up on a farm near Rago, Kansas, became fascinated with airplanes after seeing a John B. Moisant “Flying Circus” in Oklahoma City in 1910.  Traveling to New York City to learn the craft of building airplanes, he worked for a month at the “Queen’s Aeroplane Company.”  While there, he built his plane, painted the wings silver, called it “Silverwings” and, in spite of crashes and injuries, learned to fly.

He flew in exhibitions and toured county fairs and sports events and every year he built an improved version of the previous year’s plane.

Soon after he started Cessna Aircraft Company, in 1927, his son, Eldon, who had studied engineering at Kansas State University, joined the company.  As chief engineer Eldon was reported to have designed more than 20 planes before the factory closed due to the depression.

Dwayne Wallace, Clyde Cessna’s nephew, graduated from Wichita University’s aeronautical engineering program in 1933 and went to work for Walter Beech, another light aircraft pioneer, in Uncle Clyde’s old factory.

In 1934, with only an aeronautical engineering degree and brief experience working for Walter Beech, Dwayne and his brother Dwight—a lawyer—approached their Uncle and persuaded him to retake control of his company.  The two contacted Cessna Company stockholders and told them that, if given a chance to run the company again and put Cessna airplanes back in production, they and their uncle would work for free until the company showed a profit.  The stockholders agreed.  Uncle Clyde returned to Cessna Aircraft Company as president and Dwayne Wallace became general manager at the age of 23.

Whether because of a family dispute, or because he refused to work without being paid a salary, Eldon Cessna left the company and went to California where he joined Douglas Aircraft Company as a design engineer.  (He later joined North American Aviation, and then Rockwell International, where he remained until his retirement in 1969).

As the Depression showed signs of waning, and the Cessna Aircraft Company began to recover, Wallace introduced the first of Cessna's defining Airmaster family, the C-34 (from the year 1934) and arranged financing for production.  Considering the state of the economy, sales were quite good.

The planea high-winged four-seater with a strutless "cantilever" wing and Cessna's first flaps—was a marvel of efficiency for the times.  Reaching 165 mph on just 145 horsepower was impressive even by today's standards.  Wallace flew the Cessna Airmaster more than 4,000 hours in its first five years.  It was nearly impossible to beat, and generally won the races in its class.

Among the races was the Detroit News Trophy for “The World's Most Efficient Airplane”—a long-distance race testing horsepower-to-speed performance in a series of long flights.  Before the race was suspended because of the depression, Eldon Cessna had won the trophy, at the first competition in 1931, in a Model AW Cessna.  When the race was restarted in 1935 Cessna test pilot, George Harte, won the race and a Cessna was awarded the trophy again in 1936.  Winning an annual trophy three times in a row entitled the triple-winner to keep the trophy permanently thus the C-34 was officially designated “The World's Most Efficient Airplane.”

Though Uncle Clyde had his savings, and Dwight Wallace his law practice Dwayne, having promised to work at Cessna for free, had no other source of income.  He was reported to have taken on a very gaunt, hungry look in those early years.  But he stayed on the job.  Workers noted that he wasn't above carrying water or sweeping floors.

Clyde's return to his company was largely symbolic; the Wallace Brothers were the driving force in its revival.  Clyde retired in 1936 and Dwayne Wallace became president.

Wallace not only ran the factory, he test-flew the planes and raced them.  Nothing proved the worth of an airplane like a public competition witnessed by thousands.  The trophy money helped pay salaries at the struggling company and, as word spread, victories turned into sales.

As the nation recovered from the depression, and sales increased Wallace, always looking to the future, developed the Cessna T-50 Bobcat, a powerful little twin-engine plane, powered by twin 225-hp Jacob radials.

After test-flying the plane, Wallace flew it to Kansas City to be certified by a federal flight inspector.  While there, he asked the inspector to also certify him—thus becoming the company’s first multi-engine pilot.

With World War II approaching, the military became interested in the Bobcat as a trainer for transport and bomber pilots and as a medium-range light transport.  In June 1940, the Army Air Corps placed an order for 33 Bobcats—the largest order in Cessna's history.

Soon after, Canada, already sending troops to fight in Europe, ordered 140 Bobcats (relabeled The Crane).  It was the biggest plane-order in the history of the Air Capital City.

Over the course of the war, 700 more Craneswere sold to Canada while the U.S. government ordered almost 5000 Bobcats.  Many served as UC-78” (for “Utility Cargo”) transports but most (equipped with 290-hp engines) were used to train pilots.  Most World War II transport and bomber pilots learned their multi-engine skills in a Cessna AT-8 (for Advanced Trainer”) Bobcat. 

Employment increased from 200 to over 2,000 the first year of the Bobcat contracts.  An additional factory was built and, with increased prosperity, Wallace began to look a little less scrawny.

The Bobcat’s largely-wood construction earned it the nickname “Bamboo Bomber since it used very little “strategic materials” (aluminum, magnesium, steel, etc.) which the federal War Production Board tried to reserve for combat aircraft and other weaponry.

Cessna's experience with this type of construction led to its also being chosen—from among half-dozen or so sub-contractors—to build 750 large, disposable, wood-and-fabric “invasion gliders.  Towed behind transports and bombers, these combat gliders, were capable of carrying a dozen armed troops, a howitzer and its ammunition, or a jeep behind enemy lines.

This left Cessna tooling up for old-fashioned tube-and-fabric design while companies producing combat aircraft were working in futuristic materials—particularly durable, lightweight, aluminum.

Soon, however, Cessna began receiving Government contracts to make major parts of B-26 and B-29 bombers (typically wings and tails).  This gave personnel the equipment and training necessary to work in aluminum aircraft manufacturing, thus providing the company the advantage needed to compete with other light plane manufacturers.

The last impressive project over which Dwayne Wallace presided was production of the Cessna Citation business jet.  Dubbed the “Bizjet”, the plane soon became the world’s most popular business jet aircraft.

For Dwayne Wallace, flying was a childhood fascination.  When he was ten, he took his first plane ride—with Uncle Clyde Cessna—in his OX-5 Swallow.  In college he flew gliders built by his engineering class and he made his first solo flight in a powered aircraft after only three lessons totaling one hour and 45 minutes.

Wallace guided the Cessna Aircraft Company, founded by his uncle, Clyde Cessna, for more than 40 years.  He retired in 1975, but continued to serve as a board member and consultant until 1983.

Cessna Aircraft Company is reported to be the world's largest manufacturer of general aviation airplanes with over 190,000 Cessna airplanes delivered around the world since the company’s founding by Clyde Cessna in 1927.  This includes more than 5,000 Citations, the largest fleet of business jets in the world.

More information about Cessna Aircraft Company is available at


When we think of Homeland Security, most of us think of it as a Washington, DC organization involving the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, etc.  Few of us stop to consider the precautions being taken in smaller communities throughout the United States to keep us safe from terrorism.

Although the following was written a few years back, security measures are more important now than ever.  If you read the news, you know that dangers still lurk in places and in ways we may not even be aware of, not only in Southwest Kansas, but in communities nationwide as well.


"Sixty-eight percent of the world's beef is produced in a triangular area from Dodge City west to the Colorado border, south to Amarillo, Texas and back to Dodge," Stice said.  "This includes range cattle, feed lots, and the three Southwest Kansas packing plants -- National Beef, Excel and IBP -- which  process a combined total of one million head of livestock a day."

