Grass...Just Waiting to be Chewed Off

Wagon trails that vanished by never turning into roads were once common in Lincoln County. This was before surveyors made wandering people stay on section lines. Early settlers and explorers took the path of least resistance by just looking ahead, then aiming their teams between the sagebrush, and telling the horses to get going. 

There are a number of early day stories about trails that do not have an author. The Mosquito Springs Trail is well documented, so is worth reciting. 

This wagon-freighting trail went past our back porch. (Yes, part of our house is that old.) This trail came out of Cottonwood Springs, now Davenport. It went west for five miles. Then the wagon tracks curved northwest for another five miles to Mosquito Springs, so named because old-timers found lots of mosquitos living there. The trail then stretched its way to [Fort] Okanogan. 

A sprouting freight company figured this cool spring would be an ideal spot to exchange horses. There was lots of knee-high virgin grass growing all around this typhoid-free watering hole, just waiting to be chewed off. The company erected a good-sized cabin, including a fireplace made from rocks that were just laying around there. 

A guy was hired that understood horses, and his job was to jump out of the cabin when a freight wagon arrived from either direction. He would strip the tired horses of their pulling outfits, while the wagon skinner would usually stretch his legs, take off his hat, and bend over the spring for a cool drink. 

Each animal’s front legs were then hobbled, making it possible for the horses to fall flat on their faces if they tried to run away. The poor dears soon learned to eat the bunch grass that was there and to be ready to do more pulling when the next exchange string of beasts arrived at this rest stop. 

The first guy that was hired to occupy this lonely post was known as the “Squaw Man”. After a few weeks he got tired of swatting mosquitos and started hankering for a squaw. It didn’t take him long to run off with one, and he eventually settled around the Okanogan country where he started a family. 

These old freighting wagons that went by Mosquito Springs were called high-wheeled wagons. Their axels came equipped with tall, narrow wheels, making road clearance out of this world. They were designed to slip-slide around rocks much better than the usual wide, squatty-looking wheels that came with the later flatbed wagons. The back wagon got its steering tongue amputated to half length, so it would follow better when it was hooked on back of the front wagon. 

Business was neat while it lasted. The brand new settlers along the way needed sow belly (bacon) and lots of flour to make all the sour dough bread they could eat. 

Of course, these wagons carried other stuff that wasn’t needed tor the stomach, and occasionally would pick up a wanderer that happened to be horseless. One such fellow who was dressed like a dude asked for a ride. The wagon master soon found himself listening to the vagabond’s account of how the government rewarded him for cleaning out all the hostile redskins that were hiding in the Dakota badlands. He claimed he was known as “Death on the Trail", because of his renowned ability of tracking down these bad Indians and eradicating them. 

After leaving the supply wagon at Bridgeport, old “Death on the Trail” was wanted for selling “firewater” to the Spokane Indians and was soon picked up by the Feds from Fort Okanogan. 

Who were the outdoorsmen that drove these rigs? The two main guys were the Brink boys. Milo, the oldest, was a colorful, early day, territorial character with a long-handled mustache, who as a lad of 18 rode the grasslands between Cottonwood Springs and the Moses Coulee for Barney Fitzpatrick, Davenport’s pioneer cattleman. 

When a handful of investors put together the Big Bend Freight Company, Milo and his brother Bill were hired to drive those cargo hauling wagons to Okanogan and back. For a short time the company got a contract to haul freight and passengers to Fort Spokane. Bill then got transferred. 

They used a real stagecoach for this run. It had lots of room on top to tie down things the Fort bosses wanted. This route lasted until the government decided that the local Indians didn't act or look very dangerous. The soldiers soon left to where people were making more fuss. 

Milo’s daughter, Roxie Nichols, recalls vividly when as a girl of 12 she went with her uncle on his last run to the Fort. She excitedly sat next to him where the brake lever and the lines were located. Bill’s last load consisted of fare-paying Indians that rode down in the enclosed hatch. Riding in the back, laying in a lump, was a tied-down Fort order of sugar and flour, also a case of Davenport’s own brand of homemade lye soap. 

When the horse-powered, fresh-aired freighting days ended. Bill got to be a U.S. Marshal, and was sent to California. Milo, years later, took a job as deputy sheriff for Lincoln County. Time buried the Brink boys, and the settlers’ plows buried their trails. However, some of their trails are still visible on the scabland in section 22, range 36.

"Wagon Trails" Kik-Backs, p. 18

Walt Kik
Mosquito Springs and Walt's House

Milo Brink
Spokane Chronicle Aug 12, 1914


To See If I Should Shiver or Not

A pioneer family of German descent who owns a farm of plenty acres between Harrington and Highway 2, carries out a heritage tradition on a half-acre patch of potatoes that is located in a stubble field. Family members will use muscles to dig the spuds, and fill buckets with their findings to be stored in the cellar. They usually get about six sacks, as weather is not too gentle around here for potatoes. 

This family scene could easily be a duplication of rural Germany, because in the background up on a hill sets a country church that their grandfather helped build. It is still being put to use when Sunday morning rolls around. 

By using ingenuity and the most modern farm equipment, this family was able to develop an excellent wheat and cattle ranch. Yet, from their busy schedule they take time out in the spring to drop seed potatoes in this draw. 

Later, a member or two of the family is sent out with a hoe to weed the potato patch. When the spuds are ripe, a lot of time is spent to fork the potatoes out of the ground. This ritual is brought about by a way of life that has been adopted by many modern farm families. History may record them as “potato cults.” 

Maybe it’s caused by the times when we all had to scratch for a living. Everyone, I think, has some eccentric habits that could have been caused from early environment. 

