Our First Government Hand-Outs

It’s rather amusing, after years of cussing the Democrats out for inventing a farm program, the Republicans have come up with a much more liberal one. History has proven that a farm program is necessary in times of stress. Surplus is still surplus, no matter who is running the country in Washington, [DC].

What did some of us farmers do with our first government hand-outs of long ago? Most of the allotment money went to protecting our farms with an appeasement payment. What dough was left, and with the magic of Sears catalog, a few mothers received washing machines. Those miracle wash-day marvels came equipped with built in gasoline motors and all necessary manual controls, including motorcycle-type starting pedals. It made the farmers' wives very happy. 

I remembered very well the first allotment checks that were handed out in front of an old vacant bank in Davenport. We were all happy, and looking like vultures, as we waited for the bank door to open so we could grab our agriculture checks. But we were not as happy as old Gottlieb Reinbold, a friendly, dedicated husband and the father of many children. 

That day, to Mr. Reinbold, the world seemed to look a little rosier than usual. The government subsidy check gave him hope of survival. The smoke from his ever present cigar seemed to have a more cheerful whirl. Upon cashing his allotment check, he went next door, and paid a long standing hardware debt. When I left him, he was wishing he could afford a second hand Holt combine. 

It was the last time I ever heard his rather loud voice and rolling laughter. That evening, Gottlieb never made it back to his farm and family. On his way home, a highway accident took his life.

"A Comment" Kik-Back Country p. 83


My Topless and Legless Outfit

On Dec. 27, 1980, the Spokesman-Review’s Action Corner ran a letter from a fussy person asking for aid to get a major grocery store to post a shoe and shirt required sign. “You see,” this person wrote, “there are people who come into this store with no shoes, touch their feet and handle produce. I myself will not buy fresh produce there, but the management doesn’t seem to care.” 

When the market finally met this person’s authoritative request, a thank you note was written stating the store is a lot cleaner now. Who is this person kidding? In the middle of winter? What’s cleaner than a pair of frozen feet? Who picks up vegetables with his feet anyhow? 

The day after this article appeared in the paper, I noticed a simple suggested dress code sign pasted up at the entrance of a supermarket door in Davenport. It reads as follows: “Shoes and shirts please. To insure the healthiest atmosphere possible, proper dress would be appreciated.” This request notice may have been put up at the beginning of winter to warn some of us that it’s improper to dress skimpy so early in the season. Good advice. 

Logically, I believe this message is to condition us scanty dressers to consider changing our ways when summer time rolls around. Also it’s a request for vacationers to change their outdoor habits of body freedom when they shop for groceries, while passing through our towns on their care-free way to the lakes, and other lovely northwest spots. 

In a small way, it’s just plain authoritarianism, interfering with one’s personal dress habits in certain essential public service places. What a switch! Years ago, when large shopping centers were opening up on the outer edges of Spokane, the Northtown district was broadcasting their advertisements over the radio as follows: “Come and shop at Northtown in your leisure attire, whether you are suntanning or working in your garden. Shop where you can feel comfortable, and enjoy our casual atmosphere.” 

No one seems to know why the pressure is on now, to hint for a change in dress habits when the weather heats up. Our Inland Empire towns have catered to a modern country style of living for a long time. I’m wondering what affected the change recently. What’s wrong with some exposed skin during the healthy time of the year? Unless one is allergic to the sight of too much skin. What offends one person, may not offend others. Seeing someone shopping in a Ronald Reagan “morning attire stroller suit” could bother my eyes a little, but that’s his conservative constitutional right. 

What the heck does “proper dress” mean? A farmer picking up repairs for his breakdown may stop in for groceries in his shop-worn coveralls. A shirtless construction worker on a hot day, may shop for a cold pack of coke. Sure, some men love to live in their suits clear up to bedtime, and go shopping in their nationally accepted uniform. 

I wouldn’t care to go barefooted when the pavement is a frying pan, but that should be left to the individual. This winter, Sugar and I were invited to a party in Spokane. It was held for a well-known couple on their return visit. The hostess would rather we went bare footed as some shoes could raise heck with her expensive carpets. In fact, while visiting in Hawaii, we soon found out it was a must to park your shoes or sandals outside. One easily knew how many were stompin around the house by counting the sandals on the porch, and dividing by two. 

When the molting season arrives, my skin will start to show signs of sagging from years of wear and tear, but my hide should have the proper seasonal color after the sun does its job. When the first warm shopping day arrives Sugar will pick from my selection, a pair of clean shorts, properly suited for shopping. A matching pair of blue jogging shoes will usually be worn with my topless and legless outfit. My original dress outfit should blend nicely against the sunlight as it tries to push it’s violet rays through the supermarket windows. I’m hoping the store personnel will feel comfortable with my presence. 

