His First and Only Driving Lesson

It was spring of 1916 when Sandy Keith, an all around auctioneer and Ford dealer, came out to our farm and went to work, trying to sell dad his first car. It was way after supper before dad got talked into signing a promissory note for $450. Sandy was then able to place an order for five Fords. In about three weeks, a box car of brand new Model T’s arrived in Davenport. One was daddy’s car. 

I remember well that spring day when Sandy Keith drove that shiny black three door open air Ford out to our place. Us kids and mama immediately placed ourselves in the back seat, while dad crawled into the driver’s stall with instructor Sandy sitting next to him. In that six mile stretch to Davenport, Mr. Keith gave dad his first and only driver’s lesson. It was all that was necessary for dad to get us safelyback to the farm that day. 

Sandy gave us a five gallon coal oil can that was full of gasoline. He said to store it in the outhouse, as it’s explosive and could cause a fire. —For days our outhouse was not patronized by me, ‘til dad moved the emergency gas to the blacksmith shop. 

That summer, whenever dad finished certain field work, we went everywhere - camp meetings [and] excursions with other groups of cars to Medical Lake for outings and swims. Went visiting mom’s relatives at Ritzville and Walla Walla etc. And of course, our weekly Saturday afternoon shopping sprees to Davenport. (continued)

"Road Testing a Model T" Kik-Backs, No. 3, p. 11

Walt Kik


Religious Friction Soon Surfaced

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 Revisited" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 15

Walt Kik
Pig Slaughter, Weber Farm
Yakima Valley, Washington State


Golly, Things Really Did Look Bad

Road Testing a Model T, Part 2

Three years later, came the big test for our Model T. With only six weeks left in 1919, dad and mom decided to take us kids back for another winter’s stay in Southern California. Winter was fast approaching. I’m sure there was no one that year in Lincoln County who had a desire to drive an automobile that far in bad weather, let alone using a Model T to work its way to winter paradise on primitive winter roads. 

Dad said, "No train this time" as he wanted his own ‘tin lizzy’ to run around with while at Orange. In some ways, dad was ahead of his time. He loved to camp out, but our Model T was no pickup camper. 

The Ford’s fenders and trunk rack were loaded down with a folded 10x12 foot tent, mattresses and stuff like that. Half of one running board held a mini fold-down kitchen cabinet. Us kids’ legs rode high on suitcases. Mother had the only car door that could be opened. For the rest of us, it was “over the top” to get in. 

The day we left we drove over to Rocklyn to weigh the works before take off. It turned out to be a scary overload. The Model T was doomed to face lots of chuck holes, clay mud, gravel and snow—at least ‘til we could get to within 500 miles of our goal. 

The first day out, we only made it to Wilson creek by hobbling in with a broken rear spring. A guy who ran a repair shop in a barn replaced the spring. Dad was determined not to dump some of our survival cargo, so he located a double action buggy spring and installed it right over the driveshaft housing. A genius idea! That helper spring worked all the way to California. 

When we finally got to the Cascades it was an all day struggle for the Model T to carry its load over that wet sticky pass. Dad’s foot ached as he had to hold the low gear pedal to the floor all the way to the summit—a three hour chore. The old saying was; "if a Model T can’t make it up a hill in high gear, you just have to use your foot and shove it up." 

The first weekend away from our farm, that I learned to love so deeply, found us camping along the roadside, somewhere between Olympia and Centralia. Mom didn’t think it was right to travel on Sunday, so dad complied with her wishes. While mother was washing the mountain clay out of some soiled things and trying to dry them out between the rain drops, dad and we kids went strolling ‘til we found a shack that had a hermit in it. Even the strange visit that took place between dad and this isolated guy didn’t sweep away the storm of homesickness that was racing through my mind. The country was too loaded with trees and clouds that rained ever since we hit the mountains and moss was hanging on everything that didn’t move. 

We kinda wiggled and slid our way through the outskirts of Portland. Rain was everywhere, we just couldn’t run away from it. With the car top up and the side curtains snapped into place, it gave us the feeling that we were moving in a tent. Even in those days, it was amazing how few people used the roads after we left Salem. 

The next day after pulling camp, we came to a fork in the road. The fork that went straight ahead looked like the easier fork to take, so pop steered the Model T in that direction. Soon dad was pushing the low gear pedal for all he was worth, because the road went straight up a mountain side. Little did we know that this was a little used road that wait by an old abandoned mine located near the summit. The road got steeper, slipperier and very narrow—the only way was to keep going. 

Finally with no more mountain left to climb, the mining trail wait straight down. Suddenly dad found out the brake band in the transmission was out. Quickly he aimed the Model T at a fallen tree, which bent the front axle way back. 

Golly' things really did look bad! It was getting late in the afternoon. Who would ever come up and look at that old mine ‘til spring? We kids got scared and so did mom. What did we do? Finally mom decided to hold her first open air prayer meeting. She asked the Lord to help us, and appeased Him by promising that she would hold family Bible reading and prayer at every beddie time. Mother kept her word for years. In the meantime dad, with a small ax chopped a space out of the rotted tree so our transportation could be swung back onto the trail. It was hairy going down that mountain because the front wheels were bent in the wrong direction. When the road turned too sharply, dad had to get out and wiggle the front wheels to where the trail was. Using the reverse pedal as a brake was our only salvation to keep us from spinning off that mountain. At last we found a small town that was setting by the main road. It took a day’s layover to get transmission bands put in. A guy with lots of muscles and pipe wrench got the wheels bent back in proper place. 

The second Sunday found us at Ashland. The old camping park was full of wonders. Lithium and soda water springs were boiling around in different places, it was a good place to rest and prepare for that day’s trip of up and over the Siskiyou range. The old tin lizzy found the Siskiyou mountains a little too warm and its water boiled constantly. When we saw a roadside spring, dad would take his foot off the low pedal and get out to drain the radiator, then fill it up with cold mountain water. Those old motor blocks could stand a sudden change of temperature without splitting wide open. It took three radiator drains to make it to the top. 

