Young Fellows from Crowded Places

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

If I was forced to live in the seedy part of Spokane, upstairs in a one room apartment that overlooked a blacktop street, I wouldn’t last more than three weeks. Maybe a week longer if I saw someone from Lincoln County that was forcing his way through a bunch of street derelicts.

It would be nice if our beautiful open spaces were used more often by groups of young folks from the slums. During the 1930's, lots of young fellows from crowded places had a chance to settle for a while next to Davenport. A government CCC camp was located there. It had its own water tank, barracks, mess hall, etc. Those inexperienced young guys learned a lot while here. Some were put to work improving on nature up in the Egypt-Reinbold country. The project helped old Gus Reinbold to become more of an aggressive Democrat. He had a lot of praise for that government program. Gus then become interested in soil management, and developed a ‘know-how’ in the grass seeding business.

I had a couple of those CCC kids out here for several afternoons during the harvest of 1938. They came from the confinement of New York City area. They called our highway the boulevard and wanted to help haul wheat to Rocklyn. I was still sacking wheat at that time, and they were eager to toss those wheat sacks that were hidden in the stubble onto the truck. During the unloading process at the warehouse they asked manager, 'Wolf' Boyk, “in what shed up here do they grind this wheat into flour?”


"Happenings When Spring Arrived" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 32

Walt Kik
C.C.C. Photograph 1933

Camp Anderson, Davenport, WA


Goings-on in the Medical Field

“Life with a Killer"—so goes a title in a Bellevue newspaper. Also in a smaller headline was, "Teacher determined to defeat fatal illness to live."—It’s a story about Marlene Knapp, a Bellevue schoolteacher, who is facing an incurable disease that is slowly destroying her liver. She is the daughter of Paul and Elizabeth Clark, whom I’ve known for a long time—although, I never got acquainted with their daughters while they were growing up in Davenport. 

After being examined by a specialist, Marlene learned she had a degenerative liver disease with no known cure. A while back, the doctors said she had five years to live. “I remember going home,” states Marlene, “And sitting at the table and looking at my hand, thinking it would soon be a skeleton...I was really depressed. I wasn’t that old". (47) The children of her school (sixth graders) have helped to keep her spirits up. “I love the spontaneous humor of children...I think that is one of the greatest means of support to me. I would hate to stop working,” says Marlene who had taught for 23 years at that time. She now tires very easily. 

How did I become interested in Marlene? It was she that made it possible. A few years ago, Marlene was over from Bellevue visiting. She spotted me at the Harrington barbecue, and let me know she was a reader of Kik-Backs when it was appearing in the Davenport Times. We shared the same philosophy of life—so had a heck of a lot to talk about. While visiting, I had no idea that time could be starting to run out on Marlene’s life. 

Marlene recently returned from San Francisco where an evaluation was made of her body. When a liver is found for Marlene that passes inspection, she has less than four hours to hoist herself in and out of the plane and get herself on the operating table at San Francisco. The Weyerhauser Lumber Company and several other private jet planes are on call for such emergencies. 

Liver transplants don’t come cheap, costing up to $150,000. So far at Frisco, only 18 livers have been transplanted (1988). The surgical procedure is described as 20 times more technically difficult than a heart transplant. You’d have to walk the streets for months on end before meeting anyone using a transplanted liver. Truly it’s very rare—as such goings-on in the medical field is just in its infancy. 

We first heard of Marlene’s liver plight when I received a copy of a protest letter she had planned to send to the Davenport Times. It was humorously written and to the point. But the consequences could have caused some ripples for those around town that didn’t know that Marlene is a liberated lady with strong conviction.—In Marlene’s protest letter on censorship, she quoted John S. Mill: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power would be justified in silencing mankind.” 

However, Marlene’s feisty nature of fighting for common causes is mellowed somewhat when she thinks of her family. She wrote: “Grandma May (Reinbold) was a very special lady—generous and loving. She had a gift for memorizing, and in the past few years poems she had learned as a young girl came back to her in profusion. The last time I saw her she wanted to recite ‘The Song of Hiawatha,’ I reminded her (gently I hope) that her choice was pages and pages long. She said she knew it, but recited “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere’ instead. I regret that I was unable to visit her in the hospital to say good-bye.” Marlene also has a generous dose of Grandpa Gus’s humor in her genes. 

With all due respect to good family traditional upbringing, Marlene faces the realities of life in her own strong way. Within the last month, we received a couple of letters from her—in part she states:...’’Most people are very kind, but many try to ‘take me home to Jesus.’ I know they mean well, but I know what I believe and so wish they would respect my rights.. .The two transplant surgeons are intelligent and experienced, I believe this ordeal is more difficult for Nils (her husband) and our daughter, Sidney, than for me. Oh I have my occasional down moments when I think, "why me?" Then the TV, or reading reminds me of much more horrible human sufferings and my thoughts change to ‘why not me?’ I fear only the moment of death. After that I would imagine there’s nothing—like before birth.” 

"Thanks for your kind thoughts and words. They arrived on a day when I had just put my insurance and benefits material in order, and planned a memorial service (should one be needed). It would be at the East Shore Unitarian church. Anyway, after all that was done I sensed a feeling of relief, until I realized what I had done. The ‘old blues’ grabbed me for awhile, but I booted them out and today I’m sure I’ll survive it all. I’ve still got things to do and places to see..When everything is working swell, people don’t give much thought to their internal organs...If you don’t hear from me again, thank you with great sincerity for your support."

In January 1989, I received a report that Marlene stood the transplant operation OK, but on the rough side. They had to open her up again to shuffle around her intestines so they can get used to her adopted liver. Marlene turned out to be one of the fortunate ones. 

"A Courageous Lady" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 31

Walt Kik
Mar 17, 1937 – Oct 15, 2015 (Age 78)
Marlene Knapp became one of the country's 
longest-living liver transplant patients. 


Oodles of Miles Per Hour

A lot of changes in thinking deal with the acceptance of new ideas. The only fixed habit that no one wants changed is the memory clock that is buried deep in our brains. This mind gismo automatically keeps records of all the things that happen throughout our lifetime, unless Alzheimer’s disease starts working on that storage box. (It makes me very sad when I see several of my old time friends whose minds are slowly being destroyed by that ‘take over’ disease. And no one is immune to it.) 

