Life In Western Kansas

(1932-1935) -- (15-18 years)

Chapter 3 Section D



by Glenn D. McMurry



Dust Storms

The dust storms of the early thirties can hardly be explained. At first, they were not much to worry about, but as time went by with no rain, the situation got worse by the day. The only trees we had were those along the creeks and streams. That meant that the wind had great opportunity to sweep across the land moving the fine dry soil along with it. The soil acted as sandpaper and the action of the wind kept all vegetation from growing. The grasses, which would usually get brown in the dry season and became green when the rains came again, couldn't withstand the blowing dirt. Soon the wind would blow in great long swipes. It would blow one direction one day and then change direction the next. No vegetation could withstand such a situation. The soil from the fields devoid of vegetation then had a "field day." Up and down and away it would go. When the wind would finally stop for a time, and we would find a red layer of dust over everything, we knew Oklahoma and Texas soil had come to visit! However, when the wind came up in the afternoon from the opposite direction, that soil along with some Kansas dirt was deposited all over Oklahoma and Texas. If the dust was gray, we knew it came from Colorado or northern Kansas. In turn if the wind turned, they would get their soil back along with some of ours. In a way it was a humorous situation to think about, but as weeks went by it became very serious and devastating to the farmers.

When it stopped raining and the wind blew day after day, the sun even seemed to get hotter. The hotter it got, the drier the atmosphere, and on and on in a vicious circle. The farmers would roughen their ground to try to stop it from blowing, but usually their attempts were futile.

Some of the scenes from those days hang on in my memory as though they happened yesterday.

"Dust rollers" were frequent. When the winds would change, bringing a cold front following a hot quiet day, trouble was in the air. Either it was a black dust roller coming or it was a tornado. A dust roller was a frightening, eerie experience. We could see it coming, often high in the sky. The telephones would ring in all the homes to warn of the coming roller. Parents would rush to get their children from school. The sun would first become a reddish ball and then disappear. Then the sky would gradually become gray. The air around would be deathly quiet until the dust roll would envelop you. At that moment, you felt absolutely helpless.

Such an experience occurred one Sunday afternoon about three o'clock. At first we couldn't see our hands in front of our faces and then for about four hours we couldn't see more than ten feet ahead. The sky very slowly lightened, but it was at least three days before we could see more than 100 feet from our house.

Dust of this sort gets into everything...everywhere! We ate it and slept with it. Even though we stuffed rags into every crack, dust still got into the house. We kept the dinner plates turned over until the last moment. Otherwise, we could easily write our names in the dust on our plates before we started to eat.

Dust got into our noses and lungs until it was almost impossible to breathe. We spat mud from our mouths and blew it from our noses.

To help clear the air in the house I would use a hand fly spray gun filled with water. When the air was sprayed with the water, the dirt particles would get trapped in the water droplets and fall to the floor as mud balls. At least the air was fresher for a moment or two. The most effective way to filter the air was to hold a moist handkerchief over the nose and mouth. Of course one couldn't do much work under those conditions.

It was pitiful to watch the animals suffer. Many died of starvation and suffocation. One of our neighbors would allow his pigs to feed up on the carcasses of dead cows. Food was scarce for the pigs and when hungry, a few pigs can strip a dead cow in a matter of hours.

One evening during a lull in a dust storm, I went to the shed to milk our one lone cow. Before I had finished, the wind came up and the dust became so dense I could barely see. I finished milking and headed for the basement house.

The wind was blowing hard by this time and one's voice couldn't possibly be heard above it. After walking for a while, I realized I was in danger of missing the basement and wandering aimlessly in the fields.

With my hand outstretched I proceeded to walk in what I hoped was the right direction. Suddenly, I felt something and I realized it was the corner of the house. As a matter of fact, had I been a few inches further to my right, I would have missed it entirely. I have shuddered many times since. What if I had missed the house!

After that incident, I stretched a wire between the house and the milk shed to help me find my way back should another storm overtake me as this one had.

It is difficult to describe the dust storms. You can't really photograph such a storm as no camera can function properly during one. The dirt ruins the lens and, of course, there is no light.

These pictures that I found in a magazine remind me
of many such scenes I have witnessed during and after dust storms.

I have a vivid memory of a duster that struck late one evening. The wind was wild! The only thing we could do was go to bed and try to sleep through it. We had no electricity on our Hanston farm. At night the coal oil lamps we used made an eerie sight in a dust- filled room. Each dust particle caught its share of light and with all the dust there was in the room, I was always reminded of a horror movie where the victim was trying to escape from the villain's ghost-like empty house.

During the storm I remember my mother entering our bedroom. I could see the glow of the her lamp and her outline as she approached my bed. Since Mom always wore a long night gown, she looked like some ghost-like figure in a scary movie. She had come to see if her "boys" were all right. As she bent over me, I raised from my pillow to a sitting position. The patchwork quilt covering me had a design when I went to bed, but now, the quilt was completely covered with a layer of dirt. As I sat up, the dirt rolled down the quilt forming visible ripples as though it were water.

Since the dust particles were microscopic in size, they were easily carried up by the wind and would float in the air for days before settling to earth. Proof of this can be shown by another experience I had.

Following a severe period of dust storms, we were cleaning an out-building in preparation for housing the transient beet workers. My task was to sweep out the dirt that had collected on the floor.

Naturally, the room had lots of dirt. It was piled up like snow drifts in various places. I knew there was too much to sweep out, so I decided to use a grain scoop. I opened one of the windows down wind so the dirt wouldn't blow back on me when I threw it out the window, and started scooping. When my scoop was full, I pitched the dirt (dust would be a better word) out the window. Much to my surprise, when I looked outside, my shovelful of dirt was missing! It was immediately taken up by the wind and carried away so that nothing was left to form a pile on the ground.

During those dust bowl days, one of our local auto mechanics constructed a tin can air filter for the carburetor of his car. After stuffing the tin can with kitchen scouring pads, he soldered it shut with a bit of hail screen and affixed it to the carburetor. Of course, the can had to be dipped in oil frequently and compared to the modern oil bath air cleaners, it wasn't much. But anything was a help.

This same mechanic insisted that the dust was so penetrating that when he removed the head of an engine one day, there was enough dust on the top of the piston that he was able to write his name on it. Considering all my experiences, I'm not going to be the one to deny his statement.

