It All Looked Mighty Fishy

One day, while chatting with Howard Janett at his mailbox, a guy stopped and wanted to know if those elevators back there were Rocklyn. We informed him he had just passed through the geological location of Rocklyn.

It's a hard place for strangers to locate since my sister rescued the Rocklyn sign from the demolished depot as a souvenier. It's now a resting place for robins on her lawn after they take their bird baths.

The Davenport Times runs on the illusion that there is officially a town called Rocklyn. Sugar helps create this false front by sending in her column under the title of "Rocklyn Times."

Rocklyn was never a town that grew to such strength and fortitude as Ruff did. Even during its heyday, no one really cared to move to Rocklyn when retirement rolled around.

In a miniature way, the town ran parallel to ancient Rome. It had its greatness before it burned down, but there was some doubt whether the lady owner was fiddling while Rocklyn burned, even though she did a lot of fiddling around before the fire. 

Before moral decay set in, Rocklyn did have its hard-rock citizens. A church and a school were located nearby. Taintless families of high virtue took their turns at owning the general store, post-office and implement buildings. A lovely large residence went with the main street set-up. 

The town 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

Walt Kik
"...wanted to know if those elevators back there were Rocklyn."

Walt Kik
1943 Metsker Map


Where I Spent My First 4th of July

On the road to Fort Spokane, Porcupine Bay, and all points north, the road goes right by a tule laden swamp. It's located just south of the old North Star Grange hall. Can you imagine that 76 years ago this Independence Day 1986 that nearly 2000 early settlers gathered around this watering hole?

Many times on our summer outings, I would point out to Sugar and friends that this frog pond was where I spent my first 4th of July celebration. Since I hadn't reached my first birthday, naturally I didn't remember a darn thing that day. I suppose I was more interested in my mother's milk supply and getting dirt wiped out of my eyes. It was a long, dusty buggy ride that my folks took me on.

My dad didn't realize what an advanced era that we lived in at that time 'til he attended that Egypt celebration. He told me how the Jeffries-Johnson championship fight was reported within minutes from Reno, Nevada.

How was it possible in those pioneer days when the words "radio" and "TV" didn't ring a bell? Well, it was telegraphed from Reno to the Davenport depot. From there the railroad agent would report each fighting round over two telephone lines that were nailed in different locations on trees. Two receiver listeners would then shout out the results. It could have been the first outdoor stereo sound system. Truly, it was a big deal for those days.

I have written a report on what happened that day, July 4th , 1910, as seen through the eyes of a 'Lincoln County Times reporter: "Last Monday was an ideal Fourth of July; all that the small boy, the big boy with his best girl, or the parents could wish. It was warm enough for the lemonade and pop vendors to do a thriving business and for all concerned to seek the friendly shade.

"Hundreds attended the Egypt celebration in the pine forest on the banks of Inster's Lake about twelve miles north of Davenport. Shortly after six o'clock in the morning the teams began wending their way toward the pleasure grounds. They were loaded with happy people and each supplied with a bounteous picnic dinner.

"The writer in company with County Surveyor Reed and Sheriff Level left Davenport just before ten o'clock, by auto. It was a beautiful ride, albeit the dust was very dusty and very deep.

"Arriving on the grounds we found an ideal spot for such a celebration. There was a goodly crowd already there and they kept coming from East, West, North and South until there was from 1,500 to 2,000 jolly, hot and dusty people on their grounds.

"The Egypt coronet band and mixed chorus furnished instrumental and vocal music for the occasion and all did well, as the hearty hand-clapping at each rendition attested.

"The two orators of the occasion, James Freece and Fritz Baske, two of Davenport's young attorneys, were star attractions. We were truly proud of them. These young men handled the almost threadbare subject in new and novel lines and held the closest attention of all who could possibly get within reach of their voices. The song by the little girls of Egypt, "The Red, White an Blue," was splendidily rendered and highly cheered.

"We were introduced to many of the old settlers of Egypt and vicinity and especially from J.S. Frans, the first settler did we learn the trials, tribulations, privations, and final triumphs of those hardy pioneers who blazed the way to this garden spot of Eastern Washington.

"The grounds are owned by J.J. Inkster of Davenport, former sheriff. His father, St. Clair Inkster, who, although nearly 79 years of age, was on the grounds all day, the jolliest and spryest old Scotchman to be found in the Inland Empire. Another of the happy crowd whom we were pleased to meet was Simon Reinbold, one of the early and now highly prosperous citizens of that section.