Accepting changes to something new is ingenuity in action. Some changes in our habits takes place very smoothly, when we see that it benefits us—like early day horse farmers who stared in wonder when seeing an advanced neighbor out in the field with his noisy new tractor, dragging a long load of plows across the field. 

Accepting tractors came quite easy. After all, a spin of the old hand crank starter was much more fun than hooking up a bunch of nervous horses. And turning off the switch at quitting time was much easier than leading all those nags back to their board and room stalls in the bam But when it comes to science, especially in the rural area, some folks don’t accept what scientists hand out in the form of knowledge.—That ancient guy, Galileo, didn’t have a snap when he tried to prove that the earth revolved around the sun, and that the universe was full of lots of space. Galileo was thrown in the dungeon for harboring knowledge. But you couldn’t blame those early day Christians for making Galileo suffer for his shocking statements because scientists weren’t around in those days to make them smart. 

Boy, we sure have come a long ways since Galileo’s time. A few years ago, science made it possible to send a space ship to Mars. It was loaded with all kinds of scientific stuff, so we could study photos of interesting findings. Going at oodles of miles per hour, it still took months to get to Mars. When this space thing landed, a bolt got jarred loose from the robot’s arm. By pressing certain buttons and a lot of other things in the control room, zillions of miles from Mars, they were able to locate the bolt that was laying there on Mars’ surface. Service was then restored via long distance TV. 

Some folks only go half way to accepting changes. Down at Odessa’s Deutsches Fest blowout, we noticed the clannish Hutterite people were still dressed in their 1865 or '66 dress code wardrobe. The home made canned stuff they were selling, looked like it was put up in old collector jars. Their living habits haven’t changed since their great-great-grand-daddies created the Hutterites. 

But when it comes to farming, they accept changes at the drop of their old black hats. I’ve seen some of these Hutterite men at Lind’s Dry Land Research Station. They were looking at wheat plots [and] asking questions. During the noon information talks, they took out their stubby pencils and made notes. When everyone was leaving for home, they were looking over a new display combine. I’m told that this religious group farms with up-to-date farm machinery. 

And then there are a few folks that have to be sold on reasons to accept change. Some were afraid that this proposed whirling Super Collider might generate a lot of bad stuff. But when a friend read that the Collider might discover building blocks that could take care of cancer, she sort of didn’t mind so much that science is studying matter. 

There is one exception where we won’t accept change, and that is our individual concept of evolution and religion. Carol Krupke, a religious man who studied a lot on human behavior, told me years ago, “Don’t take away anyone’s beliefs. They inherently will fight back.” That statement made me more tolerant in considering the self protective shield that we inherited. 

I don’t see why we can’t walk hand in hand throughout life with the creationists. Here is a quotation that sort of put the difference in its proper understanding: "Evolution is based on fact, that’s why it’s science. Creationism is based on faith, that’s why it’s religion. And if you want to teach creationism in public schools, that’s fine—that’s absolutely fine. But teach it in comparative religion. Don’t teach it in science as "fact," 

[Postscript] The sociology textbook says: “Religion is a system of communally held beliefs and practices that are oriented toward some sacred supernatural realm. Without this combination of elements, there can be no religion. “ 

"Accepting Changes" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 29

Walt Kik
b. 1964
Carol with Cabbages, Lamona Colony, Washington, 1994

Walt Kik


That Projector in His Mind

For me, the cream of the crop stories may be running out. Time will tell. I may have to scrape the bottom of the barrel. There’s bound to be some horse thief stories to tell about, or a black sheep in the family that could be written up in a glorified way. It would then show that our community was a normal one. 

There are some stories to be found in old newspapers that are authentic. Unreliable information can be picked up from old rounders who would rather tell about their early escapades than factual history. 

Doing some hard thinking should bring back a lot of memories to us old duffers. But does it bring back memories to everyone? Due to no fault of their own, a not too rare an ailment can take away one’s inherited mental ability, usually during the tail end of life. 

A streak of sadness runs around inside of me when I think how Alzheimers disease has taken our friend Earnest Beieler out of circulation. He is under the caring eyes of the Lincoln County Nursing Home, and is receiving tender loving care from his wife Verna. 

Earnest is one of the best historians left in our territory. He was compiling old records and manuscripts when he was stricken. Unless a cure can be found to relight that projector in his mind, he will take with him forever the things he loved to share with others. 

He has put together in a loose leaf book all the tools, and antiques of the Beieler homestead. Each article is well photographed, with detailed descriptions on how each item was used, and interesting features about them. 

I regret missing a tour a few years ago that Earnest was going to take me on. It included his historical farmstead and collections. Postponing for another date came too late for Earnest to give me that ‘in gut’ feeling of his first hand information. Records of the Beieler family and their associates should some day be put down in book form. It would capture the feeling of pioneer life north of Davenport. 

Mr. Beieler had the education that I sorely lacked. A former school teacher, he was highly respected by his students. Earnest helped me by verifying some historical facts about the pioneer story on our local Big Bend cattleman, Barney Fitzpatrick. 

Speaking of Barney, his granddaughter, Catharine Kelly, has been supplying me with all the Will Rogers columns I needed for my scrap book. I have also received from her some valuable historical articles that she researched for me from coastal newspapers. 

"A Tribute to a Historian" Kik-Back Country, p. 57

Walt Kik
1934 Ritzville


A Photo in My Mind

As a young lad I remember well what harvest was like in Lincoln County before World War I. This was before the glass enclosed paradise where a guy sits on top of a self-propelled combine pushing a few buttons and turning a steering wheel so that he can stay where the wheat is. It has been known in the Davenport area that more than 3,000 bushels has been laid away in one day by just one man, with the aid of a truck driver (sometimes maneuvered by just his lovely wife.) That adds up to just two people! 

Now for a quick summary this morning while waiting for the rain water to get out of the grain so Sugar and I can get this crop out of the field. All that I saw as a young guy stayed as a photo in my mind. In those days it did take a lot of people help to get the crop into the hands of the buyer. 