After a few years the drought lessened and people began to take measures to prevent the dust bowl days from returning. They practiced better farming methods and various types of soil conservation. They planted rows of trees, known as shelter belts, which are still standing today as a barrier to the wind.


A tornado is a weird phenomenon. I have seen them being formed and I have felt them. Even a little whirlwind, often called a wind devil, is a kind of tornado. I have seen many of them whirling across the fields picking up dust and debris as they went along. It's where they are spawned and their size that makes the difference in the amount of destruction tornadoes cause.

The ones we experienced in central Kansas gave us the most concern. Because there were many trees, there was more noise, and branches or even whole trees would blow around striking everything in their path. Big black clouds high in the atmosphere were something to be feared. Often, as a little kid, on a hot summer day I would lie on the ground and watch them boiling high in the sky. Sometimes, however, tornadoes in central Kansas slipped up on us. Almost without warning a low rolling cloud would appear in the west and we would know it was time to find a safe place.

In western Kansas with its wide open plains, one could more easily see tornadoes forming. One afternoon I counted seven dipping down from the angry clouds. Several of them extended to the ground like elephants' trunks.

The air is generally still just before a tornado strikes. When the sky is dark so the tornado is invisible, one can't predict exactly when or where it will hit. When there is enough light, the tornado can be seen on the edge of a dark cloud. It resembles a funnel, twisting and moving toward the ground. At first the funnel seems to be turning very slowly. Before it reaches the ground, wind currents cause the dust to rise to meet it. The more speed it gains the more dust and debris are sucked upward. While the tornado is far away, all seems to move very slowly. As it moves closer, one can see the direction it is turning. The closer it gets, the darker the sky becomes. Then, look out for trouble! Find protection fast!

If you are lucky to withstand the first force of the large tornado, you will experience the center or the "eye." In the center, the wind subsides for a moment and everything is quiet. It is a weird feeling! Beware, however, there is another wind coming just as strong going the other direction. In addition to the dangerous wind, there is usually heavy rain and, sometimes, hail.

A great vacuum is created within the center of a smaller, but more vicious tornado, and buildings that come within its sweep actually explode as the air is sucked out. Then a reverse situation occurs when the air rushes in to fill the vacuum.

The forces in the "eye" of a tornado can cause many strange things to happen. For example, I have seen a straw driven into a telephone pole. It happens so quickly and with such great force, the straw doesn't break. Instead it is forced straight in and one can never withdraw it once it is impaled. It is awe inspiring to see such a phenomenon. Once I saw one protruding from the pole about four inches. Just how much was within the pole, I couldn't tell.

A tornado can move almost anything. All kinds of things can be sucked up into the clouds and carried for miles. I've seen chickens picked up by relatively small tornadoes. One time I saw a pile of junk iron strewn out across a farmer's wheat field as though the iron were a pile of sticks. Farm implements, barns, and even houses are not exempt. If you saw the film, "The Wizard of OZ," you know what I mean.

There is a distinct difference between a cyclone and a tornado. A cyclone is a straight devastating wind that blows with such force that it can smash everything in its path. A tornado occurs when two wind currents collide, and start twirling around and around, picking up speed as they go. This twisting and turning is what produces the "eye" of the tornado.

Hurricanes over large bodies of water also have "eyes." The weather watchers fly their planes directly into them so they can ascertain the size, direction of movement and possible danger to ships. Of course, hurricanes are even more of a danger if they leave the water and lash across the land. Living in Kansas, I never did experience one of them. Thank goodness, that was one disaster we didn't need to worry about. Cyclones and tornadoes were enough!

We experienced one especially devastating tornado on the Reno County farm. I was hauling wheat from the field to the elevator. We had been watching a storm coming in from the west, but had no idea it was coming so fast. As I was coming back from the elevator, about a mile from home, a rolling cloud closed up on me. I had all I could do to guide the truck on the road. By the time I got to the driveway, the wind was whipping the trees around violently. It was raining hard and in the rain were hailstones as big as large marbles. The sound of the hail on the top of my truck was like rocks on a tin roof.

As I turned into the driveway, I could see the leaves and twigs that had been beaten to the ground by the wind, rain and hail. I stopped the truck and rushed to the house.

Mom met me exclaiming, "Thank goodness, you're home! I think we should go to the basement in a hurry."

Dad and Junior had been in the fields and they came to the house as fast as possible. By the time we all got into the basement and closed the door, the full force of the storm hit.

Dad said that his father had build the house to withstand all the Kansas storms and I certainly hoped it was true as we huddled together in the basement, not knowing exactly what was happening outside.

I still have a picture of my grandfather digging that basement. The walls were made with large rocks and good mortar. He must have known this day was coming.

The wind and hail worsened! We knew that we should stand against the wall on the side from which the wind was coming. We could feel the walls shake! We thought surely the roof of the house was gone, and we worried about that. We didn't have money to replace a roof!

When I thought the storm had abated slightly, I decided to climb upstairs to the dining room. Pushing hard against the door, I finally opened it a crack. I peered into the room. It was light! This was much different from the darkness I had seen when we went into the basement. Since the room was all white, I was sure the roof was off! All of the window curtains were sucked straight into the room.

Horror-stricken, I dashed back down into the basement and reported that all the windows had been blown out and the roof was off!

Later, I discovered the roof hadn't blown off and not a single window pane had been broken! I could only conclude that the extreme vacuum created by the tornado had caused the wind to suck the air and rain through the cracks around the windows, causing the curtains to stand straight into the room.

It was a harrowing experience! After the storm abated and we looked outside, we found the large barn demolished, the old garage down and practically every old cedar tree in our front yard uprooted! Destruction was everywhere, but luckily there was no major damage to the house itself. Also, none of us had been hurt physically, and we were thankful for that well-constructed basement.

Japanese Beetles

It is hard to describe a beetle. It is easier to describe a drove of beetles because I don't think I've ever seen a single beetle, or even two, or three. All beetles look alike to me, baby ones or even half-grown ones. I don't remember seeing many baby or half-grown ones. Perhaps the big ones ate the little ones before I had a chance to see them. All the beetles I remember seeing were brown with black heads, and like decent insects, they had six legs. Beetles have wings, but when they fly, they remind me of turkeys. Once they take off, it seems they have no idea where they are going, and, in fact, they don't really go very far. They crawl more than they fly, and always seem to be looking for things to eat.