"As the noon hour arrived, we couldn't resist the pressing invitation of Mrs. W.B. Brockman and her husband to take dinner with their interesting family. They had their ample store of good things spread out so close to that of Jack and Charley Moore and families that we may have 'got over the line' occasionally which was wholly unnecessary, for everything set before us by Mrs. Brockman, from the fried spring chicken to the cherry pie, was tempting and in abundance.

"The ball game between Egypt and Larene was witnessed by an enthusiastic crowd of fans. The Larene team come off victors....The tug of war between the Egypt and Davenport teams was closely contested and fairly won by the 'Egypt heavies'.

"There were a mumber of foot races and other sports indulged in. Talk about the wild and woolly west and the inconvienences of this remote section, way away out there in this pine forest twelve miles from town, a telephone instrument was nailed to a tree and the great Jeffries-Johnson fight was reported to us round after round. Even over on the ball grounds, a phone reported the fight just the same.

"Never have we been allowed to mingle in a more oderly and good-natured crowd. During the entire day and evening not a cross word was spoken and everybody went home happy and grateful to all who had instigated and carried forward to a successful termination this model celebration."

"Egypt Celebrates" Kik-Back Country, p. 30

Walt Kik


Most Expensive Storage Place Ever

Mothballing Combines, Part 2 (previous)

This [previous] article on how to store combines brought out some interesting results. I was informed that one old combine that was left naked in the farmer's yard wasn't that farmer's idea of proper storage. It happened to have been a trade-in. Due to its advanced age, the machine company figured it would make their display look like a graveyard for old harvesters, so they left it out at the ranch.

Lucille McCaffery called me up and said her late husband, Eddy, had what she believed to be the most expensive storage place ever used for combines. The storage facilities and landscaping cost 13 million dollars!

Luckily, it was built by the government, who seems to do things in a big way. The Defense Department wanted a chamber huge enough to point a missile at Russia, so McCaffery's farm was chosen. When the government figured they had a better way to scare the Russians, they sold their storage place at a much reduced price to the McCafferys.

Since it was too spacious a place just for storing Eddy's self-propel, he let his neighbors place their combines in this huge underground silo. A total of four harvesters were found hibernating in this elaborate and protective winter home.

Talking to Lucille got me thinking. By golly, her husband Eddy had farmers beat by a mile when it came to bedding down machinery between working seasons. To protect the paint on his combine, waxing and polishing was as necessary as replacing a broken sprocket. To Eddy, his machinery had to look like it had lots of love and tender care. Except for using a different brand of wax, his son Tom is following in his footsteps.

Speaking about the trouble some farmers go to when it comes to making a storage place for their combines, a retired at the Ritzville Fair Saturday, told me how he rimmed out a place for their barn where the horses used to stand during feeding time. The height between horses and cAombines was considerable. So rather than try the herculean attempt to raise the barn off the foundation, he dug a trench at the entrance deep enough to bob the combine into this shelter. It was done without knocking off elevators and other essential things.

Since combines are used only about 20 days out of a year, it makes them the most expensive piece of machinery to store. Maybe someday it will be more practical to have a self inflated plastic bubble wobbling over combines.


Make a Ceremony Out of It

The damp standing stubble is now giving off the smell of fall. For you that are now ready to store your faithful combine or combines; a feeling that another growing season has been taken care of, undoubtedly has entered your mind. It's like the words of an old song: "Harvest days are over, Jessie dear." Jessie must have been someone's harvest moon sweetheart.

There are two ways of mothballing a combine for that long storage season. One is to leave it to nature for protection, like some farmers do. However, it does require some instructions to follow. For instance, when the last swath has been gobbled up, look for a spot aroound the farmstead with soil deep enough so that the combine won't mire down when spring thaw sets in. Be sure the spot chosen is located so you won't run into the machine on some dark night. Take the ignition key out and put it somewhere you might remember where it is the day or two before the next harvest.

Usually, when the last grain stalk has been beheaded by the combine, those outside storage type farmers generally don't let the separator bounce itself empty. Some gas is saved by so doing. The other benefit is that it does leave enough straw sticking out both ends of the harvester. This helps keep some of the winter snows from drifting in on the chaff-filled sieves and straw walkers.

