Belly Tickling Ride

While visiting with the Mielke brothers and Richard Hardy at the Harrington Barbeque, we got to talking about the Russians shooting down that big plane with a lot of passengers inside.* Finally the conversation drifted to the early day passenger planes. George told about the first sample ride he took in an enclosed aircraft. It was in a tri-motored Ford plane that came to Harrington to make a few bucks. The paying natives received the thrill of finding out what it was like to be lifted off the ground. 

This Ford airplane was the "Model T" of the airways 50 some years ago. It was made out of corrugated sheets of tin, cut to the right size, to make a plane that would hold 16 passengers. A motor was hung on each wing. The third motor was placed right in front of the pilot. This type of plane was nicknamed the “Tin Goose.” Carl Mielke said, “Everytime the plane returned to take up more sight-seers, the pilot had to put some oil into each of the motor’s reservoirs.” 

A few years before this aviation scoop at Harrington took place, this same Tin Goose took up thrill seekers from a stubble field near Davenport. The price for the Davenport plane ride was discriminating. The pilot and his helper drug out a scale, and charged one cent a pound for each live weight passenger. A skinny person could get on the plane for about a buck, while a fat man had to pay up to three dollars for the same belly tickling ride. 

"The Flying Model T" Kik-Back Country, p. 78

*Korean Air Lines Flight 902  20 April 1978

Walt Kik
Ford Tri-Motor "Tin Goose"


Get His Brain Changed Over

An early day author of a novel and a Hollywood movie company were in our local territory at separate times years ago. They did a good job of using our natural scenery, but rather hectic stories emerged from their portrayal of our sacred wheat country, that we all learned to love so dearly. 

When I was a dreamy kid, I was forced to spend some of my choice teenage years in California. To relieve my torture, Lady Luck handed me Zane Grey’s novel, “The Desert of Wheat". It was concocted right after World War One. Zane spent part of a summer around the Almira-Hartline area, where he stimulated his imagination enough to create this special yarn. 

Homesickness would set in when I read his description of those long sloping summer-fallowed fields south of Almira, where horses and their loads of drag-weeders were making dust that would hang in long ribbons across the fields in the evenings around about quitting time. Obsession would set in when Grey described how the summer breeze would make acres and acres of wheat wave. The chapter gathered a lot of thumb marks. 

The IWW (International Workmen of the World), a rather nutty labor group, was raising hell in those days. They got into Zane Grey’s “Desert of Wheat” novel. He had these destructive characters burning wheat fields, and things like that all over the Big Bend country. 

In real life, stories got out that down in the Palouse Country the IWW’s were tossing lots of matches on top of wheat stacks (settings). Later when the “hoe-downers” fed the mixture of unthreshed grain and matches into the speeding cylinder, a destructive fire would set in. Later the Palouse farmers found out that they were just growing too much smut*. A striking cylinder tooth would explode the excessive smut, giving the same effects that the IWW’s were accused of. 

Many years later, when World War Two got itself over with, a movie company from Hollywood decended on the Connell-Lind district. Seeing all that wheat waving in the wind, they hurriedly unloaded their cameras and rounded up all the Massey-Harris self-propelled combines they could lay their hands on. 

“Oh goody," a bunch of us guys said to ourselves; a harvest story made in the northwest, using the same self-propels that a lot of us early buyers experimented with. The movie was called, “Wild Harvest”, starring Dorothy Lamour and Alan Ladd. Our thoughts ran illusive. Maybe we could learn how to harvest Hollywood style. 

When “Wild Harvest” came to Spokane, Sugar and I made it a foursome by taking Sugar’s sister and future brother-in-law. George wasn’t sold on self-propels at that time, so I thought this movie would be an excellent opportunity to get his brain changed over to accepting advance harvesting methods. 

When the popcorn sacks were half empty, it was apparent that this picture would not walk off with any Oscars. The only realistic scene that struck home, was the harvest crew eating their noonday lunch under the shade of the combines. A tired and bored housewife did kick up her heels and began horsing around with the harvest crew, causing stress to set in on the movie viewing farmers that took their spouses for granted. 

In no time, the wild stuff began making wild things happen in “Wild Harvest.” Combines were being pushed off of speeding trucks, with the idea of slowing down a rival harvest gang that was muscling in on their harvest brigade operations. Young Mielke went to sleep on his fiance’s shoulder. It just wasn’t the right “picture show” to convince George that he should change over to self-propelled combines. 

