Footprints In The Snow……#200 (the 80’s)

Kansas snow drift

 Dorothy was right when she said “we’re not in Kansas Toto”.  The weather in Oz never resembled the  heterogeneity and vicissitude of the atmospheric prevalence of Kansas. The winter snow blanketed southwest Kansas,  its display presenting a panoramic cleansing,  its achlorophyllaceous covering brushing the landscape,  an artistry to behold,  but an arduous venture for enraptured farmers having to champion a nurture for their cattle enterprise.  In their labors finding the mile sections excitation for their task closed,  the encumbered snow fulfilling it wind-driven drifting appointment.  Gary awoke to the celebrated presentation,  the accumulated snow giving question to his once designated Suburban school mud route,  having evolved into a snowbound challenge.   The school superintendent yet to make his calling,  “a school day”,  or “a snow day”,  Gary would soon discern his decision, his 4-wheel drive Isuzu having no difficulty traversing the snow-covered road and accessing the high school bus enclosure.   Glen Piper, the superintendent  having disclosed a means for non scheduled notification of an unexpected school snow day,  “If my car tracks go to the bus enclosure gate, it signifies a school day and I’ll be at the Central Office if you have any problems.   Gary’s 5:00 a.m. arrival at the high school,  finding Glen’s school Chevrolet having left its footprints in the snow.

Gary Willson – School Suburban Chauffeur

The school’s 4-wheel drive Suburban having no problems tracking the snow-covered blacktop to the Grade School,  Gary’s intuition expressed him to commence his suburban route 45 minutes early.  Before leaving placing a call to the David Meyer farm,  his first miring rural road stop,  a query about the snow conditions addressing the road to farm.  David confirming what Gary suspected,  because of the north wind and heavy drifting,  the west arteries branching from the highway  blacktop may have 2 to 3 foot drifts, but the north and south tributaries were passable,  David relating  the ¾ mile east access to his farm from the northern trek of the river road was normally passable.  With the snow coming down the Suburban accomplishing the 2 ½ north-east blacktop crossing the Medicine River Bridge without difficulties, turning west at the Girty residence onto the rut defined mile section paralleling the Medicine River, the 8 inches of snow, now canopied up to 16 inch drifts, the twelve passenger Suburban,  its four actuating wheels  accomplishing the rising snow deposits.

Loretta and Sherrill Meyer – Gary’s first stop

The westward river road now curving north, the drifts having diminished,  the accumulated snow now a cushion,  Gary alert and steadfast in the darken morning achieving 10 mph.  No problems on the snow covered road journeying the two miles remaining before having to turn back east.   Gary’s concern heighten, the east avenue to the Meyers farm was flat and opened,  the north wind having total access to the graded path called a road.  Turning onto the easterly ¾ mile section, immediate encountering formidable drifts,  the 4-wheel drive transport having difficulty, losing traction its movement more lateral than  forward, the visibility marginal,  finally its proscenium burrowing into a 3 foot drift,  its forward dispatch coming to a halt. The lights of the Meyers residence could be seen glowing,  Gary hesitating, about to notified  Glen to call David that he was within walking distance if they had snowshoes,  when the lights of a tractor snapped to attention.  David displaying equanimity, having surveyed the road situation, his John Deere tractor made ready to transport his daughter Loretta and the eldest daughter Sherrill to the drift halted vehicle, Gary able to reverse course backing up to the lightly drifted north and south road.

Cassie Luthi

Dan and Susan Luthi

Upon leaving the Meyer’s, Gary’s Suburban  returning on the snow covered northern 3 1/2 miles to the reaches of the black top pavement of  Gerlane Road still decorated with snow, then turning east his second stop, the Luthi Farm.   Gary pulling up to the house, recognizing the presence of his old 50 Dodge pickup having found employment running fence on the country spread, Gary having sold it to Dan Luthi years earlier.  Cassie Luthi was always ready, not just on time for her ride to school, but with a beaming attitude to greet each day.  Her father, Dannie Gene Luthi  from Perryton, Ochiltree County in the northeast panhandle of Texas had attended Northwest Oklahoma State College in Alva Oklahoma when he met Susan Beth Spicer from Hazelton Kansas.  Dan and Susan wed and moved to Robbins Tennessee when Cassie Elizabeth entered the world in Knoxville.  Dan was farming and raising cattle,  Susan was teaching school for the Scott County Independent School District when Cassie’s Grandfather George Spicer convinced them it was time to resettle back in Kansas.

Madison Tyrell and Zachariah Odell

Dan Girty & Holly Domnick

With an ever smiling Cassie joining the more serious Sherrill and Loretta,  the chauffeur driven school suburban continued east on the snow packed Gerlane Road,  turning left onto the black top road enabling the 8 miles to Sharon Kansas, the first mile section cross-road discovering the farming home of Zachariah and Madison Tyrell Odell.   The two brothers, the son’s of Brenda Lea (Spicer) Odell, the daughter of Don Spicer.  Gary discovering another Spicer family having acquired and settled in this part of Barber County.  The Odell brothers, like their cousin Cassie were pillars of exuberance, projecting a non serious carefree world, enjoying the momentary events of  their surroundings.   The two boys reminding Gary of himself at that age, discovering the meaning of life in a single word, adventure.  The boys relating on their search for a coyotes den,  the time they let a skunk in the house, and their discovery of the  unforgettable Hot Rock tree.  The morning finding the boys ready as usual, the driver mentioning  “It’s too bad it’s not a school snow day”.  The Suburban continuing on  another 2 1/2 miles stopping at the Gene Pollock farm to pick up his oldest daughter before traversing onto highway 2  for the final two student stops and the 12 mile return  to Kiowa.  Gary was very cautious crossing the railroad tracks approaching Floyd (Junior) and Vonda Domnick’s farm to gather their daughter Holly, but even more so when crossing back as the terrain has a blind spot and the passing train from the north can suddenly appear.  With the gathering of Holly, the last stop normally just a mile from town, the Girty residence, Dan and his younger sister Janelle Girty just living far enough out-of-town to warrant a ride to school, but this was subject to change with the Elliott family at the Chain Ranch.