A good rain will sprout the scattered wheat that rode the combine all during harvest. The growing seedlings will give the machine a greenish look as they try to protect the combine from the sun. If the combine is properly parked far enough away from the house, you will not have to smell the barnyard-like odor when the straw and sprouted wheat starts to decay.

Properly preparing the combine for storage should become some sort of ritual. If done correctly, a feeling of nostalgia will sweep over you. Pick a day when the wind is real quiet, and that sun has that stingy fall feeling when it hits the outside of your skin. Tarry for a bit while looking out over the stubble fields. You will then realize your part of the job is done. Think for another moment, who will eventually eat all that wheat out there in those mountains of plastic covered piles? Will it be the Chinese, or a lot of Russians?

When the thinking time is over, make one last tour around the combine. This time with a pencil and paper in hand, Write down any injuries that need attending to before next harvest. Place the note in an envelope; then put it in the tool box. The prescription letter will come in handy at repair time.

When dad was here on his harvest jaunts from California, Sugar would think we were having burial services for the combine instead of just storing it. Guess it seemed a little odd to make a ceremony out of it, but that's the way dad and I operated.

While I was giving the self-propel the air pressure and water bath treatment, dad would be writing diary-like articles on the side of the bulk tank. He would pencil in his feelings of another harvest that had just ended. Also, his thankful thoughts of being able to spend another summer with his family. Later, his notes were always varnished over to preserve them 'til the combine was put out to pasture or sold.

Finally, the shed doors were opened to the limit. With dad's hands signaling the right directions, it was a cinch to back the combine into just the right place. That usually concluded the service of putting the combine away. (continued)

"Mothballing Combines" Kik-Back Country, p. 47

Combines "...put out to pasture"
Walt and Sugar's home is in background.


Shaking With Excitement and Disbelief

The last time the old fairgrounds was used was when Rocklyn had enough energy to produce a baseball team that shook the sports world by knocking the socks off of the unbeatable Davenport team 50 years ago. Davenport was celebrating the Fourth of July that year of 1932. They wanted a ball game, and Rocklyn was brave enough to challenge Davenport.

That afternoon saw the old wooden grandstand at the original fairgrounds packed with people and kids. The Rocklyn baseball players were Gene and Wolf Boyk, Herb Kruger, Les Welch, Carl Jensen, Steve Aldrege, Quentin Maurer, Bill Riddle, Wilmerd Boyk, and Erik and Harold Lybecker. The game was well publicized and considered just a workout for the Davenport hot shots.

Gov. Martin was wandering around the Inland Empire that day. He decided to stop and plant himself in the grandstand to witness the excitement. The governor was spotted by the Davenport High officials and was asked to umpire the third inning. Realizing this would make his constituents happy, the governor obliged. He did OK, except he was built too tall to see some of those low-pitched balls.

The game turned out to be a sizzler. The Rocklyn team was shaking with excitement and disbelief as it outsmarted Davenport. Tension mounted to where Emerson Boyk had to call in a substitute umpire. This caused sparks to fly. Herb Rohlman, a Davenport player, lost his cool and took a swing at Ford Schumaker, the relief umpire. In the middle of all this excitement, Gene Boyk's fancy pitched ball bounced off the bat of Davenport's star player, Bob Masenthine, and landed on the Adam's apple that belonged to our skillful catcher, Herb Kruger. To this day, Herb says his Adam's apple has never been the same.

"Comments" Kik-Backs, p. 41

Baseball Game at Pioneer Picnic Grounds
Photo from
(These are not the fairgrounds mentioned in this story.)


A Flood of Memories

Did you ever find something that you hadn't seen in ages, and it brought back a flood of memories? This happened to me one day when I went snooping in our old junk pile out in the pasture.

My eyes fell upon a T-shaped gizmo, half buried in the sod. It was made of blacksmith iron and had a large square hole in the middle. A late pasture flower grew its way through the center of this thing, and was waving pretty-like in the wind. This rust colored pump holder was made for me 45 years ago by Leslie Slater, who farmed north of my place.

While digging this contraption, with a discarded dipper handle, my thoughts went back a long time ago when I had a lovely crop of wheat that was just standing there waiting to be beheaded.

It was a hot day. To the west, a storm was brewing. To my left, my combine was holding a motor that refused to run because it didn't like this hot environment. Next to the motor was an aging radiator that refused to keep its cool because its arteries were half plugged up. On my right was a sack sewer laying in a straw pile, rolling a homemade cigarette after I had told him to not smoke his darn weeds in the field. It was enough to drive a guy up a tree.