I remember years ago, an old guy from the Mondovi area that was a farmer and a carpenter. He was pretty well heeled. He was of normal build and seemed to be well adjusted. Yet, on his idle days, he would salvage through old buildings that were torn down, picking up all the stray nails, then filing them by size to be used on his next building project. He had enough money to buy a whole trainload of nails. He, too, was not a tight wad, just eccentric. 

Let’s take a peek at my sister. She has a good job; her children flew the coop a long time ago. She showers her immediate family with expensive gifts. When she returns from one of her travels, a few tiny bars of motel soap are taken out of her purse. She proceeds to cut them up, and dumps the shavings into her automatic washer. 

I thought that I didn’t have any odd ball habits. Just thought that everybody was out of step but me, until Sugar reminded me how I used to burn up more gasoline in Spokane than I saved by looking for the cheapest station to tank up. (This was before the Arabs took the fun out of it). 

“Then what about your television phobia?” Sugar added. Yes, we do have an excellent TV set in our front room. Ya, sure, that’s normal, but why do I have just as good a TV in the kitchen too? Not only that, but there’s a TV in each bedroom and one out in the shop, plus a backup set if one of the five TVs should clunk out. 

At one time I was involved in repairing television sets; maybe that can explain my mania. But what bothers me is that I have two 12-inch round-faced thermometers that stare in from the two north windows. It gives Sugar the willies. Then there is that duplicate one on the north side of the house and another in the shop. 

Now wait a minute, that doesn’t include ten long-necked thermometers that have red bulbs. They are hanging here and there, plus one in my swimbag so I can test the water to see if I should shiver or not. This carried away hangup does waste a lot of unnecessary raw material and helps contribute to inflation. Does anyone want a free thermometer or two? Stop in!

 "Inherited Hang-ups" Kick-Backs, p. 13

Drawing by Phyllis Hinkins


If Your Stomach is Empty or Not

My eating out habit came on slow and never developed into anything big. It got started at a modern speed the night Sugar and I eloped. It was after midnight on our way to Coeur d’Alene when Sugar started to look hungry. We stopped at Davenport’s 24 hour eating place that was run by Carrol Vermillion. 

While settling down to an interesting married life, we took outings to Spokane and did things in a big way by eating at the Washington Street Market. A Dutchman and his wife would serve a plate full of dinner, including soup and pie, for 25 cents. There was a cover charge of five cents to have a scoop of ice cream dumped on Sugar’s pie. 

It’s been nearly fifty years since a buck bought a lot of stuff. Inflation has changed the scenery to a scary point. It’s now almost a must to carry a checkbook when you eat out, as lots of money does take up billfold space. 

Great Grandpa Deppner learned a lot about eating out, when he joined in on a flying weekend to Winnepeg with his son-in-law George and daughters, Edwina and Sugar. While there, they all got together with Canadian relatives for a fling of eating out. Great Grandpa picked up the menu and found out that plate of steak came to $13.25. “Whoopee”, came the sound from Grandpa’s mouth, “That’s more than I used to get for a steer.” 

Now days, it seems like it’s the ‘in thing’ to eat out. Scott Pritchard, a weekly food columnist, quoted a statement made by the American Health Magazine. “We have more single-member, single-parents and double income families than ever before. We eat out on the average of four times a week...Sales on all kitchen appliances are down, except for the microwave, now in 60 percent of all American homes." There is no reason for anyone to starve while in Davenport. Restaurants and small eating places are alternately placed right and left. Upon entering Davenport from the west, Ellie’s Deli stands out handy like for the local and Canadian trade, followed by Granny’s Grotto Restaurant. Then comes Carman’s Bakery, if a good sandwich, coffee and a doughnut will do you. The Cottonwood Inn is just a block north where the old historical Columbia Hotel once stood. Lucky Lady Tavern has things to eat, also Ernie’s Tavern Food. Hangar Number One, formerly Mittens, is the largest restaurant on Morgan Street. There has been a restaurant on that site ever since I was born. 

Heading east, Edna’s Drive-in is your last chance to check if your stomach is empty or not. Farther down the line is Lincoln Lanes Anchorman Cafe. They do supply lots of good food that bowlers and spectators need. 

"Eating Out" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 49

Walt Kik
My photograph from 1972


Cupboards as Bare as Their Fields

One Farmer's Crisis, Part 2          (Part 1)

For those early Odessians, it was no easy chore to reach their fulfillment. The depression of the early thirties wasn’t very kind to the Ritzvile-Odessa farmers. They had a harder time scratching for a living than us northerners did. Ed Kiesz told us once that even the birds had to lower themselves on their knees to look for food. 

No crops meant no straw. To keep their horses' stomachs from collapsing, my other cousin Gottlieb had to make mercy trips up to Lords Valley where straw was being sold. 

With cupboards as bare as their fields, most of the dust bowl farmers beat it to the apple country, where the pickings were better. When apple picking money got into their pockets, they returned back home, and started dreaming of better farming days. 

The season of 1931, Ed Kiesz didn’t have to follow Odessa’s fall migration to the apple country. He had married into the Raugust clan. One of them, Rudolph Raugust got out of the Odessa area before the dust storms hit, and took up farming north of Davenport. 

When Ed got his two and a half bushel per acre crop scooped up, he kissed his wife Bertha and kids goodbye, and drove his two door Model T Ford Sedan into Odessa. He told Bill Raugust who was running the Odessa Trading Company, that he could come out to the ranch and get those drills, as he had no dough to pay for them. 

Needing survival money, Ed headed northwest to Davenport, and to his wife’s relative’s farm. He then made himself available to sew all the sacks that got filled on Rudy Raugust’s combine. 

