Kik-Back Country

Kik-Back Country

by Walt Kik
Edited by Phil Krogh

Places
Bluestem    Creston    Davenport    Egypt    Harrington   Ruff    Mondovi    Odessa     Porcupine Bay    Ritzville   Rocklyn       Sassin/Rock Creek    Sprague    Wilbur

Bluestem

    On a Friday night in January 1985, the Bluestem Grange gave me an opportunity to tell what I knew about early day Bluestem. We had a perfect setting for talking over the early days of Bluestem. The foggy weather had a way of knocking out the electricity. The whole Grange ritual and the lecture hour was conducted by candlelight, just like in the old log cabin days. 
    This flickering light event was held in the old two story school house. The upper part was never used as a school. It was built by settlers who had dreams that this railroad station would never stop growing. 
    In 1892, when the Great Northern Railroad got its tracks laid as far as what is now Bluestem, they drove a Moscow sign into the bunchgrass. Settlers took up the hint, and began building a frontier town. It grew to the size and shape that would have made a perfect setting to suit the modern movie producer of today. All the buildings condensed for "Frontier Town, USA, were there. 
    A well traveled wagon road that fed this town, crossed the railroad tracks as it entered main street. Rows of seven shed-like wheat warehouses occupied the railroad siding. Also a depot, and section house. 
Across from this fairly wide dirt street, a wooden sidewalk, the full length of the main drag, was nailed together. The buildings that were using this boardwalk were, first, a two story hotel located on the starting end of the wooden sidewalk, followed by a shed-like
meat market and storage building. 
Then came another two story building. The upstairs of this sturdy structure was the town’s dance hall. Downstairs was the general store. A small bricked in bank took up some of the general store. Next to this combination building was the town’s livery stable, where the flies had a hard time staying out of the general store. 
    If you kept walking the boardwalk to the west, a small empty space appeared. It was a place where drunks could sober up before riding their horses out of town. Then came the saloon. If you decided to pass it up, a few steps farther would take you to the restaurant. Then came a break in the sidewalk. It put you on ground level ’til a few feet brought you up to the boardwalk again, where the town’s blacksmith shop and chop mill took up quite a lot of space. 
    When those old timers got this far through main street, a lot of them thought about getting a shave, and maybe a bath. Handily right west of this wagon repairing and horse shoeing shop was the town’s barber shop. From there a stretch down to the end of the wooden sidewalk was the post office. Usually that was the last stop before heading home. 
    A town without a jail or a church—the citizens must have been able to keep themselves out of trouble. Quite an achievement, especially since they didn’t have any protection or guidelines to follow. 
    How come that new town of Moscow changed its name to Bluestem? It all got started way down under in Australia. Long before the turn of the century, a spring wheat was growing down there under the name of Bluestem. Later the variety migrated across the ocean, and settled for a while in Davis, California. It didn’t like it there; the hot weather gave Bluestem a sickly look. The wheat was shipped north to a cooler country. The main flow of Bluestem found a home suitable to its natural environment at Moscow. 
    John Fry, an eccentric farmer with lots of rich acres, farmed north of Moscow. He was so thrilled with the good job Bluestem wheat did to enlarge his already stuffed pocketbook, that he insisted that the newly formed town of Moscow change its name to Bluestem. 
    It's interesting to note that the last homestead that wasn’t taken, was all fenced in by the surrounding settlers to protect their newly gotten land. When word got out that this 160 acres was still up for grabs, Pete Selde, and another guy thought it was worth the race to Sprague. They both headed fast like in that direction. Mr. Selde was 15 minutes faster getting there. The ink was dry before the other interested party arrived. 
    This ghost town is where our unique Judge Nevins got his start on his way to knowledge, and practical experience. His Honor taught school in Bluestem’s old single room school house. 
    At one time. Bluestem must have been a gay old town. My dad spent one of his early Fourth of July celebrations with the celebrating Bluestemites. About this time another bank was built, but it never opened, so it didn't have a chance to go into bankruptcy. 
    There were no empty gold mines there to help dry up Bluestem. Heavy wheat yields will never revive this ghost town. It’s now just a place for local farmers to unload their crops. I believe the Bill Warwicks are the honorary caretakers of this once busy place. 
"Frontier Town" Kik-Back Country, page 18


Creston

    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 lived 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 four-thousand 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. 
    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, page 27