The very first beetles I saw were in Mom's garden on the farm in Hutchinson. When Mom would find beetles in her garden, she would go immediately for her weapons. These consisted of a stick or a small piece of shingle, and a tin can containing some kerosene. Mom could have stomped on the beetles, but she couldn't stand the idea of smashing one of those ugly beetles with her shoe. So, she would use the stick as a handy club to knock them from the plant into the can of oil. That would be the end of those beetles!

The beetles I knew in western Kansas during the depression averaged about three-quarters inch in length. In Hanston, where green plants were scarce, those beetles seemed to gang together right in our garden. They moved over the ground in droves, or swarms, eating anything and everything in their way. It was interesting to watch them crawl over the ground, devouring all plants as they went. Interesting, but not very pleasant!

Those pesky insects were smart! If you beat the ground in front of them with a burlap sack, they would immediately change direction like a school of fish. Of course, this didn't help much for they would proceed on their way as soon as the beating stopped. The only thing that stopped them was crude oil poured in trenches and set afire. If the beetles were thick enough, however, even the blazing oil wouldn't stop them. The dead beetles formed a bridge over the trench and away the others went!

Beetles would go away from an area as quickly as they came, leaving it stripped of all greenery. We never seemed to see them come or go. Apparently, when they migrated they did it in the dusk or dark of the night. Such an invasion and disappearance was mysterious.

During those tough years, when we weren't able to raise crops, we had no trouble raising pests, such as beetles, grasshoppers, locusts and jackrabbits.

Grasshopper Plague

To add "insult to injury," the grasshoppers arrived during those dust bowl days. They were hungry grasshoppers, too. Those dry years, there weren't even enough plants to satisfy their appetites. Why they multiplied so rapidly, no one really knows. When they arrived, they seemed to come in droves. The sky was full of them. The sun was clouded by them. As they landed they ate every green thing they could find, especially tender plants and leaves. Even the bark on the trees was food for them.

Unlike beetles, grasshoppers can really fly! They fly high and when they come down to the ground, they crawl all over things. Our grasshoppers in Western Kansas came in all sizes. Some were three inches in length.

Those grasshoppers, especially the little ones, would get all over you. They even got inside your clothes. Now that was a very irritating experience!

Grasshoppers inside my clothes was something I really detested, but for my cousin, Gene, who had a rather nervous disposition, they were a disaster. One experience I had with Gene can attest to that. He and I were driving over the hills in my stripped-down truck. I had taken the seat off so I could sit on the gas tank. I thought it much more fun to ride that way.

Dad had purchased that truck in the late twenties. It originally had a cab, enclosed in glass to keep the cold and wind out. The back was covered and was just what he needed to deliver raw milk in glass bottles from the dairy farm to the customers in Hutchinson.

Dad and my brother Junior had changed the truck in two ways. Since Dad had gotten out of the dairy business by this time, they had added a regular truck bed for hauling things other than milk bottles. Also Junior had decided that the transmission system was not good enough for him. He had mounted a regular shifting transmission, in reverse, directly behind the model-T planetary one. That gave the truck more power for pulling heavy loads, and at the same time, more speed for driving on the road. It was a great improvement, but there wereef several drawbacks. First of all, it took a master mechanic to operate the dual transmission system. Mistakes could be disastrous, all brakes or no brakes, for example; and shifting gears was quite a project.

When the truck was retired by Dad in the mid-thirties, I inherited it. I decided it needed some more major changes. I removed the old cab and rear bed. That was great! That made the truck lighter and easier to drive, and taking off the cab meant that I had to sit on the gas tank.

Using the gas tank for a seat was dangerous. For one thing, I would slide all around the "seat" as I drove, and passengers really should have been a "no-no." This time, however, Gene was riding with me on my "gas-tank" seat.

As I said, Gene was touchy and nervous about getting grasshoppers in his clothes. When one got into his pants as we were driving along, he took immediate action. You would have thought a four-foot rattlesnake was in his pants the way he acted.

Without any warning to me to stop or even slow the truck, Gene stood straight up on his side of the gas tank seat, let out a wild bellow, and stepped onto the running board of the truck. Then making desperate motions with his arms, he tried to extract the insect from his pants. It didn't matter to him whether it was a little grasshopper or a big one. It had to be removed promptly.

In the process, Gene lost his balance and fell from the running-board directly onto the ground below! Although the speed of my truck was less than ten miles per hour by this time, it was still fast enough to throw him down on the ground flat on his face directly in line with the on-coming rear truck wheel.

The wheel passed right over his body. I was petrified!

After stopping the truck as quickly as I could, I rushed back to help him up. I was very happy to find that he really didn't need any help. He was already up on his feet, grinning, brushing the dust and sand from his hair and clothes as though it was all a normal procedure for removing a grasshopper from pants!

Fortunately, the truck, having no cab or bed, was very light. We were also lucky that I didn't slam on the brakes and stop on top of him or leave skid marks on him. If that had happened, I don't believe he would have been grinning. When I was sure he wasn't hurt, I got disgusted. I can assure you I gave him a good lecture. I let him know in no uncertain terms that the next time a grasshopper arrived in a sensitive place on his anatomy, he should take time to "survey the situation" before jumping!

We tried every thing we could to kill the grasshoppers. Nothing worked! One of my "sports" was to see how many different species of grasshopper I could catch and mount with a pin on a board. It worked until I found that their decaying bodies smelled very bad and my mother made me throw them out.

We certainly didn't appreciate the grasshoppers, but the turkeys had great sport devouring them. They would range the fields and eat grasshoppers until their craws would be packed with the insects. Many times their entire necks would be so packed that grasshoppers protruded from the turkeys' mouths. It was quite a sight!

As conditions grew worse, we began to realize that our large flock of turkeys couldn't keep up with the growing swarms of grasshoppers. Much to our dismay, the turkeys began to be choosy about the kind of grasshoppers they ate. Evidently some must have been particularly tasty, because they forsook all others for them. The grasshoppers they chose were the yellow, fat ones, which were sometimes two and one half inches long.

Another type of grasshopper was a light green color with long wings. Before long they seemed to take over. The green plants around our basement house began to disappear completely as more and more grasshoppers appeared.

There was still another type of grasshopper that appeared on the scene. I believe it was called a logar. This odd grasshopper was large, very large! Its body was as large as two or three of the ordinary yellow grasshoppers. It was wingless, and would lumber around on the ground very slowly, feeding on whatever plants it could find.