It rained all the next day. Before we got to Dunsmuir, the Model T slid off the road and got itself hung up in a ditch that had slipperier red clay than the road had. Traffic was completely missing, so we had no choice but to set up the tent, using part of the road. (That old road is now buried under a super freeway.) Around breakfast time, a guy driving a team of horses got our faithful rig back on the road. This teamster stated they don’t use cars around there when the roads get slippery, only the travelers that don’t know any better. 

When we got to Red Bluff that afternoon, we called it quits for the day and parked our overloaded rig under an oak tree so it could take a good rest. It felt good to dry ourselves out by laying in the sun—the worst was over. The rest of the way was flat. You couldn’t get lost, you just followed the railroad tracks clear to Bakersfield. After three weeks and three days, that old tin lizzy finally got us to Orange. 

Before coming back home dad treated the Model T to a new set of tires and tightened up its connecting rods so they wouldn’t rattle so much. We waited ‘til school was out to give the northern roads time to dry off. By taking the right fork in the road this time, the old Model T just kept on feeling the continued breeze of momentum “til we got to Portland. 

There was a gas shortage there, so we had to stay over. The Shriners were holding their convention in Portland that spring and they had special priorities for what gas there was in those hand cranked pumps. Finally we found a place where an attendant stuck a measuring stick in the gas tank, then just sold us enough gas to get is out of town. Our Washington license plate saved the day. 

"Road Testing a Model T" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 11

Walt Kik
1915 Automobile Club Map


Fly-by-Night Slickers with Oily Tongues

From riches to hitting the gospel trail. That’s what happened to a family I knew very well. The pioneer father of this family lost his shirt and all the rest of his earthly possessions to a bunch of smooth talking swindlers, who sold worthless mining stock to prime rated farmers. The gold colored certificates looked impressive. The suckers names were stamped in raised letters, right under a special seal. I understand some of these certificates are still around. They are collectors items by now. 

Why did a lot of early day farmers fall for those dressed up crooks? The main reason was, they were too busy making a decent living the hard way - by working. Their spare time was spent siring and raising many children. It left them little time to study a dishonest person. 

Those pioneer farmers should have been left alone. Green as grass to the outside world, they became sitting targets for fly-by-night slickers with oily tongues. Those crooked mining stock salesmen convinced Herman Bursch and a half dozen of his neighbors that they were too smart to be out farming in all that cold weather. 

“Look how far you came without an education,” they were told. “Just put your brains to work. Invest in the King Gold and Copper Mines’ and you will become a capitalist.” 

It sounded pretty neat to Herman, and some of his well healed neighbors. Those that were taken, turned their farm holdings into stacks of mining stocks. 

Good old trusting Herman Bursch then leaned back and began waiting for dividends from the sales of gold bars to set in. Meanwhile, the loan company figured waiting for Mr. Bursch’s royalties to show up was for the birds. He was stripped of his earthly possessions, except for part interest in the Rocklyn Farmers Warehouse that the mining salesmen accidentally overlooked. 

It was hard for the Bursch family to leave such a show place. Many a camp meeting was held in their well publicized grove. The clan was able to salvage some horses and a scattering of farm machinery. Herman, his wife and the married and the unmarried part of the family migrated up to the Rocklyn railroad tracks, where they moved into a couple of vacant farm houses. 

In the early 1930s times were tough. The family tried to resurrect one of the vacant farms. The next year, their old wooden Harrington Harvester had a rough time cutting the rented eight-bushel spring wheat crop. That fall, the family ended their last stand as farmers. 

Deeply religious all his life, Herman Bursch raised his family to follow the narrow path. He was a man that never carried any ill feelings. He did however figure the world was wicked. After all, he lost his fortune to guys that didn’t act like Christians. 

Herman was terribly worried about Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. He was sure Mussolini would stick around long enough to fulfill some Bible prophecy. That was before some Italian countrymen hung the stuttering dictator from the ceiling of a service station. Always sincere about his convictions, I didn’t mind listening to his ideas of what he thought was in store for the world in general. 

Herman’s two oldest sons, Chester and Archie heeded a sincere conviction to take up evangelistic work and spread the gospel of salvation. Roy Warwick, a self appointed minister of the same faith, joined the two rookie evangelists as a helper. Ritzville was to become their first main crusade. 

"How To Lose A Farm " Kik-Back Country, p. 68


Motors That Exploded Gasoline

In the early car days when guys like Henry Ford, and other car makers put their products on the market, self-taught mechanics began making their appearance around Davenport. These know-how guys were available to go from place to place fixing clunked out motors. Instead of carrying a little black bag like doctors once did when making calls, these mobile mechanics carried a box of tools that increased in size as their knowledge increased. 

Motors that exploded gasoline for power were very foreign to our ancestors. They did not know what a dismantled motor with a lot of round holes was for, so naturally they were at a loss to what made the crankshaft turn. The average settler did know how to use a monkey wrench, providing the bolt heads were square. 

As a kid, I remember why Hiram Maurer and Roy Borck were such important persons around here when a motor wouldn’t motorize. Hiram took a deep course in mechanics, but Roy just happened to watch other smart ones and remembered what he saw. Both were equal in fixing motors that gave out. 

Rocklyn’s first mechanics were busy teaching new owners of horseless carriages to remember to take care of their new vehicles, and a few starting rules. When dad became the legal owner of a Model T Ford, [on] the second day, he forgot to turn the magneto switch on. After nearly cranking his arm off, he called Hiram Maurer. In no time Hiram had the switch turned on for dad. 

One of Roy Borck’s first mechanical calls for help came from cattleman Gus Kruger. His model T Ford wouldn’t budge from his barnyard. A gallon of oil took care of the oil-starved motor, but Roy’s oil treatment didn’t help the burned out connecting rods any. Gus was reminded to feed his Model T a little oil once in a while. 

These new breeds of mechanical guys were able to handle most overhaul jobs with very few fatalities. They proved their fixing abilities by over-tightening most motors, to where it required a team of horses to drag the vehicles to a start. 