Harrington

    It is factual that Wilbur is a great little place. The controversial Wild Goose Bill just added the needed color to get it started. Later, this town was able to furnish the right inspiration for an early day citizen to become governor. The city of Wilbur has since stayed solidly on the map, without shrinking very much. 
    That can’t be said about Harrington. Its local newspaper folded up years ago, and the highway has long since ducked out of Main Street. Still, Harrington wins by a hair as being the most interesting early-day boom town in Lincoln County. 
    Years before fossil fuel was needed, a lot of mules were carted up from Missouri to the Harrington district for horse-power usage. Later, this pioneer town became the mule capitol of the west, and held annual Mule Day celebrations. In 1923, Pathe News flickered this annual event in lots of movie houses. 
    A monument about twice the size of a tombstone should be placed at the Harrington entrance, just far enough off highway 28, so the snow plows wouldn’t dent it. A suggested inscription should read as follows: 
    “One block east and one block south of this monument, sets the remains of an early pioneer factory. When the 20th century was hardly 15 years old, two daring guys, Lew Dunning and Charlie Erich, strayed into this humble burg from California. 
    "They figured this frontier community deserved a harvester that would be precisely designed to fit the rolling, volcanic hills of Lincoln County. They sold stock and got farmers excited enough to invest. Lots of lumber and iron were shipped in, and soon this factory gave birth to lots and lots of harvesters. They were all christened "Harrington." Later this factory even molded and assembled its own combine motors.
    "These part wooden and iron machines soon graced the wheat fields for miles around, causing inferior imports from California to slow down to a trickle.
    "Straight outdated chain hitches to pull these rigs were very cruel to all mules. Two local inventors, Talkington and Green got busy and made hitches of their own design so the new harvesters could be pulled without causing the animals to rupture. A third humane inventor, Shendonie, brought his own hitch with him from California. As many as 32 mules could be hooked together for pulling purposes."
“This monument was put up by the local Historical Society for the Prevention of Lost Records.” 
    Speaking of these early day harvesters, a recent finding just outside of Harrington, on the road to Lord’s Valley, there on an old California land company farm, a pioneer ranch house floor was yanked out for replacement by Herb Armstrong. There, before his very eyes were ancient combine tracks imprinted during the harvest of 1893. All the indentations of the bull-wheel cleets that ran the ground-powered harvester were clearly visible. 
    How did these original tracks stay preserved for all these eons? Simple: Right after harvest 88 years ago, that ranch house was put together on that stubble field, using rocks from the pasture and homemade mortar for the outside foundation, sealing in perfectly this little tidbit of history. 
    Harringtonites did use their noodles during those tough years when the Roosevelt administration was handing out dough quite freely on W.P.A. projects. They chose to have a swimming pool made with a building over it, and had it attached to their school. It still keeps kids and adults happy. 
    What did Davenport do with it’s W.P.A. allotment? They had a golf course built on a pile of scab rock. The course was never a success. Between the sagebrush and rocks, squirrels got busy and made lots of extra holes, causing great confusion and frustration among the golfers. Davenport was so embarrassed, it was glad when a much-needed hospital was built, as it helped cover up part of the folly. 
    Johnnie Russell’s early-day spread of farmland flowed in several directions, some of it ending up against the town of Harrington. My dad told me Johnnie took great pride in his accomplishments. Being well heeled, he could do funny things after harvest with the sacks of wheat that was laying all over his fields. 
    One particular year long ago, Mr. Russell wanted to see what his crop looked like in one big pile. That fall, when his neighbors were busy hauling their sacks of wheat to the warehouse, Johnnie greased his wagon wheels up for a different reason. He had his hired men cart all his crop back up to his farmstead, including all the sacks that were laying in the stubble that bordered on the edge of Harrington. 
    The sight pleased Johnnie’s eyes, as he looked at his man-made mountain of sacked wheat from every angle. When farmer Russell got tired admiring his wealth in the sack stage, he must have gathered all his hired men and said to them, “Let’s get busy boys, and start hauling all this scenery back to town, so I can have it turned into money and see what my wealth looks like in bank-book figures.” 
    In 1934, when the depression was still hanging around, Dad and I were browsing around the ruins of the old Harrington manufacturing company building that got burned out 10 years previous. Not realizing that the front part of the old factory was being used, we opened up a large door, and there before our very eyes stood what we thought was a brand new Harrington harvester. It was almost assembled. For a minute we thought a ghost of the past was doing funny things to our sight. 
    Soon voices entered our ears, and a small sagging shop door popped open. In came a couple of guys in coveralls and an oldtimer, Charley Kerran, who my dad knew very well. The mystery came to an end. Kerran was having his faithful, worn-out Harrington harvester restored. We admired Charley’s pride and joy. Everything was being rebuilt, even the wood holding the separater was replaced. “They don’t made combines like they used to,” Charley commented with pride. 
    Emil Jahn was managing the usable part of this old factory. Later that winter, I used the heated part of the building for a “do-it-yourself” tractor overhaul. A three-week stay, including a private tractor stall, cost only $15. The ailing tractors of Turner, Rux, Burns and the Watson brothers made their home there, too, that winter. 
    Before hard times ended, the once proud mansion of the former state senator Charley Bethel was sold for taxes. Warren Welch, an early day settler, took over legal ownership of this historical building. He and his wife just set up housekeeping in the southwest corner of this sad mansion of a past era. 
    My dad and Warren were old homestead pals, so on my pop’s final northwest visit, I chauffeured him to Welch’s relic. The conversation finally got to former Senator Bethel. “So, this is the old Bethel Mansion,” Pop said. “He was a senator when we lived on our homesteads.” 
    “Ya, I know, you could hear him for blocks when he gave a political speech, so he must have been a good senator,” was Warren’s reply. 
    Old Welch inherited a room full of the senator’s law and state record books. Warren had gutted out all of the printed pages from those very durable, hard leather- bound book covers, and made gift and storage boxes out of about every book, thus bringing Senator Bethel’s brainy collections to an end. 
"Early Boom Town, Harrington, Kik-Backs, page 72

Creston

    The reason I'm so slow getting used to inflation is because Alf Gullikson of Creston had a sale eight years ago where he had auctioned off a red and a green self-propelled combine. The two were in excellent condition but red combines were out of style around Creston that year, so for only $200 it was all mine. Alf said I stole it, but I got a cancelled check to prove I didn't.
    Let me tell you how reliable Alf's old red machine was. For the last three years of my farming life Sugar ran our old machines so I could enjoy running Mr. Gullikson's ex-self propel. He had it all fixed up, handy-like, so he could operate it with his artificial arm.
    Five years ago I sold Alf's old self propel, along with mine for company, to Scott Hamilton and his cousins who had them shipped to Chehalis. In a foreign costal environment they are still performing every season by cutting soggy barley and wheat in a heavily populated dairy country.
    It was rather a sad sight when we went over to take a look at our old combines. Alf's machine still looked natural, despite wet, greasy weeds all tangled around the header and sprockets. They were sitting among the coastal fir trees, truly out of their proper environment. Those machines were used to the dry, powdery dust of Lincoln County, where the air is filled with chaff and flying, dry straw. I'm sure those cheap Eastern Washington machines saved the Hamilton's a lot of money, making it possible to help cope with inflation.
"Getting Used to High Prices" Kik-Backs, page 46

Ritzville
   
    In my adolescent years I remember my Ritzville relatives as a friendly and noisy bunch. It didn’t take very long for some of them to become spiritually divided by going on a Seventh Day Adventist spree. It was due to their convictions that Sunday was not the correct day to attend church. 
    A whole wagon load of my relatives joined this group and took an oath to become vegetarians, thus sparing some of their farm animals a premature death. The rest of the bunch stayed like ordinary Christians and digested lots of meat. 
    When these animal eaters and vegetable food swallowers got together, religious friction soon surfaced. Usually a vegetarian relative would start out by saying, “God put Adam and Eve in a garden, not a slaughter house."  From the opposite side of the fence came a rebuttal, explaining a bed sheet of some kind was let down from heaven loaded with animals, and we were told by the Divine to devour all critters that had split hooves. A retort would come flying back, "Wait a minute! In the book of Daniel it states that none of the King’s helpers got wise or looked pretty ‘til all heavy foods and evil drinks were taken away  from their mouths." On and on went this kind of family squabbling. 
    Most of these meat devouring immigrants built a combination outside summer kitchen and butcher house. We extended our stay 24 hours longer to help the relatives celebrate “Butcher Day.” This event did not fall on any special day of the month, it just happened when pigs were ripe to kill. The early morning program started when sounds of four shots reduced the world’s pig population momentarily.— Events that followed were a no-no to anyone under 12. Was told that four bodies were given a very hot bath. Later, from a distance, it looked like they were performing autopsies on the pig’s intestines, but they were just removing objectionable materials, so later they could stuff German sausage into the pig’s digestive system. 
    Mid-afternoon activities in the summer kitchen grew when the four pig heads arrived along with the rest of their dismantled corpses. From then on the processing became complicated. Everything about the four piggies was divided into categories. 
    The next morning all the pieces and ground-up stuff had a name. We left that afternoon with the Model T holding a sizable amount of German Sausage that needed a smoke job when we got home.
"Germans From Russia" Kik-Backs, page 12

