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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
As I grow older I more frequently fill this space with historical stories and this week is no exception. Had I succumbed to an urge on Saturday to take close-ups of the youngsters playing with the fire hoses during Byron Bash I might have had something current to write about. On the way to Byron, I thought about what would make a good picture. Knowing the water fights would be on when I arrived in Byron, I made sure the battery was up on my water resistant camera and packed it with my other gear.
On the drive to Byron, I made plans. I would look for someone in the audience to hold my regular camera when I went in for a close up. Once there I made sure to clean my pockets and make sure to leave things I didn't want to get wet in my vehicle. I took a pencil to write notes with rather than a pen. I learned the hard way that when notes taken with a ball point pen get wet the ink bleads onto my shirt and the notes become illegible.
I've made plans like that before but usually I have second thoughts at the last minute and try to stay dry.
In my more than 50 years of reporting there have been times like the year when two Jewell County volleyball players pushed me into the Lovewell Lake Fun Day mud pit when I was thankful to have prepared in advance.
But since I didn't get the close up at Byron, I guess I shall resort to history again this week.
My first idea was to write about the Oregon Trail Day events held Saturday at Oak. But I have written that story before and I have nothing new to say this year. But before moving on to a different topic, I will repeat a message from past years. "If you have never been, vow this very moment to not miss another opportunity. The good folks at Oak, with the help of many friends, make Nuckolls County's western trail history come alive. The Oak show is the kind people drive hundreds of miles to see.
Thinking about Oak and the reenactments reminded me of a Jewell County Indian story told by J. M. Hagaman, a former editor of the Concordia Blade newspaper, Hagaman was in Kansas during the 1860s when Jewell County was wild and primitive. In the 1890s, he wrote a series of articles under the heading, "Border Scenes." One of those columns focused on an event in Jewell County. An extract of which follows.
"You didn't work it right. If you had had as much experiences with the Plains Indians as I have you'd been all right."
Those were the words of Joe Berry a neighbor, on hearing our account of the "hold up" on the Solomon. Joe was a man of some importance, had frontiered it considerable and was decently educated and informed. He liked to see others work better than to work himself and some called that a 'failing." He ran for the legislature but as his legs weren't long enough he failed to make the "inning."
One fall the weather being still mild and warm, I proposed to Joe Berry that we have a buffalo hunt and he approved it. J. M. Thorp accompanied us, each having his own team.
In due time we reached the tramping grounds of the buffalo but saw none. We also kept out eyes peeled for Indians for, although it was out of their season a few stragglers or robbers might yet remain. Many strange things happen in a long life time, and so on this occasion another was added to the list I had of previous experiences.
I passed within 100 yards of a camp of Indians who were to rob us the very next day, and was not discovered nor did I have the remotest idea of their presence. It is true at the head of a ravine I saw what I first to took to be an Indian but after a long and tiresome watch, I did not see it again, hence became satisfied that it was an antelope. I did not mention it to my comrades when I came to camp, four miles to the south.
Camp was on the high ground north of where Cawker City is located. Just east, about 100 yards, in a pleasant little cove was the Indian camp of eight lodges. It was unobservable because of the foliage of trees which clung to the limbs for the greater part of these mild winters. though dead, of course.
I was lucky in dropping two nice buffalo cows within one -half mile of our camp. We dressed the buffalo that evening and loaded the meat into our wagons the next morning. We were on the west side of the Limestone Creek (in Jewell County). We had to go far up the creek to ford. We crossed the creek within one-fourth of a mile of that Indian camp, yet saw no indication of Indians.
I was afterward satisfied they knew where we were camped that night, how many there were of us and how many teams we had.
It took some time to cut up and load our meat and get started for home. When we crossed the creek, it was full ten o'clock. After crossing the creek, there was prairie about two miles long and one mile wide between two branches of the Limestone.
Just as we reached the center of this prairie, from out of the timber on the north came pouring down upon us some 35 Indians, fiercely riding, painted red, making the beautiful spring like morning hideous with that war whoop that only an Indian can give.
Berry was in the lead, Thorp in the rear and I in the middle. These same performances were gone through with what I had experienced with the Cheyennes some two weeks before only this time the cattle were less frightened.
As the Indians passed Berry, one of them struck his right arm with a bow and nearly broke it. The Indian said, "No good white man, steal Injun buffalo." I looked at Joe to know what to do as he had intimated he knew just the thing to be done. But when he made the intimation, he was 60 miles away from this place and had no Indians in sight!
Well, what did he do? The man who knew what was best to do put one foot on the front endgate, rested his left elbow on this leg and into his left hand rested his head. He never changed his position until the savages had quit us. They rifled his wagon of all they wanted. His coffee pot, coffee, every bit of his grub, all the corn for his oxen and one or two bed quilts. And there he sat, and sat, looking neither to the right nor the left. I halted my team with ease, for the oxen seemed not to care a continental and soon went to feeding on the dead buffalo grass, very different from what their first experience was, when they were scared nearly to death.
Thorp's wagon stood close to mine and Berry's was 20 rods away. A squad of Indians surrounded his wagon and began to ransack it in search of something they wanted. One Indian fell in love with his butcher knife which was an extra good one. He proposed a swap and the next minute along came another Indian who saw the knife and claimed it as his own.
Thorp hunted for the other Indian, but of course he was not to be found. Thorp protested that it was not a fair trade but the brutes evidently looked upon it differently. Besides the knife, they took his corn, coffee pot and coffee and his provisions, leaving nothing to eat and 60 miles from home.
"Well what did you do?"
Therein comes the rub. As I am doing the writing, what's the matter with my telling it as best suits me? And should I not tell it in a way that makes me the lion of the occasion? I don't care how fair you are toward me, reader, I know enough of the human nature to know that in spite of a disposition to disregard such thoughts, they will come up in your mind. But having written so much, I imagine the reader will want to know the outcome so here goes.
Please don't forget now that we are in the midst of a band of 35 cut-throats, 60 miles from the nearest settlement, and wholly at the mercy of savages who know no mercy, who have no sympathy, no regard for the life of a white man, not the slightest instinct of humanity in the breast of a villain of them. They care no more for life than you do for the commonest thieving cur and would take delight in killing you if anything was to be gained by it.
Knowing this to true of them, yet they took not one solitary thing from me. And I am satisfied that the reason was they were sure I would resist! They came around my wagon and began to ransack it. I pushed them away. One Indian took my best blanket, folded it, laid it on the back of his pony and started off with it. I jerked it off and threw it into my wagon. I said to him "You shan't have it!"
At this, he put his left hand on his big knife handle but did not draw the knife.
I had my butcher knife up my sleeve with the handle pointed out but concealed from him. Had he drawn his, he would have got the blade in his black heart before he was aware of it. He was a brutish looking devil, and had several scars on his face, which indicated he had been in many fights.
When I took the blanket from his pony, the other four Indians laughed. He then took my rifle. I took it back and he stared me in the face, looking as manly as he could. I returned the compliment. Well, he became quite civil and offered to give me his pony for my rifle, but, of course, I would not let him have my rifle for a dozen ponies under the circumstances.
He followed me for a quarter of a mile trying to trade. When he tendered his hand for a shake, I accepted and to all appearances we parted as friends.
I don't ask the reader to believe I was not frightened, for I was all the time, but from early youth I had trained myself not to lose my head when danger threatened nor in the midst of danger. I was frightened but not an Indian knew it.
I furnished the supper that night with the exception of the meat. While at the meal, I casually remarked, "Boys, we would have had to go hungry tonight had I been as unfortunate as you."
"Yes" said Joe Berry. "and if we had done as you did, we wouldn't have needed any supper."
That was a stunner and I asked for an explanation. He said it was him and Thorp's nonresistance that saved our lives!
With irony I remarked, "By thunder, Joe, I hadn't thought of that. How awful grateful my wife will be to you for saving my life." No more was said on that occasion, but Thorp later said he expected to see me made a corpse, when I took my blanket from the Indian.


