Archive for July, 2016

The Seeds Of Lamentation……….#174 (80’s)

July 12, 2016

Bud Murrow new owner of a John Deere 95

An unexpected change,  the advent of the new service manager for the Kiowa Service Company, Larry Foster giving notice, the communal being that he desired to go in business for himself, the clandestine reason being a discordant with owner Steve Miller’s posture on warranties and other irregularities.  Gary having experienced Miller’s pressure to apply a warranty resolution whenever possible or even  manufacture a possibility, Larry’s refusal to be part of this deception an added reason for his departure.  The Service Company was introduced to Howard, a middle age service department manager whose was previously employed by a John Deere Dealership in Norman Oklahoma.  Gary as well as many of the Service Company employee’s puzzled over how Steve Miller came about finding Howard, but then again the same could be said about his hiring of Steve McCreary.  Like McCreary, Howard immediately sought  means to establishing permanent residency  he and his wife  purchasing and preparing a vacant lot on the corner S. 9th and Robinson St.  for a double wide 24 x 52 ft. modular home.

Harvest – a family affair

 Gary’s father-in-law Bud Murrow was prompted by his family to engage in something he had never attempted before, cut his own wheat, the only problem was he didn’t have a combine.  Bud in the past along with other members of his wife family having joined together and hiring someone to harvest the Roth family sections of land.  Bud giving in to the wishes of his wife and daughters approaching John Miller about renting or buying a used combine to harvest his quarter section of wheat.  John recently having  traded for a vintage 1960’s 95 combine that was in working order but in need of some minor repairs and an engine head gasket.  The two coming to agreement at a nominal price for what Gary thought might be the Murrow’s first and last time in harvesting their own wheat.   Gary having some concern with his younger brother-in law Shawn Johnson who was working for Bud’s construction company at the time taking a quasi part in the repairs.    The harvest event resembled more of a picnic than a serious harvesting endeavor, a family affair with the children and grandchildren all taking turns riding in the combine as it slowly progressed with its cutting endeavor thru the 120 acres.   The wheat hauling truck duties shared among the Murrow daughter Gayle Robb and son-in-law Shaw,  Gary unable to participate, his duty at the parts counter during the harvest weeks stretched into sixteen hour days.

The 95 manufactured 1958 – 1969

   Gary’s wife Jan entering Kiowa  Service  looking perplexed, it was nearing the final day for the family’s  95 combine to complete its appointed task.  Jan evoking that the combine had stopped running,  Shawn Johnson, Gary’s brother-in-law spending several hours trying to remedy its problem but to no avail.   Jan with a look of hopelessness  presented a question,  “could you do something?   Gary immediately thought of his friend Ron Zahtner but he was on a service call and unavailable.   A walk thru the shop area finding Keith Hoffman,  Jim Pulliam and Danny Callison,  all three having returned from service calls.  Gary relating the Bud Murrow combine predicament,  mentioning that Shawn Johnson had attempted to resolve the problem without success,  the three all shaking their head, acknowledging they knew Shawn.  Keith volunteered to make the short journey to Bud’s acreage, then Denny added his voice,  followed by Jim,  all three would participate.  Keith’s service pickup was full,  the three mechanics,  Gary notifying Craig Brattin he would be out of the building telling Jan that hope was on its way before joining the others.  The short excursion to the Murrow’s state line  farm accomplished,  the three journeyman mechanics discovering a solace 95 combine sitting in the field with a sulking  Shawn.  Johnson giving a summary of the circumstances and what he thought the problems was, the three addressing  the situation.  Jim cranking the engine,  Keith and Denny on top assessing the engine problem,  within what seemed like minutes a resolution was determined, with some skilled adjustments the vintage harvester came to life,  once again ready to fulfill its appointed task.  The task completed, Gary posing a questioned to three about submitting a work order,  all three just smiled,  “tell Bud the service-call is on us”.