Odessa

    One-half of me is stuffed with genes of the plain German variety that took the bee-line route to America. The other half is filled with German blood that listened to the call of Catherine the Great and got steered to Russia where they grew lots of things and made German Sausage before coming to America. These large communal tribes were called German-Russians. 
    With that background cruising through my veins, I was all primed to beat it down to Odessa last spring when I got a phone call to spread the word that the German-Russians were coming to Odessa, and that we should help preserve the past history of this special species. For historical records, I agreed, realizing that soon all so-called pure breds will get mixed up by crossbreeding - which can be a blessing - as we won’t know which race to cuss. 
    Anyway, I was glad I went, even though I fully realize now that the ancestors on my mother’s side added no special link to the chain of evolution. These Ritzville and Odessa German-Russians are just as sweet and can show their affection the same as any other ethnic group. The vibes I received that night at the “roots” headquarters were that the older foundation stock seemed to be heavily loaded with religious beliefs. 
    After the turn of the century, the old country roads maintenance system was unique. Each farmer kept a certain length of road in summer in shape by dumping loads of straw and manure on the dusty trails. This was before the lava beds were threatened by rock crushers. 
    Stumbling through those hot, dusty roads 60 years ago on our many visiting trips made our mom happy. She needed a re-charge annually. Being married to a German who learned the open ways of Yankee living took some getting used to. She especially envied her sister’s parlor, even if the doors were never open except to polite company on Sunday.  
    (Those old-time parlors were kind of a display room for gathered collections. Doily-like patches were smoothed on arms and backs of stuffed sofas. Near an unused sofa sat a large horn that a cousin would take out for an airing on Sundays to blow into at church. Thick curtains were locked over the windows for display. A fat family album lay at just the right angle on the highly polished empty center table. Through the dim light, and parlor aroma, an organ could be spotted. In some ways this room was closely related to a fancy funeral parlor. )
    All other parts of the house were open to traffic. Lots of footsteps were extra heavy before breakfast. The sound of clattering dishes and German vocal sounds came from everywhere. The whine of the cream separator filled the air. Soon, a huge bowl of oatmeal mush was placed in the middle of the large kitchen table and a pitcher of hot milk (of all things) also arrived. 
    The sausage was still cooking on the raw side when the father of the house entered, and sat himself down at the head of the table, followed by his brood and their visiting guests. The morning religious services were held up until after the breakfast was in our stomachs. Then the child-bearing wife got up and brought her husband the Bible, along with his reading glasses. 
    A moment of dead silence took place while Uncle fastened his specs to his nose and ears. When the Bible got peeled open to the right place, he would peek over the top of his glasses to see if all hands were off the table. Scripture of a fairly powerful nature was then read. After closing the Bible, everyone had to slide off his chair and kneel down with all butts under the table, and recite a memorized prayer in unison. 
    Before leaving the house, working orders were given out to the matured sons. I tagged along with my cousins when they headed for the back of the barn, where they made a couple of cigarettes from a nearly empty can of tobacco. Their conversation began by using hard-boiled words with such wit and sharpness that they had me giggling. With some defiance and daring, they served their parents very well, and turned out to be hard workers and good managers. All are now retired and living off the fat of the land. 
    Before I became a gleam in my father’s eyes, he darn near flubbed up my chances of ever being related to this special stock from Russia. As a young guy, while courting my mom down at Walla Walla, Pop asked Gramps for Mother’s hand and blessing. Grandpa asked Dad if he was a Christian. Pa told him he was "a damn good Christian." This paraphrasing of the type of Christian he was caused Pop to tumble from the old man’s grace. Love letters had to be rerouted to Grandpa’s neighbor who happened to understand Cupid’s intentions much better.
"Germans From Russia" Kik-Backs, page 12

Harrington

    Writing up this Harrington story, reminded me of the time I was living at Orange, California, and how terribly homesick I got for Harrington and the farm where I grew up. 
    That sickness hit me while I was attending a matinee in 1923. The silent screen flashed on the Pathe news, and soon the lettering spelled out Harrington, Wash, (believe it or not). Then a flickering picture appeared showing a whole string of mules pulling a large combine, followed by a scene of Harrington that was loaded with more strings of mules prancing down main street. The event was called “Mule Day.” 
    I swore when the day came for me to escape my bondage from the south, I would attend that exciting event. When my goal was accomplished, Mule Day had been phased out, so I had to wait for the first big pow-wow that Harrington sponsored. It was called Farmer’s Day, or something like that. Mules were replaced with prizes, friendly people, and Dr. Cowan, who put on a free tooth pulling show. 
    In the middle of that day, good old David Cowan drove his made-over touring car to a corner on main street and parked the rig. He had a shed-like thing built on the back. He opened the doors and rolled out a dentist’s chair on his ready made platform. 
    This clever guy was quite a salesman. His gimmick included a pair of pliers, a fast talking voice and a bottle of pain killer. He introduced himself by shouting about the specially trained tooth pullers he had in Spokane. His slogan was. “If it hurts, you don’t pay." 
    Upon asking for volunteers. Herman Bursch from Rocklyn said he had three teeth in his mouth that weren’t worth a damn. “Fine,” said Cowan, “jump up here, it won’t cost you a dime.” The doc put his fist in Herman’s mouth in such a way he didn't even feel the needle. 
    By the time Doc Cowan finished his commercial, farmer Bursch’s jaw had long since turned into a rock. It was rather amusing how the Doc held tooth number one up in the air, giving a speech to the Harrington crowd, then asking Mr. Bursch if it hurt. The bloody scene was repeated for tooth number two and number three. 
    It impressed me that day to the point of letting the Peerless dentist pull my first adult tooth. It was painless alright, but it made me feel screwy. Since then I’ve had a fistfull of teeth pulled without dope. It’s only about an eight-second trip through hell, but then it’s all over, and I don’t feel screwy. 
"Reminiscing " Kik-Backs, page 74