I just had to get my mortgage ridden crop to the warehouse so the bank could get their hands on it. What to do? That took some calculating. The radiator was already classified as a relic, so I didn't dare get blown out, as it would have hemorrhaged for sure. I found a water pump of unknown breed in the bottom of the chaff-filled tool box, and I thought of Leslie, the problem solver. With a feeling of desperation, I confronted Mr. Slater. That same evening, Leslie gave my combine motor a water pump implant.

Years later, Leslie seemed to thrive on solving mechanical problems, and soon spoiled his neighbors and friends by sacrificing his own work at times. He purchased the first experimental self-propelled combine that was put together by a harvester manufacturer. The company used a large wheel tractor and turned the thing around backwards so the drive wheels could be in front, where the factory guys hung a header. All the treshing stuff was stacked where they found room. A tower-like structure, on the side, held a bulk tank.

It was a mess, and certainly out of place, on Slater's scary hills. Les went to work with his wrenches and hammer to get the thing molded to suit his taste, making it possible for the grain to find its way to the bulk tank.

Another historical fact: During World War II, Leslie and I were two of the first to start a trend of dressing up the rather dreary harvest scene by adding young women. Sylvia took the responsibility of getting her dad's wheat to the elevator; and my sister-in-law, Edwina, was trucking for me, while Sugar was busy raising chickens, instead of kids.

Years later, I got to know another side of Leslie after he developed a punk heart. At a warehouse annual meeting, we were seated together in front of plates filled with the usual string beans, mashed potatoes, and ham. He seemed so grateful to be still among the living and developed a good philosophy about life.

He believed anyone recovering from a heart attack should learn to keep his cool. I agreed with him that temper didn't have any creative value except to make a fool out of yourself. Leslie then reached for a program sheet and scribbled this statement, " Make a speech when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever live to regret."

His restricted activities brought out a hidden gift he had in the form of art. He was painting special scenes for the Lutheran and Methodist churches. As the program was ending that night, I couldn't help think, as Leslie was doodling on that piece of paper, that those same work-worn fingers could now paint a delicate flower.

It's been a decade now since Leslie cashed in. Unfortunately, his beat-up heart didn't give him the added time to fulfill some of the retirement years that we all hope to enjoy.

"Relic Brings Memories" Kik-Backs, p. 43


Maiden Voyage to the Dance Floor

When I got old enough to shave, all I could think about was how to raise wheat instead of heck. But as time passed, even a field of waving grain couldn’t hold my attention all of the time. Soon I could hardly wait until Sunday came around to join the ball team that played down in Lybecker’s flat. There were girls there watching us guys play ball. I got down there too late to join the courting rat-race. All the girls were paired off and going steady with sprouting future farmers. That left me, all alone with my Model T, a jar of peanut butter and no place to go after the game.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending, how one looked at it, a break came for me to explore beyond my stomping grounds. Because of hard times, I went into partnership that harvest season with O.J Maurer. Needing help, we hired a rounder that went by the initials of C.P, alias Windy Anderson, alias Battling Gunboat.

His left leg was three inches shorter than the right one. He claimed that at one time he was the middle-weight boxing champ of the Navy. His success came because he could pivot so fast on his short leg that his opponent didn’t know what happened as he nailed him.

C.P. claimed he was God’s gift to women, and stated he had just attended the dance out at the North Star Grange where he got acquainted with a couple of beauties. It was a tough night, he said, as he had to make a cruel decision as to which girl he should take home. Finally, he left the loser crying on the Grange Hall steps.

Wanting to check on C.P. became a problem. My Model T was not quite the rig I cared to drive to a dance. Luck came when my neighbor sold his hired man, Gene Hatten, a great big, worn out, heap of a car for $50. My new found friend got gypped, but he figured it was a lot of car for fifty bucks. However, it did come equipped with two flat tires, an extra radiator, and two whisk brooms.