This large grasshopper must have been a mutant. According to Webster, a mutant is an animal resulting from some sudden change in genetic traits. We never could figure out where they came from. They didn't fly in with the rest of the grasshoppers, and they couldn't crawl far enough to go from one field to another.

I remember one particular day when a dark "cloud" appeared suddenly in the eastern sky! It got heavier and darker, and as it was about to envelop us, we found to our surprise that the cloud was not a usual cloud but a massive swarm of grasshoppers. I can still hear the whir of their wings as they flew in up on us. They landed on every living thing and devoured everything. Even the bark on the trees gave way to them.

During the heat of the day, grasshoppers would perch on the shady sides of trees and fence posts for protection. They were so thick they would be piled one up on the other. It was fun to play mumble peg with my knife on the posts where they were to see if I could hit one. Of course, I could do this only on the wood posts, not on the stone ones. Most of the time, I would get a "hit."

About the time we thought we were going to be carried off by the grasshoppers, they began to disappear!

One day, we read in the paper that the grasshoppers were in trouble. Small parasites were boring holes at the base of the grasshoppers' wings and depositing their eggs. Eventually, the worms that hatched inside the grasshoppers killed them. No one knew exactly where the insects came from that attacked the grasshoppers. After a few weeks we began to find dead grasshoppers all around. We were certainly thankful to be rid of them.

Kansas Jackrabbits

Cartoonists had always had fun making pictures of the Kansas jackrabbit, and photographers use trick shots to made them look like massive animals. One popular postcard is one where the jackrabbit picture is enlarged to the size of a horse. A cowboy on a saddle appears to be riding the grasshopper. Many postcards of this kind have been mailed from the area to let the recipients know just how big Kansas jackrabbits are. Of course, the postcards exaggerated, but I have seen some jackrabbits as large as a small dog. Jackrabbits are quite different from cottontail rabbits. Cottontail rabbits can almost be considered domesticated rodents. They live around homes and gardens. You are lucky to find a jackrabbit, in ordinary circumstances, within a half mile of a residential area. Since his large brown eyes are so well placed in his head, trying to slip up on a "jack" with a gun is a real trick. Then, his two long ears, at least six inches long, are always pointed forward. If he sees or hears the slightest thing, he will momentarily raise up on his hind legs and appraise the situation. If there is the slightest movement or sound, he is off in the opposite direction.

By late fall our beet fields offered about the only food for jackrabbits. In the evening, as I looked toward the slope of the long hill lying to the east, I could see a great distance. If I would watch carefully, I would see the rabbits coming down from their hiding places to the beet field in search of food. The longer I looked, the more rabbits I would see. After awhile it seemed that the whole ground was moving as those hungry rabbits came down towards us.

The colder it got and the later in the year it became, the more bold and more numerous the rabbits became. It was great sport to shoot them. Whenever I could, I would borrow my Dad's .22 caliber pump action gun to go hunting for them.

One night I took my rifle and walked very quietly out toward a pile of beet tops, some 500 feet from our basement house. By the time I could make out the pile of beet tops, in the moonless night, I noticed that the ground was literally covered with jackrabbits trying to get something to eat.

Not being able to see the sights on the gun in the dark, I held it about six inches from the ground and parallel to it. I pulled the trigger and after the dust had settled, I had five dead or nearly dead rabbits. I've often wondered if that was a world's record for multiple killings with one .22 caliber rifle shell. That certainly showed how thick those rabbits were on the beet tops.

It was always very exciting to hunt rabbits at night. My cousin, Ted, and I would take our guns and ride the Model-T truck into the fields. Ted had a repeating .22 caliber short rifle. He would ride on the fender of the truck as I drove. Each time Ted squeezed the trigger of his rifle, it would fire and then re-load itself immediately. He had a small automatic machine in his hands. It's a very dangerous gun to say the least, specially in the hands of a teenager!

How exciting it was to me to have Ted on the front fender with his gun, and me at the wheel, driving over a roughly-tilled field, sweeping the car lights all around searching for rabbits. Any rabbits we would scare out were blinded by the car lights. They would be confused and run almost any direction including right into the lights of the truck.

What a sight! Ted, with his repeating rifle, bouncing around on the front fender of the truck, firing at every rabbit he could see. We had a ball! I would keep turning the truck around and around, and Ted would be shooting in every direction. How we kept from killing each other was a miracle. As I recall, we seldom hit a rabbit, but we had a terrific time. Of course, Mom and Dad were rarely aware of such episodes.

As the old proverb says, "the more rabbits you have, the more rabbits you have, the more rabbits you have," and so on! It was certainly true during the dry times in western Kansas.

One evening I took a long shot at a jackrabbit in the beet patch. I was much too far away to expect to hit him, but I pulled the trigger anyway in a careless fashion. To my surprise, a jackrabbit jumped into the air, did a flip and dropped. I'm not sure whether he was the one I aimed at or just one of the many that were there.

One time my brother, Junior, and I went hunting early in the evening and when we returned home, we piled all our dead rabbits near the well pump some 100 feet from our basement house. That night Junior decided to take the rabbits to old "Bill," who would buy the pelts for about ten cents each. I volunteered to get the dead rabbits for him.

Without benefit of a lantern, I proceeded to the well in the almost total darkness. There was no moon and it was very cold. When I found the well pump, I reached down to pick up a rabbit. Instantly what I grabbed began to kick and jump! I held on! It was a live rabbit that had come to the pile of dead ones. I had grabbed it by the ears in that almost total darkness. I took care of it in a hurry, and Junior had an extra rabbit to take to town.

Many people had strange, almost unbelievable jackrabbit tales to tell. One day the postman came into our yard and told us to come see what had happened to him. As he drove past our house, a rabbit started across the road at the same time. The startled rabbit gave a lunge and hit the car on the front side door handle. To the postman's surprise that rabbit was impaled on that handle and killed!

Since jackrabbits multiply rapidly, we were overrun with them. It got so bad that the entire county organized to get rid of them.

The plan for catching rabbits was simple, but rather crude. We would drive the rabbits into a large pen and club them to death! Sounds silly, but that is exactly what we did. After making elaborate plans, the farmers used their trucks to drop off men and boys every few yards around a ten-mile area. Many people were involved. Each man could carry a shot gun, but no rifles were allowed. Rifle bullets go too far, and there was danger that someone would get shot. At a certain time, all the men would move towards the center.

In the center of the drive area, a large pen had been constructed of slatted snow fencing used along highways to keep the snow from drifting on the roads. Gates were left open so the rabbits could go in.