An inherent responsibility of the parts department was ensure the defective part for warranty were properly tagged, stored and the appropriate paperwork filed with John Deere for reimbursement, the work order for replacing the part being a function of the service department.  With the hiring of Howard, Gary soon realized defective parts and failures no longer under warranty were documented as aspiring from tractors and combines still  certified as under warranty. Howard boasting that Steve Miller approached him with a very innovative way to boaster the number of hours on the hour meter of a leased combine,  by  wiring the radio to activate the hour meter when turned on.   It was discerned that many harvesters utilized youths to wash and detail the combines when changing clients and when the youth listening to the radio, it registered on the hour meter.  Battery warranties also became a concern, the John Deere warranty representative, better known as the Block Man  would visually inspect the batteries for warranty,  marking them with red spray paint.  Gary observing a service department employee removing the marking paint with a high pressure hose enabling the battery to be submitted again at a later date for warranty.  It was rumored Howard special talent was one that paid big dividends,  the reversing of an hour meter on a used tractors or combine, done after closing hours so never witnessed, but silently confirmed by previous owners.   Gary confronted Howard about his warranty concern,  it’s miss-application approaching the realm of theft, and at the least representing a defrauding of John Deere,  the Service Manager’s explanation being,  he was only complying with Steve Miller’s directive

Gary’s consternation about the warranties and misgivings of  Steve Miller’s directives began to sojourn on his conscience.   An unanswered question discovered Gary in Steve Miller’s office,  the parts person presenting his assertion of the impropriety of warranty exploitation.  Steve readily acknowledging its presence, but rationalized with an explanation,  gesturing to the small utility tractors positioned across the street,  imparting,  “Kiowa Service having never sold a single one, but they remain”.   Gary, understood the smaller tractor application was not marketable in a wheat farming community, but listening to the owners accordance.   Steve continued,  “John Deere requires I floor-plan a number of their products,  whether they are marketable or not and as a dealer I am given no choice.   Floor planning equipment that I can’t sell cost me money and I am only recouping my loss of income from John Deere.”    Gary acknowledging  Steve Miller’s annotation,  noting that his justification was not acceptable,  the age-old adage coming to mind, “two wrongs don’t make a right”.  Exiting the office discerning that the seeds of lamentation have been planted, the fruit’s of emergence soon to flourish and the  commission of righteous employment to be adjudged.

Music’s Last Hurrah…………….#175 (80’s)

July 10, 2016

The Kiowa Supper Club

Music having been indelibly inscribed in Gary’s past life although dormant since his residency in Kiowa.  He still retained all the necessary band equipment to engage in a piano bar or bandstand presentation.  In Gary’s vision, Kiowa was disemboweled of performing musicians with exception of Roger Powell, who in the past recorded and complimented professionals, but currently was inactive.   The only establishments currently with a Juke Box was  Uptown Recreation and Supper Club.  Uptown Recreation was  a beer serving pool room,  providing sandwiches and accessories,  positioned on 6th St., better known to the local town  inhabitants as Bruce’s,  Bruce Koblitz  the enunciated proprietor. Entering Bruce’s  domain one is immediately subjected to an atmosphere permeated with cigarette smoke,  centered in the room are two pool tables opposite a long bar addressed with stools.  Lined up on a shelf behind the bar, gallon containers of pickled pigs feet and dills and rack’s of various chips.  Adjacent to the end of the bar was a small open cooking grill providing sandwiches.  Several table with chairs fulfilled the remaining expanse, excluding a door leading to a unisex single restroom, the juke box positioned beside it.


Gary wasn’t evoked by Bruce’s,  having discerned public taprooms of its accord in his past music experiences,  but on occasion given the special circumstance he joined the other Service Company employees for pitcher of beer.  The special circumstances was an expostulation  constituted by owner Steve Miller.  Friday’s were payday at the Service Company,  the weekly checks being dispersed between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. by management,  either John or Steve Miller or when neither were available, by Sandi Palmer.   Unlike Steve who was strictly business and punctual,  good-natured John Miller was not a temporal person and most Fridays was late in relinquishing the company payroll checks which for some reason got under his brother Steve’s skin.   Steve initiating an authoritative rule, if John was late with the checks he would have to provide a round of free beer at Bruce’s for all those wishing to participate..   It was soon realized one could look antecedently to an after work beer whenever John handed out checks.   Gary surmised that instead of a chastisement, John thought it was a vindication, thoroughly enjoying the Friday convergence on Bruce’s Uptown Recreation with the employees.