Suddenly I had the feeling, while walking up to where all the excitement was, that there must be a better way to find your dream girl. The sound of music was pounding through the Grange walls as we opened the hall door. A drone of friendly chatter greeted our ears; perfume and a faint scent of booze greeted our noses.
After fixing the flats and throwing the extra radiator out, we were able to make it out to North Star and find out what we were missing. Neither of us were ever at a dance before. We felt like a couple of lost sheep as we pulled into the parking lot. Noticing quite a few couples coming and going to their cars gave us the idea there were a lot of indecisions going on. (Was told later that some couples tire very easy when dancing.)
Not wanting the evening to be a complete failure, I thought it’s now or never to take my maiden voyage on the dance floor. Spotting a lady that I figured was built just right for a slow dance, I asked her and was able to hobble through it. That completed my initiation and we were ready to go home.
We spotted C.P sticking his neck around the corner, watching the happy dancers go scooting by. Naturally, we wanted to know what happened to his girlfriend. He told us he was mad at her because she wanted him to stay at her place for an evening of visiting. He could not stand a wet blanket. Saturday nights are made for dancing, said C.P., as he scraped the wax floor with his shoe that was on his longest leg.
Not knowing what to say, my eyes started watching a couple I knew. I envied their assured enjoyment as they danced by. Soon C.P. poked me and said he was going back to the ranch because his crowd wasn’t there. The tiger, alias Windy Anderson, was actually a timid guy around that friendly crowd.

That 50-dollar clunk did the hesitation waltz all the way home due to a balky fuel line. The sun was getting ready to come up when Iwent out to the bunk house to check on C.P. Found him snoring; and by his pillow lay a True Story magazine. He must have fallen asleep reading it.
Years later, I felt sorry for the guy. His fantasy world never came true. He was kicked around from place to place. A hard worker, a gifted fiddle player - but he was the darndest liar - and that made me nervous. For those of you who remember old C.P., you know what I mean.

“Restless Days” Kik-Backs, p.3

Searching for Lybecker's Flat

Lincoln County Granges - 1962


Homespun Insights

Gramps started to get bugged when he saw what the grasshoppers were doing to his crops. He found a guy that didn’t mind grasshoppers, and sold him their farm.

When I got old enough to shave, all I could think about was how to raise wheat instead of heck.

(Their) wives’ brain power was weighed one notch lower by their ego-filled, hairy-chested husbands.

When Frank died, he was financially as naked as when Alice Marcellus bore him back in Jesse James’ country.

She sure did look different since all her equipment had arrived.

Ever since the crystal set days, my love affair with radio and TV may explain why I have a TV set in every room except the bathroom; and that’s because it’s just used mostly during the commercials.

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.

The best way to grow old is to not be in a hurry about it.


Not Just 20th Century Hanky-Panky

Us folks, around Davenport, celebrate Pioneer Day in July. It got me to thinking, what kind of frontier town was Davenport before my parents were blessed with me? Was it a righteous town or was it a "sin city"? Davenport really had a terrible time trying to keep itself in balance. Everytime a church would start up, a saloon was born. The score got up to nine churches on the righteous side, and six saloons, two breweries, and three houses of "ill repute" on the hell-raising side. 

The drug, alcohol, had the same effects on its citizens in the early days as it does now; but they were more sloppy about it then because the saloons were stacked too close together.

Davenport had the 'not so hot' honor of having a hot-headed town marshall; and sometimes he would take off his star and beat up on the worthless stiff.

Even though there were three brothels in Davenport, none seemed to have gone broke from lack of trade. One house was arranged so a customer would enter a downstairs door and, in time, would leave through the second story outside staircase. This building still stands and is a respectful residential place now. The outside staircase has been taken off because the circulating traffic has ceased to exist.

Did Davenport have its normal share of business crooks? Yes, like any frontier town. Banker C.C. May did some funny things with the depositors' money, causing him to skip the country. He threw the law off his tracks by sending word that he would come back on a certain day and make all the depositors happy again. The Davenport band waited for him at the railroad station the day Mr. May was supposed to arrive. The band didn't beat any drums or blow any welcome music because C.C. May never showed up.

Most of us are proud of our younger generation, despite the grumbling from a few. 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. 

I'll bet some of our granddads were no angels as they had the opportunity to participate in the "no-no's" and other naughty things that flourished in the Gay Nineties. It's amusing to find out that moral problems are not just 20th century hanky-panky. Some city fathers still like to straddle the fence on that issue for political reasons.

"Davenport, Spokane - A Tale of Two Cities" Kik-Backs, p. 5

Davenport 1907

Spokane city fathers "straddling the fence"
(Second half of this article)


Largest Crowd of Bobbing Runners

A bit of recent history reveals that it was 1977 when Bloomsday was born. That historic day, some of us dashed down from an uptown church to witness this history-making event. After the gun went off, a herd of about 1,200 runners passed the starting line in less than a minute. It was the largest crowd of bobbing runners that most of us had ever seen before. Lenn Dompier of Davenport and Walt Thorp of Odessa were the were the charter runners from Lincoln County; and they have been making Bloomsday ever since. Both are retired now and are winners in their division. It has always been a toss-up between Dompier and Thorp who would be the one looking at the other's behind.