We Kansans have always felt relatively safe what with a wide-open prairie surrounding us and a half continent between us and terrorists and threats of like nature.  However, we may not be as safe as we’d like to think.

“Everyone is under the impression that if anything happens, it will happen in New York, not here,” said Mike Cox, Meade County Sheriff.  “That’s not necessarily so.  We, here in western Kansas, are vulnerable in a number of ways.  It’s possible for anything to happen at any time, and we all need to stay aware—and alert.”

This is also the message of Meade County Emergency Management Coordinator, Marvin Stice, who heads up a recently formed committee made up of law enforcement personnel, businesses and individuals whose goal is to address all areas of terrorist vulnerability in the county.

“Our office receives upgraded Emergency Sensitive Notices from the FBI Intelligence Office periodically—especially when a terrorist alert is changed,” Cox said.  “With the 2nd anniversary of the terrorist attacks approaching, we are prepared to take any precautionary measures necessary—whatever the threat might be.

“For example, when the two previous red alerts occurred—in October, 2001 and February 17 to May 29 of this year—we were notified to beef up security at various Meade County facilities,” he continued.  “We had deputies on high alert on an hourly basis; then after the level of the alert went to amber, we continued monitoring the facilities with periodic drive-bys.

“Immediately after the terrorist attack, we were notified to keep our eyes on airports—especially spray planes which might be confiscated and used to spray toxic chemicals over towns,” he added.  “Since this is still considered a threat, we check the airport on an ongoing basis.”

“We work closely with county law enforcement officials as well as the KBI,” said Craig Stratton, who operates a crop dusting service out of the Meade airport. “Agents of the KBI checked all crop dusters in the state early on to make sure that we each have all the planes we are supposed to have—and only the planes we’re supposed to have.  They want to know where all crop dusters are at all times.”

With the threat to food security high on the list of possible terrorist activity, the Meade County Emergency Management Coordinator, as well as area farmers and ranchers, are keeping a watchful eye on cattle, crops and grain elevators.

*“Bioterrorism has been a big issue ever since 9/11 and our beef industry is considered a very vulnerable target,” Stice said.  “Sixty-eight percent of the world’s beef is produced in a triangular area from Dodge City west to the Colorado border, south to Amarillo, Texas and back to Dodge.  This includes range cattle, feed lots and the three Southwest Kansas packing plants—National Beef, Excel and IBP—which process a combined total of one million head of livestock a day.

“One of the objectives of our team,” he continued, “is to take every precaution possible to safeguard these facilities, including any attempt to spread foreign animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease, anthrax, etc.”

“If we receive a warning that dangerous chemicals or toxins might be passing through the area, we are prepared to shut down our main highways (54, 160 and 23) immediately and begin inspecting carriers” Cox said.

“Although we’ve had no serious incidents of any kind in the county and, thus far, reports have proved to be false alarms, we intend to be on the ready in case there is an actual emergency,” Stice said.

“The entire Southwest Kansas Medical Community has been on the alert since the initial terrorist attacks,” said Mickey Thomas, Director of Meade District Hospital.  “We watch for any indication of unusual viruses, poisons, small pox, etc., and are carrying a heavier inventory of antibiotics and supplies.  We also have a task force of aids standing by if an emergency should occur.”

Although the date has not yet been confirmed, a consortium of 17 Southwest Kansas hospitals are making plans to conduct a bioterrorism mock disaster drill in October, he said.

With new diseases cropping up worldwide, we are always on the alert,” said Michele Correll, Director of the Meade County Health Department.  “As a bioterrorism measure, we are working with a six-county regional group, studying ways to identify and contain these diseases should they appear.”

Courthouses, government offices, schools, utility companies, etc. are notified during heightened alert.

“Everything changed on 9/11,” said Mark Goldsberry, Director of Lake Meade State Park.  “Although Lake Meade is less vulnerable than the larger state lakes, we are always on the alert for unusual or unexplained fish kills, bird die-offs, etc., as well as persons or activity of a suspicious nature.”

Goldsberry is a member of the Southwest Kansas Regional Foreign Animal Disease Committee (FAD) as well as the Meade County Emergency Planning Committee.

“The success of Homeland Security depends on the involvement of the common people,” he said.  “The cowboy riding the pens, the waitress in a restaurant, the gas station attendant—any of us—may see or hear something important to our security.  The bottom line is that we all remain aware and alert at all times.”

In addition to supporting local antiterrorism planning groups, Darrell Yarnall, Senior Resident Agent for the Garden City FBI office, suggests that citizens be aware of who their neighbors are and report any suspicious persons and/or activity to the FBI or to their local law enforcement officials.

“We are concerned most about people, fitting the terrorist profile, who might move into the area and assume a new identity, using this as a base to carry on terrorist activity,” he said.                                                                                         

Dodge City Daily Globe 8/29/03

*All statistics apply to 2003

Although this article was published in 1903, Marvin Stice, former Meade County Emergency Management Coordinator, has since informed us that agencies continue to remain alert for possible terrorist’s threats.  Certain information in the article might also apply to other counties, states, etc.  (Marvin Stice resigned as Coordinator in 2010).



William “Count” Basie was a jazz music legend.  His entertainment career began in the 1920’s and spanned almost sixty years.

Basie was born August 21, 1904, in Red Bank, New Jersey, to Harvey and Lillian ((Childs) Basie.  His father, a gardener, and his mother, a domestic, were both talented amateur musicians.  His mother taught young William to play the piano at an early age.

Although he played drums with his high school band, he began playing piano seriously when he was in his teens.  He later studied with Pete Waller, who also taught him the organ. 

Known internationally for his undying allegiance to the “beat,” and his loyalty to the blues as a basic form, he consistently produced records of high quality.

In a December, 1974 Ebony article, Carlyle C. Douglas described Basie as “a rotund, self-effacing (“I’m no pianist”) mahogany watermelon of a man, given to feigned gruffness and language as salty as home-cured fatback.”  He always wore an old yachting cap off-stage, and at rehearsals, and smoked long Havana cigars.  He possessed a self-confidence, Douglas said, that came from being one of the best and knowing it.  “Not flaunting it.  Not abusing it.  Just knowing it.”  And he started “knowing” it in the nightlife of Harlem when he and the century were in their teens.

It was in Harlem that Basie picked up the rudiments of ragtime by emulating the jazz pianists, the Harlem “stride” players—and Fats Waller.

Basie’s popularity began an upward swing in Kansas City in 1926.  He was on tour with the Gonzel White vaudeville show, traveling the Keith Circuit at the time.  The group broke up in Kansas City and Basie was stranded.  He got a job playing organ at a silent movie theatre.

Kansas City night life was booming and Jazz was just coming into its own.  Basie was one of the great jazz artists to come out of that era.

It was during that time that his distinctive manner of playing and personal characteristics won him the nickname “Count.”  However, he was known as “Count” only to those who didn’t know him personally.  He was always called Bill by his friends.

In 1928, he joined the “Blue Devils,” led by Walter Page, who later became bass player in Basie’s own band.  In 1929, he received an offer from Bennie Moten, top leader among Negro bands in the Middle West.  Basie’s distinctive piano style was first noted in Bennie Moten’s 1929 recordings.