One of Davenport’s first independent mechanics that dealt with the motorizing public was Cliff Palmer. The early 1920's were the days of wooden battery cases, and tires that never saw a life span over 5,000 miles. Cliff’s all wooden car repair clinic looked more like a reconditioned blacksmith shop. Except the walls held all kinds of wrenches that were shaped to fit motor bolts. A fire wiped out this landmark, so Cliff hired out his mechanical skill to contractors that began building the Coulee Dam. 

"Mechanics" Kik-Back Country, p. 50


By...Twisting His Butt Right or Left

Years ago, the Northwest won the honor of manufacturing a combine harvester that tested the patience of a saint. In Idaho, some guys got out their pencils, and figured out how to build a combine on a beefed-up header frame. 

To make their brainstorm come true, these guys hung on the following components: A cylinder, the length of the header platform, was attached to flail out the grain after the cut heads were laid back by the reel. A fanning mill was placed behind the cyclinder. The straw sort of tumbled out in front of the horses’ faces. They were chained behind to hitches. Their job was to push this outfit like a header, instead of pulling it from up front. 

Right over the ground powered drive wheel, a platform was placed for sacking purposes. Elevator cups were installed to dump the thrashed wheat from the fanning mill type of separator into a sack that was hung there by an alert sack sewer. 

The only other guy besides the sack sewer on this mechanical device, was a busy fellow doing a triple action job. He drove all the horses that were hooked up on the right and left sides of the driving platform. His legs straddled a heavy turning stick, and he sat on it like it was a saddle. By bracing his legs on the standing platform and twisting his butt right or left, this harvester was supposed to turn. 

Right in front of the driver’s nose was a long header punching shaft that had to be lowered or raised for grain height, whenever he had a hand free for usage. 

Those proud inventors of the northwest were so excited that they named their contraption "The Idaho Harvester" in honor of the state in which it was built. 

This pusher type rig was never field tested correctly with live horse power. By pulling the rig from the back, it made the combine plow into the ground. Also, it caused great frustrations for the horses, and the driver when it came to turning corners. 

George Sweezy, a Rocklyn farmer got stuck by buying one of those rigs. The community figured if anyone could make the Idaho harvester operate successfully, George could. After all, he was an ex-school teacher, mayor of Rocklyn, and an all around smart guy. 

Well, Sweezy did make the Idaho work in a half-assed fashion. He made it into a push-pull rig by hooking some of the horses in front of the combine. The front team kept the combine from being pushed into the ground by the back team. Also the lead team was able to make the combine turn corners correctly. (Catch the picture?) It was the first and only combine ever built that eventually required two teamsters. 

George Sweezy’s land was level, and his soil had enough rocks in it to help the light bull wheel turn out power for threshing purposes. However, Sweezy got sick of his pain-in-the-neck combine, and sold it to Wood Hulbert for a give away price that even ‘small fry’ Wood could not pass up. 

Wood figured he had plenty of time to figure out how to make this nearly new combine work successfully. It gave him an opportunity to show those big wheel farmers he could harvest his own crop without their help. 

But Mr. Hulbert didn’t have as much patience as he thought he possessed. After addressing a lot of naughty words to the combine, he parked the rig permanently alongside of his well used trail to the highway. Every time Wood went to town, he was reminded of the lemon he bought. 

"The Reluctant Harvester" Kik-Back Country, p. 49

Walt Kik

Walt Kik


A Riderless Horse Led the Way

The first walkathon I ever witnessed took place between Peach and our watering trough. This unscheduled, 18 mile, one man, run-walk event happened during the summer of 1928. No watering stations or spectators lined the dusty roadside. A riderless horse led the way the course was to be followed. 

Bill Thornburg, who used to work for my dad during harvest, had a small peach orchard near the little town of Peach. He also owned a young female horse that was at the ripe age for some transportation. But Bill got fooled when he tried mounting this filly in his yard. She went around and around in circles, and finally broke away from Thornburg and headed down the road. 

Bill figured his horse would be tame enough to sneak up on, but it didn’t work. To keep from being annoyed, the filly ran up to Hawk Creek Falls where she could eat some grass in peace. Again when Bill got close enough to become a threat, the young mare ran up past the Falls, and stayed ahead of him for the next 18 miles. The filly’s escapade ended when she got thirsty enough to walk into our yard for a cool drink right from the watering trough. Dad then hooked a halter chain to the bridle of this wandering horse and chained her to a post. 

About five minutes later, Mr. Thornburg ended this man-beast walkathon by appearing in front of our well, where he soused himself with water, both inside and out. Bill was hoping the horse would wander into someone’s yard before getting to our place. 

Determined to get home so he could cool off in peace, Bill was able to mount the horse with the aid of dad. Thornburg and the filly left the yard fast like, and rather on the rough side. We figured both would get home in no time, and all would be forgiven by Bill. But when the two got down to the creek just back of our place, the filly decided Bill was a load, so she tossed him off. 

The two headed home, again independent of each other. Except when Bill crawled out from the creek bottom, he headed for bachelor George Sweetman’s shack up on the prairie. That evening Mr. Sweetman filled Bill up with a lot of food, and he slept like a log the whole night through with bachelor Sweetman as a bed partner. 

The next morning Bill hoped to catch a ride back to Peach, but nobody that went to Davenport ever completed the return trip in those days ’til afternoon. The quickie fresh air ride Bill got out of the filly the day before, shortened his walk back by a mile. 

Upon entering the yard gate, the home grown mare was there to greet Bill and showed no sign of resenting his presence. She allowed him to take that darn saddle off of her. 

In those days before cars took over completely, transportation sometimes turned out to be a balky problem. Those of you that are still alive, and knew Bill Thornburg will remember him as a tall, lean, muscular guy. If running was the ‘in thing’ then, like it is now, he would have given our best runners a run for their money. 

" Horse That Came In First " Kik-Back Country, p. 96

Walt Kik
Peach, Washington


Fundamentalists’ Hair Stand on End

After reading and studying all the religions of the world, it became easy for me to take membership in the U. U. [Unitarian Universalist] Church, then the Humanist Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, etc. So you see, I now belong to enough organizations from the other side of the fence that could make some fundamentalists’ hair stand on end. 