Ritzville

    A guy that used to live in Ritzville wrote a letter to the editor, complaining that Ritzville isn’t such a hot place to live. He really went sour on this wheat raising community after completing a trip here from Stockton, California to visit his father. 
    This fellow, Charles, claims Stockton has lots more people and parks than Ritzville. (Of course it has; it’s been overcrowded for years down there.) He went on by stating, “We have much more to offer to the people of all ages than Ritzville will ever have . . . We have miles of rivers, dozens of lakes, 25 show houses . . . and large churches.” Then he said, “What about Ritzville? Can Ritzville ever come close to all this?” 
    Larger churches for larger towns, that speaks for itself. As for the 25 show houses, most of us town and country bred folks up here just happen to enjoy the comforts of home shows via television, and save the big time city stuff for special occasions. 
    Being's Charles was a high school graduate of Ritzville, it’s too bad he didn’t get around more. We have miles upon miles of flowing rivers, some between spectacularly built dams; and creeks galore. Also we are stocked with lakes, more than the Stockton country could ever hold. 
    A 15 minute drive out of metropolitan Ritzville would have taken Charles to our popular Sprague Lake. There he would have found several miles of shoreline. The lake just got a cleaning job. (Rarely done on such a big lake.) Soon there will be lots of brand new fishes, waiting for the baited hook. 
    I just wish I could have taken Charles on up through those long deep scenic coulees. There he would see for himself those many clear blue lakes that extend up to Dry Falls. Then I’d drive him back to south of Creston and down through the Lake Creek country. The county roads there will take you to a lot of pretty lakes that are surrounded with native grass and scent filled wild flowers. Upon getting close to those many lonely lakes, you can almost hear the call of nature to go swimming in the buff. The many ducks and other water loving birds don’t mind. 
    Then there’s that nationally renowned Lake Roosevelt that stretches on for endless miles, and wide enough to become an outing by just taking a ferry across it. Charles stated that gossip is on the increase up here. If so, he should have taken an afternoon off instead of listening to stuff that seems to upset him, and headed for this lake of lakes. There he could visualize what he will be missing this summer when lots of snow water fills up this huge cavity, and turns the shores into playgrounds. 
    I gather Charles is in his early 30’s, young enough to have gotten interested in the great Northwest sport of running. If only he would love Ritzville a little bit more. The Ritzville Fair Feat ’Ash Dash’ is one of our better runs. These week-to-week runs go on ’til the return of the snow birds. About every Inland Empire town that’s worth its salt has a celebration day of some kind that opens with a good run. These events give every participant a chance to feel good, and stay on the road to a stronger dose of health. 
"Accentuate the Positive" Kik-Back Country, page 25