He left Moten in 1934 to organize his first orchestra.  This venture was unsuccessful but his second try, after Moten’s death in 1935, met with success.  Most of his band members had been with the Moten band.

While playing at the popular Reno Club, Basie introduced the breakfast dance to Kansas City.  It was very successful and though controversy arose because of the mixture of white and black, the protests soon subsided and the dances were “jammed”.

The band’s popularity grew rapidly, playing six nights a week from nine until five a.m., and for breakfast dances ten to noon on Sundays.  Each musician received eighteen dollars a week for sixty hours work.  This did not include frequent after-hours jamming.

Kansas City’s WHB Radio installed a remote system to broadcast the dances and also aired Basie music from ten to eleven O’clock each night.

It was on WHB that music promoter, John Hammond, heard Basie and arranged an engagement at the Grand Terrace in Chicago, and his first recording session, for Decca, in 1937.

Also in 1937, The Music Corporation of America broke with its policy of handling only white orchestras and signed Count Basie and his nine-piece Negro band.  By the end of the year, Basie was one of the leading jazz bands in America.  He was also becoming famous internationally.

One of the qualities that set his band apart was Basie’s simple, somewhat “elliptical” piano style and the rhythm section that supported it. (“The Count always begins bink-bink” wrote Henry Miller in “The Colossus of Maroussi”).  His work at the keyboard was revolutionary and he is attributed as the first to recognize an obvious fact: If the bassist, drummer and guitarist are backing you up, why bother with the left hand?  The modern jazz trio with its precise demarcation of function is said to have emerged from that logic.

Basie had a type of rhythm never heard before.  He is credited with originating true swing which, critics say, probably helped to make the Basie sound the longest lived in modern music.

The “jump” rhythm that came out of those early Kansas City days became Basie’s trademark and he was dubbed the “Jump King.”“Along with his breathless and frenetic pace and specific rhythm quality, he maintained an unchanging 4/4 beat and a consistent dip into a slightly smoothed out “gutbucket” blues,” said Douglas.

The blues became his signature and he was admired internationally for the incredibly relaxed precision of his band and his own musical wit as a pianist.

Basie always had fun just being Basie.

“When folks love you the way you are, it’s foolish to change,” he once said.

“Basie was not the self-sufficient, creative dynamo, but had the need of others in order to create his impatient music,” said Charise Fox.  “Though he could never have done it by himself, making twelve or fifteen other musicians an extension of his own original musical vision was no less a feat than anything accomplished by the mighty individualists.  He played a lean ‘hunt and peck’ Basie piano.”

Basie was considered “low key” in-so-far as his personal life was concerned.  He refused to discuss his background, always fencing with “I’m writing a book and that’s material I want to keep to myself.” 

Among other firsts, Basie introduced female ballad singers as soloists, the first—and probably the best—of which was said to be Helen Humes.

“One thing I remember about Basie,” she said, “was what happened when we were traveling in the South.  They had a lot of wooden bridges down there and when we came to one, he would have the bus stop.  Then he’d get out and walk across.”

In July, 1938, Basie opened at the “Famous Door” in New York City.  He had his first Broadway debut in December of that year at the Paramount Theatre.  His popularity increased so rapidly that, the following spring, the National Guard was called to keep order at a packed warehouse dance at Rocky Mount, North Carolina (16,000 fans attended with 10,000 more waiting outside). 

In the 1940’s, he appeared at most of the major ballrooms and theatres in the United States.  He began foreign tours in 1954.

He met his wife, Catherine, when she was dancing with the Whitman Sisters in 1931.  He was twenty six.  She was fifteen.  They ran into each other often and Basie was in love.

“He kept chasing me until I caught him,” she said after they were married in 1942.  They had one daughter, Diane, born in 1944.  In the 1960’s, they adopted three children, two boys and a girl, all teenagers.

It was at the urging of his adopted son, Lamont, that Basie recorded two albums of Beatles turns.

“There’s a lot of talent there,” he said.  “The Beatles really knew how to write.”

At one time or another in his career, the Count played with most of the jazz greats and he was respected and admired by them all.

Count Basie recordings were best sellers almost from the beginning of his career as a band leader.  His most popular recordings include “The Count Basie Story” in two volumes, “Kansas City Suite”, “The Best of Count Basie”, “The Complete Count Basie” in two sets of ten volumes each, “Sixteen Men Swinging”, “The Count at the Chatterbox,” and “Count Basie and his Kansas City Seven.”

In the 1960’s Count Basie’s band played at President John F. Kennedy's inaugural ball and toured with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and other vocalists.

In 1981, he was honored along with Cary Grant, Helen Hayes and others as a recipient of the Kennedy Center honors for achievement in the performing arts.

At a White House reception, President Reagan said that Mr. Basie was among the handful of musicians that helped change the path of American music in the 30's and the 40's, and that he had been instrumental in revolutionizing jazz.

Basie composed several popular hits such as “One O’clock Jump,” “One, Two, Three O’Lairy”, “Every Tub”, and “Jumping At the Woodside.”

He was featured in several movies including “Hit Parade,” “Top Man,” “Choo-Choo Swing,” “Stage Door Canteen,” “One More Time,” and “Sex and the Single Girl.”

In June of 1983, he received the Master Award, the most prestigious award given in the field of jazz, from the National Endowment for the Arts for outstanding contributions to jazz.

He returned to Kansas City in September of 1983 to celebrate his 79th birthday and to reunite with some of the great jazz artists, who played with him in a concert at Crown Center Square.

He died April 26, 1984.


On learning of his death, one fan commented “I will remember him, wherever he is, as he was that night—smiling, cherubic, looking like a specially shining Buddha—keeping faith with Henry Miller and going bink-bink.”


How a cookbook built a gym for Evening Shade, Arkansas


Edna Bell-Pearson


            There was nothing wrong with the old rock gym.  Built in 1939, by the National Youth Administration, it had served the school well for more than 50 years.  But the young folks thought it would be nice to have a regulation size gym so they could host basketball tournaments and invite other schools for district and regional games.

They figured it would cost about $350,000.

            All schools—especially small ones—have trouble raising funds,” said Supt. Billy Paul Boyle, who oversees 314 students in grades K-12

            Everyone was trying to come up with ideas on how to raise money to build a new gym.

            In the fall of 1990, Mrs. Lita King suggested that her home economic class might compile a cookbook to sell to raise money for various projects.  It would make a good chapter project for the Future Homemakers of America.  So the class went to work, collected recipes from local residents, assembled the cookbook and ordered 350 copies.

            No one expected them to sell as rapidly as they did.  But a new television situation comedy—“Evening Shade”—had just premiered on CBS, and the cookbook became a “hot” item.  An additional 200 copies were ordered quickly.

            Mrs. King’s husband, Kevin, who is an attorney at Hardy, suggested that the book be tied into the television show.  He encouraged the students to incorporate recipes from the stars of the show—and to apply the proceeds toward a new gym.

            Everybody laughed!  You have to sell a lot of cookbooks to make $350,000!

            But King, not to be daunted, spoke to a friend and fellow attorney, Hilary Clinton.  (They were working on the same case at the time.)  She, in turn, contacted friends in California—the producers of the TV show.

            Before long, recipes and photos of the stars began to arrive.  Burt Reynolds, the show’s major star, wrote a dedication for the book.

            After that, things began to move fast.  A drama as exciting as an episode of the show itself began to unfold.