"Shirt And Shoes Please" Kik-Backs, p. 67

Walt Kik


My Best 20 Years of Farming

When I started updating my farm machinery in 1947, a new self-propelled combine was purchased for $3,900. In 1954, a second new one cost me $5,800. A new diesel wheel tractor was purchased in 1953 for $4,200. In 1958 was traded in for a giant of its time, for only $3,000 extra. For the two tractors and combines in my best 20 years of farming, I only had to pay $16,500 in cash.

Using my renter for comparison, and this is just one of his farm items, this summer he bought a second-hand wheel tractor costing $40,000.

Ya, sure, it does pull the same load much faster than my old tractor, and it has front wheel power to help lift its heavier loads over the hills successfully. It also came equiped with a cab where he can sit comfortably as he worries about whether farm conditions will improve.

"Inflation" Kick-Backs, p.41

"Sugar harvesting with one of our old combines"


It Was Made To Order For Him

Once upon a time, there lived a little known settler, and his wife of long standing. They located themselves down in a hole between the Maskenthine estate and the farm that made me happy for all these years. 

Wood Hulbert was his name. He was a cynical atheist who liked to argue. However, he was a man of some faith. He believed that the copper bracelet he wore was sucking out a lot of his arthritic pains. 

Since it rains on the just and the unjust, his wheat fields yielded the same as his more righteous neighbors did. 

Because his farm was small, it held a small field, a small pasture; and a small number of cattle. With luck, Wood was able to scratch out a living. 

But he was rich in dogs. He owned an advancing army of dogs. These ruffians would come charging over the hill at anyone who dared to make their way to the Hulberts. 

In his later years, Hulbert became sort of a gloom and doom guy. He predicted that those Odessa dust storms would wipe out all of the Big Bend Country. He used to say, “They should never have broken out all this land. This country was made for cattle.” 

When Mr. Hulbert was full of fire, and at his high point in life, he opened up a one man industry. Ice farming! It was made to order for him. A spring-fed pond was already there. 

All winter long this pond was producing ice that went to waste when spring came. By installing a high dam, beaver style, Hulbert was put into an enterprising business. 

Harvesting ice didn’t require much of an investment for Wood. His scattered odds and ends were easy to convert over to putting up ice. Wood’s harvest machine was his arm muscles. They supplied the power to his long jagged ice saw. A bobsled served as transportation for storing ice on the farm. A discarded shed, and lots of sawdust kept the ice from disappearing. 

In the early days, Davenport never did like warm beer, or meat that was ripening too fast. This gave Mr. Hulbert a chance to monopolize the ice market. Price wise, seasonal highs were reached in July and August. When it got cold, the ice market hit bottom. 

On hot days, old Wood Hulbert did enjoy a cooling ride into town with his wagon load of ice. However, like cattle, some shrinkage took place in transportation. 

"The Ice Man Cometh" Kik Back Country, p. 48

1911 Metsker map

"between the Maskenthine estate and the farm 
that made me happy for all these years"


Like Hitting the Jack-Pot

Before the turn of the century, the idea of a pioneer picnic on Crab Creek entered the minds of our early settlers. The first picnic was on the primitive side. The tall grass was their chairs. Songs and speeches were heard echoing through that wide coulee. For horse racing, they used the trail-like roads that wind through pastures and fields. Foot races took place where rocks and sagebrush were scarce. For that one day outing, everyone brought enough food to keep their bellies full. 

In 1902, this pioneer group got big enough to turn itself into the Lincoln-Adams Counties Historical Association. To be a member, all you had to do was to have lived around here before Washington became a state. 

That active bunch really went to work down on Crab Creek. They laid out and built all the things needed to make those pioneer people happy for three days. An authentic horse race track was scooped out, and a large grandstand was connected to the track. For evenings of paired-off closeness, a good sized dance pavilion was erected. A midway was laid out for hucksters, a merry-go-round, and a speakers stand for acts of entertainment. One year a pretty lady did some death defying stunts from a smoke filled balloon that was on its way to the sky. 

It’s too bad that more of these pioneer picnic events were not put down in writing. All we have now is just a mouth to mouth recall of past events, that can get lost through repetition. The time I attended was the year the depression put the picnic on its last legs. My dad’s highlight of the picnic was the year his life long friend Max Mecklenburg was busy showing off Lincoln County’s first airplane to the crowd. My aunt Minnie won all the foot races for her age group while living at Edwall. All relatives of pioneer families had similar stories to tell. 

Fortunately I have received quite a few letters that have a lot of authentic old time information. Upon reading Kik-backs, Bob Harding of Sprague was reminded that his old uncle, Johnnie Harding went with the Kik brothers to homestead in the Lake Creek area. Bob then called me up and told me that Ruby Harding, Johnnie’s half-sister is still very much alive, and has been living in Los Angeles since 1920. 