Kiowa Train Station across from the Supper Club

 The other established conception a definitive contrast, the Supper Club, occupying the remnants of an old hotel on Railroad Avenue,  bordering the Sante Fe Railroad tracks,  across from the defunct relic of the once prestige’s  Kiowa Railway Station.  The Supper Club,  a unique dining and lounge facility with a full service kitchen, dining room and special catering area, a separate lounge component opening in the afternoons.  The regal upstairs hotel accommodations a thing of the past having been obstructed and excluded long ago,  Lynn and Gerva Hargett the amicable title-holding host.  Upon entering the main entrance,  a small anteroom with restrooms and two entryways, the first an emergence into the lounge and  to the right the dining room entrance.  Past the table and chair dining room was another entry, a large private dining and meeting room addition.  The lounge radiating a warm but not overly plush atmosphere, a small dance floor and jukebox adjacent to entry,  both sides of the room adorned with booths, the center section with tables, the far end of the room hosting the bar and stools.  The Supper Club and Lounge not an overt  atmosphere of sophistication,  but one of small town contentment.

Larry Swonger

Doug Swonger

Gary having retain his band equipment, it laying dormant stored away in his residence, discovering an opportunity to resurrect it from it dormancy.  Gary and Larry Swonger visiting with the Supper Club owners, Lynn and Gwen Hargett about the possibility of them entertaining at the Club Lounge.   Gary recalling his musical background in Kiowa,  his first acquaintance 9 years earlier, Judy Jantz hiring his band for the Chamber of Commerce Labor Day Dance,  appearing as The Traditions.

Gary visiting with Larry Swonger about forming a trio  Gary’s again acquainting the  Fender Rhodes piano,  affording the bass octave, Larry on guitar and his high school son Doug on drums.   Gary and Larry with vocals and Larry entertaining with his MC antics and bad jokes.  The trio’s inaugural presentation accorded an acceptable performance, the Hargett’s impressed,  Gary, Larry and Doug continuing with  several weekend engagements,  Gary providing an added attraction inviting Bob Wallace and Jerry Willis from Oklahoma City to reunite with him on the bandstand for a nostalgic evening.

Bette Midler – The Rose

Iva Beth’s handwritten words to The Rose

Once a musician always a musician even when being sequestered.  Gary’s trio activity as a trio having come to a conclusion, but on occasion Gary would slip off to the Supper Club on a Friday or Saturday night, there was something inherent about the atmosphere of a well addressed nightclub.  The 19 year association with the realm of Wurlitzer and Seeburg having not only provided a means of livelihood but a bonding with a profession that was shared by notables throughout history.  The Supper Club sporting an upright piano placed off to the side of the dance floor, the musician when asked demonstrated that the eighty-eight keys still retained its functional heritage. It was a quiet evening at the Supper Club, the far and few between after dinner patrons who ventured into the beverage half of the Club having left. Gary having been asked to play a couple of songs and was in process of leaving when he noticed that his brother-in-law Shawn mother Iva Beth and another lady entering seating themselves in a booth.   Iva whom Gary was acquainted with, approached the piano asking if he knew the Bette Midler song The Rose,  Gary responding  that he had seen the movie and was familiar with the song and then adding,  if you can sing it, I can play it.  Thinking that the comment would end the conversation, but he was wrong, Iva saying okay, I’ll be right back, I have the words at home.  Iva returning with a handwritten note pad with the words written on it.  Gary recalling the unusual two note right hand intro to the song, Iva beginning “Some say love it is a river that drowns the tender reed” the rest all fell into place, the voice and the piano blending as one, Gary having accompanied many stellar professional vocalist in the past, but this was totally astonishing, Iva was The Rose.  The musician somewhat mesmerized by what had just transpired, bidding Iva Beth and her friend goodbye, but before leaving asking a favor of Iva,  could he have her handwritten words to the song, what wasn’t said was, it would be kept as remembrance of a Rose.