Lake Creek Country

    Once upon a time, in the early dawn days of Sprague, Washington, two male orphans in their late teens joined [as] partners with Jack Muench in a cattle and horse ranch venture. Muench at that time owned lots of rocks, sagebrush, tullies and bunch grass land that was connected to Sprague Lake. 
    As time passed, calves grew into cattle and colts became horses. When dividing time rolled around, the owner of this ranch didn’t share the same viewpoint on a verbal agreement with his two junior partners. An exciting court trial at Ritzville did give these two young men their just share of the livestock. The verdict caused the owner to see red, so he kicked both of them off his property. They had to look for a place to park all their cattle and horses. 
    The year 1900 found the government still wanting to give away lots of land south of Wilbur, in the Lake Creek country. Just the opportunity these two brothers, Dave and Charlie Kik, were looking for. Johnny Harding, a Sprague lad, decided to join them on their road to new horizons. The three young fellows managed to get the herd of animals up to Portugie Joe’s territory. 
    While the cattle and horses were looking over the many lakes, and having a field day eating their happy way through belly high bunch grass, the three guys were busy sampling different spots to homestead on. They eventually found a high ridge that was full of good soil. It had enough room on it for each to have a 160 acre chunk of ground. 
    Before winter showed up, three crudely built shacks appeared about a quarter of a mile apart at skyline height. Each had a stove pipe sticking out to one side. Late, the following spring, the land was turned upside down and later wheat was planted on the buried bunch grass. 
    Brand new neighbors began to appear to the west on what was called “Russian Ridge." This gave the three guys a chance to swap with the immigrants. A lot of cayuses were exchanged for a communally owned heading outfit. 
    An idea was fast being born in those bachelor minds. Why not become the harvesters in that isolated spot? But that was hard to do without a thresher, so up to Wilbur they went. M. E. Hay had a store that held about everything homesteaders needed. The three new farmers browsed around for awhile at this farm equipment shopping center. Since they were horse lovers, they bypassed the steam engine. Finally they ordered a horse-powered threshing outfit. All these fellers had to do to take delivery, was to sign a piece of paper stating that, after harvest, enough money would be delivered to satisfy the agreed sale. Old Hay was a trusting old soul, wasn’t he? 
    Later, the whole works was towed out to their newly granted government land. After setting up the array of equipment, they realized a first class chow house on wheels was a necessity. A wagon running gear was stretched out to the limit, and that became the length of the restaurant on wheels. A liberal supply of foot boards, two by fours, and a bucket full of nails was all it took to build their cookhouse. The word “cookhouse” was then painted on the raw wood over the main entrance. A wooden water barrel and a cook stove were installed. They nailed together a table that extended down through the center of this eating house. 
    Johnny Harding knew of widow Dare down at Odessa, and her teenage daughter Julia. By communicating on horseback, the two women were hired as harvest cooks. No room was provided for their privacy. They had the choice of sleeping on the cookhouse floor, or under the cook wagon. For everyone, the wide open space was their toilet. The men usually bedded down in the straw stack. The outdoor utility room was the outside corner of the cookhouse, next to the strapped on water barrel. Before mealtime, the headers and the threshers would wash their dusty faces in pans that were strung out on benches. A couple of five foot lengths of towels hung on spikes driven into the cookhouse. 
    I was told, when the cooks arrived, supplies were just stacked up in the cookhouse. It was up to Julia and her mother to use their skill to turn flour, potatoes and the more solid forms of food into edible stuff. Kentucky fried chicken and home ground peanut butter weren’t around in those days. Fresh meat would have gotten over-ripe fast in hot weather. I suppose a lot of salty ham passed down the harvesters’ throats. 
    The large crew was well-pleased with what widow Dare and her daughter dished out. Sugar, (the other kind) made a lot of things taste good, like cookies and apple pie. They had to get up before the crack of dawn to boil a lot of oatmeal mush, and crack lots of eggs into frying pans. The crew always started heading and threshing about the time the sun got up with the morning. 
    Despite all the hard work, hormones among the group stayed at normal levels, so flirting between the eligible men and cooks went on the same as it would today, but in a more bashful way. Julia had a way of showing favors by giving some of the men a slice of apple pie with their mid-afternoon sandwich and coffee break. 
The three partners got along surprisingly well, considering they all had different makeups. Charlie was high strung, Dave was easy going, and Johnnie was in between. 
    Their horse powered outfit was unique. Eight heavy sweeps stuck out like spokes in a wagon. A couple of nags were hooked to each sweep. The 16 horses had to walk around in a circle without getting dizzy. This rotated the power through a long tumbling rod that was connected to the threshing separator. 
    A near tragedy of the season arrived, when the tumbling rod came apart and the sweeps from the instant light load hit all the nags in the fanny. This scared them into a whirling run-away. In the center of all this uncontrolled power, stood the teamster on a little round platform. He was getting scared and nauseated from watching all those horses go flying around. Relief came when every sweep got broken off and the wild-eyed cayuses scattered near and far. 
    During the long breakdown, a conference was held and a decision was made to locate a mule. The theory was that if the tumbling rod came apart again, this lone sterile animal was supposed to get stubborn enough to pull back, thus preventing another run-away. 
    What happened to the frightened horse-power driver? Well, he got his arm hurt and was shook enough to shake a lot. He did get some nursing attention from Julia ’til his arm didn’t need any more soothing. He thought he had a good thing going with her, but before the accident, Julia had already given a husky sack sewer the glad eye. They had engaged in a lot of smiling at each other during chow time. Verbal communication took place during the breakdown, and arrangements were made to use Charlie’s buggy for a long ride to Odessa. 
    It was suspected that the jilted, injured guy got wind of the coming buggy ride, and took the axle-nut off of the wheel on the passenger’s side. When the buggy made a sharp turn as the couple pulled away from the cookhouse, the tall wheel fell off, throwing Julia out on the ground, and the sack sewer landing on top of her. She got up crying, and ran back to the safety of the cookhouse. In those days it was an embarrassing situtation. Part of the crew was standing around witnessing the excitement. 
    For idle fun, some accused the sack sewer of falling on top of Julia on purpose. Embarrassed and in defense, he denied such goings on. The crew became divided, and took different sides. 
    The next day, for honor’s sake, the sack sewer asked Dave to be the judge, to clear the air. Dave, for jest, but in poor taste, told the young guy, in front of the idle crew, that he figured, by the evidence, that he purposely fell on top of her. 
    That did it. The guy quit, and six other sympathizers walked out with him. The next day Charlie had to beat it down to Harrington to try and scare up extra replacements. 
    As far as I recall hearing, harvest went smoothly from then on. The mule didn’t have to use his butt to hold back a run-away, because the tumbling rod never again came apart. Widow Dare later married a guy that turned out to be an alcoholic who gave her a rough time 'til she left him. What happened to her daughter Julia, no one seemed to remember. 
    Johnnie Harding never had a chance to settle down and find a mate. Some years later, he died during a flu epidemic. Charlie went back to Sprague to marry his first love, Myra Ekins, and my dad married my ma. 
"Last Of The Lake Creek Homesteaders" Kik-Backs, page 32, part 1