Walt was seriously injured when an old guy, with his car, knocked him off his bicycle. It was a bad setback for the retired athelete and former Boston Marathon runner. However, he is now able to walk the Bloomsday course.

The last few years, the newspapers are full of health hints on how to run 7.5 miles. Health-minded folks are now crossing the finish line, minus the bouncing belly.

Come to think of it, we weren't designed to run much farther than six miles. There were usually were caves within that distance for our ancestors to find shelter when being chased by some pre-historic beast. Those with weaker genes got weeded out, leaving much stronger runners left that we have today.

To go the length of a Bloomsday run for an ego trip should be the limit. Running Marathons is for the birds, as it does not improve your health. In fact, some friends said they felt pooped for about three weeks after doing such a stunt. However, clipping off 26 miles in a shockingly short time does prove what a human body can do when it's fully charged up.

Now back to sensible running: All annual sponsored runs have their allure. It's where you get to meet runners from all over. Latah's Lentil Run has lots of lentils to be given away. LaCross Pre-Harvest Run is full of prizes and hospitality. Odessa's run and Deutsches Fest is a big, big deal, also. Also, Creston's Butte or Bust, Wilbur's Wild Goose Run, etc. That August afternoon run, 'Over the Dam', has the habit of making sweat pour out from our bodies.

So you see, runners have a lot of interesting places to go throughout the year--all the way from Kanisku's 'Bare Buns Run', to Twisp's 'Freeze your Buns Run' in January. It gives us runners lots of variations.

"Running a Way of Life" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 40

Walt Kik
Lilac Bloomsday 1983

(I participated in six Bloomsdays that Walt ran 
in but only saw him once, probably in 1995. - PK)


Reach Out for Another Day

Golly how does time fly! It just seems like yesterday when all I could think about was to junk my school days and talk my dad into letting me come back to Washington so I could plant lots of wheat and let it grow. At that time, dad had reached the half century mark and I had made it to the ripe old age of 18. The best way to grow old is to not be in a hurry about it. After all, we senior citizens are just kids that's getting up in years. As the old saying goes, "Years will wrinkle the skin, but lack of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul."

I have 12 years of practice on how to be a senior citizen, but so far I haven't made much headway. I have not been to any of the senior centers throughout our county. I hear tell they serve mighty good food at those places, and that they are needed by lots of retired folks.

I've been told you can earn a certain amount of money while in retirement, so you can live higher on the hog. There are many weather beaten senior citizens that just love to keep their hands in the farming business. Not for greed, but it's a way of life that's been drilled into them so deeply they can't seem to bow out.

For the elite retirees, there is a special place made for them. My relative's wife, Carolyn Maurer, beat it to Sun City, Arizona, when widowed; and loves every minute of it. It's a classy place, all right, but the formality and monitored rules would shorten my retirement life considerably.

Some of us just can't adjust to being away from our environment very long, especially in retirement years. A lot of us retirees also inherited the ability of enjoying our nesting place, minus the migration pattern. I'm a four season guy who likes to soak in all the seasons that rotate themselves year after year. It's good to leave home for short periods of time; it makes you appreciate the returning road home.

This fall nostalgia went through me while standing lonely-like in a field that had been emptied by combines and trucks. A sniff of fall air was drifting over the stubble field. The stinging rays of the sun warmed one side of my body, while the north side of my sun-tanned rib cage felt a little chilly.

All the sensation I got out of harvest this year was a trip to the warehouse office to see what my share of the crop would amount to. Driving past those tall elevators reminded me of by-gone harvest days when I used to take in the last load of wheat for the day. Sugar would then scoot on home to slosh herself with water by standing under an outdoor shower. From there, she had to run into the house and get supper on the table. It hit me that Sugar will never repeat those many harvest scenes again.

There is no future by living in the past, but remembering the bygone days is a blessing we should all be thankful for. It gives a person the instinct to reach out for another day to add to his autobiography.

