(This page was posted for Gerald Hardy who has shared his old photographs and whose family is mentioned in several of Walt's stories.) Oh My Aching Back
"Rocklyn, Just a Mirage?" Kik-Backs, page 46
One day, while chatting with Howard Janett at his mailbox, a guy stopped and wanted to know if those elevators back there were Rocklyn. We informed him he had just passed through the geological location of Rocklyn.
It's a hard place for strangers to locate since my sister rescued the Rocklyn sign from the demolished depot as a souvenir. It's now a resting place for robins on her lawn after they take their bird baths.
The Davenport Times runs on the illusion that there is officially a town called Rocklyn. Sugar helps create this false front by sending in her column under the title of "Rocklyn Times."
Rocklyn was never a town that grew to such strength and fortitude as Ruff did. Even during its heyday, no one really cared to move to Rocklyn when retirement rolled around.
In a miniature way, the town ran parallel to ancient Rome. It had its greatness before it burned down, but there was some doubt whether the lady owner was fiddling while Rocklyn burned, even though she did a lot of fiddling around before the fire.
Before moral decay set in, Rocklyn did have its hard-rock citizens. A church and a school were located nearby. Taintless families of high virtue took their turns at owning the General Store, Post Office and implement buildings. A lovely large residence went with the main street set-up.
The town [Rocklyn] stayed on the straight and narrow path ’til a lady of different virtue bought out this frontier town in 1924. The family car was getting well established by then, making shopping in Davenport very attractive. This brought up the question: How could a highly motivated woman stay in business if she depended on legal business? She couldn’t, but luck was with her. The 20's were known as the rum-running days of the Al Capone era. A long black Hudson car from Canada would drive up in the dark of the night, and unload some bootleg whiskey.
Did the virtuous Rocklynites buy her booze? Not that I know of. You see, the railroad was overhauling their line at that time. A work gang was parked at Rocklyn. She supplied the section hands with bootleg booze and other goodies. Some of the women-folk around the community were a little fussy about trusting the new owner. They’d just as soon their spouses wouldn’t hang around the store very long.
When the railroad rails got all the new ties they needed, business slowed down enough to where the new store owner found reasons to take the passenger train to Spokane. About the time she got herself unloaded in the big city, the business district of Rocklyn went up in smoke. This shady lady was promptly arrested for arson. A jury trial was held in Davenport. The courthouse was packed with pre-verdict decision spectators. Many a Rocklynite never missed witnessing a single episode of this sensational trial.
The evidence wasn’t sufficient, except it all looked mighty fishy. She was accused of vamping the jury with her charm. Justice ruled. She went free to parts unknown.
"Centennial Tour of Rocklyn" Kik-Backs No. 3, page 19
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.
Like most communities, Rocklyn has pioneer homes that have been restored. Take for example: When the new generation of Mielkes grew to maturity, Doug, Ron and Robert, got married and began the chore of starting up the fifth generation of Mielkes. These three young farmers have a strong desire to carry on the fanning traditions of their grandfather by setting on the same spot of land that he did over 100 years age.
But expansion was necessary. So a couple of the boys had to spread out to other wheat fields that were once owned by settlers a century age. Doug and wife Debbie settled on a farm that didn’t have an antique house that needed restoring. But Robert and Christy’s farm yard came with a pioneer house that needed some improvements and a touch of restoring to bring it back to its original strength and good looks.—Parts of this old house got built a long time ago when a guy by the name of Gus Borck got married. He just built an all purpose room to fit himself and wife in. But when kids started being bom, the house had to grow along with all the little Borcks. First it was just a extra room, then an upstairs had to be added etc. It made the house look a little lumpy from the outside, but since the Mielkes gave it a dressing up job, it looks attractive.
This expanding house was built along side of a natural seasonal lake. But what the new generation can do with earth moving machinery, boggles the mind. That old lake bottom got moved by dumping it on near by lava beds. Then by moving mountains of ground, to be used for future landscaping, a large everlasting lake was made—proving if your farmstead lacks the scenery you want, it’s possible to make it.
Now, the restoring of the original Great Grandpa Mielke’s farm house by Ron and Linda, is a story all by itself. (It should be written up buy some farm magazine) This determined couple gave the house more of an authentic look than ancestral Mielke did. They used advanced material and shaped it to fit into rimmed out cavities—bringing a sparkle to the house that originally was lacking. The cemetery plot type of fence, high on the rooftop, still serves with authority over this restored farm mansion.—After spending several years of their spare time, Linda and Ron were able to restore every inch, both inside and out, in time for baby Veronica’s arrival.
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 menfolk 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.
"The Happy Haymaker" Kik-Back Country, page 74
I inherited a father-in-law who is 91 years old. Not really a big deal, except that he is not staggering around in some nursing home. So far, nature has graced this old guy by letting his aging process meander along at a slow speed. He works every day, except in winter when there is a blizzard, then he just feeds his cows.
