Kik-Back Characters

Kik-Back Characters

by Walt Kik
Edited by Phil Krogh

Alice Marcellus    William Bandy    Ross Parsons    Ed Deppner    Frank Reinbold    
Harry Schneider

Kik-Backs  As a young lad, I never knew women were not supposed to be equal. Mother never complained. Also, my tender years were spent in the atmosphere of a slim but over-powering amazon neighbor that was liberated from day one. Rocklyn citizens were kind of scared of its free-swinging woman. We always called her the "old lady" even though she was only in her late 50's. Alice Marcellus was her name. We young ones felt safe having old lady Marcellus as our friend and neighbor. That's because she was hard-boiled in a positive and protective way. She chewed tobacco, and we kids figured that's what made her brave and tough. Alice claimed to be related to Jesse James. In those days, being related to some famous crook gave a person certain prestige.
    Let's go back to the turn of the century, then step into the razorback hog country in Missouri, to where they produced genuine, old-time, liberated women. That's where Alice Marcellus fed her little son, Frank, until he got to be a big guy. She then told her husband, Archie, it was time to trade in their holdings for a bit of Washington land, so Frank could get a better start in life.
    The Todd family also followed the Marcelluses to Davenport. Alice and her hen-pecked husband made a payment on an established scab-rock farm right next to our place. The Todds settled in Davenport and the two daughters took up school teaching. Later, they married a couple of well-matured Gunning boys, and settled on farms where the grass was greener.
    Alice figured they could farm better with mules whose ancestors came from Missouri. She found such discarded tall and skinny mules from farms in the Harrington district. When Archie, or son Frank, needed a rest she would slip into a pair of overalls and drive a string of mules 'til suppertime.
    After six years of Rocklyn living, old lady Marcellus found the scab-rock produced only rock roses, and the farmland was too thin to keep her two dependants fed Missouri style. She sold out and bought Sandy's Model T Ford agency in Davenport, appointed Frank to sell Fords, and retired Archie.
    While living in Davenport, Alice started to mess around in politics. A Democrat to the very core, her convictions were simple and forceful. She practiced a "live and let live" policy. For local humor and some facts, I wish she were around to help us Democrats today. The local opposition candidates used to walk on the other side of the street when she came downtown. She was the Bella Abzug of her time.
    The old lady was never inside a church 'til her funeral. She claimed she had too many irons in the fire to take time out for such things as religion. Alice used to say, "If there is an ornery devil in the supernatural world, I believe I can handle him." Husband Archie grieved her death considerably and spent many an afternoon up at the Davenport cemetery. "It's that constant sound of her voice that I miss," he would tell my dad.
    Gray-haired Frank, with the old lady gone, felt free to marry that teenage Borck girl. She had been sitting on the sidelines waiting. Upon selling the Ford garage, the newlyweds placed father Archie in the back seat, and drove to Long Beach, California, where he didn't last very long.
    Frank bought an acre of ground on Signal Hill and opened up a service station. Soon a wild-catter drilled a hole and struck oil. This made it possible to pile up more money than he could handle 'til a bunch of professional crooks relieved him of that burden. When Frank died, he was financially as naked as when Alice Marcellus bore him back in Jesse James' country.