"Senior Citizens" Kick-Back Country, p. 93

"...standing lonely-like in a (stubble) field"


Running for the First Time

I'm a happy person by nature and I want to stay that way. But I do have a slight taste of depression at times. (Chemical imbalance, I'm told.) So far, running has been the only anti-depression pill that I care to take. Writing controversial articles also helps, and keeping busy with other things, like enjoying Sugar. These are the big helps that should keep me floating through the rest of my life gracefully.

I've been running for years, about six miles every other day when possible. Only time will tell how long.

I am, more or less, running in the back of the pack and it shows me that all runners are equal. Only our times of making it to the finish line are different. It is also teaching me one of the many things I have learned from running, and that is how to deal with age. For one thing, running has put age beyond denial. I am finally old.

It was 1975 when a lot of us took up running for the first time. That was when the Davenport Pioneer Day put on their well-published 'Run for Fun'. (A five miler.) I was not prepared to run, but a half-hour before the race Sugar came up to me and said she was disappointed that I didn't want to run. I then became conscious there were some disadvantages to being married to a younger woman who figures I can be cranked up any time. I did have time enough to run home (by car) and exchange my formal shorts for something more comfortable to run in.

Some of us hadn't learned then to treat our feet to shoes that were made for running. A rookie ran in shoes that were made for lumberjacks. My canvas slip-ons kept slipping off every time I spread my legs out too far. Finally I spotted some tissue paper along the roadside which I put to good use as shoe stuffing. That smart idea finally got me to the finish line with my shoes on.

When running was in the experimental stage, a workout down the highway would cause cars to stop and ask if we needed help or a lift. Even the State Patrol would check on us to ask if any assistance was needed. To solve those early running problems, we started wearing shorts and began taking on the face of runners. Good hearted folks didn't bother to stop anymore.

Yes, time has changed. Now it's hard to get anyone to stop. Even when my feet got themselves tangled up, causing my head to hit the pavement. With glasses broken and blood coming from my face, no one would stop. Finally neighbor, Karen Cole, came by and saw that I got back home.

"Running a Way of Life" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 40

"I am finally old."
Cover of Kik-Backs No. 3

Pioneer Days Run


Crocked Ideas

Nowadays, we have good Republicans in office. We don't have to get ourselves in a dither about one party control. So at this time, let's not worry about getting too many Democrats into power. It was different years ago during the Roosevelt administration. They had a lopside Democratic government. Up to 97% were siting in office. That's just a little too many. A few Republicans should have been thrown in for some balance. Otherwise, it became a breeding ground for crocked ideas.

For instance, Huey Long and his utopia plan was one. How many of you older folks remember the Townshend Plan? Good! For those that don't, it was a farce. A guy by the name of Dr. Townshend was a California dentist who got tired of pulling teeth after a brainstorm hit him.

He figured everyone over 60 should get $200 a month from the government. It would have been equal to $1,500 a month now. If grandpa was too old and liked to snore a lot, he was supposed to let junior go out and spend it. That was supposed to bring prosperity and the money would somehow get back to the government vaults without collecting a tax.

I never could figure out how they could convince junior to go out and find a job if he was busy helping grandpa spend all that money. When the Townshend Plan hit Davenport, it was amusing. A Townshend disciple got permission to use the courtroom at the courthouse. Meeting notices were tacked up around town.

A bunch of battered-up od guys, that had just gotten through loading themselves up on New Deal beer at the pool hall, were able to make it up to the courtroom. They were all ready and eager to help put the nation back on its feet. However, they did irritate the speaker a lot by applauding at the wrong time. We all know now that Social Security was the only sane approach.

"Townshend Plan" Kik-Backs, p.60

"The neighbors plastered our shed while we 
were gone. It didn't pay to advertise that year."


From Your Sugar

"Dearest Walt,---I'm wishing you all the happiness there is dear, (on my birthday) because I love you so. This picture says more than many words. We've enjoyed so many sunsets together, and now in the sunset in our lives, there are so many beautiful memories, and lots of sunsets to see together yet!"
From Your Sugar

"Interesting Findings and Losing Dear Ones" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 38


No Bowl of Cherries

For the last 40 years most wheat fields held bountiful crops. But our county didn't always look like a Garden of Eden. It went through an era like John Ford so vividly told in his dust bowl story [film] "Grapes of Wrath." Our historic low point in the Big Bend Country should have been called "Dust of Wrath."