Porcupine Bay

    At a boat show in Spokane, it was interesting listening in on a salesman trying to stuff a rocket type boat down a potential customer's neck. This salesman was telling the guy he would have twice as much fun if he had a speedier boat. He was advised to trade in his old boat for one that would go zoom all over the lake. Good gosh! The middle-aged guy may just enjoy seeing the lake go by in slow motion.
    Since we all have to wait a bit before jumping into the water or to watch happy skiers being pulled around on our own man-made lake, how about going over a little history that made all this summer fun possible? In case some of you young ones don't know it, there are two rivers buried under Lake Roosevelt. These two bodies of water didn't have much to do for eons, except to carry run-off water to the ocean. Then smart guys came along and made all that moving water do great things. One of the good side effects for our territory was the making of Porcupine Bay, Fort Spokane, Keller Ferry and that semi-desert showplace, Spring Canyon. Aslo, a lot of mini beaches that sort of sprung up on their own.
    The creation began a little over a half century ago. At that time, the government got a hold of a lot of help and raised the Spokane and Columbia Rivers as if by magic. The water rose to just the right height to form those wonderful inland beaches. Now let's take Porcupine Bay to elaborate on, as its development was unique.
    Verbal records show that early boaters with their one to three horse power motors came upon this spot. They figured it was a darn nice place to park their boats and to stretch out on its sandy beach after devouring a basket lunch. How did the early explorers know this paradise was Porcupine Bay? They didn't 'til they saw some porcupines waddling around.
    Early landowners that joined this vast lake along Porcupine Bay were only interested in taking a look from the bluffs and saying, "That's a lot of water down there." Then they headed back to their farming or cattle producing businesses.
    But there was one farmer out Harrington way that took more than one look. He was Herb Armstrong, a guy that didn't mind spending his own money to develop this place. He fixed up the old trail-like road along the water line so the landlocked swimmers and picnickers could enjoy this spot. Also, Herb and his friends built some wooden boat docks and stuck a pipe deep enough into the ground to bring forth some sandy water. For a little privacy, a couple of out-houses were erected.
    A few of us early day users asked this question: "Will Porcupine Bay ever grow into a nationally known Federal Park, or will it remain a secluded spot for the chosen few?
    Again, Herb expanded his energy and came to the rescue. He started pestering the Parks Department to visit Porcupine. The idea was to sell them on developing this spot. They were reluctant to have it checked out as they just got through finishing Fort Spokane Recreational Area and figured this addition wouldn't be supported by the vacationing public.
    But Herb kept the pressure on. When it looked like he was going to get thrown out on his ear, the park guys finally promised to phone the big wheels at headquarters. A Sunday date was then set aside for inspection.
    Herb immediately sent out emergency notices to all of us that used the shores of Porcupine. He told us to get down there early Sunday and help fill the beach with lots of people. Boaters also responded. They were buzzing their boats up to the shoreline long before the big wheels arrived. A couple of clunked-out boats were towed over to fill in a bare spot.
    All afternoon there was a waiting line in front of the out-houses. Unnecessary repeaters were to show the park guys how urgent it was to have new pocelain indoor toilets to sit on.
    Even if it wasn't ethical, the stunt was a success. The Park Board appropriated all the money needed to match the rest of the chain of Recreational Parks. It was neat to have been blessed with the security of Park Supervisors and well trained life guards. The Park take-over encouraged Herb Armstrong to build the now present-day road right into Porcupine's parking lot.
    In the beginning, Porcupine differed from the other federally regulated parks in that you could set up 'squatters rights' and stay 'til the snow fell, if you so desired, which many seasonal campers did. Nature so arranged Porcupine that swimming, boating and camping are all done in one spot. It was interesting to see how the habitual ones came as soon as school was out and took choice spots by the water's edge, then stayed all summer, rent free.
    Usually Porcupine Bay kids raised there during the choice growing season were a healthy, happy bunch that didn't get into trouble, except for digging sand holes for night strollers to stumble into.
    Wally Sowers, a Spokane fireman commuted to work so his family could have the whole season to enjoy summer's dog-days at the Bay. That fall one of his daughters, Jeannie, didn't want to go back to the impersonal life of city schools. She stayed with us so she could enjoy a year of high school life, country style.
    With so many semi-permanent residents taking over Porcupine, it finally got to the point where campers were beginning to slide into the lake. There were just too many people wanting to enjoy what the Bay had to offer. First come, first serve. A blockade had to be enforced. When rules of limitation and fees were tacked up, sounds of upsetness could be heard around the Bay. However, most of the old summer squatters realized their free days of stays would forever disappear.
    During the years, our National Recreation Areas have been a retreat for interesting people. Porcupine [Bay] was no exception. Quite a few summers ago a group of Hungarian refugees sort of took over Porcupine on weekends. How could that happen? Well, in a way the Russians were responsible for it. These rebels got tired of having the Russians sitting in their country, so they took pot shots at them. But they were outnumbered and had to run like heck for their lives. The Catholic Diocese of Spokane took them under their wings so they could survive and find jobs.
    When the Hungarians arrived in Spokane, they let homesickness set in 'til one of their leaders, Egon Batai, found Porcupine Bay. The following weekend most of them made the maiden trip to this spot. These runaways were a tightly knit tribe and lived all their lives near a beautiful lake—so Porcupine was an excellent substitute. Continually on weekends these happy Hungarians would load themselves down with arms full of picnic stuff, tents, and lots of bathing suits.
    The Batais had two daughters that knocked your eyes out. The rest came in various shapes and sizes. They were all highly skilled in their trades. Egon painted portraits that were more real than real. Through Gonzaga, arrangements were made for Bing Cosby to sit a spell for Batai so he could paint him with a pipe in his mouth and a fishing hat on his head. When Jack Kennedy got shot, Egon, with the aid of photos, painted a larger-than-life size picture of our dead president. It was sent back to widow Jacqueline. She picked Egon's portrait over other entries and it is now hanging in the Kennedy show-off room. Egon was also the fussiest picture taker I ever saw. Down at the Bay, he used special reflectors and always looked in every direction before clicking the camera. The enlargement he made of Sugar and me did look a little shinier.
    That summer, and the following year, it wasn't all Hungarian goulash that went on at Porcupine Bay. It was love American style that the Bay contributed when a lonely soldier from Boston asked, "Do you know any good Catholic girls who like horses?" We did know of one and Sugar saw to it that Peter Caisse met Karen Conrad on the swimming dock. It was all smiles and sunshine. In a couple of days we knew they were falling in love because they were pushing each other off the diving dock.
    When love became solid enough, the desire to get married set in. A lot of us Porcupine patrons were invited to their wedding and dance. In dedication to their happiness, Peter and Karen built a quaint lake home at Porcupine which they and their kids occupy whenever possible.
    There are all kinds of special people that we Porcupiners get to meet seasonally. Some we knew long ago as singles looking for summertime fun. Now we get to visit with their grandchildren. Some left the water's edge when their kids grew up. Others took up building lake homes. A few dropped out and settled in their ownback yards for summer fun. All in all, vacationing groups and get-togethers are still very much the summer scene at the Bay.
"A Bit of Porcupine History" Kik-Back Country, page 81

Rocklyn
    
    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. 
Kik-Backs
    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, page 46