            Shalynn Arnold wrote a letter to Burt Reynolds, inviting him to speak at her class’s graduation exercises.  He came.  So did Hilary Clinton and Harry Thomason and his wife, Linda Bloodworth Thomason, producers of the TV show.

            Later that summer, Reynolds invited Shalynn to visit Hollywood at his expense.  While there she appeared in a scene on the TV show. 

            Lita King said that after the cookbook edition with the stars’ recipes was published, 110,000 sold in just about a year, making it the second fastest selling cookbook in the country.

            Soon the Evening Shade Cookbook Foundation was formed.  The group retained an architect and discussed integrating an auditorium into the plans for a gym.

            Orders for the cookbook poured in from all over the country, and that fall Mrs. King set up a vocational entrepreneur class through the State Department of Education.  For two years, students gained valuable experience, as well as credit, packaging, addressing and mailing out the cookbook.  The community joined in, and volunteers met each Thursday night, working long hours to fill the orders.

            “Although the gymnasium is important to the school, and it has brought a lot of attention to the town, what is more important is it brought the town together.  We were all working for a common cause—our young people,” said Donna Ables who spent innumerable hours working on the mailing project.

            In July of 1992, Charlie Dell—Nub in the sitcom—served as grand master in the annual Evening Shade Summerfest Parade.  He returned again the following year and was married in the Methodist Church to actress Jennifer Williams.

            Burton Gilliam, who plays Virgil, has also played an important role, as has Jay. R. Ferguson (Taylor), Jacob Parker (Will), and Bonnie Franklin.

            Due to nationwide publicity, tourists began to arrive from throughout the United States, Canada and several foreign countries.

            Construction of the gym began in October, 1992.  Delk Construction Co. of Bald Knob submitted the low bid of $604,000, almost twice the original estimate.  Not to worry; $300,000 worth of cookbooks already had been sold.

            When the gym was completed in August of 1993—at a final cost of $750,000—the foundation reported cookbook sales of more than $625,000.  Evening Shade T-shirt sales—totaling $25,000—purchased the sound system, a lighted school sign, drapes for the stage and other incidentals.

            The building was named the “Burt Reynolds Gymnasium and the Linda Bloodworth Thomason /Harry Thomason  Auditorium” and bears the TV show’s “Evening Shade” symbol.  A cover protects the floor when plays, band concerts and the like are presented.  An additional 600 chairs bring the auditorium seating capacity to 1,500.

            In the spring of 1993, the school received 70 blue and gold (school colors) warm-up suits as a gift from Burt Reynolds.  With them was a note: “I Love You, Burt.”

            Thirty teams from North Central Arkansas came for the first event—a basketball classic held in October of 1993.  School secretary, Anna Lee Little, was pleased the day she moved her files from a portable building that had served as an office into the new administrative offices in the old rock gym.  Physical education classes are held there as well.

            Over 200.000 Evening Shade cookbooks were sold, bringing in a total of approximately $1 million dollars.  It wasn’t all profit, of course, and some of it went to pay off some school debts, buy an adjacent lot, purchase mailing equipment and the like.

Sales slowed down after the show went into syndication, but no one complained.  There were enough good memories to last for years to come and everybody was enjoying the new gymnasium.




   Spring doesn’t just “come” to the Ozarks; it is more like an explosion—of new life, new beginnings.  Tiny plants break through the soil, old plants send new growth reaching for the sun, the air is fragrant with spring blossoms which magically appear overnight as do newborn calves, piglets, colts, bunnies and fledgling birds.  The air is full of song and human hearts are full of joy, just because it’s spring.

   On a morning such as this I returned to visit the old home place, nestled in a remote area of the Ozark foothills.

   Although I had been blissfully happy there, things change.  Life happens.  We do what we have to do; and I had been gone for twenty-five years.

   The blacktopped highway had been a graveled road back then and when I set out, accompanied by a friend, I wasn’t even sure I could find my way.  However, after driving the requisite number of miles, I shouted with joy when I recognized the turn-off that led into the backwoods and home.

   As the car lurched, often “hitting bottom,” on the rutty, rocky road, (This hadn’t changed a bit), I pointed out landmarks and plants and wild flowers I once gathered for bouquets.  I was so excited I missed the entrance to the lane and had to back up.  Then, halfway to the house, a locked gate blocked our path.

   Not to be discouraged, we climbed through the fence and continued on foot.

   “Surely the owner won’t object to a friendly visit,” I said.

   The early morning walk was exhilarating.  I breathed deeply of the sweet, fresh air, my eyes darting here and there so as not to miss a thing.  Sparkling droplets of dew cast rainbows on grass and bush, a cottontail scampered across the road and disappeared into the brush and two grey squirrels frolicked in a pin-oak tree.

   “Why, it has hardly changed at all!” I exclaimed when I spied white-faced cattle grazing near a pond.  We had Hereford cattle when we built that pond!”

   “Perhaps these are descendants,” my friend laughed.

   A little further on, I stopped short.  Tears filled my eyes.

   There, sitting serenely on the crest of the hill, was the little white house that had once been my sanctuary, my retreat from worldly cares.  Peace enfolded me now, as it had in the past each time I rounded this bend.

   Bathed in sunlight, it seemed as white and bright as I remembered; the grass still dazzling green, patches of white primroses and yellow jonquils blooming where I’d planted them beneath the towering oak and catalpa trees.

   Memories came rushing back.

   A spotted white horse, grazing near the house, looked up when a young woman emerged from the kitchen door.  Other animals materialized from various hiding places and horse, dogs, cats, geese and pheasants followed as she walked slowly along the garden fence, past the long, low broiler house and on to the corral where white-faced cattle waited to be let out to pasture.

   “I made pets of everything,” I said.  “My horse, Trigger, followed me everywhere I went—once, even into the house.”

   Weeding the garden that hot summer morning, I had gone to the house for a drink of water.  Opening the refrigerator door, I was reaching for the water bottle when something nudged my arm.  There stood Trigger, his tail-end still on the stoop, sniffing inquisitively at the cold air rushing from the refrigerator.

   I could have talked about Trigger’s antics all day but we had reached the orchard and the sweet smell of apple blossoms distracted me.  Though many trees were gone and broken branches littered the ground, fragrance filled the air.

   I turned to face the south.

   “Have you ever seen a more beautiful view?” I exclaimed.

   Like a painting, the narrow lane, continuing its winding course down the hill and through the valley, disappeared into the lush green forest and, beyond, ridge upon ridge of tree-covered mountains blended from shadings of green to misty grays and blues fading, finally, into the azure-blue sky on a distant ridge.

   God had graced my haven with a profound beauty.  Now, as always, I felt a deep sense of peace and contentment.  Memories of this scene had often soothed my mind in troubled times.

   A cloud floated over the sun, ending my reverie.  With a sigh, I turned back toward the house.

   It wasn’t bright anymore.  The horse, the girl, the animals had disappeared and, as we approached, the ravage of years of neglect tore at my heart.

   Pushing the sagging gate aside, I entered the yard.  Like sentinels, the ancient trees towered over the little house while jonquils and primroses struggled for life amid broken branches, window glass and roof shingles, in a rank overgrowth that once had been a lawn.  Flaking white paint left the siding of the house weathered grey, and one end of the front porch had fallen to the ground.