This exciting news caused me to send a letter to Ruby. The information I received from her was like hitting the jack-pot. She remembers so well when, as an adolescent, she attended those early day Lincoln-Adams County picnics. Her letter of recalls is unique and historical. With her permission, here are the important contents: 

"Pioneer Picnic" Kick-Back Country, p. 14

Pioneer Picnic Grounds on Crab Creek


Can't Get All Glued Together

As a youth, listening to Charles Faldborg was a pleasure. His stories of the Wilbur country held one’s interest. Seeing Wild Goose Bill through his eyes was genuine. His relationship with the Indians should have been recorded. Then there was a story that I can’t get all glued together at this time. 

This event probably happened around the Hartline area, before the railroad was built. A guy with a lot of know-how and his horse was hired to map out a rail route from Coulee City to Cheney. This surveyor was not in love with the country between the Coulee and Wilbur. He thought it was the most worthless piece of dry space ever put together by nature. 

On a hot summer day east of the Coulee, he was busy marking locations when his canteen ran out of water. Through the wavy heat, he saw a homestead house shimmering in the distance. Upon investigation, he found a lonesome woman of high intelligence. Her husband had died that summer from drinking typhoid water, leaving her with no thoughts other than to pull up stakes, and go back east where she came from. 

After reporting to his superiors in Spokane, this surveyor couldn’t shake the widow from his mind. It didn’t take him long to think he could learn to like that God-forsaken country above the Coulee, and it didn't take him long either to ride back and win her lonesome heart. This made it possible for him to start fixing up the land where her husband left off. 

That fall, the two spent the winter in Spokane. When the snow disappeared, they returned back to the land of hard knocks. I like to imagine that she enjoyed the holiday season with him in that picturesque blooming city. This “Faldborg special” could have made some sort of a Christmas story, but there are too many connecting links and names missing. 

Is there any old timer out there somewhere that can fill in the blanks? You had to have a listening ear, because the information would have had to have been transmitted from grandparents, or some pioneer. Their names, dates and whether they made a success of it all, would be exciting to find out. 

There are so many things left untold in Lincoln County. If not written up soon, the authenticity will die with time. The only history bible of our local country is “The Big Bend” book. The author and his helper canvassed this whole district up to 1904, and did an excellent job. Some of the more progressive events that happened after that time really molded Lincoln County.

"Unfinished Story" Kik-Backs, p. 26


A Giggle That Would Make You Giggle

I was visiting with Herman Reich, an old timer in Spokane, this summer. He wanted to know if I knew what Spot Cash Brown’s first name was. All I knew was he ran a store and was called “Spot Cash” because he gave credit to no one. Everything that left his store was paid for on the spot with cash first. 

I got to thinking that a lot of us have nicknames that are much better identification than what our parents hung on us at baptismal time. Nicknames often tell us what we are, and what we may look like. 

Frank Selde, a number of years back, was talking with my dad about what happened to some of the old timers. Frank said, “Dave, whatever happened to old One-Arm Deppner?” “Oh that feller, he went back to Poland,” Pop replied. “Did One-Eye Deppner go back with him?” Frank asked. “No," said Pop. 

“Say Dave," Frank said, “You remember those Smith brothers that used to live south of Creston? I suppose Bottle Smith died a long time ago.” “Oh golly yah, he drank himself to death,” Pop answered and returned with a question: “What ever happened to old Dirty Smith?” Frank thought for a while and jokingly answered, “I believe his wife tried to clean him up a bit and I don’t think he was able to take it. No one seems to know where he is.” 

Sometimes nicknames can hurt your land values. A Davis from somewhere picked up the last farmable homestead northwest of Davenport, and got tagged “Scabrock Davis.” The land was no worse than what I had to put up with for years, yet I gave up renting it. After all, it was just the Scabrock Davis place. 

We all know a lot of people by their adopted names. For instance, can you tell me the formal names of Ladybird Johnson and Happy Rockefeller? See? I didn’t think you knew. I’d like to think of Ladybird as a beautiful creature hopping around from here to there, and Happy Rockefeller as being a gay person. (I mean the original gay meaning.) 

A few summers ago, when Sugar and I were splashing around down at Fort Spokane, we heard a guy calling his wife “Giggles.” She did have a giggle that would make you giggle when you listened to her vocal motor run when something struck her funny. 

Later, when the two left, I found out her husband had a cultivator in which I was interested. I was told where to locate him, but didn’t know he was one of the Morgan and Morgan of the International Harvester Company in Spokane. I asked at the office for Giggle’s husband, and sure enough the correct Morgan appeared. 

I told Giggles’ husband later that I had to use the phone to call the wife to tell her I was going to be late. Upon hearing me ask, “Is this you Sugar?” he wanted to know who’s wife I was calling. 

"Nicknames" Kik-Backs, p. 23

Nelson and Happy Rockefeller
Photo from Rockefeller Archive Center


Grandpop Was So Happy

Kik and his waifs were the first Germans to arrive on Rock Creek. The Irish beat him there. They included the Murrays, Brislawns, Belfrys, McCafferys, Woods and McGreevys. The farming type of immigrants started pushing into Edwall country soon after, and included Mielkes, Polenskes, Krones, Scheffles, Kintschis, McPhersons and the Minkles, from Wallula. 