Take one year for example. It must have been 1914. Just as the grain was turning ripe, Herman Maskenthine’s outfit moved in and began what was called the heading outfit. Their job was to cut off the standing wheat and stack it for the threshers at a later date. A circle was started with the header in the center of the field, if you had a center. Our fields usually didn’t have one. 

The cut wheat stack was placed there for the threshers, which later set up a carnival of equipment to knock hell out of the wheat and put the grain into rows of sacks. Some heading equipment had derricks. If they did, the stacks could be made to look like huge round domed sponge cakes. Otherwise hand pitched stacks were made to look like bread loaves. They were usually placed side by side with room enough for the threshing derricks to be moved in between later. That year, the crew that it took to harvest my Dad’s crop consisted of the header puncher who maneuvered six horses in an odd way, straddling a steering stick, and the loader that sat on the header spout till another header box drove under him. Three header boxes, were employed each one requiring an operator, known as box drivers. Rather a skillful job. 

The stacker had a derrick driver, usually a big kid eager to do a man’s job but had to take a lot of cussing from the stacker. And Irma, the heading outfit's daughter, had to be called a helper, as she helped Mom shell peas and get dinner ready for the heading crew. 

Just to get the standing grain sawed off and put into a heap, it took eight people, plus Mom. 

Next, after a few weeks, came Mike Maurers threshing outfit. I wish I could take the time to explain the equipment piece by piece. It was a romantic harvest scene. As a kid I thought dreamily, how I wanted to be a steam engineer and pull those levers and whistles with such authority and keen knowhow. Otherwise, he didn’t seem to have much to do but sit on a shelf near the throttle levers in case someone waved to stop the works. 

Now recalling, it took one engineer and the fireman to run the thresher. I believe the fireman was known as the fellow who hauled the straw from the straw stack with a cart, back to the engine to be shoved into the fire box for making the energy. Some had a guy hauling water if the supply source was farther than over the hill. 

To feed the stationary separator from the setting, it took two men each operating a Jackson fork that dragged a large forkfull on a large flat table that was built on wheels - two fork drivers. From this table four hoedowners used a fork that was mashed into a 90 degree angle, making it into a sort of a hoe. The four guys worked in pairs, pulling the unthreshed wheat into a Jackson feeder that fed into the cylinder, with the other two changing off every twenty minutes because they were pooped. 

Then there was the separator tender. He always looked busy, moving his eyes and walking around with an oil can. 

As the grain came out of the long spout, a guy that was called a jigger was at work. He put the sacks on the spout and bounced them up and down to get more wheat in them. Then sort of handed the filled sacks to the sack sewers. There were usually two of them and they had to buck them into long rows of stacked sacks. (If there was no bucker.) 

Usually the outfit had a “flunkie” but he never cared for his title. Sometimes a straw stacker was hired; I remember I used to watch one. He had a face full of whiskers, and was continually trying to wipe the chaff out of his beard. It seemed like the straw blower and his face always were pretty close together. 

In the case of our operation there was no cook house crew, so it was up to my good Mom with the aid of my aunt to feed the mob. 

Now if I am right, that totals to around 13 for the harvest crew, eight to put it where it could be threshed - a total of 21 men. And the wheat was still nowheres near the warehouse. That was the job the farmer himself had to do during the long, strung out days after harvest. 

Since I scribbled out this article for Sugar to type, I think I’ll go out and see if it is dry enough to push the starter button and get to harvesting. 

"1914 Harvest Scene Recalled" Kik-Backs, p. 44

Walt Kik

Steam Threshing Unit

Walt Kik
Header Outfit with Crew


All Smiles and Sunshine

A Bit of Porcupine History, Part 4

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 p. 81

Walt Kik
The Spokesman-Review 1966

Walt Kik
Porcupine Bay Campground
Nine of these photographs are copied from Instagram.Two are 
my own and one is from a friend. I regret I do not have a photo 
of Walt and Sugar at Porcupine Bay. I met them here in 1971.


Legal Headerbox Hijacking

Davenport’s Distinguished Citizen, Part 2

Senator Myers was what we would now call a conservationist. During our own dust bowl years, in the early 30's, Mr. Myers had something to do with getting seed wheat loans during President Hoover’s dire years. After he OK’d me, so I could pick up a loan down in Odessa - the heart of the ‘blow land’ - Charley turned and said, “You know, it’s the invention of the Cheney rod-weeders that got our lighter soils to blowing. Farmers were better off leaving the summer fallow alone.” Most of us had to take that chance as we needed to save all the moisture possible. Eventually we did change to rough stubble mulching, making weeding a safer operation. 

When hard times got harder, the Red Cross shipped in tons of rolled wheat in 100 pound bags. It was supposed to be distributed among farmers that were so broke that their livestock were going without meals. Myers had the job of handing out this free mercy feed. A carload was shipped to the Rocklyn warehouse. A farmer that got blown out of Odessa, settled here at Rocklyn so he could start life all over again. Needing some Red Cross handouts, he talked Charley into letting him have a wagon load of this rolled wheat. What Charley didn’t know was that this former dust bowl farmer came to the warehouse with an old header box on his wagon, and filled it past the danger point. When Bill Chappell pulled up for his just share, the boxcar was bare. This made old Chappell’s hair stand on end. That same day, word got back to town about this hog overloading his wagon with welfare stuff. Mr. Myers then sent out a written permission for Bill to confiscate part of the Red Cross booty. Chappell then pulled up alongside the parked, headerbox and unloaded enough of the rolled wheat to fill his Model T pickup to the brim. This legal headerbox high-jacking saved Bill Chappell’s chickens and pet pig from starvation. 

Widowed, and his children long since having flown the coop, Charley busied himself during the Second World War years by being on the ration and draft boards. When time put him in his 80s, Myers took time out to write a book, “Memoirs of a Hunter.” It is tailored for all outdoorsmen. This well preserved and neatly dressed fellow continued to attend dances for all occasions. There was a four generation span when he danced with my sister-in-law during a Fair Queen selection. That was the last time I remember seeing this distinguished and community-minded old timer. 

One of Charley Myer’s sons, Richard, who now lives in Electric City, has shared interesting events with me of his adventures during the last days of the farm horses, and the Model A Ford era. 