The Chain Ranch

The Chain Ranch

Angela, Jessie & Jennifer Elliott

The addition of the Elliott kids at the Chain Ranch required some changes in Gary scheduled, all the students on his route up to this time resided north and west of highway #2 that journeyed thru Hazelton before it jogged east towards Anthony in Harper County.  The Chain Ranch location was the opposite direction, 10 miles due east of town and 1 1/2 south in Harper County.  This lead to another question, why were Elliott’s attending Barber County USD 255 in Kiowa and not a school in the Harper County school district.  Gary posed the question to Glen, the explanation was reasonable, one of  accommodation, the distance of the Chain Ranch to Anthony was over 25 miles, to Kiowa 11 1/2.  Gary reasoned the order of his stops would remain the same,  he would pick up the student’s living north and west of town first before heading east thru Hazelton and Corwin to the Chain Ranch.  He calculated the Elliott stop would add an additional 30 minutes to his route informing all to be ready 30 minutes earlier than usual, except for Girty, who after finding out they would be picked up first rather than last decided they didn’t need a ride.

Corwin, but a remnant from the past

Gary beginning his new assignment picking up his north of town allotment then turning east at Hazelton on unfamiliar territory, never having driving on the well pocketed on and off again black top of what was known as The Corwin Road.   Although having been to Corwin twice, but approaching from the south on an ambulance run from Kiowa, he now had an opportunity to observe what had been said about this relic of history town with its few remaining remnants.  Corwin getting its name from Oscar Corwin, it seems back in 1883 when Oscar applied for a Postmaster Appointment for the area, many times it was  given the name of the person applying for the position.  The Missouri Pacific Railroad was in process of spider webbing Kansas with spur lines, the Corwin siding  inhaled opportunity and sprung to life.  The town becoming an agricultural hub with a bank, hotel, lumberyard, church, restaurants, a 2 story school, blacksmith and livery stables and with Carrie Nation threatening to visit, in all probability had a saloon.   Jan’s Uncle,  Charles Terry having retired from a life time of employment with Cities Service Petroleum and Gas Company had been in charge of the Corwin pumping station.  Cities Service  having completed the nation’s first long-distance high pressure natural gas transportation system, a 24-inch pipeline stretching some 1,000 of miles from Amarillo to Chicago.  Gary able to picture Corwin’s past, remaining were the broad width of the streets where businesses once flourished, the vacant lots where homes once stood, the remains of the school and still in business the turn of the century grain elevators adjoining the rail spur line that he knew were still in use, having witnessed the locomotive and grain cars serving the grain elevators when living on N.11th St. in Kiowa, arriving on the same tracks that journeyed south from Corwin thru Kiowa into Oklahoma.

A Kansas Sunrise

  Returning over the miles of open prairie from the Chain Ranch during a fall,  Gary witness a scene out of a Howard Hawks western movie, the wind was gusting  out of the southeast, which to start with never happens in Kansas.  Behold the tumbleweeds, where they came from remained unknown, but they were there traveling almost the speed of the Suburban, bounding across the road in their northwest flight.  Not just a few but more than one could count at a glance, Gary having seen their appearance in southwest Oklahoma and in the Panhandle of Texas but not that numerous, measuring upwards of four feet in diameter racing with the wind.  It never ceased amaze the Suburban Driver of the what mother nature had to offer on a river road morning Suburban route,  having witnessed a variety of the animal husbandry readying themselves for the day.  A mother opossum with her four little ones walking in center of the road after a night of scurrying for food, a doe running up an incline with two coyotes in pursuit,and on some morning when ahead of schedule pausing to watch the opalescent kaleidoscope that adorned a Kansas sunrise.

David Meyer

 Gary having developed a cordiality with David and Carol Sue Meyer, having visited with David on several occasions, discovering that they shared more than just opinions in common,  their birthday,  the same month, day and year and both entering the military about the same time.   David having a reputation as a community activist participating in Public Service,  serving as Moore Township trustee,  attending  City Council and Hospital Board meetings and having been elected to the school board of USD 255.   Gary found that David was an inquisitive school board member,  instilling a concerned credibility to the position,  the only board member to actively visit the three schools on a regular non scheduled basis throughout the year, not only visiting with the teachers and Administrative Hierarchy but with the non-certified personnel as well.  Having elucidated to Gary,  he felt he could never get a completely honest answer about the school from a teacher,  recognizing their apprehension to be critical,  a complaint or suggested might ascend to the superintendent and cause a reflection on their performance, thus his tarrance with members of the non-degree decumbent echelon.   Gary having admired Carol Sue’s driving expertise piloting her car on her way to work with her mother DeAlva Clark at Clark’s Fabric Shop, actively traversing the mud endowed river road  to town.  David was from Cheney Kansas both he and  Carol Sue having  farming expertise from childhood, the Meyers having retained a section of Carol Sue’s grandfather Reece Clark Sr. original land purchase of 1883.    Gary on numerous occasions having to commence his Suburban school route early when expecting weather adversity,  but when not encountering it would summarily arrive ahead of time at the Meyer’s farm.  Carol Sue noticing the unexpected early event extending Gary an invitation and introduction to a breakfast roll and a hot cup of coffee.

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