It was a hot August Sunday when Ed stopped in to spend his first Davenport day of rest with us. Due to being broke, Ed Kiesz’s personality spark was missing. He looked tired. He told about the harvest job he got up here where the land was blessed. Ed said he didn’t want to know ’til the next week whether the Trading Company would extend his debts. 

Ed tried to take a nap on the floor. All at once he jumped up and called Bill Raugust, and asked, “Say, by golly, are you going to let me keep those drills, so I can farm?” 

The way Ed started to wisecrack on the phone, we could tell he was getting a 12 month reprieve on part of his farm machinery. When Ed hung up, he said, “Wonder of wonders, dam, I feel good! Let me take you all for a ride in my Model T. It’s all gassed up and is almost dust proof.” 

"One Farmer’s Crisis" Kik-Back Country, p. 44

Walt Kik
Sister, Ed Keisz, me and mother, blocking the view of Ed's Dust bowl limousine


Homespun Insights, Part 2

There is a small percentage of older folks that love to give their idea of good advice when they are no longer able to set a bad example.

Time eventually will place us all on that trail that leads to the sunset of life. Yet, one shouldn’t complain about getting old, as it’s a privilege denied to many. 

Shacks were getting nailed together, people were walking around in all directions, and the rattlesnakes were getting jittery.

The only records I ever kept on the wall calendar was the number of eggs gathered each day, and later when I got married, the amount of money that was missing when Sugar needed things. 

Ah, spring, beautiful spring! Once again the growing season is here in full force. Let’s enjoy nature with it’s gifts of wildflowers, birds and other living things that still abound between towns and heavily settled areas.

Many farmers figure spring hasn’t arrived until my shirt comes off, so I do serve some useful purpose. 

In defense of the rest of us that choose other ways of getting started with our mates, there is no concrete evidence that couples going through this kind of silver-plated [marriage] ritual ever live out any smoother lives. 

Kids are the best kind of people, because everything you do for them is still new, and it’s easy to make them happy. Besides you can act like a kid with them and enjoy the fun part of life. 

Homespun Insights, Part 1

A M Kendrick - Ritzville
Mary Ann Bier / Ritzville 1936


A Lady of Different Virtue

 The town [Rocklyn] stayed on the straight and narrow path ’til a lady of different virtue bought out this frontier town in 1924. The family car was getting well established by then, making shopping in Davenport very attractive. This brought up the question: How could a highly motivated woman stay in business if she depended on legal business? She couldn’t, but luck was with her. The 20's were known as the rum-running days of the Al Capone era. A long black Hudson car from Canada would drive up in the dark of the night, and unload some bootleg whiskey. 

Did the virtuous Rocklynites buy her booze? Not that I know of. You see, the railroad was overhauling their line at that time. A work gang was parked at Rocklyn. She supplied the section hands with bootleg booze and other goodies. Some of the women-folk around the community were a little fussy about trusting the new owner. They’d just as soon their spouses wouldn’t hang around the store very long. 

When the railroad rails got all the new ties they needed, business slowed down enough to where the new store owner found reasons to take the passenger train to Spokane. About the time she got herself unloaded in the big city, the business district of Rocklyn went up in smoke. This shady lady was promptly arrested for arson. A jury trial was held in Davenport. The courthouse was packed with pre-verdict decision spectators. Many a Rocklynite never missed witnessing a single episode of this sensational trial. 

The evidence wasn’t sufficient, except it all looked mighty fishy. She was accused of vamping the jury with her charm. Justice ruled. She went free to parts unknown. 

"Rocklyn, Just a Mirage?" Kik-Backs, p. 46

Spokane Chronicle Dec. 6, 1924 and Jan. 28, 1925


When the Ed Kieszes Got Citified

Sometimes when I’m in Odessa, I can’t help but think of my cousin, Ed Kiesz. He farmed in the heart of the old Russian thistle country near Batum. In those early days, Ed used to say, “It takes more faith than guts to farm out there.” 

As time passed, better farm methods, and a few extra thunderstorms made it possible for Ed and his family to move to the residential district in Odessa. He then began to enjoy semi-retirement with the rest of the Germans from Russia that had already reached their material gains. 

When the Ed Kieszes got citified, Sugar and I went down to see how they were making out. To get the full effects of a typical Sunday in Odessa, we attended the whole works that was going on inside the Congregational Church. 

We were surprised to see Ed teaching the adult Sunday School class. With his sense of humor, we became interested in seeing how he was making out. After all, Sunday School usually is a place to work over some serious Bible thoughts. 

The class was discussing a well known Biblical person. Some figured this certain guy was wishy-washy. Finally Ed ended the discussion by saying, “No he wasn’t that kind of a bird. He was a man of strong faith, even though he may have sounded a little wobbly at times.” 

Before the services, I asked Ed how he made out when he taught Sunday School, “Oh I give all those Bible characters a lot of credit for what they did. When things get a little hairy, I sort of let the rest of the class figure things out.” 

"One Farmer’s Crisis" Kik-Back Country, p. 44

Walt Kik


Captain...of this Grain Devourer

Under present conditions [low wheat prices], there can be some hope for the freshly molded farmers that are starting from scratch. Even realizing one does need modern tillage equipment, what’s the matter with swallowing a little pride, and using your mechanical ability to restore someone’s discarded tractor or combine? Yea, I know, new parts for those old wrecks can cost like all get-out. 

First, before putting those restoring thoughts out of your mind, let’s take a look at some of the better healed farmers. For instance, the Mielke brothers, Carl and George. Their spread is among the bigger spreads. They do own expensive, modern farm equipment, but are saving thousands of dollars by staying with large tractors of bygone days; also a combine that is a priceless relic. 