"Davenport’s Distinguished Citizen" Kick-Back Country, p. 56

Walt Kik

Walt Kik

Walt Kik


A Sort of Teenage Daniel Boone

Charley Myers inherited a set of genes that kept him active throughout his long life. No one could say he didn’t live a full life as a pioneer, a family and business man, and a politician. He took time out seasonally to spend nearly sixty years as a rugged outdoorsman, hunting with his political and business associates. 

In the 1870's, Ohio found Mr. Myers growing up toting a muzzle loader shotgun. It was natural for him to become a hunter and to create a love for the wide open spaces. A sort of teenage Daniel Boone of Ohio. 

When Chalrey got big enough, he married his neighborhood sweetheart. He then developed a hankering for the West. An excursion train special was headed for Washington territory. He jumped on, leaving his bride to follow later when extra money became available. 

Upon landing in Davenport, Charley started walking towards Fort Spokane by following the old military road. Finally, a foot-walking Myers came upon a blacksmith shop with a log cabin standing nearby. A 10 by 12 foot lean to was attached to it. Charley figured it was a good location to start up a new life. He was able to rent this combination log house and lean to for six bucks a month. He now had a large part of [a] frontier town, called Larene. 

Myers took a stage coach back to Spokane and bought nearly $90.00 worth of groceries. The small attached lean to then became a grocery store. From then on, fate was with this adventurer from Ohio. He and his family grew along with the growth of Lincoln County. Later a large store and residence was built. When the boom town of Larene started to crumble, Charley and family set up stakes on a high hill overlooking Davenport. It was a show place. I remember the rows of orchard trees trailing down the side of the hill. Being a business man, he saw the need for a watch and jewelry store in Davenport. Charley also added an optometrist shop, so he could take care of everyone that had punk eyes. 

Charley kept himself informed on subjects of local and national interest. He was fortified with Republican convictions. This made his task for the State Senate race an easy mark in those pre-Roosevelt days. 


"Davenport’s Distinguished Citizen" Kick-Back Country, p. 56

Walt Kik
Walt Kik
Larene / 1909 State Map

Walt Kik
Spokesman-Review 1923


That Steamy Hunk of Smoking Steel

Dear Younger Generation,

All the farm work that you see being done by tractors, was once done by horses. Our granddaddies were forced to pound those old nags on their tails, because that was the only way they knew how to develop power for farming. 

Our forefathers weren’t cruel. One must remember; Where in the world could they have found tractors, when they were not invented yet? Still, there was an old timer who tried real hard to use steam power for breaking sod. But, his dreams were never realized. 

It was Rocklyn’s well remembered strong man, Al McMillan, who owned a large steam engine. His body size and strength put an average man to shame. With his long arms and stooped body operating that mechanical wonder, it was a sight to behold. 

After many seasons of running this thrashing outfit, Big Al’s brains went to work. Dreams of plowing out his newly acquired bunchgrass laden sod without using horses entered his mind. After all, his steam engine was just setting around with nothing to do ’til the next thrashing season. 

Big Al’s blacksmith shop held scads of tools. It made it easy for him to build a large coal tender that fit snugly behind his self-propelled steam power plant. McMillan also replaced the drive wheels with a pair of extra wide ones that would make our tractor wheels of today look small. 

That fall, McMillan got so steamed up that he ordered two carloads of coal and had it docked at the Rocklyn side tracks. His dreams of breaking out over 200 acres of sod was getting mighty close. His virgin land was located next to the farm I’m sitting on now. 

But by the time Big Al’s wrenches got all the bugs ironed out, it got too late for sod breaking. That same fall, dad sold out and we left for our extended stay in California. That ended any hope for us to witness Big Al’s horseless plows in action. 

Lo and behold, when spring came, Al McMillan’s land deal was challenged by the courts, causing all that virgin land to stay virgin. But that didn’t stop Big Al’s plans to find some sod to break out. According to Herb Kruger, McMillan got a hold of some virgin ground north of Keller Ferry. Al must have said to himself, “Now I’m going to get a chance to break out some land, and finally I’ll have myself an extra farm.” It’s like Herb told me, "Al was ahead of his time." 

When the count down took place to leave Rocklyn, McMillan fired up his steam monster, and started his parade to Keller Ferry. By having no load, except the coal tender, his steam outfit averaged about 20 pounds of coal per mile. Big Al did get his steam engine guided down that mountain side to Keller Ferry successfully. When he got there, he found out that the cable ferry was not designed to hold steam engines of such strength and size. Four Model T's or eight tame horses - yes, but not that steamy hunk of smoking steel. 

Big Al had no choice but to start shoveling coal, and engineering the steam giant back to Rocklyn. Again his outfit started scaring the horses along the way, and covering the countryside with smoke. Since steam engines never came with overdrives, it was a monotonous job both ways. 

When we moved back from California in the fall of 1927, things hadn’t worked out very well for Al McMillan. It was a cold fall day in downtown Davenport when dad ran across old Big Al. He had just gotten out of jail, and was looking for a ride out to Rocklyn. He went broke while we were gone and took up moonshining as his last enterprise. He had just finished paying his debt to society when my dad brought him home. 

Big Al was a broken man when he stayed overnight with us. He was suffering from a bad case of the blues, and kept going to sleep while we were trying to visit with him. 

As big and as scary as he looked, Mr. McMillan was a kind man. He and his cook raised a couple of nieces (that were orphaned) to marriageable size. One of them, Angie, married our neighbor, Ben Hall. 

For years, Big Al’s mobile steam power plant and coal tender was left to rust away on the ground that is now Gene Stuckle’s farmstead. No one seems to know what happened to the mechanical wonder that tried so hard to find a chance to turn over lots of virgin ground. 

"Big Al’s Steam Engine" Kik-Back Country, p. 55 

Walt Kik
1935-The original ferry across the Columbia River.  
The "Keller" was a cable ferry with a motor pulling the 
boat along a cable that spanned the width of the river.


A Boxcar Kid from North Dakota

It’s still kind of hard to shake off old rural school stories, especially after visiting with Harry Schneider. Harry and I just made it through the eighth grade and were able to survive. Our lack of education made us aware of what we didn’t know, and made us appreciate what we learned afterwards. 