Santa Claus came a few days early that year, when Dr. Clowe sent an old prospector on a horse up to Kik's cabin, with four red tin horns and a large jar of horehound candy. The Krones made it possible for Kik and his brood to have their first real Christmas. Kitty and Sally pulled a sled-load of excited little ones through a wilderness of snow. When the Krones’ cabin came into sight, their father told them to blow their red horns. Blow they did. The horses ran away. The sled turned over, breaking a runner, and the little ones landed in the snow. Their father spent the rest of Christmas day trying to catch Kitty and Sally, while the children walked to the Krones’ house. 

“When we walked in,” my dad told me, “we smelled pork sausage frying. I’m sure that I never in my life have smelled anything as good as that meat cooking. To this day I often think of that Christmas long ago, when we entered the Krones’ cabin for Christmas dinner. Mrs. Krone also served sourdough bread.” 

The old double-barreled muzzleloader was put to high use that winter at Sassin. When the children got tired of eating sage hens, grandpa would aim his shotgun at some jack rabbits. 

After Christmas, a cow was rounded up from somewhere, and wheat was boiled for breakfast. For light, potato candles were used. These were made by carving a hole in a raw potato, then filling it with grease. A stick that had been wrapped with a rag was stuck into the spud; it was lit by a sulphur match. 

Boy, it sure was a blessing when spring came. Out of cash, grandad got a job staking out claims for the government. When he was gone, he turned his children out in the yard. The cabin worked as a brooder house. During the first two years, he would drive down to Walla Walla for supplies and to pick up his mail. 

Later, Colfax became the trading center. During this period, his children invented a language all of their own. I was barely able to swallow that yarn, until I heard my dad and his oldest sister carrying on a conversation in their non-patented language. Long after, a schoolhouse was built and these secret coded youngsters used their gibberish for private conversations. 

My pop and his brother had the honor of setting the largest prairie fire known, for their size and age, wanting to burn out just a small patch of dry bunch grass so Kitty and Sally could have some green dessert to chew on. Those two did have good success in starting the fire but stopping it became too much of a problem. The boys took their pants off and tried to whip the fire out, but the pants proved to be a poor substitute for a fire engine. The prairie burned a ten mile wide swath on it’s way to Medical Lake, where it stopped by itself. Not wanting a licking, they told their dad that the devil came out of the woods and set the prairie on fire. 

As time passed, grandpa was able to get quite a bit of the virgin soil turned over. After five years, the children’s growth left less space between the beds and the table, so he nailed a lean-to on the log house.

By now the railroad was pushing itself out West. The company’s brains in the east picked Sprague, instead of Spokane, as a place to fix their broken-down steam locomotives, so that called for the construction of round houses. Sprague was fast turning into an exciting frontier town. 

Young ladies that wanted to leave home were hired by the railroads to work in their company’s own restaurants out west. Louisa Rux, a young lady from Minnesota, still in her tender teens, beckoned to the call of the railroads, and got a job as a waitress in Sprague. Gramps, on one of his many trips to town, spotted Louisa, and soon started having chow where she worked. 

Beings this young lady was 24 years his junior, he had tough sledding for awhile. Finally she accepted his proposal. It seemed strange why she wanted to leave all the glitter Sprague had to offer at that time, and exchange it for a middle-aged guy with four rough-necked kids and a cabin with only a lean-to. 

Grandpa went on a big “high” and threw one of the biggest wedding celebrations I ever heard of. By this time a lot of future farmers had settled around the Kik place. A dance floor was nailed together near the house for the wedding party that didn’t get turned off until three days later. The neighbors furnished the food, but gramps had to kick through with the beer. That seemed to be a must in those days. 

All of the young folks that attended the celebration became lasting friends. Later, the Kleins, Kiks, Bursches, Ruxes, and the Fritsches intermarried and became one clan. 

Grandpop was so happy about his conquest, that he invited his bride’s family to come out west to the promised land. That fall the train had a train-load when old man Kik’s in-laws pulled into Sprague. They brought everything with them except the farm. The human cargo and all of the valuable stuff filled up half of a passenger car, which included Carl Rux, his wife and five offspring. The cattle rode in a corral-like car with a roof on it, followed by three flat cars full of farm machinery. 

There were no vacant houses standing around in that vast Edwall virgin territory, so the Ruxes were willing to semi-hibernate with the Kiks for the winter. The seven piled in with the six cabin dwellers. Privacy went out the window that winter. 

A let-down ladder made it possible for all the boys to sleep up in the boarded-up rafters. For Christmas, the young folks made their own play money out of scarce slips of collected colored paper. The rare purple color had a highly fluctuating value. This legal counterfeit money was divided evenly among nine juveniles. Charlie, the whiz-kid from Minnesota, became a capitalist. He owned a jacknife and was able to carve out toys and sell them to the rest of the children. Inflation ruined their money when a flood of colored paper found it’s way up from Sprague. 