  A soggy evening not long ago found Sugar and me at the Wilbur museum. A feller of tall standing, Bob Bandy, introduced a Scotsman who supplied us with interesting slides of early day farm scenes. This Bandy must be a descendant of a Bandy, who in 1922 migrated to the Fred Magin farm from Wild Goose Bill country. Can’t right now locate anyone that knows the baptismal name of this devoted farm hand.* We just called him Bandy, whether it be for dinner or to ask for his attention. His love for horses caused him to take a neutral look at the outside world, and he seemed to have survived pretty well without any women in this later life. (However, Bandy took an extreme interest in the scandalous jury trial of Jennie O. Young, when she was accused of turning Rocklyn’s downtown business district into a pile of ashes.)
    In 1929, Magin asked me to help with some field work, because a family member, Ed Young, was absent. My having slight experience with nags didn’t make any difference with Bandy. From scratch, I was shown the rules of horse management. The lesson began when Bandy opened up the barn door. Rule number one, always start talking to the horses before entering the chained up nags eating place. As we passed down between the horses’ butts, and the hanging harnesses, Bandy greeted each nag by acknowledging their names, then an affectionate pat was given to each rear end. The character and behavior of every animal was explained to me very thoroughly. 
    Bandy sort of had a barber shop way of taking care of Magin’s horses. Clippers, curry comb, and stiff brush was used frequently. Dressing up the horses for pulling purposes was sort of a main event. Showing me how to scatter the harnesses over the backs and necks of those beasts of burden without tangling, took some patience out of Bandy. Any misbehaving nag would receive a vocal disciplinary statement from him. Proper fitting horse collars were a must. “This collar is too loose,” Bandy said, as he jiggled the pear shaped collar. “I’ve been watching that mare, she needs a sweat pad. If the shoulder galls, I use a special jelly of my own,” he stated with the authority of a self-appointed horse doctor. 
    Mr. Bandy was at the height of his glory when he could maneuver a string of nags in the field. A cloud of dust sometimes enveloped both weeder and horses. Snorting sounds would come from the nags as they tried to blow the dust out of their noses. One could tell that Bandy was in that pillar of dust when he uttered “Yaap, yaap” to his team, whatever that meant. 
Waiting for spring was something Bandy didn’t seem to mind. Shoving straw down from a boxed-in strawstack for all the horses to eat was the usual winter chore. Some afternoons found him repairing harnesses. Rivets, a punch and some splicing leather was all he needed. The overhaul was completed when a coat of linseed oil was applied to the harnesses. 
    Like everyone, Bandy never liked the idea of not feeling well. When he developed pains in his arm and shoulder, doctors told him his heart wasn’t so hot. He didn’t like that kind of verdict, so he found a doctor that said he had pleurisy. This made him happy. 
    The last chapter in Bandy’s life came in the spring of 1934 when times were still tough. The Federal Government went in cahoots with the State Department to widen the road east and west from the Rocklyn corner. This included hiring some W.P.A. workers. Several farmers that couldn’t hack it through the Depression got jobs driving Holt 60 Cats. Bandy, with his pet team, was hired to do things the Cats couldn't do. Broke guys on W.P.A. hacked away, trimming up the roughly torn sidebanks; a combination of the steel age, the horse age, and the stone age. 
    One night after driving his nags up and down the construction road all day, Bandy went to the bunk house rather early. The next morning, Bandy’s bed-partner, Warren Hess, had to take over Bandy’s job of shutting off the alarm clock because the weary horse skinner’s heart stopped working. Ed Young, a fellow bunk-house resident, and Warren tore across the yard to tell the Magins the shocking news. 
    Thankfully, with scads of tractors moving in, Bandy never had to witness the sad decline of the horse infected world that he loved so dearly. The pride and skill this old fellow possessed in handling an array of horses from the driver’s seat, was a big deal with him. Seeing Bandy’s sagging brimmed hat hanging on the bunk-house nail and his hand shaped leather gloves laying against the wall on a small table sort of choked us guys up. It gave one a haunted feeling of his presence ’til his few personal things were carted off. *[William Moran Bandy]