Harry was a product of the depression days. A handsome young lad who came from the plains of Canada and North Dakota, where he learned to sing a lot of prairie songs. There was lots of room back there on those wind swept farms for parents to raise lots of kids, but to grow enough food to feed them during those drought years of the 1930s was a problem. 

One by one lots of young guys left the Dakotas for Washington with the hopes of finding farm work. One of Harry’s brothers, Jack, had beat it in a westerly direction on a bicycle ’til he found a haven here at Reardan. Later Harry decided to follow his brother via the railroad tracks where box cars served as fresh air transportation to the Inland Empire. He took with him his wealth in the form of a twenty dollar bill, and used the sole of one of his shoes as a safety deposit box for that Federal Reserve Note. It was to be used only in an extreme emergency. His loose change of 75 cents lay scattered around in a pocket. 

When Harry jumped off the freight train out here, every cent was accounted for. His hungry looks got him here free of charge. Landing in a strange territory took some getting used to for this shy young fellow. Befriended by the Rudolph Raugust family, he was helped from getting too homesick. After earning some money, Harry was able to buy a guitar and other things that a young man in the west should have. 

Taking newcomer Schneider for an outing in Spokane proved to be fun. He enjoyed window shopping when he saw an array of musical instruments or some snappy western displays. Dad treated him to all the milk shakes he could hold. I don’t remember for sure how many shakes he drank, but at 15 cents a crack it was starting to add up. The milk shakes kept Harry in a nourished condition all during the movie we attended. 

The scab rock lands of Rocklyn was where Harry shone the brightest. Working for Frank Selde, the Olighers, and other cattle ranchers fulfilled his dreams of the west. In his spare time he had the challenge of stopping an outlaw horse named Tracy from tossing him in the air. Quite a conquest, for Tracy wouldn’t allow anyone but Harry to sit on his back. Finally Tracy was sold to the US Cavalry, and probably was used only as a riderless horse in funeral parades. 

Harry’s singing voice did go public for a while. He placed first in an amateur contest at the Orpheum Theater. His performance landed him a job at the Coeur d’Alene Hotel’s Dutch Mill, ’til work out at Rocklyn beckoned him back. 

While working on the John Oligher cattle ranch during daylight time, Harry was able to make use of his sleepy time hours for a while. He got a night time job on the building of the Mondovi elevator. The elevator got built to its proper height before burn out set in. 

Things got going for Harry ever since those days of establishing himself. Seems like he was able to cross over a lot of thin ice safely. He is now the main farm owner in the center of Rocklyn, and the surrounding territory. A local farmer’s daughter fell for Harry. It was ditto for him too. Then a marriage took place between Harry and Marj Knack, and the two raised a typical family. 

Mr. Schneider’s love for cattle still exists, and now he has oodles of pasture land. A lot of his farm holdings are under irrigation supplying choice feed for all those animals that some day will land in meat eaters’ plates. In partners with his son, Sam, it takes four combines to harvest their crops. Harry is starting his retirement process by getting rid of his insurance agency at Reardan. All this is quite a record for a box car kid from North Dakota. 

"Go West Young Man" Kick-Back Country, p. 45

Walt Kik

Walt Kik


Thunderheads Brought Waves of Water

It may be scary to think about it, but this semi-arrid country can have screwed-up weather patterns. 1948 was a year to remember. Spring was nearly over when attacking thunderheads brought waves of water bearing clouds that emptied themselves for days. It caused havoc for the rest of the year. Farm equipment was getting stuck all during the last half of the growing season. Combines did the same thing in August. The Mielke brothers sank a large tractor in June when they hadn’t learned to stay away from soft spots. 

The first part of May, before the invasion of heavy rains, everything was calm west of Davenport. Winter wheat was standing tall. Farmers were busy plowing or working their dusty summerfallow fields. 

May 15th was on a Saturday, so I parked my tractor in a low spot in the field so crooks wouldn’t be able to find it for stripping purposes. The following Monday, inches of rain came down so fast on the summerfallow that it couldn’t hold it all. The torrent buried my tractor, and plows in four and a half feet of sky water. 

Not having the buoyancy of Noah’s Ark, only the steering wheel and fenders were sticking out of that overnight made lake. A near shoulder high wading job had to be done in order to hook a long pull chain to the tractor. Howard Janett came to the rescue by placing his tractor on not-too-solid ground. His Cat had to dig five cat track holes in different places in the process of dragging my tractor up to the shoreline. 

This was a pretty lake that the rain storms made. On the east shoreline, the clean summerfallow ran into the lake. On the other side, standing wheat rose out of this body of water and extended up over a slope. 

There was 80 acres in that field that never made it into summerfallow that year. Out here at Rocklyn, the month of May recorded 9.60 inches of rainfall. A drier streak hit Davenport where 8.71 inches of rain fell in May. By taking Davenport’s lower figure, more rain fell that month than fell in the whole year of 1929, when nature left only 7.30 inches of rain. 

That year of instant lakes, rainfall tried to taper off by just dumping 3.01 inches in June. However, lakes in the fields stayed around, and took up farming space ’til the next year, when the year’s moisture was less than 10 inches. 

The summer of 1948 was long remembered. Sugar and I had no logical reasons to seek out lake resorts, as we had our own lakes. We did miss the sights of friendly bathers. But it was a novelty to park the combine near the waters edge, and take a shallow swim before devouring our harvest lunch in the shadow of the self-propel. 

One soon learned not to combine too close to those freshly made lakes that didn’t have thousands of years to develop a decent shoreline. Tempting looking wheat heads caused P. H. Janett to drive his combine too close to the waters’ edge. He did a good job of miring his self-propel harvester to a hopeless depth. Albert Stuckle’s tractor got it out, but not without bending the harvester’s drive wheel axles. 

The new generation farmers figured it must have been a year of high yields. It was no such thing! In those days, there was no fertilizer laying around to dump on those rain soaked fields. The wheat roots didn’t even bother about going down with the surplus water that was loaded with leached nitrogen. In fact, the roots just stayed near the moisture laden surface where it was warm and comfortable. 