The Mielkes get their used tractors from all over the Northwest. A certain amount of them are used to patch up the ones they choose to rebuild. When one of these power-giants clunk out, they are towed up close to their shop and left there ’til idle winter days roll around. Then, with the use of a lot of wrenches, these rigs are brought back into service. 

George and Carl also keep alive a 31-year-old John Deere pull machine by transplanting healthy parts from a graveyard of 12 machines that are resting in peace behind George’s farmstead. These 20-foot swath monster rigs, when new, sold for only $4,200. 

George is the captain and operator of this grain devourer. He seats himself on a stool between the bulk tank and the header punching wheel. In front of his stool is a series of cables running up from the tractor. He is then able to steer the “cat,” shift its gears, and other stuff that is necessary to make the operator-less tractor behave. It’s really a sight for sore eyes. 

It was so well worth witnessing that Sugar and I, last harvest, hosted a charter bus load of kids, teachers, and interested parents from the Early Learning Center of the Spokane Falls Community College. We wanted them to see for themselves how a recycled machine could save operating expenses for the Mielkes, as it circled the hillside of heavy standing wheat. 

This old machine, with its large railed-in deck and catwalks, was able to hold 42 of our touring group, including a blind boy and a deaf lad. Everyone had a thrill of a lifetime riding and watching this ancient harvester busily doing its thing. 

Is it practical to run this antique harvester from another era? Yes, it sure is, if your farm is not scattered all over heck and back. Money is not needed to keep it in working order, and you don’t have to be an acrobat to replace worn parts. Inspection is easily done by taking a stroll around the machine. 

The guided tour folks could not watch the operation of Mielke’s latest self-propel, because it was setting down in Carl’s yard with an ailing sealed bearing that was not supposed to go out. The bearing was located in such a place that it took a welding torch, sledge hammers, and nearly two days of hard work to put this $65,000 rig back in the harvest fields. 

 "A Relic Lives On" Kik-Backs, p. 47

Walt Kik
George Mielke beside his "John Deere pull machine" and "operator-less tractor"
Photograph courtesy of Roberta Hein


Wrap Ourselves in the Constitution

Comment, Part 2 (previous)

Michael Farris, the mouth-piece for the Northwest Moral Majority, points out correctly that the phrase “separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution. As far as that goes, neither does the word “God." The Constitution begins with the words “We the People" and continues with no reference to divine authority. Farris seems to think that the “separation of church and state” was invented by the ACLU. A good compliment, but Thomas Jefferson had already received that honor. 

The Moral Majority is adapted to the age of mass selling and deals in slogans and symbols, mainly in the flag “old glory," what Jerry Falwell calls it in the coupon that says “Please rush my parchment Christian Bill of Rights and Old Glory lapel pin to me immediately.” 

It’s like book publisher Dan Lavant stated, “We all need and use symbols, and many people can be moved by the flag. But no one can search in a flag, learn from a flag, balance a nation on a flag.” The Moral Majority wants to wrap themselves in the flag, most of us would rather wrap ourselves in the Constitution. 

"Comment" Kik-Backs, p. 88

Walt Kik

Walt Kik


It Would Give Off a Pleasing Purr

Since I’m retired and getting along in years, I have a shocking feeling I may be turning into an old eccentric, but I can’t help it. Especially when I think back to those older model tractors. They really had a personality, and were part of you. 

Those two-and-four cylinder motors turned over at a slow enough speed that they actually talked to you. On a cold morning, they would cough a few times to let you know they were clearing their throats, and getting ready for a hard day’s work. Upon approaching a hard pull, sounds could almost be counted and felt. Once over the hill, it would give off a pleasing purr for you, in a relaxing feeling of accomplishment. 

In contrast, most of these modern tractors have motors that have a battery of cylinders sticking out all over the motor block on both sides, and the crankshaft turning over at speeds of a hydroplane. They emit only sounds of excitement that don’t communicate with you. Yet, when these rigs don’t bust to pieces, they can screech along, pulling their heavy load in a very busy way. 

Several tractors in my neighborhood, with their high-speed motors, develop symptoms of internal belly aches, without letting the operator know a thing about it. Soon the owners have the motor’s intestines laying all over the shop’s operating table, trying to repair the damage and restore life. 

Things started getting out of hand when I bought my last low RPM, two-cylinder tractor. It came out with an electric starter just to start a ridiculously designed four-cylinder starting motor, that finally, by an array of levers, started my two-cylinder tractor. My repair book showed that this starting setup had over three times the parts than the main power plant had. 

All this is a far cry from a trip Sugar and I took into Canada awhile back, when we ran across an old English-built, four-plow, one-cylinder, diesel tractor. How did they start this rig? Very simple; you just casually turned the outside flywheel over to a certain marking, then you opened up a small chamber and placed a shot-gun shell (minus the pellets) into it, closed the lid, and hit it with a hammer. 

"Tractors, Old And New" Kik-Backs, p.45

Walt Kik

(The one-cylinder can be seen protruding from the front.)


Sentimentally Cracks Me Up

For those of you whose birthday has crept past the half century mark, there is a good chance vibes of nostalgia entered your mind, when on TV, a couple of bars or so of Glenn Miller’s music was played for advertising purposes. Glenn’s music was so popular during World War II. It literally woke up a whole pile of my sleeping memory cells. I’m told that everyone’s memory slots are located above the right ear and in the direction where the first sign of baldness sets in on the aging male. 

Rock and disco music weren’t even on the drawing board when Glenn Miller played all those haunting tunes. They were copied by every dance orchestra. Hearing Glenn’s tunes sentimentally cracks me up. Like in any war, many young men never came back, making lots of temporary widows 'til they married a substitute. 

There was a certain sweetness to life in those days that our present boldness has wiped out. It was an era when you learned about things rather late in life, and in small doses. 