  Rocklyn, in its span of existence, had not one, but two guys that took up the lonely life of bachelorhood, Bill Chappell and Ross Parsons. Chappell was the best known bachelor because his wheat farm brought in enough wealth to help the poor before he died in poverty. For a while, Rocklyn remained bachelorless 'til Ross became old enough to take over Chappell’s title. 
    When Ross got big enough to leave home, he homesteaded on the outer edge of Lake Creek, and built himself a shack. By patching up the leaks, the shanty lasted Russ ’til cancer took him away. His quarter bordered on the Rocklyn mail route, making him a naturalized citizen of Rocklyn. 
    Unlike Chappell, Parsons was no threat to the large wheat farmer. He just wanted to raise enough wheat to survive. One of his noted farm cost-cut operations was using two wrought iron bed ends as harrows behind his 10 foot drill. Ross loved the nags he kept for horsepower. He became so protective of his horses that a lightning rod was installed on the barn. One old mare, that was getting up in years, would use her face to nudge Parsons’ cabin door when she got hungry. 
    The small Parsons house sets quite aways back from my sister’s mail route road, but it didn’t give him much communication since Ross was not on the daily list of receiving newspapers or magazines. Neither was his shack blessed with a telephone or radio. When the winter snows got rough, and Ross needed some horse medicine or liver pills for himself, he would tie a floppy rag on a pole, and poke it in the snow. Either my sister or a passing distant neighbor would walk in to see what he wanted. 
    Ross did live a simple and non-expensive life. Years ago, his hamock-type bedspring developed a split, causing Ross’ hips to rest on the floor. A couple of rolled-up steer hides placed in the center of his ruptured bedspring solved the problem. Ross wore his clothes 24 hours a day. Going to bed was no chore, except for crawling under a couple of no-washed blankets. Since his mind was not cluttered up with too many activities, it left lots of room for a remarkable memory.
    Thirty-four years ago from this holiday time, things weren’t much different around here, except quite a few old-timers have completed their life cycles, including Ross. New generations have branched out on family trees. Sugar and I, since then, have collected a face full of normal wrinkles. I suppose if we lived in China, we would be taking in their traditional celebration. Right here we have a double feature going for us - Santa and the Christian celebration. 
    Wherever a person lives, early environment leaves an impression on the memory pattern. It is quite easy to recall things. The year 1947 found us participating in a Christmas program that the country church on the hill put on. Three-fourths of the church population had a part in the program. Pieces about Santa and the Christ child were given to kids up to five feet tall. Anyone that had inherited any musical skill was allowed to do his or her thing. The closing part of the programs was the traditional Chrismas story. To make the final scene more realistic, a silver star was pulled across on a wire to help guide three guys in robes to a mini-manger. 
    When Christmas was only hours away, the Rocklyn hill church bunch attended a Christmas Eve program at the Evangelical Church in Harrington. After exchanging holiday greetings following the program, brothers and sisters of the Ed Mielke family rounded up some singles with the idea of caroling in the wide open spaces. Sugar and I furnished part of the transportation and were used as spare singers. 
    That Christmas Eve happened to have been one of those cold, clear nights with lots of snow. Too much caroling, and getting stuck, made it past midnight before we got to the Wade Adams ranch. The family had just returned from midnight Mass. In the warmth of their home we figured it was worth the risk to try and make it out to Ross Parsons’ shack. After all, Ross was getting stiff from old age, and maybe caroling would wake up his eardrums and make him feel good all over. 
    Still on a high from exercising our vocal chords, we left for the sparsely traveled road that led to the Lake Creek country. After churning and slipping, we made it to Parsons’ private lane. From there on it was a walk-in trip. His unpainted shack stood out like a dark, ghost-like object in the moon-lit snow. After lining up in choir arrangements, carols rolled out over that desolate place. If Ross had been a religious man, he would have thought the angels were coming to take him to a shinier place. 
    All the known carols were sung, and still no sign of Ross. When the Star Spangled Banner was suggested, a flicker of light quivered through the small window, as he placed the chimney on his lighted lamp. Though he looked surprised and bewildered, he seemed pleased that we had put on such a spectacular for him. Ross did know it was Christmas time, because a long nail held calendars.
    Walking back to our cars we realized that all we left Ross was a memory of Christmas carols that penetrated his shack. No one thought to bring him a present or something to eat. Bread, sow belly, coffee and potatoes can be quite monotonous. 
    Distant neighbors and relatives were always concerned about his welfare, and often left some tasty goodies. Eventually he just became a character in his own right. Ross was the last settler around here to live all his adult life on land that the government gave away. 
    Distant neighbors and relatives were always concerned about his welfare, and often left some tasty goodies. Eventually he just became a character in his own right. Ross was the last settler around here to live all his adult life on land that the government gave away. 