“Some of my best friends” are Bible people. Without them, I’d lose my environment. It helps keep one’s mind in proper balance. It would be terribly dull (but peaceful) if we all thought alike. Advanced knowledge and folklore would come to a standstill. 

Throughout history, education of the highest value (usually, but not always) has been the goal of “free thinkers." The early church deliberately set out to destroy all pagan books as a threat to their own doctrine. The book burners used censorship to control thought. As far back as the twelfth century, the Crusaders marched through Europe, burning all the books they could get their eager hands on. It was estimated to be over 30,000. and as many as 80,000 manuscripts went up in smoke, setting back civilization for centuries. It was the humanism of the Renaissance that brought a revival of classical learning that re-lit the lamps of Europe. Today we have the incomplete writings of only about 40 classical scholars. 

If the Fundamentalists want to censor books for their flocks, that’s their business, but to extend their authoritarianism to our public institutions, well, that’s a horse of a different color. 

"Comment" Kik-Backs, p. 88


To Prevent Arousal From Setting In

I sincerely believe that swimming in indoor pools will help cure cranky husbands and wives when winter cabin fever sets in. There is no better therapy than when the body enters a large quantity of water that’s under temperature control. The crippling condition, that made Franklin Roosevelt immobile throughout his productive life, was helped by plenty of year round swimming. In those days, large heated pools were scarce, so the President had to head for Warm Springs, Georgia, where he could exercise in the buoyancy of water that was not too cold. 

The summers of lake swimming are really neat! But, every fall the receding sun brings forth outdoor anti-swim weather. 

Sugar and I have been doing year-round swimming for over 40 years. All of us were made to live close to nature and that includes plenty of water. Kids, given the opportunity, will take to water like fish. Whether you want to believe it or not, people with great knowledge tell us that the ocean is where all life got its start. Of course, that goes back one heck of a long ways. So let’s just go back to the 19th century when the Victorian age was still in power and was dictating the proper way to keep the body clean. 

In England some medical books during that period didn’t advise taking a bath during the winter months. To make matters worse, this rule was handed out before body deodorant was invented. Instead, they advocated the use of a body-sized tent with a hole in the center for the head to stick out. 

Under the stool they used to sit on, was a iron pot filled with hot coals. The belief was that sweat oozing form the semi-barbecued body was supposed to cleanse the skin of all impurities. What a step backwards! Especially since centuries before, the Romans were building and using luxury public pools. 

Not too long ago, during a YWCA celebration, a large picture was hung on the wall showing an early day swim scene in a mill pond near Spokane. They were all wearing woolen bathing suits heavy enough to sink a good swimmer. A large size rope was strung across the pond to divide the men from the women to prevent arousal from setting in. 

The summer of 1929, I went to Lake Coeur d’Alene in just a pair of swim trunks that were sent to me from a relative in California. I was told by vacationing friends that I may be run in. It spoiled my water fun ‘til a guy from the south was vacationing in the northwest. When he swam by, he too was wearing a topless swim suit—again we have come a long way. 

"Swimming Is Part of Nature" Kik-Backs, No. 3, p. 57


Wore His Clothes 24 Hours a Day

Rocklyn, in its span of existence, had not one, but two guys that took up the lonely life of bachelorhood, Bill Chappell and Ross Parsons. Chappell was the best known bachelor because his wheat farm brought in enough wealth to help the poor before he died in poverty. For a while, Rocklyn remained bachelorless 'til Ross became old enough to take over Chappell’s title. 

When Ross got big enough to leave home, he homesteaded on the outer edge of Lake Creek, and built himself a shack. By patching up the leaks, the shanty lasted Russ ’til cancer took him away. His quarter bordered on the Rocklyn mail route, making him a naturalized citizen of Rocklyn. 

Unlike Chappell, Parsons was no threat to the large wheat farmer. He just wanted to raise enough wheat to survive. One of his noted farm cost-cut operations was using two wrought iron bed ends as harrows behind his 10 foot drill. Ross loved the nags he kept for horsepower. He became so protective of his horses that a lightning rod was installed on the barn. One old mare, that was getting up in years, would use her face to nudge Parsons’ cabin door when she got hungry. 

The small Parsons house sets quite aways back from my sister’s mail route road, but it didn’t give him much communication since Ross was not on the daily list of receiving newspapers or magazines. Neither was his shack blessed with a telephone or radio. When the winter snows got rough, and Ross needed some horse medicine or liver pills for himself, he would tie a floppy rag on a pole, and poke it in the snow. Either my sister or a passing distant neighbor would walk in to see what he wanted. 

Ross did live a simple and non-expensive life. Years ago, his hamock-type bedspring developed a split, causing Ross’ hips to rest on the floor. A couple of rolled-up steer hides placed in the center of his ruptured bedspring solved the problem. Ross wore his clothes 24 hours a day. Going to bed was no chore, except for crawling under a couple of no-washed blankets. Since his mind was not cluttered up with too many activities, it left lots of room for a remarkable memory. (continued)

"Christmas Pays Visit To Rocklyn Loner" Kik-Backs, p. 76


The Bum Left No Tips

The year of 1916, baby sitters were scarcer than hen’s teeth. My sister and I were only preschoolers. We had to learn to stay at home all day without the guiding hand of a babysitter. 

No, it wasn’t a case of child abuse. Our parents didn’t run off to some place like a tavern. Mom wasn’t well that summer. We were told that she had to be taken clear up to Spokane every week for treatments. I like to think that Sis and I were made out of the ‘right stuff.’ Most of the time, we did feel sort of brave. 

After receiving our weekly bye-bye hugs, we were left behind to witness the Model T disappearing in a cloud of dust. We would look at each other for a while, and then begin playing that we were at a camp meeting. 