When the “Blue Skirt Waltz” was on the national number one list, I bought my young wife a blue dress. It was so beautiful, and made perfectly for dancing. The accordian-like pleats went all around Sugar’s waist. When she whirled to the tune of the “Blue Skirt Waltz," her body was in the center of all that flared out material. 

Those were the days when women wore square shouldered dresses, and rather bulky looking laced oxfords. Seamless stockings and panty-hose were not invented yet. Skirts were almost short enough to please the men. Marlena Dietrich liberated women by encouraging them to wear slacks, but unseen authorities at that time said slacks were a no-no in places like church and other kinds of buildings. 

"World War Two Memories" Kik-Backs, p. 42 (continued)

Walt Kik

Walt Kik


Dreamy Innocence Prevailed

When the war [WW II] broke out, prices were still cheap. At the Washington Market in downtown Spokane, you could get a dinner for 25¢, including soup, coffee, pie, and a soup spoon. If you happened to have the time and some loose change, you could see an afternoon movie for 15¢. In a movie house where the lobby held some lounges and had a can you didn’t mind using, the price came to 25¢. When it got dark, you were socked up to 40¢. 

If your eyes and buttocks could stand three and one-half to four hours of movies, you would see two full length feature films, plus all the news that was not quite a week old, a cartoon of the Mickey Mouse variety, and sometimes a travelogue. Replacing lost calories usually took place during the advertising of coming attractions. 

Most B rated pictures were the usual "boy meets girl" variety. After a reel or two, it was time for them to start a fight. A lot of hot-headed words would start flying around for awhile, causing the audience to get concerned. After the projectionist put on the last reel, forgiveness and happiness entered their hearts, and they would wind up kissing each other for a very long time, but nothing else happened. 

Dreamy innocence prevailed in those days. It gave one a feeling that life had no problems, if one would just kiss long enough. It was not reality. Nowdays, TV and R rated movies show us the cold, rather unromantic facts of life, leaving everyone educated, even before we have time to find it all out for ourselves. 

"World War Two Memories" Kik-Backs, p. 42

Walt Kik


Kids Are the Best Kind of People

Helping Sugar with her 4-H clubs throughout the years, gave me a high. Kids are the best kind of people, because everything you do for them is still new, and it’s easy to make them happy. Besides you can act like a kid with them, and enjoy the fun part of life. 

It all began when we were fresh married. With the aid of a brand new county extension agent, Alice Gimlin, Sugar was able to start her first 4-H club. Lacking in experience, her group did manage to make a lot of gooey cookies, and helped in community paper drives and stuff like that. 

A few years later, with her second group, Sugar didn’t giggle as much and was able to make a steady successful 4-H leader. Being a flunky, I didn’t have to advance so fast. 

I think Sugar’s third group was one of the first to camp out nature-style down at Lake Roosevelt. It was on a bare spot that later became Camp Na-Bor-Lee. Sure, there was lots of sand, trees, and water, but that was all. The back end of the truck held all the adventurous 4-H girls that cared to go. 

Night facilities included a pup tent where Sugar’s and Betty Brown’s feet stuck out, and a large survival canvas for the girls. 

When Camp Na-Bor-Lee got organized, volunteer minded workers made it look like a campsite. The surrounding 4-H clubs consolidated to hold an annual four day blowout. 

In the 1960s, Sugar and Betty Brown were the camp cooks. Bob Draper, the instigator of this setup, supplied all the portable equipment necessary to bring camping out of the primitive stage. I posed as the lifeguard and beach entertainment guy. 

Working with 4-H kids is a satisfying experience that’s worth a guy’s time. It’s much easier than being a parent because when the kid’s outing time is over it’s up to the parents for continual daily guidance. 

I probably never contributed much constructive knowledge that the kids cared to soak up. I did enjoy helping out with harmless ventures that the young folks insisted on. 

Wanting to do something adventurous one summer, a group of returnees drooled to set up their club headquarters on Na-Bor-Lee’s lonely island. The idea was met with disapproval, but was never handed a complete no-no. More guts entered the young ladies’ systems when the county agent’s daughter said she would join them on their planned invasion of the island. 

By pretending to have a good time with the row boat, I was able to smuggle the girls’ paraphernalia, and tent over from the mainland. The protection of nightfall helped disguise what we were up to. A shallow but cold water swim brought the girls across to their island retreat. 

Sleep didn’t enter my mind that night. I kept thinking those girls would forget to wake up in time to get across for camp reveille. When daylight came, bless their hearts, they swam back before the bugle tooted its waking up camp notes. 

They were allowed to keep their headquarters for the duration. It turned out to be one of the most interesting places to visit, or sunbathe before swimming back. 

Like all nicely run 4-H camps, constructive work shops, and programs were always well arranged. 

When afternoon play time arrived, it was fun having the boys make their own racing rafts out of drift wood. The final afternoon was when the big raft racing event took place. 

The boys got to pick their favorite camp girls as copilots to help them navigate their rafts to victory. Or to help pick up the pieces if the raft deteriorated in the middle of the bay. Even a battery operated sound system was used so the spectators onshore could receive instant race results. 

Oh sure, there was some camp sadness. A couple of youngsters developed homesickness. It’s a terrible disease. I catch it easy, if I’m over 400 miles from home. One 4-H-er, I just had to take back when he thought more of home than he did of Camp Na-Bor-Lee. 

On the second day of camp life, I found my little niece, Roberta standing in a zombie like pose. She came very near caving in from homesickness. However, she was able to sweat it out when I promised to check on her folks, and see how her pet ducks were making out. Also, have her mother tell me the outcome of her favorite weekly TV episode so I could relay the story back to her. 