After several hours of walking towards the center, the men would converge. When they got too close to each other to use their guns, they would resort to pounding on the ground and wielding clubs. The rabbits frantically rushed away from their approaching enemies.

It wasn't long before hundreds of jackrabbits were trapped in the pen. By now the rabbits were rushing around in every direction trying to get away. They were so thick they would run into each other. Soon the gates were closed and the slaughter really began! As the men wielded their clubs, the rabbits would stampede against the fence and pile up on each other. Soon they were piled so high that some even jumped over the fence and escaped! Trucks carried the carcasses away by the hundreds.

After such a drive one would think there wouldn't be enough rabbits left to bother us, but not so! Within a few weeks the job had to be done all over again! It was astounding.

Later the rabbits faded out of the scene almost as fast as they had come up on it. We weren't sure just what happened to them. We did know that certain insects implanted their eggs in the body of the rabbit. When we ate rabbit, we always had to be careful about the grubs, as they were called. Perhaps, as in the case of the grasshoppers, those larvae killed their hosts. We do know that mother nature has a marvelous method of controlling its living creatures.

Reno County Snakes

Before I write about the rattlesnakes in Western Kansas, I'll back-up and tell about the snakes I knew about as a kid on our Reno County farm. We didn't have rattlesnakes, but we did have snakes. The only poisonous snake that we had around the farm was the spreading viper. Although its venom is not as poisonous as that of a rattlesnake, it is still dangerous. Garter and bull snakes, non- poisonous, were also around. The vipers were the snakes I feared. They grew 12 to 15 inches in length. Garter snakes were little, and it was fun to try to catch them. Bull snakes would get big in length as well as diameter. They could be found in places where rats, mice and other rodents were. Also, bull snakes liked hen eggs, and that would cause a ruckus in the hen house.

Mom hated snakes--all snakes, regardless of their color or size. I don't know what caused her to hate them so. I didn't have that kind of hatred for them, but I have to admit that I usually disposed of them as quickly as possible when I found them. Later in life, however, I realized that most of that hate was unfounded. Snakes were death to rodents and we had lots of them. We probably should have left the snakes alone to help get rid of the rodents. I suppose one can say snakes are useful, within reason, of course. The reasonable aspect of allowing snakes to be around definitely went out the window in Mom's situation. She would say, "I hate them with a passion. The only good snake is dead one."

In my eyes also, all snakes were to be disposed of, and when I was old enough to swing a bull snake around my head and snap its head off, I thought I had become a man. Why Dad didn't let me know that they were harmless and were good to have around the farm, I don't know. He probably told me but the lesson was not driven well enough into my head. Our hen house was rather open, especially during nice warm days, and because snakes were always hunting eggs to eat, gathering eggs could prove dangerous. The nests for laying hens had to be placed high enough to keep snakes out. A long bull snake could raise itself up against a wall in such a way that it could reach quite high to steal the eggs. If a hen was in a "setting" mood and she was left undisturbed, the nest would soon have four or five eggs. What a great feast for a snake to discover!

Chickens don't like snakes, and the first one to see the intruder squawks loudly. This warns all the other hens and soon the henhouse is in quite a riot.

Mom was always very, very careful not to put her hand into a half-lit nest. She told me of the repulsive sensation she felt one time when she found a squirmy, slimy snake in a hen nest. No wonder she warned me of such a situation.

Speaking of finding snakes in the hen nests reminds me of another danger when gathering eggs. I always thought putting my hand in the nest and disturbing the lice was even worse than finding a snake. I don't know how those lice can get all over one in such a short time. They always seemed to head for my hair. Believe it or not, in those days I did have hair, and it was really a mess to get them out.

We kids used to call the lice "cooties." The dictionary says that's also a proper word for them. Sometimes the term "mites" was used, so I'm not sure whether they were mites or lice. Whatever they were, I will be happy never to be bothered with them again.

I remember Grandma Deal telling about the time that she got lots of lice in her hair so she rushed to the coal oil can and doused her head in it. She said that took care of them. Ugh!

One can easily get a dose of lice during chicken culling. That's the time when every hen in the flock is inspected to determine which are good layers. I would help Mom do the job by catching the hens. Of course, each hen would squawk as though she were going to be sent to the pot immediately. Mom would shove the hen under her left arm, and quickly check the hind end. If the "pin" bones were thin and wide apart, the hen passed the exam. That meant she was probably laying eggs. If she didn't pass the test, she either went into Mom's pot or was sent to town to be sold.

Getting rid of the lice in the henhouses wasn't easy. The main method we used when they were detected was to paint the roosts with coal oil or creosote. If left unchecked, a couple of lice seemed to turn into a whole army overnight.

Along the Arkansas River, there were water moccasins. I only remember one experience with them. One time the teacher at the Elmer grade school took all us kids on a picnic. Apparently she wanted us to have a nature study around the river. As we were looking at the flowing river, I happened to notice a little Amish girl standing with her feet apart. To my astonishment, between her feet was quite a large snake coiled up in the grass. Neither the girl nor the snake seemed to be bothered. She stepped over the snake gingerly and walked away. The teacher decided, however, that it was time to leave that place, so our picnic ended abruptly.

Snakes in Western Kansas

What a diversion from snakes, then to hens, and now I'm back to snakes again. It seems that life is just that way. "What goes around, comes around," as the saying goes.

It was not until we moved to Hanston in western Kansas that we got acquainted with the rattlesnake. I had been warned of their poisonous bite, and told to watch out for them. Many true stories are around about people being killed by them during pioneer times when they were plentiful.

Truly, any rattlesnake is to be reckoned with. Its wicked hollow fangs can inject enough venom to kill a person unless proper care is taken quickly. A grazing horse or cow can be killed if a snake bites it near its nose or mouth, or if it is unlucky enough to step on the snake near the exposed soft spot of the foot close to the hoof.

Mr. Heimer, who ran Hanston's grocery and mercantile store, often related the story of his brother's tragic death.

As his brother was describing how he had been attacked by a rattlesnake, he slapped his hand on his leather legging.

"It hit me right here," he said.

Unfortunately, one of the snakes poisonous fangs had broken from its jaw and remained in his brother's legging. When he slapped at that point for emphasis, the poisonous tooth entered his hand. His brother died in agony only a few days later.