While the winter winds were howling outside and the children were raising hell, old grandpa and his father-in-law were planning for spring and making verbal deals. Machinery was scarcer than hen’s teeth. Anyone bringing farm machinery from the east had it made. Grandpa was more than willing to trade his 160 acres of timber claim to his father-in-law in exchange for his header, his chopmill, and a set of harnesses. 

When the spring of 1888 rolled around, the Ruxes were able to build a farm of their own. 

The next year the scattered settlers built a small schoolhouse. Lydia Hemmersmith, who only had a fifth-grade education herself, was the first Sassin school teacher. School days only lasted for three months a year, causing happy vibes among the pioneer children. 

My pop’s oldest sister never went to school. Dad was 12 years-old before the schoolhouse was finished enough to open its doors. He quit when he was in the third-grade. Having to shave was an embarrassment to him. 

Not too many moons passed when gramps started up another batch of children from his second wife. After expanding his land holdings by moving to Rocklyn, he up and left his second wife by dying of cancer at the age of 50. 

Grandpa probably promised her a rose garden, but all he left his 26-year-old wife was an array of little ones to raise. For survival, her stepchildren found employment or got married. With a restless dream of looking for something better, many pioneers around here reached their goals. Grandpa did not. I still believe he tried. 

"A Pioneer Story", Kik-Backs. p. 6

Walt Kik

"...included Mielkes, Polenskes, Krones

Scheffles [Schoepflin?], Kintschis..."

1911 Metsker Map at Rock Creek

Idioglossia - children who invent their own language


Gramps Started to Get Bugged

Let’s go back for this century-old story to Germany in the spring of 1872 when a guy by the name of David Kik, Sr. ran off with the baker’s daughter and beat it to America. Grandpa did not want to serve in the German Army, as he had no desire to learn how to kill people. He and his brand new wife got on a sailboat so they could be blown over to New York. 

Yankton, South Dakota, was the first test for these newlyweds as they staked out a homestead. After five years and a few babies were born, 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. 

He then decided to take his family to Los Angeles to see what 10,000 Mexicans and about 500 white settlers looked like. Hot weather and cactus wasn’t their bowl of cherries. 

So Kik piled his family on a schooner that was headed for the Columbia River. Gramps then bought a team of Arabian horses named Kitty and Sally, and hooked them to an overloaded wagon and then headed north. His only protection and food-getter was a double-barreled, muzzle-loader shotgun. Why it took grandpa six months to get up here to Fort Wallula, I never did know. 

When he pulled up to Wallula, he found his brood sitting and waiting for him. Gramps also found his wife very heavy with child. This one was going to be number five. They all found a haven for the coming winter with the George Minkles. Grandpa no sooner got his legs stretched out from his long wagon trip, when grandma gave birth to a baby girl. The cold winter wind whistling through the Minkles’ single-boarded shack didn’t help any. She died from child birth and was buried at Wallula’s Army Cemetery. 

An article in the Walla Walla Journal, dated Dec. 15, 1879, read as follows; “Sometime ago we gave the painful news of a poor mother dying at Wallula, leaving a husband with five small children. Since then the father found homes for two of the small ones. Dr. Clowe of Walla Walla took one of them. Mrs. Thomas Collins took the baby. Mr. Kik, an immigrant, lost all in coming here, even the mother of his little ones.” 

The spirit of Christmas didn’t even try to raise its head at the Minkles’ cabin that December day. 

When the spring thaws had set in, Dr. Clowe told grandpa there was lots of good land north of Sprague that the government would just love to give away. The Minkles offered to take care of the third youngest child, while grandpop loaded the two remaining kids into his prairie schooner, along with his earthly possessions. 

Arriving at Sassin, he found Mr. and Mrs. Delius Woods, who had already staked out a claim. At the mercy of the Woods, he dumped off my dad and his sister, and went looking for land. The claim on which he filed was well chosen. The gentle hills were just made for farming. 

This 160 acres of land was called a preemption. It cost grandpa $250, but he had 10 years to pay for it. A timber claim was taken for another 160 acres It was free, but the government made him plant 10 acres to trees. 

After squaring up with Uncle Sam, he got his axe out and chopped down some stray pine trees after which he made himself a one-room, one-door, one-window log house. Then dug a hole deep enough to make a well. Then grandpa put on his coat and got ready to pick up his five scattered children. Kitty and Sally then had the job of toting gramps and his wagon back to Walla Walla. 

Dr. Clowe wanted to adopt the son he kept, and it sounded like a sad parting of the ways when the youngster was tossed into the wagon. No trace could be found of the baby girl, nor [of] the Collins family. Rumors were that they moved to Yakima. So, when grandpa got to Wallula, he fixed Kitty into a saddle horse and road to Yakima. Neither [the] Collins nor the baby could be found. 