Moving a truck load of kids back to their homes always included an afternoon stop-over at Fort Spokane, or Porcupine Bay. An extra bonus swim was then enjoyed, and the last crumbs of camp scraps were used as food. 

Our final 4-H days came to an end with the dispensing of our Jolly Joggers club. For health reasons, it was something we all enjoyed. When the running craze set in, it was not necessary to keep going. There are now oceans of folks to run with. All in all, it was those 4-H days that Sugar and I will always remember. 

"4-H Camp" Kik-Back Country, p. 40

Walt Kik
The last days of the 4-H Jolly Joggers

Walt Kik
Spokesman-Review 20th June 1965

Walt Kik
"...set up their club headquarters on Na-Bor-Lee’s lonely island."


Wheat Was Finally Needed

 A long time ago farmers had to creep before they could walk. When 1939 rolled around, the price of wheat had doubled itself from the rock bottom price in 1932. Even with that 100% price raise, wheat was still selling for less than a dollar. Yet, a bushel of wheat bought more stuff 46 years ago than it does now. In some ways, farmers that were broke then, were in much better shape than the speculative farmers that are in debt today. 

In those pre-war days a lot of us farmers didn’t have much money in our pockets, but it didn’t cost anything to wait for better times. When 1942 showed up, wheat was finally needed, and inflation stood still for a long period of time due to a government price freeze. 


"Honeymoon Days" Kik-Back Country, p. 39

Walt Kik


Maybe It's All Worth It

I’m not the type to go in for big weddings - usually everyone benefits but the bride and bridegroom, but this one Saturday, known as the Mielke-Hein event, was an interfaith ceremony. It made a person feel good all over, a sign of maturity. 

The weather was still behaving itself as we left the church in that long funeral-like procession out to our little old niece’s childhood ranch. Her folks had a lake with trees and “gobs and gobs” of lawn to make everyone happy, plus a free lunch and a wedding cake which you could eat, or take home for a souvenir, or feed it to Roberta’s ducks. Putting on an affair of this kind costs scads of dough and lots of time, but tickled Roberta as her dreams came true. 

A flock of relatives had expensive cameras at the wedding to take pictures with, but somehow that didn’t look right. So for approximately $300 a guy was hired to stand and look official-like while clicking lots of pictures from every angle possible. 

Maybe it’s all worth it, if it fulfills the bride’s dream. After all it’s her show and one shouldn’t attend, except for respect and good wishes. In defense of the rest of us that choose other ways of getting started with our mates, there is no concrete evidence that couples going through this kind of silver-plated ritual ever live out any smoother lives. 

Our preparation for marriage, many years ago, took only from midnight ’til noon the next day. Digest version:

After taking Sugar home from a Grange dance...

Sugar: “Don’t walk me to the house tonight, the folks may hear us.” 

Me: “OK.” 

Both: “Smack, smack.” The next 21 seconds, silence. 

Then Sugar: “Gee, I’m locked out!” 

Then me: “Golly!” 

Sugar: “What am I going to do?” 

Me: “Well, let's go over to my house and think things over for a spell.”

Later, entering my pad...

Sugar: “Now what?” 

Me: “Shall we elope?” 

Sugar: “I don’t care, I love you.” 

Me, (thinking to myself): "This is scary. Suppose Sugar turns out not to be a Sugar?"

Sugar, (also thinking to herself): "How do I know he isn’t full of more things than just peanuts?"

Me: “Do you know anything about sex?” 

Sugar: “A little, sometimes the conductor throws off a True Story Magazine, when the train goes by the house.” 

Me: "I have an outdated sex book, but it’s kinda for the birds.”

Next day at Coeur d’Alene, a brother and sister standing on the sidewalk next to a marriage mill... 

Brother speaking: “Hi! We can be your witness for 50 cents apiece.” 

Me: “OK.” 

Brother speaking: “We will take you to Uncle Barton.”

Entering a small room...

Me: “I wonder if that wobbly old guy over in the corner will be the one that will marry us?” 

Sugar: “Not so loud, he may hear you.” 

Wobbly Old Guy: “I’ll be there in a minute. Have your license ready because I close at noon on Saturdays.”

Uncle Barton went through the marriage vows so fast I had to be told that I owed him $2.50.

 "Weddings" Kik-Backs, p. 4

Spokane Chronicle 7 Dec 1939


A Tongue-Tied Cowboy

During the turn of the century, there lived a guy in his twenties that made his home where he could find an outdoor job. His circle of operations was around the Harrington country. He answered by the name of ‘Speedball,’ but letters he had written arrived under the name of Wes McCann. I guess Speedball could have been called a cowboy by trade. He really was no speed-ball, and usually would end up breaking even financially by the end of the year. 

How did Speedball get started accumulating what earthly possessions he ever owned? Well, his makeup left him wide open for a shrewd guy and horse trader like Willis Thorp, who migrated up to the Lake Creek country from Ellenburg. He had a string of Ben Snipe’s ancestral ponies with him. Snipe at one time was a well known early day cattleman, and all around big shot. Any of Snipe’s riding stock whether real or fraud, usually brought a premium price. 

Before hiring Speedball to herd his saleable horses in all that lush Lake Creek grass, Willis sold him a high priced horse that had some of Ben Snipe’s breeding stock flowing in its veins. Also a used, hand stamped saddle that saw many a cowboy’s fanny, and a fiddle that was supposed to have been made out of a special kind of wood. Willis also threw in a couple of personally conducted violin lessons. 

My dad told me that Speedball did his job best when the job required his horse. He ate, lived, and slept for the love of his horse and saddle. In fact he once dreamed that his saddle was stolen. After that nightmare, Speedball almost became obsessed that someone would steal his fancy riding seat. 