In our area, rattlesnake bite "kits" were available to be used immediately for snake bites. Most people carried a kit for such emergencies, but I never carried one. The thought of slashing myself with a sharp knife and sucking out venom or using the little rubber "sucker" was more than I could bear. I determined that I would always just be careful and not get bitten.

The rattlesnakes in Western Kansas were prairie snakes and didn't get too large. Often they didn't have a chance to grow large because they would get killed by mechanized farm equipment. The one-way disc plow was introduced as a quick way to prepare the soil to plant wheat and other crops. A one-way plow cut a swath about 10 or 12 feet across a field, and a snake didn't have much chance to get away from those sharp turning discs.

Sometimes, when I was working in the field, I would discover a rattlesnake rushing to get away from those lethal discs. Not to be bested in the race, I would turn the tractor away from its furrow and attempt to run over the snake. Many times I was successful, but the wasted time and artistic twists and turns I made didn't exactly please my folks. Unfortunately, most of our land sloped down toward the house, making it easy for them to watch the progress of my work. Driving a tractor for hours and hours on end was a boring task and about the only excuse to stop or break the hours was chase a rattlesnake or take a "bathroom stop." I got bored during the hours it took to go around and around that long field.

Speaking of getting bored while driving the tractor reminds me of how I spent my time. I would try to keep my mind off how much more I had to do, and think of some new ideas about ways to do various things. I've always been an idea man, I guess. When my kids were young, they used to say that Dad was allowed only one new idea a day. Incidentally, my wife often repeats that admonition even now during my retirement years.

Another thing I did to pass the time on that tractor was sing to myself and try to compose some songs of my own. Once I wrote a little ballad called "Way Out in Western Kansas." It had a neat little tune and many verses. The tune is still in my mind, but most of the verses have escaped me. It started "Way out in Western Kansas when I was just a kid," but the rest I have forgotten. I keep hoping I will find it on a scrap of paper some day, or I will be able to remember some more of it.

Now back to my snake stories. During a sunny day, rattlesnakes could be found sunning themselves close to their dens, ready to hide when danger lurked. They rarely made their own dens, but would crawl into a hole made by a badger or other animal. Rattlesnakes have no mechanism to generate heat for their bodies so they sun themselves during the day to soak enough heat to last for the night.

Rattlesnakes rarely "rattled" their rattles on their tails, except when they were molested. Then, look out! That old story that a snake has to coil before it can strike is a bunch of baloney. If it is ready, all it has to do is back up a little and let 'er go! Also, a baby rattlesnake's bite is just as poisonous as an old one, and regardless of sex! I'm told that the amount of venom is what makes the difference.

One sunny day I decided to hunt rattlesnakes, or skunks, or whatever, bareback on old Bess. Rover trotted along with us. There were many badger holes on the high hills, and I gave Rover the job of checking them for whatever they might contain. Of course, from his lower perspective he would miss some of the holes, especially if the wind was in the wrong direction for him to pick up a scent. This time he acted as if he had found something. I slowed old Bess and stared down into the hole. I was shocked at what I saw! The hole was full of rattlesnakes! I really didn't know just how to handle a hole full of rattlesnakes, but decided to use my rifle. I quickly dismounted old Bess and carefully walked to the hole. Quietly, I took aim at the middle of the pile of snakes.

That hole of snakes began to boil! However, no snakes came out. Soon, they quieted and I started to dig around with my stick. To my surprise, I found not lots of snakes, but only one monstrous one. It was nearly four feet long, and so old that some of the rattles had broken off.

The surprising aspect of it was that I had killed the snake with one shot of my rifle. Its back was broken in three places: at its neck close to its head, in the middle, and just before the end of its tail.

The gunny sack I carried came in handy. I usually used it to carry back skunks but this time it carried a large rattlesnake. It was a prize!

When we had only one cow giving milk, I found it easier and faster to get the milking job done by walking to the cow in the pasture instead of persuading the cow to come to the barn. Sometimes the cow was at the far north side of the pasture, about a half mile from the house.

One time on my way to find the cow, I spotted a snake just as he started down into his hole. I quickly slapped my milking pail over the hole, and sat down on top of it. The snake was caught, half in and half out of his hole. Then I pondered what to do next. My milk pail that time was Mom's waterless cooker. It was not the softest thing to sit on, but I wasn't about to get up too quickly. The rattlesnake, by this time, was desperate. It was hitting the bottom of the pail with its head repeatedly. I didn't dare raise the pail from the ground, and let his head out.

Luckily, I had a pair of pliers in my pocket. I proceeded to grab the snake and break his back. When I was sure he couldn't move, I felt safe in taking Mom's kettle off his hole. After removing the rattles for my collection, I proceeded to my milking job.

Another opportunity to add to my rattles collection came one day when I heard my Mom scream from the garden, "Come quickly and bring a hoe."

Running to her I found one of the longest prairie rattlesnakes I had ever seen. It was over four feet long. That experience wasn't good for Mom's morale. She didn't expect to find a snake so near to the house. Needless to say, I used the hoe to kill the snake, and then removed its rattles.

I used a vanilla bottle to display the rattles from the rattlesnakes I caught. I still have that bottle and it certainly brings back many memories of hunting rattlesnakes in western Kansas.


One day I read that I could keep dead rattlesnakes in a jar. That would be interesting. I carefully wound a dead one into a jar and filled the jar with alcohol. After a few days, I checked my jar and found that the snake had exploded! What a mess I had! I didn't try that again. That was another of my ideas that didn't seem to work too well.


The Pig Disaster

The cows and horses were promptly put out to pasture when we arrived with them, but the sows and new pigs were a serious problem for the folks. Dad had selected a breed of all-white hogs. Too much sun was disastrous. The pigs were put in some very old pens near the rock house, but, alas, they would squeeze out and head for the open. In a few days those little pigs turned from white to pink, and then to red. Soon they were covered with blisters and got very sick. They stopped nursing and eating their slop. It wasn't long before Dad and Mom realized that their pigs were going to take much longer to mature. Dad kept pouring feed into them, but they did not respond normally. Many of them died and those that made it were runts. Who wants to buy "runted" pigs? Well, practically no one! So, what had looked like money in the bank, amounted to almost nothing. Poor Dad! That was another of his projects that went sour.