Steve Miller's residence

Steve Miller’s residence

Jerry Willis and Gary

It was by invitation only,  the provincial Kiowa farmers not solicited,  Steve Miller extending a welcome to clientele from surrounding states and locations, providing the availability of his Cessna 172 as transportation.  The celebrated event as appreciation of their sponsorship in his John Deere business endeavors, but an attendance dismissal administered to the local community.  Steve very much aware of Gary’s music and band background presented an overture asking if he could provide the music for the 75 people invited to an upcoming event at his residence.  The petitioned musician placing a phone call to Oklahoma City,  questioning if the guitarist/sax player and friend Jerry Willis would make the drive for  a Saturday night appearance in Kiowa, and having enlisted Larry & Doug Swonger to round out the group.  The night of the event, the h’orderves,  cocktails,  beverages of every imaginable genus flowing,  served in the outdoor area adjoining Miller capacious indoor pool.   A curiosity beginning to prevail, Gary cognizance that there was no provision for a meal, but that was soon to change.   Steve Miller approached the entertainment asking to use the microphone.  All expecting a flourishing announcement for the attendance of the loyal customers but instead there was  a pronouncement.   Steve relating that dinner would be served at the Supper Club,  the Clubs complete menu at the guest disposal, compliment of their host.  Steve Continued enumerating a petition from the Supper Club’s Lynn Hargett,  requesting the assemblage interval their convergence so as not to overwhelm the kitchen and  to better serve the entourage.   Gary finding the Steak and Lobster Tail impressive.

The enjoyable evening accomplished,  Gary’s band equipment once again finding solace in its storage capacity,  making  a decision to bid a farewell to the provisional giver of captivating musical memories.   Deciding to be bestowed his acquired tools of the trade to his eldest son Scott,  a family passing of the melodious baton,  the Steve Miller presentation his music’s last hurrah.

A Vestige Of Accomplishment..#176 (80’s)

July 8, 2016

Glen Piper Superintendent Of Schools

Two major concerns in Gary’s life were beginning to weigh heavily on him, the first was the enlightenment of the Apostolic Christian Church and a never before spiritual  calling to acknowledge and accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.   Gary approaching Church Elder Ronald Nelson questioning him of the prerequisites of becoming a brother in the church, Ron explaining the cleansing rites of repentance, its time frame, acceptance and the role of an Elder. His second concern was work related and in direct conflict with his first, one of being involved in the falsification of  warranty paperwork at the direction of Steve Miller.  Gary having realizing there was no way he could compromise his commitment to the Lord,  entering Steve Miller’s office, a decision to terminate his employee status at Kiowa Service having been determined.  The conversation was brief, Gary communicating his abrogation about leaving according Steve a two-week notice affirming a stay to the first of July, fulfilling  the final consummation of the harvest season.  Steve raising from his desk,  presenting an understanding , having discussed the parts person discernment of his warranty position in the past and was aware of Gary’s affiliation with the Apostolic Church. He thanked his departing employee for his service,  offering his hand,  aspiring him well in his future endeavors.  Gary leaving, relieved, his resolution accomplished, with a wonderment persisting of what the Lord had in store for him.

The final two weeks brought a paradox of emotion having sojourned at the Service Company for over five years, sometime experiencing twist and turns on this enlightening journey thru this agricultural John Deere environment.  The forty-three years old, unemployed and bolstering a layman’s resume of jack of all trades and master of none, experienced in everything from wiring the arming circuit of a missile nuclear warhead to providing the correct shears for a 16 bottom John Deere plow was now seeking an employment opportunity.  Gary contemplated the possibilities, Humphrey Implement, well acquainted with three of Bud Humphreys four sons, Jim, Kim and Sam, with other prospective  employers encompassing his contingency list, including  the City of Kiowa and Barber County.  Gary realized  another option existed,  but would be very reluctant to impose it, Murrow Construction, discerning  difficulties could prevail working for his father-in-law.  His quest was about to begin when his wife noticed an ad published in the Kiowa News, Jan pointing out,  USD 255,  the Kiowa’s School District was accepting applications for three custodian/driver positions to fill vacancies at the Grade School and Hardtner Middle School.