Horse trader, Willis Thorp, had Speedball sewed up for over a year as his boy Friday, by selling all this stuff to him on credit. Not only that, Speedball had to use his debt ridden horse and saddle for his daily horse-riding chore for Willis. He did however, get all the sour dough biscuits and bacon he could eat. Mr. Thorp and Speed-ball made their headquarters at the Kik Brothers ranch. 

Cowboys usually got their evenings off. This gave Speedball time to listen in on an after supper bachelor’s bull session. Naturally, women entered the conversation. Speedy’s ears picked up the information that over the ridge lives a homesteader that had a grown teen aged daughter who’s mother had gone to the great beyond. It made this girl, Anna, half an orphan. Her daily chore was caring for her younger brothers. 

Starved for the sight of a pretty girl, Speedball asked dad if he wouldn’t mind going with him to Anna’s place and introduce him. Then to stick around a while and help him josh with this young lady. 

Rain, the next evening, didn’t dampen Speedball’s enthusiasm for wanting to meet Anna. The two rode over and tied up their transportation by the watering trough, then Speedball parked his ever present fiddle on the woodpile in case it was needed for entertainment. 

A tongue tied cowboy made getting acquainted with dad’s neighbor quite a chore. Dad said Speedball had the habit of just grinning a lot when the opposite sex was around. This time was no exception when Anna made her presence in the front room that night. To show his protege off, dad suggested that Speedball go out and get his fiddle, and play some music. 

Speedball sprang up before dad finished his suggestion, and headed for the woodpile. But the rare wood in Speedball’s fiddle was too rain drenched for the music to come out right. The ‘Irish Washer Woman’ sounded worse than it was supposed to. 

On the way back to dad’s place, Speedball didn’t comment about Anna ’til they parked their horses in the barn. Then he said, “Anna is pretty, isn’t she?” 

Dreams of the Lake Creek Anna faded from Speedball’s mind suddenly when Johnnie Engle, a big shot farmer from the Harrington district, arrived on the scene. Engle took what was left of Thorp’s highly promoted riding horses. Speedball went with the deal. 

Speedball could write better than he could talk. Dad received a total of two letters from him at his new location. He was lonesome for the Lakes, and the scenic coulees of the Lake Creek country. It was a place where a simple cowby didn’t have to give an account for each day of work. If one of Thorp’s horses couldn’t have been found, there was always another day for riding in search of that wandering horse. 

He just hated riding a plow all day and looking at the rear ends of a string of mules. There were two other guys doing the same thing in that same field. On the bright side, the daily dollar he earned did give him the feeling that some day he would be independent. He was all debt free, and was the legal owner of an aging horse, a well worn saddle, and a fiddle he lost interest in. 

Speedball also stated he wasn’t as bashful as he used to be, and his social life had brightened up some too. He had just been to the Fourth of July dance at Bluestem, and he got to dance twice with a pretty girl. 

"Speedball, The Lonely Cowboy" Kik-Back Country, p. 31


The Real Hero of this Drama

Harry Tracy, Rocklyn's Unwanted Guest, Part 2 (Part 1)

Let’s go back to a Sunday afternoon on a hot day in August 1902, and focus in on the Lou Eddy stock ranch. It was located 15 miles southwest of Davenport. About four miles from this ranch, the real hero of this drama, young George Goldfinch, came upon a man camping in a sheltered high ridge. It was Tracy, but he passed himself off as a miner. The conversation drifted from weather to crops, and to asking the lad where Tracy was. Goldfinch replied that he heard Tracy was supposed to be in the Wilbur area. Tracy then told Goldfinch he was Tracy. 

With a revolver strapped to his hips, and a rifle laying across a pack horse, Tracy asked Goldfinch to lead him to the Eddy ranch. Upon arriving, Tracy made bondage of ranch owners, Lou and Gene Eddy, also Goldfinch. He forced the three to go into a small field to cut hay for his hungry horses. Tracy’s plans were to stay a little while to do some resting up. 

When darkenss set in, Tracy made Lou Eddy fix his revolver holster, and mend his gun belt. Afterwards, he shaved, took a bath, and was Eddy’s uninvited guest for supper. Tracy’s right hand was always less than half an arm’s length from his six shooter. When beddy-time came, Tracy let Goldfinch depart with a warning he would find the two Eddys stiff, if he told anyone of his whereabouts. 

When the lad arrived at the Blenz ranch where he had a job, he told his boss the hair-raising story and asked what to do. But Blenz was too stunned to get involved. So Monday morning, Goldfinch returned to the Eddy ranch on the pretense that he had left a letter there that needed mailing. Godlfinch was quizzed by the bad man who wanted to know where the sheriffs were. The lad replied he didn’t know. 

Goldfinch again was allowed by Tracy to return back to his place of employment with the same threat that he would make rigor-mortis set in on the Eddy brothers if he squealed. The next morning, the lad by himself went to Creston, and sent a telegraph to Sheriff Gardner and asked the operator not to make it public. But a man by the name of Morrison who was in the office at the time, spread the classified news to the Creston citizens who got excited and made a group into a posse. 

It was Tuesday late in the afternoon when the Creston posse came into view of the Eddy ranch. Tracy was relaxed enough to put himself to some constructive work by installing a track on the barn door. He looked up and asked Eddy “Who are those men with guns?” For the first time, fright set in on Tracy. He sprang behind a team of horses that Lou Eddy was leading, and told him to lead the horses into the barn, where he picked up more shooting equipment. Tracy then jumped out of the barn, and kept jumping from one rock bluff to another, as the gun battle began. 