Dad was always an industrious man. He tried to keep aware of the new farming ideas that he could utilize to assure success. He knew that western Kansas was dry, but had no idea that it was going to be that dry! He planted wheat as he always had on the home farm. However, we soon learned that wheat, as a dry land crop, was not profitable. Most of the years the farmers couldn't raise enough wheat to get their seed back

Dad is taking a break from his wheat planting job.
Rover, as usual, is tagging along.

Some were raising cattle, but Dad had no cattle, and no money to buy any. Something had to happen! Dad knew the answer to his problems was water and lots of it! The previous owner of the farm also had a problem of having enough water to take care of his crops. He thought the wind was the answer to his problem. He had manufactured a windmill that was supposed to pump as many gallons of water as needed. After all, Western Kansas had plenty of wind! Since the windmill we found on our land had collapsed, we really wondered just how good they were.

After visiting a farmer who had one, Dad decided that type of windmill was not such a good idea. It was a monstrous piece of equipment with two very large vaned wheels. The wheels were about seven feet in diameter. They were held together with a steel frame and large chain arrangement. This served as the power train that transmitted the power from the wheels to the pumping rod. The whole wheel mechanism was supported by a tall wooden structure. It was an awkward structure. It was like having an elephant supported by toothpicks. Sooner or later the elephant would crush the toothpicks. When a windmill came crashing to the ground, it was almost impossible to repair it. We discovered that most of such windmills met an early death.

So much for the windmill idea. Next, Dad heard of a sugar beet processing company in Garden City, Kansas, which was about 80 miles west of the little town of Hanston where our farm was located. He contacted their representative for information and was told that if he would raise beets for their processing plant, they would supply the know-how, the beet seed, and necessary farming equipment. Moreover, they would supply the pump for an irrigation well. The sugar beet company had long ago learned that windmills were not the answer for irrigation in western Kansas. They used large centrifugal type pumps mounted near the water level. They also promised to get the day laborers necessary to thin, weed, and top the beets at harvest time. Dad was really elated when he learned that the company would also finance the entire venture! All Dad had to do was furnish the land and raise the beets. It sounded easy, but it proved to be more of a job than we had imagined.

Sugar beets and water go together. Without considerable quantities of water, at the right time, beets will not grow large enough or contain enough sugar to make them profitable for the sugar beet processors, and thence, the farmer. Good sugar beets contain a large quantity of sugar. They have so much sugar, in fact, that they are not good for eating.

We had seen clippings like this in the paper
about the value of irrigation out here in Hodgeman County.

We were convinced that the answer to our drought problems was water and the deal offered by the beet company to get an irrigation well seemed too good to be true. All we had to do was dig the hole and put in the pump. With four courageous souls around that should be no problem. I should say five willing and courageous souls because Mom did her part, too.

Digging for water was like looking for gold a hundred years earlier. "There's gold in them thar hills and all we have to do is dig for it," was their slogan. However, the old prospectors had to trudge for hundreds of miles before they could move their first shovel of dirt, and we knew we had water only twenty or so feet below us. All we had to do was dig for it and pump it up to the land surface. So we got busy.

It seemed so very, very easy, but the job was not so easy. Like a lot of little words, "easy" turned out to be a bigger word, "difficult." Had we known how much heartache we were headed for, I wonder if we'd have ever attempted to do the job.

Our task was to dig a round hole into the ground about ten feet in diameter and twenty-three feet deep. We had to pull each shovelful of dirt up to the surface in a bucket made from an old fifty gallon oil drum. Then the dirt had to be moved some distance away from the hole. It was hard work, yes, hours of back-aching work. Those hours turned into days before we heard that wonderful phrase, "Hey, guys, we struck water!"

Digging the hole was just the first step. Sinking twenty-inch perforated steel casings some forty feet down into the water-bearing sand and gravel was no picnic either. That steel casing had to be coaxed down into the ground inch by inch. We had to put heavy weights on it to push it down. Special sand buckets were used to remove the sand and gravel from the bottom to make way for the casing. Sometimes it took an hour or so to push the casing down a single inch. Then after deciding we had gone deep enough, we had to drop sacks of cement into the bottom of the casing to seal it. That kept the fine sand and gravel from being pumped into it.

Sinking the Casing for the Well

"Look, here comes the new pump. What a beautiful beast!" Dad said one day as a truck drove into the yard. It was a horizontal centrifugal unit that was to be mounted some six or eight inches above the water line. It was belt driven. We knew we still had lots of work before we could pump water. The long suction pipe with its foot valve had to be assembled and lowered into the casing. That foot valve was supposed to keep the pump from losing its prime even when the engine was stopped. Then we had to carefully seal all the joints and connect the suction pipe to the pump.

"So far, so fine." Dad said. "Now we need a power unit to run the pump and we don't have one! Well, not right now, anyway."

I knew Dad had an idea. He always had lots of ideas.

"We'll bring the old Avery tractor from Hutchinson," Dad said, grinning to himself. "It is no good sitting there rusting away. Come on, Junior, let's go get it and put it to work pumping water."

Dad and Junior drove the Model-T back to Hutchinson to get the old two piston Avery tractor from the farm. They stripped it of its wheels and other unnecessary trappings, loaded what was left on the truck and brought it back.

"It's completely naked!" I said when I saw it. "It's naked as a jaybird."

Dad and Junior mounted what was left of the Avery tractor near the edge of the well hole. Then they used a long endless belt to connect the power drive to the pump pulley below. Soon the old Avery was off and running again--without wheels, however.

"Well," Dad said. "That old Avery was no good as a tractor any more, but we needed a power unit to run the irrigation pump. We made do with what we had, and it worked. Yes, sir, something out of nothing."

After priming the pump, all of a sudden, "thrill of thrills," water gushed from that eight-inch pipe. It was an experience to behold. All we could do was watch in awe. The water temperature was so cold and refreshing. It stayed at a steady fifty-five degrees and what an invigorating moment it was to wade in it.

"Gold, that's right, that water is pure gold!" Dad said. "It has been right below us for years and years. Now all we have to do is make it work for us." The news of the McMurry's new irrigation well spread quickly throughout the surrounding area. The farmers for miles around came to see that water pouring out of the dry ground. It was no accident that Dad had placed that well close to the highway. He was a showman at heart and always wanted to share his experiences with others. The entire family enjoyed being the first in the area with an irrigation well.

Our Garden, a Cash Crop

Now that we had water, Dad and Junior had to prepare the seed bed for sugar beets. That entire process was quite time consuming. First, the whole field had to be leveled so that ditches could be cut between each row of beets. I helped with the beet project when I wasn't in school. Ted helped some, but he later got a paying job at one of the neighbors.