Wanda Eckert

The next morning,  Gary entered the USD 255 office on Main St.,  introducing himself to the lady seated at a desk making the acquaintance of Wanda Eckert,  the Superintendent’s secretary.  Gary mentioning the Kiowa News ad about the openings for custodian/drivers, leaving with application in hand, thanking her saying he would return.   The application information completed,  Gary once again returned to the district office, with a smile Wanda motioning him towards the open door to the superintendent’s office.   Sitting behind his desk was Glen Piper,  the newly commissioned superintendent of schools who Gary was acquainted with.   Glen and his wife Donna sometimes attending the Apostolic Christian Church with Donna’s Grandmother, plus Gary had assisted Glen and his two son’s Ty and Troy at the Service Co. securing parts during harvest, Donna’ family having a farm at Burlington.  Glen welcoming him,  beckoning Gary with his application to be seated,  the superintendent reaching for the hand-held paper, apprising that Gary was applying for a position as a custodian/driver,  then glancing  briefly at  the application,  looking up at Gary and without hesitation asserting,  “you have the job”.   The first reaction from Gary was one of  speechlessness,  then a acquiescent  “thank you”.   Piper continued with an annotation that as policy the notice in the paper would continue for one more edition,  followed by a notification to applicants of their acceptance or failure for the position at which time it would become public. Leaving the district office Gary understood the unsaid message, the ensuring events of the morning having been thrust upon him without forethought,  sensing  mixed feelings, one of accomplishment but another of humility and most of all an overriding essence that a higher authority had intervened.

Gary, Pam Cooper & Bud Winters

The three new custodian/drivers given their official employment notification were instructed to join the two prevailing high school custodian Joe Cox and Craig Ragan to meet with Superintendent Piper at the district office.  Gary having made the acquaintance of Joe and Craig but was introduced to Pam Cooper and Bud Winters both residence of Hardtner. Glen giving a presentation about his expectations from  the group adding they were to answer to the principal of the school and like the academia, they were subject to his discretion and supposition, meaning in reality they worked for him. Continuing he gave the building assignments, Bud Winters securing the  middle school position at Hardtner,  Pam Cooper would join Gary at the Grade School in Kiowa and Joe and Craig to remain at the high school.

Veda Holt & Cathy Cox

With the school custodial assignments in place the new employees would have to fulfill the second part of their custodian/drive positions, that of bus drivers.  The State of Kansas requiring all school bus driver to have a valid class B driver’s license and attend prescribed mandatory driver safety and first aid classes.  The first order of business was to obtain their class B license,  five member from USD 255 were to go to the DMV in Medicine Lodge for the written and driving test exam.  The assemblage composed of a recently hired South Barber tennis coach,  a high school teacher, Veda Holt,  the new grade school music instructor, Cathy Cox and new custodians Pam Cooper and Gary, Bud Winters being exempt having already licensed.  The drive to Medicine Lodge was anything but subdued, Gary discovering that Veda Holt, who was more or less in charge, was quite a conversationalist keeping everyone entertained with South Barber related anecdotes.  Arriving and completing the written exam, Gary standing in line behind the young tennis coach noticing that he had missed one too many on his test, but the coach having kept up a running conversation with the DMV lady who seemed to overlook his failed results, filing his test in a waste basket, confirming that good looks and youth sometimes makes a difference.  The group filing outside accompanied by a driving examiner leading him to the school suburban they had arrived in,  the examiner halting the procession shaking his head,  letting them know  the suburban didn’t meet the test requirements for the class B license.  A perplexed Veda Holt returned inside with the DMV instructor placing a call to the school district office.  Wanda Eckert  transferring the call to Glen, the superintendent assuring Veda that he would take care of the situation.   Twenty minutes later, a Medicine Lodge 16 passenger school bus arrived, the superintendent having contacted the district office at Medicine Lodge about borrowing a bus.  The five having meant the license requirement, all that remained was their attendance in the Driver’s Safety and First Aid classes which also would be in Medicine Lodge.  The driver’s safety class for the school employees were instructed by the Kansas Highway Patrol and the first-aid class by a representative of the state EMS.  The suddenness of events in one’s life finding Gary’s sequestered uncertainty beginning to make itself visible.