   Avoiding a broken step, we entered the house through the open kitchen door.  Our footsteps echoed dismally through the bare, desolate rooms.  Once bright, sunshine-yellow paper peeled in dirty, faded strips from the walls and plaster from the ceiling littered the floor.  In a corner where a rocking chair once stood, was a gaping hole surrounded by mounds of shredded paper, rags and mice droppings.  The bedroom door hung by a single hinge.

   Neither of us spoke as we left the house behind and walked past the weed-infested garden toward the corral.  Brushing away a spider web, I peeked into the broiler house but, backed quickly from the dark, gloomy interior, remembering sunlight streaming through open windows and the cheerful chirping of thousands of tiny, fuzzy yellow chicks.

   We side-stepped a pile of rotting boards—which had once been the fence—and entered the corral.  The old red barn was tumbling down.  In the shelter of a sagging corner, a newborn calf struggled to its feet and began nursing while the Hereford cow eyed us warily.

   Recalling the thrill of discovering a new calf, piglets or puppies, I brushed aside a tear and turned away.

   “Everything has changed after all—” my friend said.

   I paused to look again at the little house, the towering trees, the misty hills.  The cloud had moved on and the sun was shining, again bathing the scene in dazzling light.

   Tears filled my eyes.

   “Not everything,” I said.

   I could still feel God’s presence, His peace, and see His handwork in a newborn calf, spring blossoms and the beauty of these hills.  Remembering the happiness I’d known here, I felt a surge of joy and was glad I came. No matter where life leads, this place would always be a part of me.

  That fall, I received a letter from my friend.

   “Dear Edna,” (she wrote).  “Great news!  Your old home place has been reclaimed!  A young couple, with two small children, purchased it and are restoring it.

   Wonderful news indeed.

   My little house still has much to give, I thought.  When spring next comes to the Ozarks, I shall

picture it overflowing once again with love, warmth, happy voices and cheerful hearts.

Published: Well Versed Anthology, Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writer’s Guild


In 1949 my husband, Carl, and I decided to move to Arkansas, take life easy and “live off the land.”

We had been operating a flying service in Marysville, Kansas since the end of the war and before that Carl had flown B-24’s and B-29’s for the Air Corp.  I was a photographer.

About as close as either of us had ever come to farming was Carl hoeing weeds in his Dad’s annual spring garden when he was a boy.  He figured, however, that anyone intelligence enough to fly bombers and operate airports surely had enough sense to learn how to farm.

              To read the entire article, go to: 


The Legend Lives On


Mystery surrounds the Meade, Kansas Hideout, used by the infamous Dalton Gang—notorious train and bank robbers in the late 1800’s


            Fascinated by mystery, romance and intrigue, visitors stop at the Dalton Gang Hideout in the southwestern Kansas town of Meade, year after year, not only to view the house, barn and underground tunnel, but also to try to unveil the secrets within.

            Eva Dalton Whipple’s honeymoon cottage and the tunnel leading to the barn on the creek below is reputed to be where the notorious Dalton Gang hid between train and bank robberies more than 100 years ago.

Meade’s Dalton Gang connection was established when Eva, sister to Bob, Grat and Emmett Dalton, and her friend Florence Dorland moved from the Coffeyville area to Meade Center—as the town was called then—in the 188o’s.

“No one knows why they came—perhaps to visit relatives or just for the adventure,” said Nancy Ohnick, who is well versed in the Dalton family history.  Ohnick, who has researched the Daltons since she worked at the hideout as a teenager, has published a book, “The Dalton Gang and Their Family Ties.” 

            Once Eva and Florence arrived, Ohnick said, the ladies established a millinery shop.  Eva was considered a “fine lady” and, being “young, gay and comely,” she attracted the attention of most of the available men.  She, however, was interested only in John N. Whipple, proprietor of Whipple’s Headquarters which is believed to have been the first mercantile store in Meade.

            Well-liked and apparently a dedicated booster of the growing community, Whipple’s various activities were reported weekly in one or more of the three local newspapers, said Ohnick.       Although Whipple was somewhat older than Eva, they appeared to be a good match.  They were married October 25, 1887.  The wedding and reception took place at the home of a prominent local couple who lived south of Meade Center.  Emmett, the youngest of the four Dalton brothers, who were serving as Deputy U.S. Marshals at the time, was reported to have attended the wedding.

            The couple moved into a new home Whipple had built for his bride on a hillside southeast of the city.  An older Dalton brother, Frank, was killed a month later on November 27, near Fort Smith, Arkansas while making an arrest.

            The unusual sequence of events which followed were not explained at the time and have baffled historians ever since.  Three weeks after the wedding, Whipple gave up his business, and two months later, transferred the deed to their home and property to Eva.  Since Eva had given up her millinery business earlier, the couple were presumed to subsist—quite well, in fact—on the proceeds from “Whip’s” horse trading and poker playing.

There are conflicting reports concerning Eva’s brothers’ “falling out” with the law, but their first train robbery attempt was reported in Alila, California in February 1891.  Grat was captured but escaped.  In the spring, rumors of Dalton Gang activities began circulating in the Midwest.

Meade Center sympathies were with “poor little Eva.”  After all, everyone said, she couldn’t help what her brothers did.  Some said if the Dalton boys had been treated squarely when they were U.S. Marshals, they wouldn’t have turned bad.  Also, they said, it probably hadn’t helped that the brothers had grown up hearing about the escapades of the Younger Brothers, cousins on their mother’s side.

The Whipples house was often watched and, on occasion, searched by lawmen, but the infamous brothers were never seen on the premises.  When asked about an unusually large number of horses in his corral, Whipple plausibly explained he’d “been doing a little trading.”

In 1892, the Whipples quietly left town.  No one knew exactly when but they were gone when Bob and Grat Dalton, Dick Broadwell and Bill Powers were shot and killed in Coffeyville on October 5 while attempting to hold up two banks simultaneously.

The Whipple house was sold at a sheriff’s sale in November, 1892, Ohnick said.  Sometime later, a secret passage was discovered after a trail-weary stranger appeared in the house, seemingly out of nowhere, startling the family who had moved into the cottage.

The 95-foot tunnel was a crude, ditch-like affair, too shallow in which to stand erect.  Covered over with dirt and boards, it opened beneath a stairwell on the lower level of the house and ended in the feed room in the barn.  It appeared to have been used as an escape tunnel by the visiting Dalton brothers who could hide in the tunnel when the house was approached and, if necessary, make a getaway through the barn, mounting their horses and galloping out of sight up the draw.

The property was purchased by the City of Meade in 1940.  Improvements were made to the house to make it tourist accessible.  The barn, which was in disrepair, was removed and another was built in its place.  The tunnel was enlarged and reinforced for safety and convenience.  The Dalton Gang Hideout was opened to tourists June 6, 1941.

Visitors to the hideout may browse through Evan’s cottage, the gift shop, the museum on the upper level and walk through the tunnel leading to the barn.   Eva’s house is furnished as it might have been when she lived there—complete with a dress form and sewing machine.

In the tree-shaded park below the barn are barbecue facilities and picnic tables, playground equipment and a stage used for occasional concerts and other entertainment.  Also on the premises are an 1800’s-era covered wagon, mail cart, steam engine, farm wagon, school bell and a wishing well.

Nearly 14,000 tourists visit the attraction annually, according to Nancy Dye, former manager and curator of the facility.