Ruff

    Ruff is a town that’s nestled in a low spot 24 miles southwest of Odessa. Three years ago reports came leaking out that dry land wheat down there was only making about four bushels to an acre; so Sugar and I took a spin that way during their harvest and found combines trying to catch heads that were sticking slightly above the deep furrowed rows. Luckily the wheat had red chaff, making it possible for the operators to find their way around the fields. 
    After interviewing an unhappy farmer, we got nosy and wanted to see if the drought had affected the town of Ruff. After all, part of my roots got sprouted down there through ancestral cross-breeding. 
    Upon entering Ruff at that time, it was a shock to find almost a ghost town. There were a few poor people living there that had the habit of pushing clunked-out refrigerators and stoves to the nearest outside door, and using them for steps. A far cry from 63 years ago when my dad motored his family for a weekend at Ruff to visit with relatives. Those German-Russians were so tidy that if you were to put down their reading material in a slightly different place, you would spoil their decorative ideas, making them emotionally upset to say funny things in German. 
    The friendliest bunch of little folks met us that day on their bicycles and gave us a tour of the town. The old standing church looked the same, except windows and doors were missing, and it badly needed a paint job and a preacher. A lightning strike caved-in the side of the old city water tank. The kids used the inside for their play jail. 
    We noticed on that guided tour that there were new signs nailed on the old hotel, the livery stable and the old Ford garage, stating when each was built. Those poor folks also took an historic interest and researched into past records, then nailed their findings and population up at the edge of town. 
    A little girl told us then that there wouldn’t be 27 people living at Ruff until her mother had her baby that fall, so, barring a miscarriage, the true census stayed correct for a spell. 
    An October Sunday, a couple of weeks ago, was a beautiful day. A good day to recharge that summer tan, so [we] decided to revisit Ruff after a three year abstainance. Maybe the big crops since then could make the town of Ruff shape up. 
    We were greeted by the sight of four large piles of spilled wheat that partially hid the elevators and the business district of Ruff. After crossing the railroad tracks one look told us it was a ghostlier town than before. A sign still stood pointing to where the grocery store is at, an aid for the wandering tourist. 
    Finding a parking place was no sweat. A sign on the door said “Closed on Sundays.” If service is needed, contact the big white house. After trying to spot anything looking white, a large lady came driving up from a yard full of kids and geese in a '59 gas-guzzling car. She was good enough to open up her store, so we felt obligated to buy something. Soon found out her frozen bars had more frost on the outside than ice cream on the inside. 
    We found out the town’s population had dropped from 27 to 22. The store owner produced most of Ruff’s population. She has ten kids, counting the baby she just had in September. Her married son lives there too, and is about to produce number 23. 
    The old hotel now stands empty, and the livery stable is still popular with camera fans. The city’s “Clean Rubbish Commission” is inactive, probably due to lack of funds, as we noticed some extra discarded stoves and refrigerators had been added to their outdoor inventory. 
    Someone hungry for wood demolished the church, and the town sign of Ruff, that the former tenants put up, has been swiped by souvenir hunters. Since there is no hope of a coal-fired plant getting established there, the town is doomed. 

Sassin/Rock Creek

    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. 
    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. 

Davenport
    Nowadays every weekday is the same in downtown Davenport. The two grocery stores stay open to 9 p.m. throughout the year. The mobility of people only varies on Sunday when the shoppers wear a more leisure look as they stroll down the shopping lanes and later pick up the Sunday paper. 
    Years ago, between the time when the Kaiser started raising hell and up to Hitler’s wild slaughtering spree, all stores closed during the weekdays at a respectable hour. Sunday was a tight day; everything was locked up solid. The blue nose law did allow the drug stores to stay open. After all, most lawmakers did not like to deprive themselves, let’s say, an ice-cream soda or maybe a cigar to chew on after church. But on Saturday night during the summer, all plugs were pulled. Nearly every store in Davenport left its doors wide open, including Tobiason’s Saddle and Leather shop, until the 9 o’clock bell rang. 
Kik-Backs
    There were five grocery stores in town during this period, Piggly Wiggly, Burgans, Allen’s Grocery, H.H. Granger Food Supply and the Farmer’s Store that was run by the Campbell family. In those days most Davenport food outlets did not let you gawk around for your staff of life. When it came your turn, the clerk would look over his glasses at you, with his ever-ready pad and pencil in his hand, and ask what you wanted to take home. If you said three cans of
corn, he would wet his pencil and write down three cans of corn, and put the price down just to the right of his pencil. When you finished reading off your list, the clerk would walk around in different directions filling a box up with your pre-dictated order. If you were not a deadbeat, you could pay for it later. 
    Come late Saturday afternoon, away out in the rippling horizon, many a farmer were unhooking their string of work horses at a shockingly early hour. After all, Saturday night was starting to arrive. Even the horses had a feeling that this was the evening for that extra bonus of rest and would tear down the home stretch. Only a steady pull on the lines kept the nags in the proper working range, and when you said “whoa,” you had better grab ahold of a piece of your combine, or whatever, or else you’d lose your balance. 
    As the skies darkened, Davenport took on a carnival atmosphere. The streets were used that night for congregating groups to stand on and visit. The early arrivals were able to get their hair blocked into its original shape while the barber’s scissors were still sharp and before the row of barber shop courtesy chairs became full of shaggy dogs waiting their turns. The first evening showing at the motion picture house was usually full of town kids. 
    The peak flow got parked and into the streets by 7 o’clock, then from nowhere and other odd places came the strangers that were looking for a harvest job. These guys exposed their professional trade by the symbols they were wearing. For instance, if these weather-beaten guys were skilled sack sewers, their hat would be punched with a sack needle just deep enough to miss their skulls. Twine was neatly folded around the exposed end of the needle. If his hat happened to be leaning on the side of his head, it meant he was a cocky sack sewer and could not be snowed under. Guys with their legs slightly bowed and with a new pair of leather gloves sticking halfway out of their hip pockets were looking for a job of driving all those horses that were needed to pull your combine. Then, the rather nervous guy that wore a cigarette in his mouth and a Bull Durham sack in his shirt pocket was just looking for anybody that would hire him. 
    Not only strangers mingled with the farmers, city folks would stray downtown after supper to join in the fellowship. Senator Charlie Myers, if he was in town, could be seen visiting with the farmers and the fair sex. I remember old Doc Bumgarner; he would hit the streets during the peak hour. He was rather a stout man, with an ever-present cigar that would never leave his mouth unless he had something to say. Greetings were usually a friendly nod, and he would lift his hat off his head when he saw a lady. 
Kik-Backs
    Pool halls did a landlord’s business. Loss of body moisture during the week was being replaced in the smoke-filled halls. Some of us not-so-hardy guys were doing the same thing up at The Mitten. Also, that’s where some of the young ladies hung out. There was never enough time to talk over current events. Crop yields were either excitingly exchanged, or
disappointingly told. Nine pm arrived too soon and most of us left our sloppy way of shopping until the last minute, causing the store keepers to leave their door blocks under the doors much longer. 
    Finally, when the stores pulled in their rugs, the lady folks started to pile themselves in their family cars. These tired farm wives would beckon some of us street stragglers over and ask us to get their respective husbands out of the pool hall so they could get home and into bed. Usually the farmers that fell for the pool halls were card players and would play for hickies (fake cardboard money). The hickies had to be spent right there. If those “fun on the town” farmers were lucky, they may have won enough hickies to take home a week’s supply of tobacco or snoose. While cards were being dealt, a tap on the shoulder was all that was needed to get their attention and response. “Tell her I’ll be out pretty soon.” 
    There are now very few left who used to get tapped on the shoulder to get the wife home Saturday night at a decent time. Some that were looking for work then are farming today or retired. It all seems like a dream.
   "Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night"  Kik-Backs, page 55