What was the total rainfall here at Rocklyn’s Independent Weather Research Dept. for 1948? The record book shows that 27.04 inches had been dumped out of our leak-proof rain gauge during that stormy year. 

" The Year Of The Lakes" Kik-Back Country, p. 46

Walt Kik


Dedication to "Kik-Backs No. 3"

I dedicate this last Kik-back book in memory of Sugar’s mother, Emily, who sacrificed a lot for Sugar’s well being, and was able to adjust to life under circumstances that would have driven me bats. Kind and good hearted, Emily lived a devoted, semi-contented life with a husband that spent too much time figuring out all that complicated stuff in the Bible. 

Despite her environment, Emily made many friends, and was loved by everyone that knew her. She put up with my style of living without ever whimpering a sound of disapproval. 

After spending most of her child bearing years on a Rocklyn scabland ranch, she got her husband to move to the center of Rocklyn—where she took over the Post Office, and became the Rocklyn correspondent for the Davenport Times.—Sadly, Emily spent her final days bedridden from the effects of diabetes that caused blindness and leg amputation. 

Walt Kik 

Davenport, WA 99122 

Sugar Kik

Mother Emily with her two daughters, Sugar and Edwina 


The Two Vagabonds

When Emily in 1920 found herself pregnant with Sugar, things didn’t set very well with her family. In her teens, she did not have the ability to fight for her rights. So, with the threat of being thrown into a convent, Emily left home. After leaving Big Piney, the sheriff picked her up on the road to somewhere. On the road back, Emily told the sheriff she had to go to the toilet. Instead she sneaked out a back door and disappeared. From there on all information ceased.— Emily somehow managed to get to Spokane, and showed up at the Salvation Army, where she had Sugar. 

Alone and caring for a baby was quite a chore in those days, since there was no state or county support for the unwed. In her wandering with little Sugar, she was able to find employment around Hartline, where she worked on a farm. When the work season ended, Emily found work elsewhere. Finally, she found employment out here at Rocklyn, where the Ed Krugers hired Emily and didn’t mind taking in Sugar as excess baggage. 

Ed Deppner was working around the Kruger district at that time. Since eligible women look good to all men—Ed was no exception. He asked Lena, the housewife, if he could take Emily and her kid to the church of his choice in Harrington. Since Mr. Deppner was recommended as a well behaved guy with a motive, Emily took his offer. 

After church, Ed saw to it that ice cream was in store for Emily and Sugar by taking the two vagabonds to the drug store fountain. While scooping up ice cream with his spoon, he got to thinking it would be pretty hard to live without Emily, but he had a problem. He had already sent money over the sea to Poland so his planned future wife could come to Rocklyn. He had known her as a kid before coming to the U.S. 

Mr. Deppner also had competition. Jake Fichtenberg began courting Emily by trying to take her and Sugar to Spokane. Half way up, Jake’s car got tangled up in a lot of loose gravel, causing his car to land on it’s side. No one was hurt. 

When Jake’s mishap got spread around, it made Mr. Deppner think that God was working in his favor, by seeing that Jakes’ cargo never made it to Spokane. This divine revelation caused Ed to move in quickly. He showed Emily his humble little cottage out in the middle of his pasture and all his other earthly possessions.—He then asked this young lady with a past to marry him. Even though that romance lacked a lot of fire, Emily accepted his offer. Ed’s stepmother frowned on the idea that he dumped the lady he sent for. However, Eds’ free ticket did get this eligible lady to Rocklyn—where she soon married a man of her own picking. 

"Flight and a New Life" Kik-Back Country, p. 2

Walt Kik
Remains of the crowded house Sugar grew up in


Our Search for Sugar's Dad

After all these years of living a fulfilled and busy life, why does anyone want to dig into the deep and unknown past. I suppose it’s just plain curiosity. 

In our search for Sugar’s dad, we had to head into unknown territory. Sugar already knew that in 1920 down at Big Piney, Wyoming, a personal event did take place between Sugar’s mother and a guy that saw many moons. The result was that Sugar got born—For the last 50 years Sugar often wondered, what was her birth father like. Was he a worthless stiff or a guy with normal brains that picked up the habit of developing outside interests as a hobby. Sugar’s mother Emily (the poor dear) refused to reveal anything except birth certificate and what was necessary for Sugar to get her Social Security straightened out. 

So on our 50th year of living together in marriage bliss, it was time to dig into available records, so she could find out all the good and bad genes that’s floating around in her system. Sugar’s instinctive search for her origin in no way detracts from her appreciation for the dad who raised her as his own. 

So on a hot day in July, 1989, Sugar filled a salesman-type carrying folder with necessary collections of dope—then we headed for Wyoming. To get there, we had to go through Yellowstone. This route made it possible to see all those burned out trees. Also the bubbling pots of goo, and watching nature’s squirting water works that seem to never run dry. The Tetons and Jackson Hole are just filled with outdoor beauty, as well as the open territory to Big Piney. 

When we arrived at Pinedale and Big Piney, we hit the ‘jack pot’. Every person we were told to interview was very friendly and helpful in Sugar’s search for her roots. Most interesting and informative interview she had was with cattle baron, Jim Mickelson Sr., who with his sister, Mildred Miller have 47,000 head of cattle scattered around that vast and boundless territory. 

Mr. Mickelson and his dad knew Sugar’s father, William Henry [Hayden?] McDonald real well, and had a lot to tell us. He stated that ‘Henry’ became a self educated man and learned to play classical music on his violin. (In cowboy country?) Mr. McDonald laid out Mickelson’s irrigation canals and the town of Big Piney. 

Jim Mickelson is a stately gentleman that wears the rugged Wyoming look quite well. The Mickelson’s whole family, including their foreman and the Budd brothers were featured in a Robert Redford documentary movie that was made on Big Piney recently. 

When Sugar visited the Big Piney library, she was handed a book titled, “They Made Wyoming Their Own”, published in 1971, by R. Wallace, A Wyoming historian. To Sugar’s surprise, there were two pictures of her father in that book, and a chapter entitled, ‘Gunplay’, featuring her father. The librarian copied that chapter and pictures for her.—Since that event in Wyoming history has the flare of the old west, it’s worth copying. 