Great-grandfather, Ed Deppner, has never had a physical examination in his whole life, except in 1918 when World War One army guys wanted to know if Ed was physically fit enough to be shot at. However, he did lose a mouthful of teeth, but is going very well on what stray teeth he has left.
Mr. Deppner has made his living the hard way, by earning small profits from a scab rock stock ranch. His implements were simple and his laboring hours required lots of back breaking work. He lives a humble life and is an honest man. His conscience won’t allow him the privilege to become even just a little bit greedy. Ed never showers himself with luxuries, but gift checks flow easily from his hands to relatives when it comes Christmas and birthday times.
Since his wife is laying up in the Rocklyn cemetery, Sugar and Edwina Mielke spread out a weekly dinner in his bachelor type kitchen. The rest of the time Ed eats only what his slim body needs.
Years ago this poor immigrant from Poland took in Sugar and married her mother, then successfully raised three more kids. Ed has been putting up hay years before he plunged into matrimony, and is still at it to this day. His hay patches now consist of Rocklyn proper and along the railroad tracks that extend out to his old ranch.
Truly, Ed Deppner is a tough old bird. It’s the physical activities that keep this 91 year old guy going. He knows it, and that’s why he keeps right on mowing hay, and stuffing it down his cows in measured doses.
The haying season weather this year was a scorcher for Ed. Under his tight work clothes beats an old seasoned heart that is busy pushing blood around in search of some cool body spots. A sip from a plastic jug of water that sets on the hot gear box of Ed’s haying tractor seems to take care of his evaporation needs.
Years of usage has hardened Great-grandfather’s bones to where he can take the jolts that his tractor dishes out when it bounces over the badger holes and other bone crunching obstacles. Usually, old Ed uses a third of his daily stored up energy trying to start his hand cranked vintage tractor. If his day is a lucky one, he and his tractor can make lots of grass and alfalfa hay. When mechanical failure takes over, Ed usually sings one of his favorite tunes. Lately he has become quite hoarse. In spite of all the hot weather and a balky tractor, Ed’s hay patches finally got mowed down. But that brings up another problem that Great-grandfather has to face. His hay truck is also a vintage variety. The two front fenders on the truck have been caved in from years of working on the motor. Ed did manage to nurse the truck with its first load of hay to within 18 feet of the small stack that he had started with the aid of a wheelbarrow and a pitchfork.
I have just made a number of trips over to my father-in-law’s place and I still can’t find out why he can’t get the truck any closer to the stack than 18 feet. It’s embarrassing! I thought I knew how to make any motor come to life. Finally, George Mielke came to the rescue with a spare truck.
However, Ed is a pleasant guy to work with when you have plenty of time. Having a sharp mind, he tells in detail past events and all the troubles he experienced throughout his long life as a haymaker. Ed doesn’t bark out a lot of naughty words when things go wrong. His habit to sing little ditties wards off any man-made stress.
Father-in-law stays happy throughout the week. He is a very sincere man, but when Sunday comes, he worries too much about religion. You have to be a pretty sharp preacher to outsmart him on answers to his questions that are impossible to answer. But if you are a deep down fundamentalist, I guess you have that right when you live in a world of the supernatural.
Still, Ed loves best of all: his simple life on earth, until his dying day will take him away. Even with his doctrinal thinking, the safety of the great beyond is just his last resort.
Roy Borck’s Racer
"The Old Tin Lizzie" Kik-Backs No. 3, page 13
A lot of cars are setting in the dealer's show room, just waiting to be sold. But in the early dawn of car history, the new yearly model car could be outdated by delivery time. My dad’s first car, a 1915 Model T Ford, was put together in August, but didn’t get unloaded from a boxcar in Davenport ‘til May 1916.
Being able to own a car was a major excitement in that delirious era when Model Ts were king. Folks with snooty noses that could afford a car with long hoods that went way out to where the radiator was—got rude. They called those Model Ts, the ‘Tin Lizzie’. That name haunted those cute little cars all their productive lives.
Yes, the Tin Lizzie was truly the first car that put the majority of Americans on wheels. They cost no more than a good buggy and a team of horses, and you didn’t have to clean the stable out anymore. They were the compact cars of their time, and were available for nearly 20 years.—Old Henry Ford never put anything on his T frames but convertibles ‘til around 1919. The first enclosed Tin Lizzie looked like an observation cage on wheels, especially the coupes. Ford used the same light suspension for those glass and wooden enclosures. They were top heavy and gave you a woozy feeling when rounding comers.
The early day Western Auto Supply Stores kept those Tin Lizzie’s supplied to the hilt with lots of goodies. For example: A manual starter for Fords was advertised in then- catalog, stating, “On a rainy day when the motor stalls, you don’t have to get out in the mud to restart your Ford. Just pull the starter cable from the driver’s seat.” There was some danger in that ratchet type coil that replaced the crank up front—if you forgot to retard the spark lever, you could lose some teeth when your face got slammed against the low slung dash. There were lots of super accessories in those days that turned the Tin Lizzies into power giants as if they were on steroids. Guess you think these new sensational 16 valve cylinder heads on four cylinder cars is something new? Wrong! In 1919, you could buy a 16 valve overhead cam head for that Model T, and then it was able to turn out 97 miles per hour. Of course, you had to take the headlights and the fenders and windshield off and lower your head to attain such speed.