Kitty and Sally finally lugged Kik and his two remaining kids back to Sassin, where at the Woods’, grandpa picked up kids number three and four. All he could offer the little ones was a log cabin with a window from which they could look out. That’s just what they did that fall, when he locked them in the cabin while he took four sacks of wheat to Gunning’s Mill at Minnie Falls, where a small water-wheel ground it into flour. 

"A Pioneer Story", Kik-Backs. p. 5

Walt Kik
The Northwestern Miller - Sept. 4, 1885

Waslt Kik


I Was Invading Horse Country

Not too many years ago after my renter, Gene Stuckle, was born, he became interested in just about everything that was mechanical. Later, Gene transformed his ability to turning deteriorated old cars into antiques - but that’s another story. 

When this “on-the-go” feller plunged into farming on his own, he turned into a hopeless antique tractor restorer. He actually hunts for these discarded power plants with his binoculars, either at ground level or looking down when he is up in one of his planes. Anything resembling a rusty old iron horse is checked out for graveyard release. Gene, now, has many a deceased old tractor restored to life by adding transplants from hopeless basket cases. 

Seeing Stuckle’s collections reminds me why I decided to tractor-farm after arriving back from California in the fall of 1927. Full of dreams of farming with horses fascinated me. The thought of commanding lots of horses, western style, made me tingle. Buying a cowboy hat and sticking it on my head got me into a lot of trouble. Veteran farmers thought I knew everything about horses. Putting a fresh pair of leather gloves half way in my hip-pocket didn’t help matters either. 

Anxious to get some plowing done that fall without investing in a string of nags ’til spring, I asked my cousin if I could use a gathering of his horses so a three-bottom plow could be pulled. Was told to take the saddle horse and round up a group of work horses that were out in the pasture. 

Like most riding horses, this one had three shifts of speed. First, was a horse walk too slow to scare any of the work horses back to the barn. Second, was a jolting trot. It kept my cowboy hat on OK, but it didn’t do my seat any good. Since a gallop was too scary for me, I just tied the thing up to a fence post and shooed the horses back to the yard. 

I tried to help cousin Quentin get all those nags dressed up in their working outfits. There were odd names for different things that went over their bodies, so they could deliver their horse-power. Some were understandable, like belly-bands, as all horses had bellies. The tail piece naturally was for the tail, collars for neck, etc. Quentin did show me how to tie or hook up the whole 11 horses to the three-bottom plow, which didn’t come with a seat, only a plank to stand on which was wedged between the plow-beams. Quentin pointed and told me the names of every male and female horse as he handed me the lines. Even a written instruction sheet wouldn’t have been of any help. Everything seemed so strange. 

Before I was able to stand correctly, Quentin yelled “get-up!” Those words started the whole tribe moving, and the plow began to plow. Luckily those horses of all ages knew what they were doing. They did start turning on corners a little too soon. It was impossible to figure out how to tell the herd to go just a little bit farther, without throwing all of them into a state of confusion. 

The next day, the plow struck a rock, causing me to end up in the furrow. Luckily, the horses worked like a snowmobile and stopped when the driver gets tossed off. Later that afternoon, the plow really did a good job of bucking me off, landing me on my head and shoulder. That did it! My mind got made up to trade that twisted brimmed cowboy hat in for a beret and to work on my dad to hock the farm for some money that would buy a tractor. 

Before spring work started, a 15-30 International wheel tractor, the biggest one the company made at that time, was standing on a flat-car in Davenport, waiting to be unloaded. Driving it out to the farm was a thrill. Going past Paul Jahn’s farm gave me a feeling of security, as he had already started farming with a Twin City tractor. From then on west, I was invading horse country and I tractor-farmed happily ever after. 

"Horsing Around In The Field" Kik-Backs, p. 15 

Gene Stuckle's Caterpillar Featured on Magazine Cover


I Never Heard of Income Tax

Years ago, a lot of us older ones got by much cheaper when it came to paying taxes than this generation does. I never heard of income tax until I was three-fourths grown up. The winter of 1920 was when Uncle Mike had to pay money to the government, and he sort of took pride in telling dad that he was making too much money. 

I farmed for 18 years without the blessing of dealing with the Revenue Department. Golly, I never did know if I had ever beaten the government out of any money or not. It was just luck during my tax-free days that the government didn’t send anyone out to my place. 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. 

Then in 1945, I was told I’d better file an income tax return or I could get into trouble. After following good advice by filling out a tax return, I got into trouble anyway. 

All my past tax problems came back to me vividly last summer while attending the annual warehouse dinner in Odessa. There sat my old favorite tax collector, Ira Schuster, whom I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Upon visiting with him, I found out that he was able to survive his job and now the years have put him into retirement. 

When the war with the Germans and the Japanese was over, Mr. Schuster and my life went through a change. Ira got a job collecting taxes and I got started paying them. Schuster, the collector, haunted a lot of us farmers by driving into our yards. He always carried a bag full of printed stuff that usually proved that we didn’t fork over enough dough. 