On page 95, Gunplay reads as follows: “Wyoming drew land-hungry men. In 1885, a man by the name of Spaulding filed a claim in the Dry Piney and built a log cabin and corrals...He aimed to build a horse ranch but for some reason, he changed his mind, sold the improvements, and released the claim to Henry McDonald in the fall of 1888. McDonald and his partner, Lon Linscom were living there during that terrible winter of 1889-1890. 

“In the fall of ’89, a party of emigrants drove past the Horse Ranch and over the hill onto Birch Creek, where they made camp. Winter was coming on them in all its bitterness. Their horses were poor and began to die. Their supplies were low, and they had women and children to care for. Mr Woolsey, a man with family, seemed to be heading the group. In his extremity, Woolsey, turned to McDonald for help. The two ranchers shared their supplies and divided their log cabin with the stranded group, those men folks agreed to help supply wild game for everyone during the winter. Among the emigrant men were Jim Burton... 

“Somehow they survived the hardships of that difficult winter, and spring showed signs of arriving. McDonald was out at work on the place one day, and Lon Linscom, who was not a robust man, was resting on a bed. Woolsey and his companions were conversing in an adjoining room, their voices clearly audible. Lon suddenly came to attention and began to listen carefully, for they were making plans to run him and McDonald out, and to take over the Horse Farm as their own. Evidently they did not know that Lon was there. 

“When McDonald returned later in the day, Lon told him of the plot. McDonald went at once to Woolsey and told him that, with the green grass beginning to show, it was time for him and his party to move on. Woolsey objected, but he and his men finally left the house and went to make arrangements for other living quarters. Feeling that they had been unjustly treated in being turned out, they abandoned the effort to house themselves and, instead, barricaded themselves behind some rocks from which they began firing at the house. McDonald and Linscom had only one rifle between them, so McDonald stepped out and returned a few shots, which seemed to quiet things down for a few hours. He got on his horse and rode down the valley to the Calhouns to borrow another rifle. When he returned, he and Linscom stayed in the house that evening armed. 

"After dark, the dogs set up a racket, barking in concern over something down at the bam. McDonald went into the room where the emigrant women and children were, and nailed boards over the windows. There was no way to enter or leave the house, then, except through the room where he and Lon were stationed. He and Lon took turns keeping watch through the dark part of the night. In the moonlight, they could see men moving around the bam. Lon was sleeping when McDonald awakened him. Day was breaking, and two of the men at the corral were plainly visible. One was lying on the ground with his rifle sighted through the corral fence. Another was standing near him with a gun resting on the fence rail. Both were aiming at the house. 

"McDonald had cut a small hole in the house between the logs, where his borrowed gun was resting. Lon’s gun rested on the window sill, the window being slightly raised. Tension was becoming all but unbearable, when suddenly Lon heard McDonald’s gun crack. The man on the ground at the bam dropped his gun and never moved again. The man beside him ran out of sight around the bam. McDonald waited a few minutes and then sent one of the emigrant girls out to identify the man who had been shot. She came back with word that it was Jim Burton. The other emigrant man had ridden away, keeping the bam between him and the house. 

"After notifying the neighbors of what had happened, McDonald and Lon packed a few supplies and began the trip to the Old Ham’s Fork Station, where they gave themselves up to a deputy sheriff named Culberson, who placed them under arrest and took them to Evanston. The Woolsey party caught up with them at the Ham’s Fork Station and threatened them repeatedly, but the deputy sheriff kept things in hand. 

“Lon was released at Evanston for he had not fired any shots. He went back to the Horse Ranch. Jim Burton had been buried down the valley along the fence on the south side of the Home Ranch field... 

“McDonald, however, was held in Evanston until court set again, he was released on a verdict of self defense, and he too returned to the Horse Ranch. The next year, Mr. Woolsey came back, threatening to run him off the place, but McDonald replied that, if Woolsey wanted to have another try at that again, to start shooting. Woolsey did not take him up on the invitation and left, and never molested him again. 

“At the time McDonald first came to this section, the territory was still full of hostile Indians and Mr. McDonald was able to relate many interesting tales in connection with their activities... 

"William ‘Henry’ McDonald was a man of unassuming nature and reticent of speech hence many interesting episodes of his early life in this part of Wyoming that would have made interesting and valuable material for either the historian or fiction writer remained untold...He was truly the pioneer surveyor of this part of Wyoming and more than half the present irrigation ditches and other projects requiring a survey were surveyed by him. It was he who surveyed out the townsite of Big Piney...In addition to being surveyor, he was Land Commissioner for many years and handled practically all of the land matters arising in those early days...He died January 17, 1933, and was buried in Big Piney’s Plain View Cemetery.’’

"The Search for Sugar's Dad and the Life He Led" Kik-Back Country No. 3

Walt Kik

Walt Kik


Jumping on the Cow-Catcher

Wild Ones Of Yesteryear, Part 4

Those darned guys (the brothers), never realized that fate was waiting for them to settle down. A cattle ranch was waiting for them at Sprague Lake. Homesteading had to be taken care of. My mother was still to be found and courted. Not yet interested in the future, Dad and Charlie got the ‘Spokane itch’ for the last time in the fall of 1894. Gus Rux and Henry Derr had planned to take in Spokane with them, but chickened out the last minute. 

To save some silver dollars, the two wild ones decided to beat their way to Spokane. This was done by jumping on the cow-catcher of the Great Northern train engine, when it started to puff away from the Harrington depot. 

The odd ride came to an end just east of Edwall when a cow was hit. The scooped-up cow caused Charlie to get a broken leg and lots of bruises. The train didn’t stop, so when the boys crawled back to the cab, the engineer said, “Did I run into a schoolhouse?” 

When the train pulled into Spokane, Charlie was taken to the Sacred Heart Hospital, with Great Northern paying all expenses. Later, a trial resulted when the farmer got peeved and sued the railroad for the sudden death of his cow. The boys again got a free ride to Spokane. This time in style, inside where it was warm and not so windy. The Great Northern needed them as witnesses because they had a good view of the cow’s final moments. 

How did I get all this information? Easy. Years ago, with an old wire recorder running. I asked dad a lot of questions of his early day escapades in Spokane. This winter, on a snowed-in Sunday and for the want of something to do, I played it back. 