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

"Leaving Kansas," our short film that screened in Superior several years ago, is doing well in festivals this month, considering I wasn't aware we were still submitting it. Some of you attended the screening at The Crest, when we opened for "Once in a Lew Moon," a feature length documentary about Lew Hunter. I've been busy submitting my new film, "Eskimo Kisses," to festivals, while David, my collaborator on "Leaving Kansas," has been doing the same with "Kap," his latest short film.
About the time we returned from a festival in Louisiana, David messaged me and said "Leaving Kansas" had been accepted into the Action on Film International Film Festival in Las Vegas. He said when Hewes Pictures bought the distribution rights to the documentary we did together, but passed on "Leaving Kansas," he decided to send it out a few more times to create some new buzz before we try other avenues for distribution. Several days after that, we received notice that "Leaving Kansas" has been nominated for two awards at that festival ­­ Best Drama Short and Best Short. Coincidentally, for Best Drama Short, one of the films we are up against is "Military Husband," written and directed by Kevin McMahon, a Fremont native who now lives in L.A. Kevin and I are good friends. We met when we both participated in the 2011 Superior Indian Summer Screenwriting Colony.
Shortly after that announcement came another that said "Leaving Kansas" was also accepted into the Hollywood Dreamz International Film Festival in Las Vegas. In that festival, we've been nominated for three awards ­­ Best Supporting Actor in a Short Film (for Hastings native Noah Metzger), Best Political Statement Film and Best Dialogue in a Short Film.
David is planning to attend both festivals, which start today (Thursday), as well as the awards presentations. His film, "Kap," fared better even than "Leaving Kansas," reeling in eight nominations between the two festivals.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

We knew it was going to happen. For the last three years we were warned by the repair guys that our 18 year old air conditioner was going to give out. We didn't want to ignore the warning, but not wanting to spend the dollars on a new unit, we kept on having them come out and repair it, somehow keeping it working. When it would start and go for a few months, we were thankful. But again this year, the same warning: "The end is near."
Our luck ran out Thursday, on a hot and humid evening. We entered the house and although the unit had been operating fine all that hot and steamy day, the house was not cool at all. We knew we dared not call the repair man again to fix it. Friday morning we called the repair man to have him order a new one. With the weekend, we knew we were in for three or four days without an air conditioner.
How would we survive? It made me think about growing up in my family's large, two story farmhouse. Of course, back then, we didn't have the luxury of an air-conditioner. During hot summer months, my parents opened all the windows at night and when it cooled off in the morning, the windows were shut, curtains drawn, electric fans turned on and it wasn't all that bad. We didn't know any difference back then because most everyone's house lacked an air conditioner. Even our school houses didn't have air conditioning then. We didn't begin school until after Labor Day, though there were some September days that were hot, but the school routine continued on. School was not called off because of the heat.
As children, we would play outside in the summer, often moving our playhouse under the trees for shade. We enjoyed being outside. Yet we'd never turn down an offer from our mothers to take us to the local swimming pool to cool off and have fun.
So, we made the best of things and did as my parents had done. We opened the windows at night and closed them in the morning. Having a well insulated house also helped and during the afternoon and evening, with the aid of two electrical fans and a ceiling fan, we stayed comfortable. Somehow we survived!
Thankfully, the men are here installing the new air conditioner. We gladly welcome its arrival. We will enjoy having a cool house once again!