In the meantime, young Goldfinch made an appointment with Marshal O’Farrell from Davenport to meet him at Telford. From there the two left for Tracy country, to see what they could do about the situation. When they got to the Eddy ranch, to their surprise, guns had already been blazing away at Tracy. Sheriff Gardner arrived much later. He was able to get one shot out of his pistol in the direction of Tracy, thus making him also a candidate for the reward. Later that evening a shot from Tracy’s gun took him out of this world. Yet no one dared to go down to check on Tracy’s condition ’til morning, as he could have been playing possum. 

When Tracy was pronounced dead, about every guy that was standing around with a gun in hand, hankered for part of the reward. It was Sheriff Gardner who hauled Tracy’s body back to Davenport. Not a publicity seeking citizen, who later claimed he brought Tracy back, and stated he had to fight off souvenir hunters when they tried to strip Tracy’s body naked. 

At Davenport, the coroner appointed part of the Creston posse to escort the dead outlaw back to Salem, Oregon, and to collect the reward. This caused Sheriff Gardner to see red. He stated he himself was going to take what was left of Tracy back to Salem. Then the Creston men said some threatening words. To prevent a second battle over Tracy, the sheriff gave in. 

But when the Creston men arrived at Salem, Gardner got in his punches by sending a message to Salem, telling the authorities not to pay those body escorting guys any money. 

Later the reward money was settled in the courts. Because the sheriff and the marshal got there too late to do much damage, the courts awarded the reward to the Creston gang. 

Young Goldfinch should have received the reward. This lad was betrayed from the start. He was the one that turned Tracy’s whereabouts in by telegraphing Sheriff Gardner from Creston, and told the operator to keep it a secret. But a guy listening in at the telegraph office turned into spy, and did a "Paul Revere" at Creston. 

It seems to be true, the bad guys like Harry Tracy make the big time history. But the good guys, like this teenage Goldfinch, were just an annoyance to the reward hunters, and the publicity seekers. 

"Harry Tracy, Rocklyn’s Unwanted Guest" Kik-Back Country, p. 27

Comparisons made to Jesse James

Walt Kik
Historical Marker in Creston. 
(I suspect this no longer exists.)


Besides That, He Was a Nut

Does anyone know about a Saint that I could write about during our centennial year? It would be more of a constructive story for the records than writing about an outlaw like Harry Tracy. I shudder when I think how desperados filled our history books. I’m told by some of my friends that we are supposed to be born stuffed with the original sin. It looks like some couldn’t wiggle out of that ‘so called’ curse, and turned into criminals. 

It was over 84 years ago that outlaw Tracy tried to pass through our territory. It did give a lot ot “good guys" the opportunity to shoot at him. When the bullets started flying in his direction, it discouraged him so badly that he killed himself. 

Yes, desperado Harry Tracy’s life ended out here at Lake Creek, not too far from the old Janett open space rodeo grounds. Ever since Tracy’s death, scads of stories have been written about him. 

In fact, last year Sugar got a letter from a writer in England. He wanted to know some added details about Harry Tracy. It could be that the British Isles are getting tired of Sherlock Holmes stories. Just recently, the legendary story of Tracy popped up in True West magazine. 

About 32 years ago, Ronald Reagan was able to get a job presenting the TV show, Death Valley Days. It was during this time that General Electric produced their version of Harry Tracy’s escapades. It was a flop as far as the truth was concerned. They had that dangerous guy Tracy wandering out of Death Valley, where all the desperados were supposed to come from. Eventually, with guns smoking all the way up to south of Creston, the big climax set in. The General Electric producers continued to manufacture more false scenes by having the Spokane County Sheriffs in on the shoot-out with Tracy. The towns of Davenport and Creston weren’t nationally known enough to consider the truthful story. 

 Let’s go back to the summer of 1902 for some condensed facts on this guy Harry Tracy. It’s no use now to digest his life that landed him in the Oregon penitentiary. But while there, Tracy didn’t want to serve out his prison term, so he killed a couple of guards, and took a cell mate with him. The two bad guys were successful in dodging the law. Tracy and his pal Merrill soon began getting tough. Upon entering farm houses, they announced their names. Being sadistic, the two liked to see scared settlers shake. By standards of the old west, they were very dangerous guys. 

After taking a couple of saddle horses without asking, Tracy figured he could make better time if he shot his convict pal in the head, which he did. Merrill’s horse could carry a lot of things Tracy needed for a successful escape. 

Tracy and his horses then crossed the Cascades, and made a trail that led to the Lake Creek country. He wound up at a stock ranch that later belonged to Charley Ensor. Harry Tracy caused a lot of excitement around these parts. About everyone wanted to get in on the act. 

Tracy was nothing but a cur of the lowest type, who lives a miserable and murderous life. Besides that, he was a nut. Tracy, sitting high in his saddle, led a pack horse through our exposed territory. It didn’t make sense. However, it did throw the law officers off course, as they were looking in places where normal outlaws would travel, tree covered canyons, etc. 

When rewards for Tracy totaled 4,000 bucks, it made him a star criminal overnight. He was on the lips of every citizen from the Pacific Ocean to the Idaho border. About everyone had a cooked up idea about what they would do if they encountered this famous outlaw. 

During this Harry Tracy saga, my dad was living on a Lake Creek homestead. Dad and his partners agreed that if Tracy was to get the drop on them, they would advise the outlaw to take their white saddle horse. Dad’s theory was that a white nag would make a good spotting target for the Sheriffs. 


"Harry Tracy, Rocklyn’s Unwanted Guest" Kik-Back Country, p. 27 

Walt Kik

"Rather than being a representative of the Old West outlaw,

Harry Tracy’s sociopathic resume of perhaps as many as two 

dozen murders really anticipated the modern rampage killer." (


Walt Kik

"Harry Tracy charms a captive audience near Renton on July 8, 1902" (