However, several times when we were left alone, ‘drop-ins’ supplied highlights, and some responsibility for Ethel and me. One long parentless day, in the midst of our play time, a bum came walking down the lane. He scared us enough that we sort of shook. The ice was broken when the bum asked if he could get something to eat. 

Quickly we ran to the house. While sis was busy cutting up potatoes to fry, I was stuffing the cook stove full of wood. Dad always had a small can of kerosene to start the fire with. It’s a wonder we didn’t burn the house down. 

The bum was fed a diet of fried eggs and a plate full of potatoes. After getting a free meal down his stomach, the bum left no tips. 

Old Gus Kruger, a Rocklyn cattle farmer, was our weekly meat delivery guy during the summer months. Gus would knock a steer in the head, and peddle it to the farmers. The next week he usually would ‘do in’ a calf, so he could have veal as his speciality for the day. His Model T Ford held a shed like cabinet in the back that was full of fresh meat. 

We kids were spending another day alone when Gus Kruger drove up with his mobile butcher shop. I told Gus I didn’t know what part of the steer to leave here. He said my mom usually wanted a roast and some steak. While Gus was setting part of a chopped up steer on a box, I told him I had no money to pay for it. 

Old Gus had a dry sense of humor which I didn’t understand. He thought a bit, then finally said, “If you promise not to eat the meat, and put it down the cellar ’til it’s paid for, I’ll leave it here.” 

Golly, that was a chore. Our old cellar hadn’t been used for a long time, as it was pretty well caved in. It took some time to get those two bundles of steer meat down that spider webbed cellar. 

When the sky began to darken, sister and I always started to crave for papa and mama to return. When the stars came out, sis and I would manage to crawl up on the blacksmith shop roof. From there we could see the car lights as they came up over the creek hill. 

It was a disappointment when the magneto driven lights didn’t dim down for the turn off. It meant we had to wait on the roof for another pair of lights to pop up. 

Eventually, a pair of car lights made it into our lane. That particular night found us running up to dad to let him know that Gus Kruger wanted the meat put in the old cellar, since it wasn’t paid for. Dad smiled, and said, “That sounds like old Gus. He was just having some fun with you kids.” 

The folks always brought back goodies from Burgans' Spokane store. Usually fancy, city-made, bakery stuff. Sometimes something wearable to brighten up our bodies.

"No Baby Sitters" Kik-Back Country, p. 86

Walt Kik

Burgans / Spokesman Review


He Wouldn't Harm a Fly

Feb. 1978, along with other folks, I attended a court case that starred a Rocklyn citizen. While waiting for the judge to make a very important decision, I couldn’t help but think that in this same courtroom, years ago. another Rocklynite was involved in a court trial. 

Old Gus Kruger, a big soft spoken man and cattle rancher by trade, was a bachelor who behaved himself except for a small thirst for whiskey. Gus did however, get caught in a trap set by a married couple who had larceny in their hearts. 

Needing ranch help, Kruger hired these two crooks. When Gus terminated their employment, crook number one said she wished they could stay at Gus’ ranch. Crook number two said, “That’s it!” and beat it to Davenport to file an alienation of affections suit for a pile of money. 

I knew old Gus. He wouldn’t harm a fly, let alone swipe someone’s wife. Like a lot of trials, evidence sometimes just hangs on one shaky point. This point happened to involve an outdoor cellar. (Sounds scandalous, doesn’t it?) 

Scene—courtroom, loaded with nosey spectators. A lawyer, pointing his finger at Gus, roared, “In his arms this scoundrel was seen carrying this man’s wife up from the cellar.” Gus told the court she was supposed to have turned her ankle while down there fetching some milk for dinner. 

The jury didn’t see any reason why Gus and his money should part. Also, it figured he was within his legal rights to perform this so-called mercy chore of rescuing crook number one from that cellar. Gus, puzzled, but none the poorer, went back to his ranch where he could once again watch his cattle roam. 

"Old Gus Kruger" Kik-Backs, p. 69 

Walt Kik
Spokesman-Review, 4th Aug 1910


His Huckleberry Finn Days

No Easy Road to Retirement, Part 2      (Part 1)

Drifting into retirement doesn’t always run smoothly. While playing around down at Lake Roosevelt last fall during Indian summer days, we ran across a tired looking retired farmer and his wife from Mansfield. They were trying to find happiness in retirement by giving Spring Canyon a try. After visiting a spell, we found him depressed. 

The poor guy, upon retiring, over did himself by buying an expensive home on wheels. The only retirement desire he had in mind, was to take his seasoned wife back and show her his old home-town in Iowa. Not only was he disappointed about the now dismantled town of his Huckleberry Finn days, but driving that newly purchased land cruiser that far was a chore for him. 

He and his spouse had just returned from that nerve-wracking trip, and decided to spend a few days resting up by staring at the lake from a couple of folding chairs. Feeling blue, he felt like they should head south for the winter, so they could make some use out of their mobile investment. “I kind of hate to go,” he stated, “I hear the traffic is pretty bad down there.” (continued)

"No Easy Road to Retirement" Kik-Backs, p. 90

Walt Kik


Quit Farming Gracefully

A couple of farms from our house lives a neighbor who was born 22 months ahead of me. The only difference between him and me is he is still hooked on farming. So far, he has avoided withdrawal pains. 

For over 50 years, he has been a successful farmer, and has a bigger spread than I have, so retirement shouldn’t be a financial burden for him. 'Course, being a bigger man, his stomach does hold more than mine. Still, on the other hand, even with inflation, his body fuel costs would only be slightly higher than average. 

Let’s take another example: Old George Borck, a hard-working, well-known Lincoln County farmer, and also a neighbor, raised wheat annually from his planning days of youth until old age. Mr. Borck ate, talked and lived farming all his life. Only taking time out for him and his wife to have some boys, who after they grew up, didn’t give a hoot about farming, and turned to other callings. 

On his 80th birthday, George found it hard to get his arthritic body pried out of his tractor seat after spending long hours guiding his outfit and watching the cultivator shrink the field down to a satisfactory size. It occurred several times to him that he would have to give up the only joy he ever knew. 

