The Border war along the Missouri/Kansas line reached a point where President Lincoln dispatched General Thomas Ewing to the scene with orders to end the violence using whatever mean he deemed necessary.

The Red Legs, Jay Hawkers, Border Ruffians, and James Quantril’s Raides often crossed into Missouri raiding and killing. Ewing soon determined the sisters, wives, and girlfriends of these outlaws were helping them. He rounded them up and jailed them in a Kansas City warehouse. Unfortunately, the roof caved in and many of the woman will killed.

Quantril took revenge by traveling to Coffeyville, Kansas where he killed 184 men and boys and then burned most of the town. Reacting to this, Ewing gave the Missouri residents fifteen days to clear out and he burned every structure that stood in the four Missouri Counties leaning against the Kansas Line.

It was called it Ewing’s Scorched Earth Policy.

My great-grandfather David William road into Bates County in 1869 and purchased Tanglewood Farm for pennies on the dollar. Was he a Carpet Bagger?


A side note – Suzan B. Anthony’s brother was second in command of Quantril’s Raiders. Only in one place have I found his name recorded in the annals of history. everywhere else he’s only Suzan B. Anthony’s brother.

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Lesson Planning

I began my eighth grade at Greenview, a one room school that had its beginning shortly after the close of the American Civil War, about 1870. There were nine of us students spanning six grades – third through eighth. Each class had its individual lecture time while the others worked on assignments.

The teacher’s name was Mrs. Hines. She was probably somewhere in her early thirties, a farmer’s wife, and she drove a stake bed truck to school.

Today’s teachers seem to expend a great deal of time and effort with lesson planning for the one grade they teach. I’m wondering how Mrs. Hines coped with so many lesson plans for six different grades?

Looking For Words

Over the years there have been a host of books written on how to find water in a dry well. Some suggest writing in a journal each morning before doing anything else. Others urge the reader to brainstorm, announcing the fact there is nothing worthy of cluttering a blank page. I’ve done both, as well as other rituals. Sometimes they all work. Sometimes none of them work. When none of these things work I take comfort in knowing I’m not a journalist who after great expense to an editor has arrived at edge of the world must either generate some meaningful words or justify why nothing has come his/her way.

I guess it’s because I’m still thinking about the tornadoes we played hide and seek with a few mornings ago. The experience sent me back many decades. Grandpa had just finished his chores and then took his place at the breakfast table.

“It’s pretty quiet this morning, too quiet. If I was a weather forecaster I’d be looking in the clouds for a tornado,” he said as he stirred his coffee.

This was Saturday. No one had asked my opinion, so I remained silent. Cousin Jim and I had plans to head down to the river and I didn’t want them getting derailed with fence mending, or some other job that would consume the day.

After breakfast I saddled my mare and headed for Jim’s house (I was fourteen and too young to drive). His mother had a last minute job for him, so I’m setting my horse waiting. A movement caught my attention. It looked kind of like a hornets nest, or a bunch of junk. It went right over my head at some altitude, and like a dumb ass I sat there a watched. Jim was just coming out the front door when his Uncle RJ rolled into the yard and jump out of his car.

“David!” he shouted.

“I’m in the shop,” Jim’s dad replied.

“You remember Dad’s old barn I asked you to help me tear down and burn?”


“Well, don’t worry about it. A tornado came over the house a few minutes ago. It touched down and hauled the whole thing off.”

“Oh?” replied David stepping from the shop wiping has hands on a grease rag.

“I’ve seen a few of those twisters, but this is the first one that ever did me any good.”

“You suppose that was your uncle’s barn I saw fly over the top of me?” I asked Jim.

“Hell if I know. Let’s head down to the river.”

Foster, Missouri back When



A cousin sent me this photo. Even the date is uncertain, but judging from the car it must have been taken about 1904. Note the wagon wheel on the car. When one bought a wagon back in that era, the wheels were optional, because there were so many – perhaps four – available. It all depended what purpose the wagon would serve, how heavy the loads.

Cars were sold in the same manner. Even though only one type of wheel was available they were optional. It cost extra to own a car with wheels.

Considering the number of people present, it must have been Saturday. The tallest building was the Foster Bank, owned and operated by the Doolittle family. Hardly visible, the next building was also a bank.