Although taking care of the beet project took lots of time, a vegetable garden had first priority. The minute the water started to roll from that irrigation well, we knew we could now plant our garden. Dad already had prepared the general area in anticipation of the day we would have water from our well. Mom had marked off rows for beans, peas, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, red beets, sweet corn and potatoes. Since our whole family loved watermelons, nothing stopped Dad from planting a large patch of them--ten acres, in fact! The minute they began to ripen, we found that all the neighbors loved watermelons as well.

Produce from our garden gave the folks their first cash crop since moving to Hanston. We also had an abundance of vegetables for our own table. We were very, very pleased with that irrigated garden. It's too bad the beet crop couldn't have been as successful that first year.

Remembering our watermelon crops brings pleasant memories. When the first frost came, the vines would freeze and the melons left in the field would rot quickly. We would go to the field, break open melons and eat just the heart, which, of course, is the best part of a melon. We made real pigs of ourselves in that melon patch.

My cousin Ted was especially fond of watermelons, too, and we would often go to the field to see if any were ripe enough to eat. One day when we were looking over the patch, Ted found a very large watermelon.

"That's the one I want. Don't let anyone pull it," he said.

He let the whole family know that he was going to pull that melon when it was ripe. In other words, it was his private property.

A few days later I heard Ted yell, "Where is my melon? Someone has stolen it!"

At first Ted accused me and the other members of the family. We insisted we hadn't touched "his" melon. He finally believed us, and we all agreed the "thief" had to be one of the beet workers.

It took Ted a long time to forget about his special melon.

Beet Crop Problems

Unfortunately, after the first two years, even the garden didn't do too well. The dust storms, and all the pests, such as grasshoppers, beetles, and rabbits, ruined many garden crops as well as field crops. Nevertheless, throughout all the eight years, the folks always planted their garden and tried to raise at least enough for the family. Mom always tried to have some to can for the winter months, too.

There were also lots of problems with the irrigation system as time went on. First, we kept finding leaks in the suction pipe. Because of the long drought, we soon found that the water didn't flow into the casing fast enough to meet the needs of the pump. Finally, we decided to add a second well about forty feet south of the first. It was a terrible job tunneling from one well to the other to lay additional suction pipe between the two wells.

After sinking the new casing and connecting the two wells together, we were ready to prime the pump.

"What's wrong? We can't get the pump primed!" Dad called down to Junior, who was in the well. "Check all through the tunnel for leaking joints in the pipe. Do you hear any hissing?"

Finally, after fixing all the leaks, we got well number two to work, but things weren't much better. That pump still was starved for water. Some months later we sunk well number three another forty feet further away. That meant there were more problems with leaks. Next the tunnels were beginning to cause us worry. The dirt ceiling and sides were starting to crumble and fall onto the suction pipe. One day we looked down into the well and found the pump completely covered with dirt. It was getting downright dangerous to climb down those long ladders to inspect the equipment. Mom was worrying herself half to death fearing that those tunnels would collapse on one or more of her "boys."

The weather, too, caused more trouble than we had anticipated. The sugar beet company, and Dad, assumed all along that there would be some rain. But, no, there was not a drop day after day. When we finally did get some rain, it would be a deluge. Such a deluge would wash out the small plants so replanting was necessary. Before replanting, all the land had to be tilled again. More labor and more expense!

When we dug our irrigation well, we noted that the soil didn't have a subsoil. That means a clay soil that allows the water to soak down slowly. In this way the roots of the plants can still have some moisture during dry times. But there was no clay or tight soil to hold any rain water that fell. As a result, the water from the rain would soon seep down through the entire 23 feet to the water level, leaving the plants without moisture to grow in. Unless sufficient rain came frequently, it was a hopeless situation.

Kansas weather, during the summer, can be hot! I've seen it up to 120 degrees, and, believe it or not, I've fried an egg on the sidewalk during such weather. That wind and sun can make anything as "dry as a bone!"

Year after year, Dad would plant sugar beets, and many times we wouldn't get enough water to sprout the seeds. We would try to irrigate but the dry, hot wind would always get ahead of the irrigation water. Our pump could produce about eight or nine hundred gallons a minute, but I believe it would have taken several thousand gallons a minute to keep up with the drying wind. We had dug a network of ditches. There was one main ditch, four feet wide and eighteen inches deep that ran the length of the field. Smaller ditches branched out from it. The main ditch had such wide, deep cracks that it would take hours to fill it. The water hitting those dry cracks would soak down through each crack and disappear. The minute the water disappeared, the wind would cause the soil to form a dry crust. Then, the crust would break and cause cupped plates of hard dirt six to ten inches in diameter. Walking bare-footed over these hard plates was fun if one could forget their real meaning to our farming attempts.

Dad always tried to cultivate the sugar beet field before the crust would form. The cultivator would pulverize the soil and keep the sun from drying the soil so quickly. Actually, it didn't do much good. The sugar beets wouldn't get enough moisture to help them grow during the early growing period. That would impede their growth so they couldn't mature later even though there was plenty of water.

If there was a good growing season, all the plants would grow evenly. Most of the time, we didn't have such luck. We would have such a spotted field that only a few plants could be dug, topped and sent to the sugar beet plant. Dad would gather the tops into piles close to the barn for our cow. It was these tops that made the rabbits go crazy! They also liked the small beets that were left in the ground. Although they had to dig the beets out before they could eat them, there were always plenty of hungry rabbits around to clean the field.

It was not surprising that we began to lose some of our initial enthusiasm about our irrigation system. In fact, it was soon clear that the beet project was not going to be a paying proposition. Year after year we failed to have a good crop.


It wasn't just the beet crops that failed. Attempts to raise wheat and other crops also led to failures. As time went on and we weren't able to make the farm payments, Mr. Osborne arranged to break the contract.

How my family survived the rigors of life and work trying to beat the drought is a very sad, sad story. In the meantime I had been negotiating with my aunts so my folks could move back to the old farm. I had tried to keep in communication with them through my college years and had been somewhat successful. Finally, the year after I graduated from college, they agreed to let Dad return to the home farm and rent it from them. Ironically, the year before we reached agreement with them, we had the first good wheat crop. That one crop didn't cause us to change our minds about leaving, however. After eight years "way out West in Kansas," we moved back into our old Reno County homestead. What a happy day that was!