A few months before Mr. Borck held his auction sale, he stopped in for a chit-chat. “I just have to quit farming.” he stated. “My back pains are killing me." He always loved to visit about how the crops were doing, and what we should do to help nature give us better yields. 

Old George didn’t live very long after old age put him on the shelf. I'll never forget what he told a lot us. “All my life,” he would say, “farming was a financial struggle for me. Now when I can afford good equipment and enjoy the comforts of farming. I’m getting too damned old to do anything about it.” 

To quit farming gracefully, de-programming has to start years before you crawl off the tractor for the last time. Why wait ’till you're all stove up from wear and tear? Waiting for rigor mortis to set in can be too late to reap much benefit from retirement. 

How does one retire gracefully and still survive? You know, that is a problem! Unless you are one of the few who can’t wait for old age to set in, so you can have a socially accepted excuse not to do a darn thing but clean out a comfortable place to park yourself. 

On the average, wheat farmers love their independent profession. Years of know-how are buried deeply in their weather-beaten heads. Case in point: Simon Reinbold, one of our well-known regional area farmers, whose total live years since birth have added up to a respectful figure, is still active. He keeps in touch with environment by having his cake and eating it too. 

Simon prepared many years back for his semi-retirement, when as a young lad he found himself listening to stories of far away places, told by a wandering seller of wares that used to stay overnight at the family farm. The vocal travelogue given by that Syrian peddler who migrated from the Middle East, planted seeds of travel in Simon’s mind. 

Since then, he and his wife have enjoyed many outings around our planet, returning back home with fresh knowledge of different farming and cultural habits. For years now, the two of them have mixed farming with traveling on a schedule to suit their broadening educational needs. 

Unfortunately, we are not all made out of the same mold. Frankly, I get homesick when we take an overnight stay in a motel, unless the car is parked facing home. (continued)

 "No Easy Road To Retirement" Kik-Backs, p. 90

Walt Kik

Simon Reinbold / WSU Land Legacy Program

Walt Kik

Mountain View Cemetery, Davenport, Washington /


A Privilege Denied to Many

No Easy Road To Retirement, Part 3      (Part 2)

Guess I'm just a lucky retired guy, without a mobile home to worry about. Sugar is still too young for the rocking chair, so we find ourselves getting almost too involved in more interesting things than ever before. 

For those of us that are still physically wound up, jogging is a good answer for that depressed feeling. Sure, flat feet or a tired body can suddenly feed your mind a message that jogging is for the birds. 

Unless your heart acts funny-like, don’t give up! You can avoid that “heck with it” syndrome by breaking yourself in kind of slow-like. Soon you will enjoy the birds and flowers as you happily stretch out your mileage. 

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

"No Easy Road To Retirement" Kik-Backs, p. 90 


If I Am a Threat to Anyone

Sugar was a softy, she voted for Carter. I couldn’t, but that ex-movie actor didn’t get my vote either. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority targeted in on [George] McGovern and [Frank] Church. It helped destroy both of them. It made me cry. One can understand why the Moral Majority gave Church the axe. His son is a Unitarian minister, but why McGovern? He represents all the good parts of Christian living. 

All this reminds me that our farming community is more or less founded on Christian principals. It’s very simple to follow status-quo. Down deep, everyone does have a close kinship for each other, and it would stay that way, regardless of who strays away from the traditional path that gets a little too narrow for some of us to follow. The “moral majority” should include every religion that has been manufactured, whether the path is wide or narrow. 

Some of us can walk away from our inherited religion. That’s why I have “fallen from grace” in the eyes of the fundamentalists. Questions I hear: “Hey, I heard you have withdrawn from the Christian faith.” Usually, the question isn’t put that simple. One can’t do justice in a short conversation without getting the feeling of being ridiculed. If I am a threat to anyone, then their faith must be very weak, or they are in doubt themselves. 

A decade ago, at an annual relative birthday party collision of the minds took place when those concerned folks found out that Sugar and I were going to the Unitarian Church. We make it through the “happy birthday” song without a note of discord. Even made it safely through the candle blowing ceremony. It was right after the cake nibbling part, that I noticed my cousin had developed a hand tremor. 

He then set his voice in the high frequency range, and asked me, “What’s this I hear about you going to that Unitarian Church? I hear they don’t believe in the divinity of Christ.” 

Unitarians are a very social and educational group. They really care about life after birth, rather than life after death. Universal brotherhood, undivided by nation, race or creed, are the basic Unitarian principles. They do not believe the Bible is a supernatural revelation although they do find in the Bible many insights and habits of its time. Most Unitarians think that scriptures of other religions are of the same value, and that knowledge is still to be written. 

Virgin births have been announced about many others besides Jesus. In early Christian centuries, odd ball births were a popular thing to shout about among the Salvationist cults. We happen to believe that natural birth is sufficiently wonderful. For some, the name of God is used as a spirit to life. 

A Unitarian is one who believes that in religion, as in everything, each individual should be free to seek the truth for him of herself with no “hang-ups” about creeds that say “no” to new found truths. Unitarians believe everyone has a right to choose their own religious values that fill their needs, and that they feel comfortable with. 

Many of my best friends are dear devoted Christians. It gives them the moral strength they need. There were lots of great leaders that lived by Christian principles, but it’s sickening to hear those Moral Majority preachers, stating that all our founding fathers were God-fearing people because it ain’t necessarily so. When George Washington got through making us a country, he went to chuch for the last time, after he was asked to take communion. Maybe he was embarrassed, but history doesn’t say.

Thomas Jefferson questioned with boldness the existence of God, and John Adams said the world would be better off if there was no religion in it. Abraham Lincoln stated that his earlier views on the un-soundness of the Christian scheme of salvation had become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and saw no reason to ever change them. 

Five Unitarians were President of the U.S., including Thomas Jefferson. Some other Unitarians of the past were Daniel Webster, Susan B. Anthony, Horace Mann, Florence Nightingale, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Howard Taft, and poets Emerson. Longfellow, Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and author Mark Twain. 