A wealthy gentleman came to Foster, and fell out with the Foster Bank. So he went next door and built a bank of his own. As the story goes, he was the only depositor.

When I came along some forty years the bank was still there, but the gentleman and the vault were both gone. By the time I was a teenager, the Foster Bank had become a grocery store and the store owner stored cattle feed in the lobby of the gentleman’s bank.

Foster Bank 02This is what the bank looks like after another fifty years have passed.

Notice on the second floor we can see light through the trees. The light is coming through what was once a window of an undertaking business. Sometime around the time of the Great Depression the undertaker mysteriously vanished, never to be seen, or hear from again.

Sometime during the mid-fifties the store owner, who now owned the bank, hired my uncle and a classmate to clean out the undertaker’s room. It had remained locked for more than forty years, and they had to break in. They found the place filled with funeral clothing, and caskets. My uncle happened to glance at my classmate as he opened the lid of a casket and found a wax dummy inside.


Bad News – Flash Fiction


Brad knew a big storm was brewing. He knew the signs. Doing all he could, make certain the chicken house door was secured, he opened the barnyard gate so his cows had access to the loafing shed, he moved the trash can inside the garage, filled the lanterns with kerosene. And then he went to the house where he and Maggie watched the clouds boil in the west.

A power outage was a given, so Maggie set the propane camp stove before turning in.

The wind testing the windows and doors, searching for a purchase. Brad was up before dawn, and had breakfast before going out to milk. The river had changed course during the night.

The river was at the porch step. The river flowed where his barn and cows were the night before.

135 Words

Ghost Train

Image-1 (1)

They say there was an attorney who

Called himself a railroad man

After he sweet talked investors

He grabbed the money and ran.


A US Marshal got on his trail

Chased him hither and there

Caught him at a Kansas depot

Buying a one-way fare.


That old lawyer is gone now

The money’s gone as well

As are tales of what happened

‘Cuz dead men don’t tell.


Ghost Train, Ghost Train

She’s coming my way

Making sounds that never was

Some old timers say.


I saw the fireflies winking

One quiet summer’s night

When I heard that train a-coming

I even seen the light.


On that grade stood a cow

Framed in the headlamps glow

I seen the train hit her

With a deadly blow.


Next morning we walked that grade

Me and Jim, my cuz

We couldn’t find no rails

For the train that never was.


Ghost Train, Ghost Train

She’s coming my way

Making sounds that never was

So the old timers say.


And when we seen that cow

The one hit in the dark

Dead as a horseshoe

But seen nary a mark.


I only  tell what I saw

That Ghost Train on that grade

Some folks don’t believe me

They say it’s a tale I made.


Just ‘cuz I ain’t seen her late

Don’t mean she ain’t there

‘Cuz when I hear her chugging

I know she’s there somewhere.


Ghost Train, Ghost Train

She’s coming my way

Making sounds that never was

Some old timers say.

A Second Bank

Foster Bank 02Many years before I came on the scene, perhaps a half century prior, the Western Missouri town of Foster had only one bank. It was owned and operated by a wealthy family. One day another wealthy family came to town. For reasons no one can recall, the second wealthy family fell out with the first family, yanked their assessets and built a bank of their own. I have no idea who these people were. As soon as I was aware of my surroundings the lobby of the sandstone building was rented by the storekeeper for storage for livestock feed and hay.

An undertaking parlor occupied the second floor. Sorry, I don’t know who he was either. Rumors are that he locked the door one Friday evening sometime in the 1920s and was never seen again.

The door remained locked until the mid-1950s, they say. Only when the storekeeper bought the building was there any move to unlock the undertaker’s door.

While I was still in high school, perhaps 1954, the storekeepeer hired my uncle to clear out the undertaker’s area. He, in turn, hired one of my class mates to help, and together they broke the lock. The caskets and tools of his trade were as he had left them — caskets, makeup, clothing, everything. Had it not been for a half-century of dust it one might have concluded that the undertaker had stepped out for a sandwich.

In the process of clearing out the rooms my uncle recalled that he heard my classmate gasp when he lifted the lid on a casket and found a full-sized wax dummy staring up at him.

As illustrated in the photo, the old bank is beyond repair and in another decade we may find it has returned to the elements from which it came.