“A surprising number of people from other countries are very interested in the hideout, as well as anything pertaining to the Old West,” Dye said.

Tourists routinely pose numerous unanswerable questions.  Why did the Dalton brothers “go wrong?”  Why did John Whipple give up his business and deed the house to Eva after the couple was married?  Was there something shady in his past?  Were the Whipples innocent bystanders, or did they play an active role in the Dalton Gang’s escapades?

Recurring rumors, including reports of a cache of “loot,” keep the Dalton legend alive.  Although portions of the Dalton legend are admittedly speculation and much of it remains a mystery, enough has been documented in court records such as deeds and licenses and in newspaper articles to validate most of the history, Ohnick said.

“Among other things, we know that Eva and John’s love proved strong enough to survive,” she said.  “After leaving Meade, they lived quietly in both Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Although nothing is known about them, records show that the marriage produced two children, a daughter, Maud, born in Meade in 1888, and a son, Glenn, born in Arkansas in 1894.”

Whipple died in 1932, at the age of 81, in Arkansas.  Following his death, Eva moved to Kingfisher Oklahoma, where she died in 1939 at age 72.

The Dalton brothers’ careers as outlaws are legendary but, for them, crime did not pay.  Another brother, Bill, joined the forces with outlaw Bill Doolin and was shot and killed by lawmen in 1894.  Emmett Dalton, the only member of the gang to survive the Coffeyville incident was sentenced to life imprisonment after recovering from his wounds.  He was released in 1907, whereupon he moved to California and became a respectable businessman.  He was once quoted as saying that he was the only Dalton ever to profit from those outlaw days.  He did so by writing two books and assisting in producing films about his early experiences.  Although both books, “Beyond the Law” and “When the Daltons Rode,” were said to be highly fictitious, they apparently sold well and at least one was made into a movie.

Published in KANSAS! Magazine

The Dalton Gang Hideout, located 4 blocks south of Highway 54 ((502 South Pearlette) in Meade, Kansas is open from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 on Sunday. 

Dalton Gang Hideout Manager and Curator, Marc Ferguson told this reporter that, despite the current economy, visitations to the Hideout remain high.  Ferguson is also a well-known and much sought after Historic Reenactor.

 The Dalton Gang Hideout, located 4 blocks south of Highway 54 ((502 South Pearlette) in Meade, Kansas is open from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 on Sunday.  Admission is $5.00 per person.  Family and group rates are available.  For more information contact Marc Ferguson, Dalton Gang Hideout, P.O. Box 515, Meade, Kansas 67864, Phone: 620 873-2731 or 1 800 354-2743. Email –



We hardly ever pick up a newspaper these days that doesn’t contain an article about garbage disposal problems, trash pollution or toxic waste.  Garbage, and what to do about it, is an issue faced by cities and communities nationwide.  Most of us try to do our bit by recycling—newspapers, glass jars, plastic containers, tin cans—but it seems to be a losing battle.


We never worried about garbage when I was a kid.

However, that was back before planned obsolescence; before most of our mail was junk; before most of our food came in the discardable containers which now fill our garbage can weekly with a plethora of indestructible synthetic materials. 

We didn't have to pay monthly refuse and garbage fees "back then.”  There was no garbage.  We kids were taught early-on to "make do"; to find a use for everything.  It was almost like we'd committed a sin if we wasted anything.  Even now, I feel a twinge of guilt when I throw something away.

We appreciated all the mail the postman left in our mail box back then.  We'd read the magazines and newspapers from front to back, clip out items we wanted to keep, then use them to line drawers and shelves, start the fire or spread in the bird cage and the brooder house to catch droppings (which fertilized the flower beds and the garden).

Out-of-date Sears and "Monkey Wards" catalogues (Pa called them "wish books") wound up in the outhouse where they received further wishful scanning while we took care of the business at hand.  When we were through, we used the pages of least interest to us.  Mama never tore out the fashion illustrations, we kids saved the toy pages, and Pa was partial to farm equipment and tools.

Back before plastic was king, brown paper bags came in handy for storing herbs, toting lunches and carrying gifts to relatives and friends.  (We never went "visiting" without a gift—an offering from the garden, something "homemade" from the kitchen or "sewn up" by hand or on the old treadle sewing machine).

Mama, who was a whiz on the sewing machine, turned white flour and sugar sacks into underclothing, diapers and tea towels, printed sacks into school dresses and shirts, old sheets and towels into dish cloths, everyday handkerchiefs, dust cloths and granny rags.  If worn out clothing was too far gone to make over, the usable parts wound up in quilts or braided rugs, or was sent out to the workshed for the men to wipe their hands on.

When she made a dress or a shirt out of new material, Mama saved the scraps and pieced them into wedding rings, log cabins, Dutch girls and such for quilts.

Pa recycled "gunny" sacks until they wore out, then mended them with a piece of string and recycled them again.  When they were beyond repair, they were relegated to a corner of the porch for the dogs and cats to sleep on, or to the stoop for wiping our feet on.

If we wound up with more sacks than we could use, we sold them back to the feed store for a nickel apiece.

We washed and stored empty salad dressing and mustard jars in the cellar and filled them with preserves, jams and relish at canning time.  The Mason jars, for canning fruits and vegetables, were re-used year after year.

Tin cans served as cookie cutters, water dippers, containers for nails, screws and buttons, protectors of newly planted seedlings, and to start plants in ‑‑ after we'd punched holes in the bottom.   

We fed the cats and dogs scraps from the table, and vegetable leavings that weren't thrown out for the chickens, were put into a five-gallon "slop" pail, along with mash and water, for the hogs.

Sometimes it got to smelling pretty strong before the hogs got it, but from the way they jostled and rooted each other trying to get to the trough, they must have liked it.

Later, when we'd left off keeping hogs, the leftovers -- along with coffee grounds, tea leaves, ashes from the wood-burning stove, chicken and cow manure --  were deposited on the compost heap, which served to keep our flower beds and house plants luxurious, and the vegetable garden producing bountifully without a smidgeon of commercial fertilizer.

We found a use for almost everything.  Bacon drippings, poured into an earthenware jar on the back of the stove, seasoned vegetables and beans, bones from a roast or a chop flavored the stew before being thrown out for the dogs, and dried bread ended up in tasty dressings and puddings.

Wasting water was a sin.  After washing our hands, we tossed the pan of water on the flower beds outside the door.  Dish, laundry and bath water was used to mop the floor before being recycled to the garden out back of the barn,

One round, galvanized tub-full of bath‑water washed four kids on a Saturday night, after which the tub was refilled and Mama got in to bathe in nice clean water before Pa muddied it up washing off the week's accumulation of dirt and manure.

They say we had it tough back then.  That may be true.  We certainly didn't have all the material things we have now.

Come to think of it, it is because of an excess of these “material things” that we have evolved into a "throw away society"—and thus created a monster.

Although I wouldn't want to go back to living like it was "in the good old days," there are three things that I miss—serenity, peace of mind and time—time to think, to dream, to hang out with friends.       

For, not only are we overrun with garbage and trash, demanding activities, noise and distraction also clutter our lives.  So much so that we often neglect those things which should come first—family, friends, a close relationship with God—

Mama's favorite admonition was "first things first.”

"Be careful," she used to say, "that you don't throw the baby out with the bath water."