Although not Unitarians, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein held no beliefs in God. Einstein said, “I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the object of his creation, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear.” 

Unitarians have the feeling that over half of the nation’s population hold Unitarian principles, and don’t know it. We take up very little space in Spokane, Friends and membership roles total only around 300, but it does include the Spokane city manager and a council member, the symphony conductor, news media people, political leaders, judges, lawyers, artists, authors, many doctors, teachers, professors and students. Then a lot of us are just plain earth-type people. 

Catholics, Jews and educators from Whitworth College are frequent visitors, often sharing the platform with our Unitarian ministers, speaking on human welfare and minority issues. Quakers and Unitarians get along very well together. They just happen to love everybody, even though we don’t believe in “spook-power."

In fact, the National Quakers sponsored our former minister as a delegate to the Geneva Conference in Switzerland, so he could use his influence to help stop the slaughtering that was going on at that time in Vietnam. 

"Unitarians" Kik-Backs, p. 87 

Walt Kik
Unitarian Ads / Spokesman-Review 1958-1972


A Free Religious Matinee

Practically all of our immigrant ancestors were quite religious. The countryside throughout Eastern Washington was dotted with churches that were erected to satisy their various inherited beliefs. Some still stand ghost-like, casting their shadows in the surrounding wheat and summer fallowed fields. 

The Christians in those days may have been deeper into faith than the modern ones of today. To the early day believers, it gave them special protection; something like being insured. When the law of averages hit them, they drew on their policies and entered into eternal glory. Whatever happened, they couldn’t lose. 

When I was a kid, churches took vacations in June. The faithful didn’t go tearing around, forgetting their religion for two or three weeks. They would set up headquarters in a grove of native trees. A spiritual tent would be set up about the size of an average modern machine shed. It was called “camp meeting time.” 

Years ago, a scouting church member spied a grove of trees between Davenport and Harrington. It was made to order by nature, to hold a good-sized crowd. The oasis was blessed with a creek, a play field, and parking places for lots of family tents. The owners opened their arms and it became a summer paradise for the hard working Bible reading settlers. These June events didn’t fade into history ’til the middle 1920's. 

Spring wheat was the main crop, and plowing was usually over with by June. In those days weeding was not practiced, so horses were turned out to pasture, 'till the harvest days began to roll around. Everything seemed to work out just right for spending a couple of weeks at camp meeting, where a free religious matinee and evening service were held each day. 

Those old faithful settlers didn’t really need a camp meeting for the purpose of getting their spiritual batteries re-charged. It gave them the opportunity to fulfill their communication needs by sharing verbal events with distant neighbors, and having fun. 

I remember that some of my relatives came from as far away as Ritzville. One clan even tied an old milk cow behind their overloaded wagon. It didn’t take long for the campground to fill up with dogs, wagons, kids, buggies, parents, tents, preachers and a good-sized scattering of unattached guys and dolls looking for excitement. 

Horn instruments were plentiful, and anyone who knew how to blow in music, would toot out hymns. A vacationing minister would then wind himself up to last about an hour. Baseball was the main sport between services, and wading in the creek was OK, even on Sundays. The busier farmers would only take the weekend off, filling the grove to the cracking point. 

This camp meeting place finally changed denominational hands, when the Pentecostal promoters from the coast moved in. Quite a few of my neighbors and relatives joined the new order, with the assurance of a more solid guaranteed trip on the road to eternal bliss. Although the friendly fellowship remained the same, it broke up the established churches into smaller pieces. Soon after, camp meetings faded from the scene forever. Later, different faiths supported special summer spots in more sophisticated distant places. 

"Camp Meetings" Kik-Backs, p. 85 


All the Known Carols Were Sung

Christmas Pays Visit To Rocklyn Loner, Part 2

Thirty-four years ago from this holiday time, things weren’t much different around here, except quite a few old-timers have completed their life cycles, including Ross. New generations have branched out on family trees. Sugar and I, since then, have collected a face full of normal wrinkles. I suppose if we lived in China, we would be taking in their traditional celebration. Right here we have a double feature going for us - Santa and the Christian celebration. 

Wherever a person lives, early environment leaves an impression on the memory pattern. It is quite easy to recall things. The year 1947 found us participating in a Christmas program that the country church on the hill put on. Three-fourths of the church population had a part in the program. Pieces about Santa and the Christ child were given to kids up to five feet tall. Anyone that had inherited any musical skill was allowed to do his or her thing. The closing part of the programs was the traditional Chrismas story. To make the final scene more realistic, a silver star was pulled across on a wire to help guide three guys in robes to a mini-manger. 

When Christmas was only hours away, the Rocklyn hill church bunch attended a Christmas Eve program at the Evangelical Church in Harrington. After exchanging holiday greetings following the program, brothers and sisters of the Ed Mielke family rounded up some singles with the idea of caroling in the wide open spaces. Sugar and I furnished part of the transportation and were used as spare singers. 

That Christmas Eve happened to have been one of those cold, clear nights with lots of snow. Too much caroling, and getting stuck, made it past midnight before we got to the Wade Adams ranch. The family had just returned from midnight Mass. In the warmth of their home we figured it was worth the risk to try and make it out to Ross Parsons’ shack. After all, Ross was getting stiff from old age, and maybe caroling would wake up his eardrums and make him feel good all over. 

Still on a high from exercising our vocal chords, we left for the sparsely traveled road that led to the Lake Creek country. After churning and slipping, we made it to Parsons’ private lane. From there on it was a walk-in trip. 

His unpainted shack stood out like a dark, ghost-like object in the moon-lit snow. After lining up in choir arrangements, carols rolled out over that desolate place. If Ross had been a religious man, he would have thought the angels were coming to take him to a shinier place. 

All the known carols were sung, and still no sign of Ross. When the Star Spangled Banner was suggested, a flicker of light quivered through the small window, as he placed the chimney on his lighted lamp. Though he looked surprised and bewildered, he seemed pleased that we had put on such a spectacular for him. Ross did know it was Christmas time, because a long nail held calendars.

