The Old John Brown Road

Grandpa never carried a watch. Instead, he relied on the sun. Being a farmer only three times were important to him, sunrise, dinnertime, and sunset.

We were done for the day and I’d finished putting the fence building tools in the trailer. I was about to spin the crank to start the tractor when he beckoned me to join him.

“See that notch in the trees, the place where they are shorter?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I responded with as much enthusiasm as a hungry fifteen-year-old can muster.

“The road to the Kansas Border used to go through that notch. Originally, the Fort Scott Stage came that way, followed our lane past the house and then meandered southeast across the Robert’s Field, and then forded Walnut Creek on it‘s way to Foster.”

“Did you ever ride that stage?” I asked.

“Many years after the Border War ended, I did.”

“Border War?” I echoed, his statement having piqued my interest.

“The Border War kind of paralleled the Civil War. It’s too complicated to start in the middle. While the Civil War was on the Kansas-Nebraska Act was in Congress. People took sides – Old John Brown, James Quantrill, the Younger Brothers. Jesse James even got his start right there on that road.”

“But that’s another story,” he said, glancing at the sun. Your grandmother will have supper waiting,” he added, climbing into the trailer. waiting for me to start the tractor.

As I brought the tractor around and headed for the house I glanced once more at the notch he’d pointed out. This must have been a rough place to call home back in that day, I thought to myself.

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