He was a man that got down to business before he sat down. After identifying himself to me, Schuster made it known that I sold 100 acres of farm land in 1945 that I didn’t report in my tax returns. I told him I didn’t know I had to. He made it known in no uncertain terms that all profits from sales are taxable. Schuster asked me quickly what I paid for the land. I told him I got the land for $15 an acre when times were very tough. A surprised look came across his face. Then Ira wanted to know what I sold the 100 acres for. When I told him I sold it for the same price I gave for it, a bigger look of surprise came over his face. “You mean to tell me that you sold 100 acres of farm land for $1,500?” was his question. It was verified by a nod. 

The land sale was an embarrassment to one’s intelligence. Only blockheads sold land for that price. However, what I did saved me from paying extra income tax. Mr. Schuster didn’t want to believe me, so I had to show him a half-paid contract I had with my neighbor. 

Since I won the first round, it was Ira’s duty to try and find something else that could be wrong with my tax refund. He flipped some papers over a couple of times ’til he came to a spot where I sold some of my own wheat to myself that was used to feed our chickens. Schuster said I couldn’t do that. He was right, so I had to hand him $36 before he left. 

For over a year, while shaking down farmers that made out questionable returns, Schuster would stop in for a supply of fresh eggs, and sometimes picked up a couple of roosters for eating purposes. After all these years, it was nice to see him again and meet his wife. 

"Income Tax Time" Kick-Back Country, p. 4


When Time Levels Us All

About three and a half miles north of Creston, on a sloping hillside, lies a three acre patch of virgin soil, bunch grass and all. Out in the middle of this wind-swept spot, early settlers buried half a dozen of their dead. There is a mid-twentieth century body up there, too. It was buried about 30 years ago, bringing the total, among the dead, to seven. 

A tumble-down wood fence that was once over a grave, lies twisted off to the side. A knocked over granite plaque can be seen deep in the bunch grass near the spot of two buried children. A body of a young wife has been in the ground since 1886. A grandfather’s grave is next to his three grandchildren of tender age. Off to the side of this sparsely occupied site, near a clump of rye grass, stands a [marker] hewn out stone. It probably marks the grave of an unknown body. 

It appears the mourners are all gone now and are buried elsewhere. The native grass is finally enjoying its undisturbed life, as it has for eons. 

A lot of history lies buried in every discarded cemetery. Some lives ended in such a short span of time. No wonder we humans like to believe in a transformation of some kind. After all, we are the only species on earth that recognizes pending death. 

Even a believer in a hereafter sometimes fails the shock test. A number of years ago, Sugar and I had the chore of letting a distant neighbor know that her brother-in-law had passed away. Having no telephone in that part of Rocklyn, we drove down. Upon telling her the tragic news, she sat down and kept repeating, “We will see him no more. He is gone forever!” 

Guess the shock sometimes brings out the instinctive reality of life’s permanent end; although her sudden, fading faith may have returned later. 

There are lots of ways of saying a final goodbye to a loved one. A well known retired minister told me of a funeral he once presided over where the deceased was not put on public display. This minister has the reputation of handling problems properly. Thinking wisely, he arranged the service message by emphasizing that the deceased body is no longer his, as he is now with his Maker. Even after planting that seed in the mourner’s mind, the minister was surprised when several wanted to see ‘good old Joe’ for the last time.

The passing of actor, Henry Fonda, brought back memories. About 50 years ago, Henry played the role of non-conformist, young Abraham Lincoln. In one touching scene, Fonda sentimentally portrayed Lincoln at the grave of his youthful sweetheart, who had passed away the year before. 

The cemetery was by a river. It was springtime when long-legged Abe sat up against a tree by the grave. He had a wild flower in his hand as he fantasized talking to her. Lincoln told her the spring thaws had risen the river flow once again, and that the first wild flowers were out. After telling her he wasn't doing so good without her, he kissed the flower and placed it on her grave. That scene cracked me up emotionally. 

Burial spots of loved ones carry a very haunting feeling of separation. When time levels us all, grave stones will then just become records for the future generations to view. 

"Abandoned Cemetery" Kik-Back Country, p. 22

Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln (YouTube)

"Out in the middle of this wind-swept spot..."
Brents Cemetery, Creston


Puppy Love Entered My Mind

The fact that girls were different hit me before I could grow whiskers successfully. Puppy love entered my mind while I was still stuck in Orange, California. A Mennonite church was only a block away. The sight of a bobbed hair girl, by the name of Lilly Skiles, drew me through the doors of this religious order. 

Inside the quaint church, I found it loaded with sincere worshippers. It took me quite a while to get used to their style of faith. The Evangelicals I grew up with, out here at Rocklyn, had a different approach in seeking Christian comfort. 