"Wild Ones Of Yesteryear" Kik-Backs, p. 30

Walt Kik
"The odd ride..."


A Dance Hall Girl Thrown in for Company

Wild Ones of Yesteryear, Part 3

Now, these young fellers didn’t know that Spokane had some hidden spots where society was in a scholarly pursuit of fine arts, and other educational things. In those days no weekly, cultured magazine ever found its way to Lincoln County. On the other hand, if Madame Scheuben Hite happened to have been singing at the well-known Spokane Auditorium, I doubt if it would have been on the boys' minds to attend. 

The stars were out by the time the newcomers started to go sightseeing. Farther to the east, noise and music was coming out of the Stockholm Dance Hall. Automatically, the three walked in. Max could bluff his way around real good. The brothers caught on and followed suit. 

It didn’t take them very long to work their way past the bar and dance hall, then into a theatre-like room where risque acts on the stage were in process. Three seats in the front row were taken by the lads in brand-new suits. The show was free, but they were supposed to buy beer and “other things” it had to offer. 

What my dad and the other two rookies saw was quite a contrast from life at the fatherless farm home. For example, if his stepmother had her sleeves rolled up during bread making, she would roll them down before answering the door. The stage girls didn’t have any sleeves to roll down, nor long skirts to cover their legs. 

Between stage acts, beer rustlers would go up and down the aisles, selling mugs of foamy stuff. For a price, they could have gotten a private booth to watch the show from and a dance hall girl thrown in for company. 

Although dad strongly advised against gambling when I came on the scene, he did fall for the "Las Vegas" lure of early Spokane. It caused a share of his spending money to disappear. (continued)

"Wild Ones Of Yesteryear" Kik-Backs, p. 30

Walt Kik

Stockholm Dance Hall
Spokane Chronicle 28 Oct 1897


Spokane...Entered the Boys' Minds

Wild Ones Of Yesteryear, Part 2

Like a lot of pioneer families, things didn’t always turn out the way dreams were planned. The following year, (1893) old man Kik died, leaving a farm at Edwall and Rocklyn, a string of youngsters, his second wife, lots of problems, and a transition period for the two oldest boys. Events and lots of work made time not available for Dave and Charlie to leave home, since the Spokane Falls wagon trip. 

When the stress of family problems started to level out, Spokane, again, entered the boys’ minds. They managed to save some money of their own, so they could satisfy a desire to purchase full-length, adult, dress-up suits. These teen-agers had long since outgrown their old model “Sunday” pants, with trouser legs ending at the knees. Those outfits were called “high-water pants” because wading in creeks could be done without getting the pant legs wet. 

Eighteen-year-old neighbor, Max Mecklenburg, had the same idea and joined the 16 and 17 year olds on their first train ride in the pursuit for new suits. It didn’t take them long to scramble off the train in Spokane and to locate the I.X.L. clothing store on Riverside. The suits averaged the young guys $10 apiece. 

For accessories, Charlie laid out three bucks for a “solid” gold-plated watch that had a long chain; Dave, a fancy stickpin for his tie; and Max, a pair of patent leather shoes that never needed polishing. A barber shop took care of their faces and excess hair. 

When the three young lads figured they were all fixed up with the right equipment, a walk across the street from the barber shop took place. An arcade type of photo studio was located there. When an image of themselves was recorded, the guys rented a three-cot room located above a saloon. Then they were ready to investigate the town. (continued)

"Wild Ones Of Yesteryear" Kik-Backs, p. 30

Walt Kik
I.X.L. Clothing Store 

Walt Kik
" image of themselves was recorded."

City Dudes and the More Classy Prostitutes

A fairly large percentage of the early day young men took the opportunity to find out what life was all about on the other side of the fence. As far as anyone seemed to know, the only drugs that were around in those pioneer days came in liquid form and were readily available in all saloons. 

The toxic dope, tobacco, usually was used by our ancestors in the less harmful form to get their kicks; such as pipes, chewing tobacco, and big fat cigars. They even stuffed the stuff up their noses. 

When homemade cigarettes came on the western scene, there was a certain amount of pride in the cowboy’s ability to roll his own cigarette while his horse was trying to buck him off. Factory-made cigarettes were generally smoked in those days by city dudes and the more classy prostitutes. 

Sure, a lot of those early generation young males kept their noses clean, mostly due to stricter environmental conditions. Those that didn't usually were of no worse quality than the meek. After a little taste of sowing their wild oats, they sought a level of life according to their inherited ability, and became some of our best known Lincoln County citizens. 

In 1892, a couple of 15 and 16 year old lads from the Edwall area were fast turning into young manhood. They had already been initiated in the grown-up world of sinful smokers by getting sick on a mixture of dried rose leaves and raw tobacco. They used a clay pipe as their pot machine. 

After harvest, old man Kik loaded 20 sacks of grain on a wagon. He told his boys, Dave and Charlie, to haul the grain to Spokane to sell it to a livery barn. The money was needed to pay taxes. Anticipation ran high when their stepmother packed a large lunch. 

Noontime the next day, the small town of Medical Lake found the boys resting the team and eating their lunch. Darkness came before the 20 sacks of grain were driven up to the Mission Livery barn in Spokane. The brothers slept under the wagon while the tired horses chewed away all night, converting hay into energy. 

When morning arrived, the teenagers received a $20 gold piece and four silver dollars for the load of grain. After downing what was left of the day-old lunch, temptation caused the boys to wander around the tinsel side of frontier Spokane. 

Late that afternoon when hunger came over them, the brothers ordered a couple mugs of beer, which would have entitled them to all the sandwiches they could eat. Because their faces looked too slick to be old enough, they got kicked out of the saloon. 

A quick check of their trousers revealed they still had the $20 gold piece, but nothing else. 

Fright set in, so they beat it across the river to in-law, Jacob Klein’s place. At supper time, a good meal was devoured and later the Kik lads were blessed with a safer place to sleep. When morning broke, the boys were letting the team take the wagon, themselves and the $20 gold piece back to Edwall. (continued)

"Wild Ones Of Yesteryear" Kik-Backs, p. 30 

Walt Kik