    It’s still kind of hard to shake off old rural school stories, especially after visiting with Harry Schneider. Harry and I just made it through the eighth grade and were able to survive. Our lack of education made us aware of what we didn’t know, and made us appreciate what we learned afterwards. 
    Harry was a product of the Depression days. A handsome young lad who came from the plains of Canada and North Dakota, where he learned to sing a lot of prairie songs. There was lots of room back there on those wind swept farms for parents to raise lots of kids, but to grow enough food to feed them during those drought years of the 1930's was a problem. 
    One by one lots of young guys left the Dakotas for Washington with the hopes of finding farm work. One of Harry’s brothers, Jack, had beat it in a westerly direction on a bicycle ’til he found a haven here at Reardan. Later Harry decided to follow his brother via the railroad tracks where boxcars served as fresh air transportation to the Inland Empire. He took with him his wealth in the form of a twenty dollar bill, and used the sole of one of his shoes as a safety deposit box for that Federal Reserve Note. It was to be used only in an extreme emergency. His loose change of 75 cents lay scattered around in a pocket. 
    When Harry jumped off the freight train out here, every cent was accounted for. His hungry looks got him here free of charge. Landing in a strange territory took some getting used to for this shy young fellow. Befriended by the Rudolph Raugust family, he was helped from getting too homesick. After earning some money, Harry was able to buy a guitar and other things that a young man in the west should have. 
    Taking newcomer Schneider for an outing in Spokane proved to be fun. He enjoyed window shopping when he saw an array of musical instruments or some snappy western displays. Dad treated him to all the milk shakes he could hold. I don’t remember for sure how many shakes he drank, but at 15 cents a crack it was starting to add up. The milk shakes kept Harry in a nourished condition all during the movie we attended. 
    The scab rock lands of Rocklyn was where Harry shone the brightest. Working for Frank Selde, the Olighers, and other cattle ranchers fulfilled his dreams of the west. In his spare time he had the challenge of stopping an outlaw horse named Tracy from tossing him in the air. Quite a conquest, for Tracy wouldn’t allow anyone but Harry to sit on his back. Finally Tracy was sold to the US Cavalry, and probably was used only as a riderless horse in funeral parades. 
    Harry’s singing voice did go public for a while. He placed first in an amateur contest at the Orpheum Theater. His performance landed him a job at the Coeur d’Alene Hotel’s Dutch Mill, ’til work out at Rocklyn beckoned him back. 
    While working on the John Oligher cattle ranch during daylight time, Harry was able to make use of his sleepy time hours for a while. He got a night time job on the building of the Mondovi elevator. The elevator got built to its proper height before burn-out set in. 
    Things got going for Harry ever since those days of establishing himself. Seems like he was able to cross over a lot of thin ice safely. He is now the main farm owner in the center of Rocklyn, and the surrounding territory. A local farmer’s daughter fell for Harry. It was ditto for him too. Then a marriage took place between Harry and Marj Knack, and the two raised a typical family. 
    Mr. Schneider’s love for cattle still exists, and now he has oodles of pasture land. A lot of his farm holdings are under irrigation supplying choice feed for all those animals that some day will land in meat eaters’ plates. In partners with his son, Sam, it takes four combines to harvest their crops. Harry is starting his retirement process by getting rid of his insurance agency at Reardan. All this is quite a record for a boxcar kid from North Dakota. 

"Go West Young Man" Kick-Back Country, page 45

DRAFT - list of all characters in Kik-Backs

Alice Marcellus
Frank Marcellus
Ed Kruger
Lynn Gunning
(David) Gunning
2 Todd girls married 2 gunning boys