Walking back to our cars we realized that all we left Ross was a memory of Christmas carols that penetrated his shack. No one thought to bring him a present or something to eat. Bread, sow belly, coffee and potatoes can be quite monotonous. 

Distant neighbors and relatives were always concerned about his welfare, and often left some tasty goodies. Eventually he just became a character in his own right. Ross was the last settler around here to live all his adult life on land that the government gave away. 

Distant neighbors and relatives were always concerned about his welfare, and often left some tasty goodies. Eventually he just became a character in his own right. Ross was the last settler around here to live all his adult life on land that the government gave away. 

"Christmas Pays Visit To Rocklyn Loner " Kik-Backs, p. 76


We Had to Take His Word

In 1889, the railroad reached a spot that was named Rocklyn, and a section house was built. Right now, that same section house is occupied by Ed Deppner, who is almost a century plant himself. He has seen the town of Rocklyn grow to a general store, a lumber yard that handled farm machinery, also a stock yard and three warehouse companies. Now, instead of seeing Rocklyn grow to a decent size town, Mr. Deppner saw the town get wiped out to where only his humble century old section house and himself is left. — Sunday mornings finds great-grandpa Deppner picking up his well worn Bible and catching a ride to the Assembly of God Church with the Hardys, where he is still trying to figure out a lot of spiritual things. 

Since the Rocklyn Church is still hanging in there, it gave us another opportunity to attend Easter services for sentimental reasons. This small loyal group puts on this traditional special, followed by the minister’s Easter message and egg hunt goes smoothly for the benefit of visiting friends and relatives. After all, that hilltop has been holding Sunday services for over 100 years. And the other hill across the draw holds some of our ancestors that died with a lot of old time faith in their hearts. 

Easter brought back memories when nearly all ladies wore new hats on Easter to church. Those ‘Easter Parade’ days also included a new dress to go with their hats and gloves. Yes, gloves. White ones at that, not that their hands were cold, because the menfolks were not wearing any gloves. 

Jim Doak, pastor of Davenport Methodist Church during the 1950s, tried to break the cycle of spending lots of money on Easter outfits. One Easter Sunday, preacher Doak arose from his pulpit chair and stated that wearing new apparel for Easter is an expensive habit. To set an example, Rev. Doak added that he was wearing his old suit. We had to take his word, because he was wearing his long black preaching robe. 

"Centennial Tour of Rocklyn" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 19


Wrinkles Change the Map on Our Faces

If you happen to be lucky enough to share a bed with the same partner for half a century, it’s time to throw a celebration of victory for lasting that long. That’s what the Davenport Assembly of God did when they threw a 50th anniversary bash for Bud and Beulah Olsen in May, 1985. 

When we got through kissing and congratulating these fifty year veterans of married bliss, Sugar and I separated, and wandered around through a roomfull of faces, while fellowshipping with old acquaintances that took separate roads in life. They were folks that we usually don’t see ’til an important wedding takes place, or another golden anniversary arrives on the scene. 

Memories have a strange way of unfolding. It only takes a little mental shifting of gears to recognize old friends that have developed a more matured, and well settled look. Time does show the wear and tear on all of us. Wrinkles change the map on our faces, but most everyone retains the same familiar giggle, and smile that makes it easy to identify forgotten friends from teenage days. 

Most of us oldsters still love our mates, as well as little children. We should try to keep that same stored up feeling that makes life go around. (continued)

"A Golden Anniversary" Kik-Back Country, p.93


That Long Wait...Brought Me Sugar

A Golden Anniversary, Part 2

This golden anniversary event made a guy realize that things were different 50 years ago when Bud and Beulah took their vows to live a married life. Did couples get married with all the wedding bell trimmings in those days. No, not that I know of. These big deal weddings didn’t get started ’til after Adolph Hitler’s defeat. It wasn’t until then that daddies could afford to put on a show for their departing daughters. Neither were the country boys able to flash through their home towns in a sport car, looking for a date to date. 

When Beulah and Bud decided to get married, all they did was to get in touch with preacher Kroneman who had a parish, and a church down the street a ways. They had him come over to Beulah’s family home where he tied the marriage knot. 

To zoom in on Bud’s bride of fifty years, one has to go back to an old established wheat ranch in the Rocklyn area. Beulah is the youngest of Charley and Julia Rux’s string of daughters. They all arrived in orderly fashion without any time out for a brother. Mabel, Aileen, Bessie, and finally Beulah. In fact, it was sort of luck that Beulah made it. 

Her dad wanted a son so bad that when word reached him out in the harvest field that his wife gave birth to another girl, (Bessie) he was so disappointed that he refused to go home. It took three days before Charley felt like leaving his custom thrashing crew to go see daughter number three. Charley and his wife again tried for a boy, but Beulah arrived instead. 

Charley made the best of his all girl family. They grew up healthy like, and helped supply a more equal ratio between the boys and the skimpy girl population. Later Beulah carried out the same family tradition by having just four girls, too. 

The Rocklyn district at one time had three one room schoolhouses. They were scattered all around so the kids wouldn’t have to take all forenoon to get there. Two of Beulah’s sisters, Bessie and Aileen, became school marms and taught in two of Rocklyn’s schools. Country preacher H.B. Mann, taught in the stricter Rocklyn school that had a church nearby. 

Two of the Rux sisters rode horses to the main Rocklyn schoolhouse. Bessie was the teacher, and little Beulah was one of her pupils. Beulah and her scattering of school mates were the last of the Rocklynites to attend this one room country school. 

When Beulah entered her last years of schooling in Davenport, it seemed like Bud was waiting for her. They became high school sweethearts. Lots of Sundays were spent socializing with local couples that had matrimonial intentions on their minds. After some simple outings that those depression days had to offer, Beulah and Bud made a decision to try for a long married life. 

That same year, seven other local couples took up marriage vows. It nearly wiped out all the singles. It left only me, and a handful of others that couldn’t get it altogether. However, that long wait of five years brought Sugar. 

"A Golden Anniversary" Kik-Back Country, p. 93