Mondovi
    
    There was little acknowledgement of Mondovi in that excellent Centennial Special that the Davenport Times put out in 1983. Sugar was asked if there was anything about Mondovi in the ‘controversial’ Centennial Cookbook. Well, very darn little. Between how to make Mennonite Chicken and Squirrel Soup, there is a paragraph on Mondovi. 
    Since so much has been written about Rocklyn, it’s a shame Mondovi has been forsaken. After all it’s the same distance from our county seat as Rocklyn is, except you've got to go in a different direction. 
    In 1889 the railroad missed Mondovi when it was building its way to Coulee City. So the town had to be moved down to where the railroad tracks were. According to records, when Mondovi became Mondovi there were only 16 humans inside that proclaimed spot. However, when a sawmill got going, the usual frontier buildings began to appear. It helped Mondovi turn
into a mini town. A blacksmith shop went into business mending broken rigs and farm equipment. The chop and feed mill supplied supplemental food for a lot of animals. A well cared for cemetery is still doing business on the outskirts of what is left of this burg.
Walt Kik
    Mondovi gave me a place to be born in. Proud to say it was a decent village. Even though it had a saloon, it left no permanent effects on my dad during the time my newly married parents lived there. It had room for two churches, so you see it was a place more holier than average for a place of its size. Streyfeller, the famous old time Lincoln County preacher, got his start by preaching in Mondovi's Evangelical church. Later Streyfeller became converted to the Pentocostal faith. A well known Catholic family supplied the town with lots and lots of good Catholics. It was a tough place for a heathen to survive.
    Every settlement has a heritage tale of some kind to tell. Mondovi is no different than any other place. True, old time events are slanted to what one knows about the past. 
    So now let’s start off by heading east of Mondovi for a five minute walk down Railroad Avenue. There, to the left, lived a guy by the name of George Betts. He had a farm but needed a wife, so he married my Aunt Lou. George, then, built a fancy home. He came from an inventive family, so he built a factory like shop that was powered by the wind. Shop holidays were when the air stood still. 
    Having no control over a fatal illness. George Betts died, leaving behind a practically brand new wife. My aunt then picked for her second husband — a gambler and a rounder by the name of Jack Smith. Being full of faith, she had plans to reform him. Finally Auntie Lou realized husband number two had no desire to look at the hind ends of horses all day long while doing field work so she sold the farm to my dad.
    We will now drift back into Mondovi proper where in 1896 a couple by the name of John and Susan Zeimantz contributed considerably to the population of Mondovi by raising ten children there. Eight girls and two boys — a lopsided figure that helped balance out a male dominated population. 
    John helped support the family by working for the Puget Sound warehouse in Mondovi while his wife ran a boarding house on Main Street. During the peak season she fed up to 20 hungry workers, family style, for 25 cents a meal. Poor and unspoiled, the rapidly maturing off-springs pitched in to make survival possible. Something like the Walton family on TV. 
    Community life provided this town’s entertainment. On Sunday afternoons the passenger train arrived from Spokane with a supply of mail and a stack of Sunday papers that sold for 5 cents. Folks would drive into town and tie up their live transportation so they could socialize with friends and neighbors. By the time the crowd reached it's usual size the locomotive smoke could be seen in the distance. 
    A special event would come to this burg when a one-man traveling show showed up. King Kennedy made annual appearances at the schoolhouse with his Punch and Judy show. King could make those rag dolls talk in a ventriloquism fashion to the amusement of bug-eyed youngsters and fun-filled adults. The Zeimantz children all got free tickets to the show in exchange for supplying boarding house meals to the man that could throw his voice. 
    The Zeimantz teenagers were a friendly bunch. Regardless of their inherited faith, attending a Protestant church was no sweat. They got to see a cross section of life in an early-day town that never grew. Eligible bachelors came in various sizes and professions. Among the wife seekers, competition ran high for the attention of the Zeimantz girls. Even their names sounded attractive: Mary, Gertie, Irene, Sophia, Minnie, Lena, Susie, and Margaret. 
    Before marriage, my dad was stuck on Gertie, but events didn’t jell. After marrying my mother, Dad forgot to take the picture of Gertie off the dresser top. Upon returning from their honeymoon Mom wanted to know what the picture signed “With Love” was all about. 
    Mother, coming from a tightly knitted German-Russian background, felt lost in the mixed society village of Mondovi. By the time I got born, the Zeimantzes made mother feel right at home. So much so, that mom hated to leave Mondovi when migration started us back to Rocklyn. 
    Years later, who was the first to get to see our brand new day old 1916 Model T Ford? - the Zeimantz tribe. Without any driver’s training Dad was able to steer the Ford to Mondovi with only two rest stops. A 13 mile nonstop trip got us back home that evening. 
"Mondovi and the Zeimantz Family" Kik-Back Country, page 20
Rocklyn

    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, page 46

    In a way, I never matured gracefully like other farmers did. This mental quirk gave me the excuse to play or take up hobbies that my farming friends wouldn't fool with. For instance, like getting the first load of wheat to the warehouse. In 40 years of my half-century of wheat farming, I did just that most of the time.
    This hobby started when I found myself blessed with some of the best thin ground in Lincoln County. This skimpy layer of pre-Saint Helens' volcanic ash made it possible for the moisture to depart early, causing the wheat to be shocked into sudden maturity. So you see, part of my farm was "made to order" for early crop delivery.
    The maiden voyage of trying to get the first load of wheat to town was no bed of roses. The day was a scorcher. The excitement of getting into the standing wheat left no room in our minds to stock the combine with essentials like plain ordinary drinking water.
    The combine finally produced a truck-load of wheat a mile from home. The sight of the turning windmill in the distance added pain to my thirst, but the so-called first load had to be taken in without any delayed detours.
    Upon pulling up to the warehouse scale, I was told that a guy from Sand Flats (where it was too dry to grow mustard) beat me in and took home the company's first prize - a large sack of flour. However, the second prize was two quarts of beer.
    I never drank such stuff before, but there was no time to quibble. It felt so wet in my dry mouth. Soon a screwy feeling went across my shoulder blades, and I felt a strong desire to sit down.
    I was taken on a guided tour to the downtown restaurant, where potatoes and other stuff diluted the beer. This made it possible to make it back to the combine and start the harvest season off in a normal manner.
"First Load of Wheat" Kik-Backs, page 71

Davenport







Walt Kik, also Sugar

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