Fast traveling winds that went by here 50 over years ago (1931) blew so hard that a lot Odessa's airborne soil landed at Rocklyn and layers of neighboring farms landed on the Indian Reservation. Some Indians started cussing the white man for disturbing nature's garden of flowers, grass and sagebrush.

Yes, thousands of acres qualified for Washington's "Dust Bowl." The main event took place in the Ritzville-Odessa area. It left a trail of sand-buried fences as far north as Lake Creek and east to the edge of Davenport. Foot burners were used to try and stop the drifting soil, only to find sand-filled furrows for their reward. Many a farmer got to see what the next six inches of soil looked like.

My mother's geese never knew a thing about flying but were able to use the wind successfully for a tail-end take-off that landed them safely down at the creek. Dreams of German sausage vanished when our newly purchased little piggies got lost forever in that dust storm. If St. Helens had blown its stack then, very few farmers around Odessa would have known about it. Between storms, scoop shovels were used to clean out the field filtered dust from lots of homes that had rickety doors and rattling window panes.

After the blown out crops got reseeded, there weren't enough days left, or moisture, to get yields into the double-digit figure. Yields made from Russian thistles to eight bushels an acre. It caused my Dad's renter on the Lake Creek place to go back to moonshining and it caused me to go our to Dave Stelzer's junk pile and strip a discarded combine for transplants. Such emergency methods made it possible for an ancient combine to cut a puny stand of wheat.

Except for the love of farming, those days were no bowl of cherries. Rock bottom wheat prices started the year before, adding insult to injury. The thought of getting kicked off the environmental nest like they did in "Grapes of Wrarth" was enough to make a person cry. A lot of us felt lucky that we didn't have to join the bread lines in those depressed days.

"Dust of Wrath" Kik-Back Country, p. 43

"This picture was published in a 1931 farm magazine, 
the same year the dust bowl hit Lincoln County."


Off To A Bad Start

[The] pioneer one-room schoolhouse had the inside measurements of a small living room. In fact, the teacher and her handful of various sized pupils, that posed outside, overpowered the building. Really, in those days, they didn’t make other schoolhouses much bigger. If you added on a place for the water bucket, coats, and overshoes, that mini-schoolhouse “filled the bill” in lunch bucket days.

Our schoolhouse was typical of its time. It had all the equipment to make an early day one room schoolhouse functional. There was a barn for the riding horses, and the horses that pulled the ever-present buggies, two pit toilets, and one woodshed. Also, a pump that had no windmill over it and a flag pole for showing what country we lived in. Sagebrush was chopped out between the barn and schoolhouse so we kids could play games during the noon hour.

With all that neat setting for a country education, I got off to a bad start. School had been going for two weeks before dad took me over and introduced me to the teacher. She was busy with two advanced first graders, so she left some mixed red and blue sticks on my desk. The teacher told me to sort out and count how many sticks of each color I had and tell her. Since I never counted colored sticks before and I wasn't too sure of my counting ability, panic set in. Seeing big boys and girls in grades beyond doing tricks with figures on the blackboard didn't help things either.

I ran over to where the teacher was and told her I had to use the backhouse. Instead, I went three miles straight home. Later the teacher was informed that I had passed through Rocklyn.

The next morning mother cried as she packed some lunch in a lard bucket. She told me I had to go to school and said if I got a wiggle on I'd make it to Rocklyn in time to walk the rest of the way to school with kids I knew. For reasons known only to me, I let the kids disapear down the road, then beat it to a stubble field that was across the road from the schoolhouse.

Laying in the field all day, looking at a lot of stubble brought no joy, but it was better than trying to figure out that stick game. At noon I could see kids playing and making joyful noises. Then I ate my first homemade lunch away from home. When school let out, I cut across fields, dodging roads as I headed home.

Years later, rumors had it that I spent my first two weeks of schooling in a stubble field. Not so, my parents were too smart. The next day dad laid a trap for me. When school let out, he spotted my head bobbing out of the stubble and flushed me out.

Only a child psychologist could explain why I got myself in such a mess. It didn't take my folks long to decide that I should wait 'til sister was old enough for school. I then wouldn't have the chance to dart into the stubble field. When the first grade finally soaked in, I should have been in third grade. I forever blew the opportunity of becoming a whiz kid.

"Country Schools and Country Preachers" Kik-Back Country, p.7

Walt Kik
"Laying in the field all day..."

Rocklyn / Zion Schoolhouse - photo by Gerald Hardy

Govan Schoolhouse between Wilbur and Almira