Resurrection of old cars has taken place around here for decades . About 30 years ago, Gene Stuckle went out to our junk graveyard in the pasture, and exhumed our old 1915 Model T chassis, along with the wheels and running gear. The restoring ended when it sprouted a body that had just one seat. After receiving a coat of white paint, it served as Gene and Phyllis’ honeymoon car that took them to Yellowstone Park where they saw lots of things.
In my hot-rod days, I worked over this same old 1915 Model T by stripping the rig down, leaving only the working parts intact. A hacksaw did the job of putting in a cut out to by-pass the muffler, so the motor would sound powerful when tearing around on desert roads.—In the 1920s, California law must have allowed such goings-on. By fate, I survived, and my sister Ethel and I moved back to Washington in that stripped down rig.
Although these long snooty autos being unloaded at Reardan were not Model T’s that was how Fords arrived in Davenport in 1916. Sandy Kieth sold 22 Fords that year.
My cousin, Lentz, didn’t mind squandering lots of money on dirt track racing stuff. Always trying to squeeze more speed out of his Ford racing car. Some competitive drivers were driving big noisy skeleton rigs with nothing to hold on to but the steering wheel.—Lentz’s aim was to beat them.
Lentz’s failure came when he took the back spring off and bolted the chassis to the rear axle housing. When the axle broke from constant solid bouncing, his out of control rig caused another guy who also was driving by the seat of his pants to plow into a spectator, killing him.—That tragic event ended all future dirt track racing that was held between Santa Ana and Newport Beach.
I think the best body transplant a Tin Lizzie ever got, was when Roy Borck of Rocklyn, skinned the original body off his rig and built a rocket shaped encasement around his 1916 Ford. He cut a hole out in the center for a small entrance. Only long legged Roy knew how to crawl in without getting his pant-leg caught on the emergency brake. The enclosed atmosphere gave him the security he needed without covering his dashing windswept face—a real safety improvement over those California dare devils.
I remember the Sunday Roy initiated his pride and joy. He roared the rig back and forth along the church road while waiting for the preacher to dismiss us. Upon sighting worshippers on the steps, Roy stopped quick like in front of the church. Being young and rather cocky, Roy looked impressive, when he slipped his goggles up to his forehead, as he climbed out of his doorless racer. —Roy never raced his Model T ‘Blue Streak, ’ but enjoyed telling how quick he got from here to there—to our amazement.
Years later, this is all that remained of Roy’s racer, after the back rocket shaped casing was taken off—so he could get in and out easier to feed cattle during those long ago winter months.
One Sunday, Sugar and I felt like doing something wild. We wanted to see if we were brave enough to skip our Sunday morning gathering with our Spokane Unitarian friends. It was a test to see if it could be done. In case of an emergency, it’s nice to know. Also, the thoughts of spending a Sunday just with Sugar was sort of exciting.
While making plans to see if we first could socialize locally by attending the Lion’s pancake feed, my sister called. She somehow sensed that we were staying home. She wanted Sugar to accompany her to Washtucna for an all-day visit with her granddaughter Kim, who is expecting a tiny offspring soon. Since it don’t hurt to tighten up family ties once in a while, Sugar left me flat for the day.
Nostalgia set in and a memory pattern of past took over. It didn’t take long to realize that the Rocklyn district on Sundays once again appeared to be the most segregated day of the week. About church time, cars begin filling the country roads as they speed on their way to Davenport or Harrington for the handpicked denominations of their choice. In between all this criss-crossing Sunday traffic, a score or so of Rocklyn “stay-puts” find their way to the old historical Methodist Church located in the center of this spider web of pioneer settlers.
With the thoughts of facing a long day of rejected feelings, I drove myself out to my old stomping grounds, the Rocklyn church on the hill. I soon felt a little like the returning of the prodigal son. Appearing behind the pulpit - and sometimes in front - was a rugged, tall-built, senior pastor with a good crop of hair - the Rev. Claire Harris of Spokane and his wife, Lilly.
Oozing with tons of stored gospel messages makes it very easy for him to compound a satisfying Biblical sermon. His fundamental scope runs broad enough to where the Baptists and the Pentecostals could digest and feel very comfortable.
The church is getting up in years. It’s hoping to reach the 100-year mark soon. It’s still a strong and well-built church. In these modern times, it should receive an award of some kind for its dogmatic instinct to survive.
Most of the fundamental church-going neighbors still own gas-guzzling cars. The Rocklyn church should become an energy-saving oasis for the other spiritual brothers and sisters. The only new face is an occasional stop-in on Sunday mornings for fellowshiping and visiting with this small group of folks that love to keep their Christian heritage going for as long as possible. No reservations are necessary. There are plenty of good, strong pews available.