"Harvesting Hollywood Style", Kik-Backs, p. 26

*Loose smut is a seedborne disease that is caused by the fungus Ustilago tritici. (Link)

Walt Kik

Walt Kik


A Political Battle Broke Out

(In 1916 there were no steam plant projects to get excited over. Still things got pretty warm one fall afternoon at the Rocklyn General Store, when a political battle broke out. )

No physical violence occurred, but words flew thick and fast. George Sweezy appeared to be the only level headed farmer there. He tried to be the balance wheel of reason. My dad’s only defense for switching parties was that Wilson promised to keep us out of the war that was brewing in Europe. Mike Maurer who knew a lot about politics, tried to out shout everyone. Henry Kuch, the only registered Democrat there that afternoon, took a verbal beating. 

Most Rocklyn citizens left one at a time, after shouting their final view points. None stood long enough by the door to wait for replies. 

That night, several political signs were torn off telephone poles. The following Sunday at church, the flock was wondering who in their midst was the one that tore ‘Vote for Wilson’ signs down. The guilty one must never have figured it was a sin big enough to cause trouble from above. 

"Elections" Kik-Back Country, p. 76

Walt Kik


Inflammable Debates Ran Rampant

It’s neat to have political elections every once in a while. It stimulates the mind when local candidates come up to talk to you. Half of them make you feel funny when you know deep inside that you are not going to vote for them. 

One time Sugar fell for a nice guy that was running for a local job. At about the same time, I met and liked his opponent. It doesn’t make sense going our separate ways voting for these two, as we would be canceling each other out. What to do? I had ’til that Tuesday to decide whether Sugar’s reasons come first, or party loyalty. 

It was too bad that this Creston steam plant issue caused so much emotional steam. Inflammable debates ran rampant. I’m a nut about good environment. But you have to have proven evidence that fumes from tall chimneys will [not] hurt precious plants, and other living things. 

In 1916 there were no steam plant projects to get excited over. In those days, Republican presidents were treating everyone pretty good. If it weren’t for Henry Kuch, the Democrats would have become extinct out here at Rocklyn. 

Teddy Roosevelt had made people happy with his manic, free-swinging style of running the country. Big fat Taft was a harmless and likeable president. The only reason Democrat Wilson made the grade in 1912 was that the Republican party became split. Teddy ran on the Bull Moose ticket. That caused Taft to get too few votes. Wilson was then able to enter the White House. 

Four years later, Wilson had a scare when he ran against Charles Hughes. Election night Charles went to bed thinking he was President. But the next day, California sneaked Wilson back into the oval room. 

"Elections" Kik-Back Country, p. 76


Overcharged Sugar's Talents

 I used to believe that some of my old friends were pushing their luck too far. George Gunning, at that time, had turned 73 on the time clock. When he told me he was planning on building a new house in Davenport, I said to him, “Golly, how come at your age?” George replied, “Yeah, I know. According to the Bible I’ve lived my alloted time, but I’m not intending to leave ’til I have to.” 

Then, years later, when I reached 75, I surprised Sugar by saying, “Let’s tear down part of our house, and build on something brand new. And wouldn’t it be fun to walk from the old house that has a history and go right into rooms that you have dreamed about all your life?” That was a dangerous way-out statement to make. It overcharged Sugar’s talents, and it left me with no room for backing out. 

I guess it’s worth it if for nothing else than just to see Sugar living on a manic high. But is it logical? Are some of us acting like kids, and don’t realize that the life cycle will soon be completed? Anyway, for the first time, I can understand to some extent why my older relatives, when they retired, built new homes in Ritzville. 

For practical reasons it’s best for us not to buy household equipment with a warranty over 15 years; or to build a house out of bricks that will soon be used mostly as a monument to someone’s past life. Anyone planning on what we did should, within reason, make a house that is suitable for either the very young or the very old. Unnecessary stairways and steps can be a hazard to your life. Slick floors and small booby trap rugs can land you in a wheel chair. 

By golly, I too am beginning to get excited about the new modern section nailed onto this old house. To make sense, it’s best that we start calling it: ‘Our retirement home.’ 

"Never Too Old" Kik-Back Country p. 92