Instead of communion, the Mennonites took turns washing each other’s feet up on the pulpit platform. Pans filled with water were lined up alongside of chairs that were used for sitting purposes during this kind of ritual. Usually they would utter a lot of religious jollies as their feet were being scrubbed. 

The Mennonite girls took a shy approach to new friends. It lent a certain sweetness to their simple beauty. With the girls not expecting anything great, it allowed us equally slow guys to coast along in our own fantasy world. 

During the height of my love sickness for that Mennonite girl, I was not able to function properly from Monday until the next Sunday morning. It was impossible to see Lilly in person during the week, because she attended high school while I was trying to sweat out my last term in grade school. 

However, some week day nights were spent on Newport Beach with Lilly. No, there weren’t any romantic interludes. I was always with a group of Mennonite young people. We would build a bonfire on the beach, and when the moon came up, fish about the size of smelts would bounce up onto the beach. I guess they were all female fishes, because they would wiggle in to the sand and make a hole with their bellies to lay their eggs in. 

While the fishes were busy doing their thing, the fun was to pick them up and throw them into a sack for eating purposes later on. (Sounds fishy, doesn’t it? That’s because you haven’t been around.) 

Usually, I got to hold the flashlight and sack for Lilly as she picked up those fish called grunions. Fun ran high when we got slapped by a wave as we tried to grab the last of these fish that were trying to make it back to their ocean home. 

Drifting away from this Sunday group was rather painful for me. Older guys with automobiles had the advantage. A guy with a car started taking Lilly out for rides. Moving out to the ranch and working for Walt Knotts didn’t help me forget her. She had a brother that was going with my sister. He would drive out to the ranch quite often, and that didn’t help matters, either. 

Thirty-four years ago, Lilly came up to Washington with her husband, and visited with my sister and me, also Sugar. I asked her if she really knew how gung-ho I was about her. She not only remembered, but also felt sorry for all the insecure frustrations I had. After all these years, wasn’t that sweet of her to have felt sorry for me?

"Puppy Love" Kik-Back Country, p. 64


Three Helpless Farmers

Who was the good guy of long ago that couldn’t stand seeing some of his farm friends going down the drain? It was Fred Reinbold. During the darkest days of that great depression, Fred was the local manager of an oil company in Davenport. 

Ed Kruger, Lynn Gunning, and myself ran out of money at about the same time. We had every reason to walk off our farms and join the soup lines, but that sounded distasteful to us; so we learned to live from one crisis to the next. The final blow came when no gasoline got to our farms unless it was paid for. Without fossil fuel, we could not produce wheat that nobody wanted. 

Fred Reinbold called up on a Monday morning, stating he was bringing his boss out to try and convince him we were farmers that some day would pay for stuff like gasoline and oil. 

I was topless when I approached the oil executive’s car. Fred’s boss looked me over and asked, “Did you have to hock your shirt to keep alive?” Upon leaving, I remember Fred saying to his boss, “All Walt needs is a little more gas ’til fall.” 

After the empty report I gave Fred and his boss, they drove over to Ed Kruger’s farm, then back to Lynn Gunning’s place for more monetary evaluations. 

Little did we know at that time that Fred’s boss turned thumbs down on extending more gasoline credit to us. Before any gas was allowed to leave in our direction, Fred had to sign a note. By so doing, he put his own paycheck on the line as security for three helpless farmers. 

In those pre-diesel days, gas was delivered in a primitive way. Guy Canfield, a well known gas delivery-man, worked at Fred’s plant. He would back up the company’s pint size truck to fill my six 55 gallon barrels. 

The tank on the truck had a short unloading faucet sticking out. A long rod that held a slug of rings was bolted on the back bed. Counting the gallons was done Chinese [abacus] style. Everytime a five gallon bucket was filled, Guy would slide one of those rings over to the other side of the truck. Then he would dump the bucket that was loaded with gasoline into the barrels. 

When the barrels were filled, Guy would then count the rings that were moved across the rod and multiply that number by five. The final penciled-in figures were the number of gallons delivered. 

Later, through the process of mental evolution, Mr. Canfield figured out how to measure delivered gallons more easily. He notched gallon markings on a stick that was a little longer than the barrels.

Buckets of gasoline could then be emptied without counting. It was a simple matter of sticking the marked stick into each barrel. The wetness would show the number of gallons that got dumped. 

This marked advancement brought forth a more accurate gallon count. Because, sometimes while visiting, Guy would forget to slide a ring across. 

"Good Samaritan" Kik-Back Country, p. 43

Marge Womach, local historian from Harrington, included this 
story in Fred Reinbold's obituary found at

A Reinbold connection:  Christ Lutheran Church, Egypt, Washington, Congregation Founded Dec 6, 1890, Building Constructed 1906. Charter members were Andrew Reinbold, Matt Reinbold, George Reinbold, Simon Reinbold, Jacob Reinbold, Matt Foehr, John Wolfrum and Fred Erfurth”
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