  When my grandparents headed West to homestead in the Oklahoma Panhandle, my grandmother carried one of her most prized possessions, The White House Cookbook.  I was lucky to inherit this family heirloom.

  The 3-inch thick, 600-page, Comprehensive Cyclopedia of Information For the Home sold for $1 in 1900.  It is an intriguing contrast to our cookbooks of today, in price and content as well.

  As I thumb through it, I wonder at the changes technology has wrought in the past 116 years, changes in our lifestyles and interests, in our knowledge.

  The White House Cookbook, dedicated to “the wives of our presidents,” features portraits of the first 25 first ladies.  A portrait of Ida Saxton McKinley graces the dustcover.  Pictures of the White House kitchen, the Family Dining Room, the Great State Dining Room, the East Room, the Blue Room and the Red room are also included, as are menus, table settings and recipes for “everyday” occasions as well as “state” and “special” events.

  The book contains everything the homemaker of yesteryear wanted or needed, including how to carve beef, pork, mutton, venison, fish and fowl (including wild game); how to stay healthy, how to care for the sick, and how to make perfume, toiletries, cough syrup, liniment, wine, soap, glue and dyes.

  As we approach the 21st century and an increasingly high-tech lifestyle, these circa 1900 remedies seem quaint, if not downright ridiculous.  An item in the chapter Facts Worth Knowing tells us: “To discourage troublesome ants, a heavy chalk mark laid a finger’s distance from your sugar box and all around will surely prevent ants from troubling.”

  And under Hints In Regard To Health, we learn: “the flavor of cod-liver oil may be changed to the delightful one of fresh oysters if the patient will drink a large glass of water poured from a vessel in which nails have been allowed to rust.”

  To keep Well: “Don’t sleep in a ‘draught’, don’t go to bed with cold feet, don’t stand over hot air registers, don’t eat what you do not need just to save it, don’t try to get cool too quickly after exercising, don’t sleep in a room without ventilation of some kind, don’t stuff a cold lest you next be obligated to starve a fever, don’t sit in a damp or chilly room without a fire, don’t try to get along without flannel underclothing in winter.”

  “Leanness,” the book tells us, is “caused generally by lack of power in the digestive organs to digest and assimilate the fat-producing elements of food.  First, restore digestion, take plenty of sleep, and drink all the water the stomach will bear in the morning on rising, take moderate exercise in the open air, eat oatmeal, cracked wheat, graham mush, baked sweet apples, roasted and boiled beef, cultivate jolly people and bathe daily.”

  From the Medicinal Food section we learn “spinach has a direct effect upon complaints of the kidneys, common dandelion greens are excellent for the same trouble, asparagus purifies the blood, celery acts upon the nervous system and is a cure for rheumatism and neuralgia, tomatoes act upon the liver, lettuce and cucumbers are cooling upon the system, onions, garlic, leeks, chives and shallots possess medicinal virtues stimulating the circulatory system, red onions are an excellent diuretic, white ones a remedy for insomnia – ”

I daresay Grandma would be amazed at the progress we’ve made in 100 years.

  Although I have an aversion to cod-liver oil and drinking water flavored by rusty nails, many old-timers still swear by these home remedies.  As the use of natural products to promote good health gains new followers, some of the suggestions in The White House Cookbook sound vaguely familiar.  Advertisements touting the beneficial uses of vinegar, honey, garlic and soda have been published in recent issues of GRIT, for instance.

  And who can ignore the “new research” reports appearing regularly in the media reminding us to eat certain foods to control or prevent such illnesses as cancer, heart disease or diabetes?

  Broccoli anyone?

Published In Grit Magazine


When 86 year old Mary Spurgeon was asked to sculpt an eight-foot likeness of Wyatt Earp, to be displayed on Dodge City’s Wyatt Earp Boulevard, she didn’t bat an eye.  She was used to challenges—in sculpting and in life.

Spurgeon, a North Oklahoma artist and rancher, personified the ingenuity, the strength and the courage for which plains women are noted.

Becoming an artist began as a childhood dream.

Spurgeon grew up, one of a family of five girl—and no boys—near Ensign, Kansas, a small farming community 15 miles southwest of Dodge City, Kansas.  She worked in the fields and at other outside chores, one of which was driving the cattle to pasture in the morning and home at night.  As she sat on her horse, day after day, watching the cattle graze, Spurgeon dreamed dreams that sometimes seemed far-fetched.

There was never enough money.  If you wanted something, you had to figure out how to get it.  Spurgeon longed to paint but she was seventeen before she got her first oil paints.

And what did she paint with those first tubes?  Horses!  Horses have always been her favorite things to paint.  For many years, however, painting was something she could do when nothing else demanded her time.

            She attended junior college and after receiving her teaching certificate, she taught in rural schools in Kansas and one year at a rural school near Cody, Wyoming.

For a time she studied under Grant Reynard, a well-known artist who had been a student of Harvey Dunn.

“I learned a great deal about painting with oils—particularly landscapes and portraits—for which Reynard was noted,” Spurgeon said.

She returned to Ensign in 1943 and, that fall, accepted a teaching position at the Barby Ranch School in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

            “Everywhere I taught, I rode horseback to school, often fording creeks and rivers,” Spurgeon said.  “I usually trained a colt on the way to school in the morning and home in the evening.”

            At the time, she was dating a young ranch hand and horse trainer by the name of Bill Spurgeon.  They were married in November, 1944 and Spurgeon became a typical rancher’s wife.  She raised four children, keeping house and helping her husband with outside chores.

Starting a ranch and raising a family, left little time for painting.  However, through years of depressions, teaching in remote rural schools, ranch work, rodeoing, building a home and raising a family, she painted “when she could find the time” between roundups, branding cattle, rescuing them from quicksand, searching for missing calves, helping neighbors and school activities.

“Even though painting always took a back seat to everything, else,” she said, “I never gave up.  I never considered the possibility of not succeeding.”

She applied for a correspondence course.  It took two years to complete but soon after she completed the course, she sold her first paintings.

Her determination to succeed as an artist also sustained her when she decided to build a new home using timbers from an old bridge.


            Still adept at working a herd, Mary Spurgeon urges “Zan,” her registered, white-stocking, sorrel quarter horse forward, cuts a yearling calf from its mother, skillfully maneuvers it to the open gate leading to the holding pen then wheels the horse to seek out another yearling..

            It is branding time at the Spurgeon ranches.  Son, Del Roy, who lives on an adjacent ranch, is in charge of operations and Spurgeon, as usual, is doing her part.  Her yearlings are branded with the “Open Hexagon” which, she says, has been the Spurgeon brand for 50 years.  This done, Del Roy’s calves will be branded with his brand.

            Occasionally, Spurgeon pauses to make a notation in a small, pocket-size book which records the genealogy of every cow in both herds including age, history and number of calves produced.

It’s time for a break; Zan trots to the cottonwood tree shading the watering tank and Spurgeon dismounts.  She is dressed in a typical cow-person outfit; well-washed jeans, cotton shirt, well-worn chaps, cowboy hat, boots and spurs.  Removing her hat, she swipes her shirt sleeve across her damp brow and, uncorking a thermos bottle, takes a long drink of water.

            Later, before returning to her role as artist and resuming work on the sculpture currently underway, she will check the heifers in the north pasture.  There are only five yet to calve and, so far, she has 108% calf crop. (One heifer had twins).

            During the winter of 1992/93, when 83 inches of snow kept her snowed in for three months, she calved out 21 head of heifers, she said, wading through snow banks to feed and check on them every three or four hours, day and night.  The first calf was born January 25th; the last on March 7.“I wound up with a 100% calf crop,” she said proudly.

            Working around cattle is second nature; she has done it for most of her life.

 But there is more to Spurgeon than meets the eye.

            If, indeed, “you are what you think about all day long”, Mary Spurgeon’s success as an artist should come as no surprise. She has, not only thought about it, she had worked toward it her entire life.

            “It has been a full life—a busy one,” she said.  “Early on, we had no plumbing on the ranch, so I carried water from the well for all our needs.  What with rescuing cattle from quicksand, searching for strays, cooking for cowboys, helping neighbors, keeping up with school activities, and participating in rodeos (She was a barrel racer), there was not much time for painting.”

            “When the children were small, Bill worked for various ranchers and we moved frequently,” she said.  “During this time, however, we were building our own herd of cattle and, in 1959, we leased the old Mashed O Ranch on the Cimarron River.”

            In 1972, they purchased the old family ranch five miles to the south for which Bill Spurgeon’s grandfather, Nelson Taylor, and his wife, Almeda, had traded a team and wagon for squatter’s rights in 1889.

            “It was still a lot of work but now we were working for ourselves,” Spurgeon said.  “Bill was becoming well known as a horse trainer by that time and that brought in extra money.”

Bill Spurgeon was killed in a riding accident in 1982, leaving the responsibility of running the ranch to Spurgeon.  Prior to the death of her horse, Zan‑her life long friend—Spurgeon continued to participate in round-ups, branding, etc.

She still managed to find time for her art, however, and with the passing of time, her paintings became increasingly popular.  After she turned her eye to sculpting, demand for her sculpture left little time for painting.

However, Spurgeon didn’t mind.  She was doing what she loved to do.  “I love the ranch,” she said.  “I love my art.  And I love my family.  I feel that I have been blessed.”

Her art reflects the many facets of her life, and of her pioneer heritage.  Always striving for realism, Spurgeon painted and sculpted the stories of the new west as well as the old.  Her chief objective was action.

Spurgeon’s 8-foot statue of Wyatt Earp was to have been the first in a series to be placed along the Dodge City Trail of Fame.  After completing this statue, she began sculpting a likeness of Doc Holiday.  However, according to a city representative, the project was put on hold because of a lack of funds.

Her work has won numerous prizes and awards.  In 2008, The Kansas House of Representatives announced the passage of House Resolution 6015, honoring “Kansas native and renowned sculptor, Mary Spurgeon,” for her distinguished work and artistic achievements representing the spirit of the State of Kansas.

Spurgeon,  a nominee to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, was the featured artist in the Oklahoma State Capital Governor's Gallery and her paintings and sculpture has been displayed at the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, in Fort Worth, the Dodge City Public Library, the Western Spirit Show at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Museum, the American Quarter Horse Congress, the Barrel Racing Futurity and National Reining Finals in Oklahoma City, the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in Kansas City, the Texas Stockgrowers Association in Fort Worth, the Festival of the West in Scottsdale, Arizona as well as in galleries in Wyoming, Denver, in western art shows across the country and in homes, businesses and institutions throughout the world.

In 1992, The Oklahoma Historical Society designated the Spurgeon ranch a Centennial Ranch.  Mary Spurgeon lived, painted and sculpted there until her death, at the age of 91, in 2009.

                            This revised, updated article first appeared in Grit Magazine



  Thoreau had one.  So did Thomas Hardy, Robert Burns and E.M. Forster.

  So did Grandma.

Ninevah Augusta Booth

My Commonplace Book

read the faded letters on the cover of the battered ledger I found in a trunk in the attic.

  Untying the string that held the pages together, I found, among other things, a plethora of Grandma’s verbal treasures, words I’d heard so often I can quote them from memory.

  “Teach a child the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it,” was one of her favorites.

  On checking my Webster’s Dictionary, I learned that a commonplace book is “a personal journal in which quotable passages, literary excerpts and comments are written.”

  “Aha!” I thought.  I’d never dreamed there was a proper place for the accumulation of clippings, scraps of paper and sentimental trivia I’d been saving all these years!

  I immediately purchased a thick notebook and transformed it into my own commonplace book.  Now I have two; Grandma’s and mine ‑ vivid paradigms of how books, like people, although basically alike, can be so different.

  Grandma was partial to poetry and bible verse.  She could quote both from memory for hours on end.

  A poem ‑ a tribute to the flag ‑ holds the place of honor at the front of her book.  Following that is an ode to her parents.  Numerous other poems, including the first poem I wrote, at the age of five, are scattered throughout the book as are many homemade valentines and postal cards with verse.

  Of the numerous cards and letters from friends and loved ones, the ones I prize most are two love letters my grandfather wrote her before they were married in 1895 ‑ 110 years ago.

  Not all of Grandma’s treasures are happy ones.  Tributes to loved ones who passed on, a letter edged in black, all reflect an aching heart, as does a red-gold curl (“a lock of my baby’s hair”) and a pressed flower from a christening.  On the facing page, written in Grandma’s familiar hand, is a bible verse: “All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.” It is dated the day that baby died.

  Each time I browse through her book, I feel that I know and understand my grandmother a little better.

  Like Grandma, I, too, treasure souvenirs, cards and notes from special people, special times.  However, my commonplace book contains more short essays, inspirational, philosophical and pithy quotes than poetry.

  On the inside cover is “A Writer’s Prayer,” and on the opposite page a poster: “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1).

  One of my favorite aphorism’s is Thoreau’s “If a man does not keep pace with his companions/Perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer ---”

  Two dog-eared squares of newsprint remind me: “It is never too late to be what you might have been” (George Eliot) and “If you would not be forgotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing about,” an altered version of a verse from Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard's Almanac.

  Other favorites ‑ by Alan L. Bean – are: “People become what they need to become or what they want to become,” and “If you want to be a professional in this business, you’ve got to become what it takes to do the job.”

  Like Grandma, not all my treasures reflect happy times; yet they bring back sweet memories of something ‑ or someone ‑ who contributed positively to my life.

  I keep my commonplace books ‑ Grandma’s and mine ‑ where I can thumb through them when I need to recapture emotional equilibrium – refocus direction.  They are a source of inspiration and guidance from two lives ‑ two worlds ‑ embracing a time span of 135 years; reminders that, although the world has changed dramatically, down deep people are pretty much the same.  They enable me to see my time on earth as part of a larger picture.

  To really know a person one should, if possible, browse through his or her commonplace book.

These accumulated and ordered odds and ends, preserved out of inner necessity, reflect the individua’s deepest desires, highest aspirations, and most profound hopes and dreams.

  Jorge Luis Borges tells the story of a man who set out to make a picture of the universe.  After many years, during which he covered a blank wall with images of myriad subjects, the man discovered, at the moment of his death, that he had drawn a likeness of his own face.  This, Borges said, paralleled what happened to him in the writing of his book: The Aleph and Other Stories.

  This is also what happens to us as, day by day, year by year, as our life unfolds, we fill in the blank pages of our commonplace book.

                        Previously published in Grit Magazine and others.