A Colloquium From The Past……….#177 (80’s)

July 6, 2016
Kiowa Grade School

Kiowa Grade School

 Gary’s first acquaintance with South Barber Elementary School structure  commonly referred to by the populace as,  The Grade School,  an engrossing colloquium from the past built by the WPA in the 1930’s.  It was inherit from his childhood,  people, places and events of the past instilled some sort of haunting mystical spell, especially the inner walls of a  building from an earlier era, one that absorbed,  listened,  and witnessing the initiation that was the foundation of their youthful years.  From the street the building appears to be a single story structure with the exception of the gym,  but in reality possesses below ground areas.  Beneath the east portal and wing resides the cafeteria, kitchen and classrooms.  Beneath the southwest portal is the library,  boiler annex and in the gym rest a below ground level music room and  girls and boys dressing rooms.   Normal access to the school was by the Main entrances or the south teacher walkway.  The two west side gym doors allowed access for school bus traffic. Remaining was a stage exit door, two others on the east wing and the kindergarten being the only classroom to have its own exit door to a sand playground on the south.

South entrance - teacher parking

South entrance – teacher parking

Gary’s first accordance, entering the building on his first day was its appearance of disarray,  both sides of the halls amassed with desk and furniture from every classroom,  a single path allowing passage, but what struck him wasn’t the clutter but the abandon silence.  After a brief search discovering a lone person in the building, the new employee introducing himself to Shirley Sieber.  Shirley and Ed Hermon being the two departing custodians with Shirley agreeing to defer her exit until Pam Cooper could was available, Pam asking and receiving a delay in her starting date.   Shirley very well versed in her duties explaining the assignments to be completed during the summer months, most of which had already been accomplished.   The first project Gary was called upon was to assist Shirley in the stripping and waxing of the kitchen and cafeteria floors,  Shirley was well adept in the procedure  having already accomplished her appointments of classroom floors.  Gary discovering the assignment laborious and somewhat calescent,  the Kansas summer heat having taken up residency, the buildings window mounted air conditioning units not being allowed to be activated until the teachers arrived at the start of the school year.

New grade school principal Juanita Smith

With Shirley’s departure and Pam’s arrival, the two working together began restoring the rooms to accessibility,  a classroom appearance once again attained, the hall floors the last to be addressed with an effervescent shine.   Glen Piper’s arrival in the building found him presenting a walk-thru inspection and an introduction to Juanita Smith,  the newly appointed principal position.  The Grade School having done without on site principal in the past, the superintendent of schools having accorded the principal’s duties.  Mrs Smith to continued her commission as a fourth and fifth grade english teacher as well as the dual role of Grade School principal.  Gary’s work day schedule was a first, an anomaly,  a 50 hour week during the summer months and the normal school year requiring a 60 hour work week, 12 hours per day,  5 days a week.  The explanation was coherent, the school district getting around the forty hour overtime by designating the added four hours as a separate bus driving entity,  the custodians bus driving assignment at least on paper was a separate employment.

Gated bus yard.

Gated bus yard.

Joe Cox & Craig Ragan

The School buses were gated at the high school,  six 40 passenger Bluebird coaches,  one standard  54 occupancy bus and three 12 passenger 4 wheel drive Chevrolet suburban.   The bus driving assignments were dictated by location, high school custodians Joe Cox and Craig Ragan would provide for the transfer route between the Grade School, High School and the Hardtner,  utilizing two 40 passenger buses, Bud and Pam both residence of Hardtner would drive suburban’s securing  north and east of highway 281 in Hartner, their routes included the non-blacktop lanes of the rural roads.   Gary was appointed the longest route, his 1974 Suburban the oldest,  a maroon and gray 4 wheel drive,  a his journey to encompassing 38 miles,  10 miles of unimproved dirt road,  supposedly maintained by and with the township road grader.  Just prior to the start of school Gary notified Glen that he was going to run his route several time and make sure he introduced himself to the parents of his charges  and at the same time projecting an arrival time enabling the students to be promptly available in the morning.

 Before the start of school year the teachers began arriving  making ready their classroom and colloquium, the two custodians meeting with Juanita, Gary having taken the time to assemble a diagram  similar to a blueprint of the school, designating all the rooms and areas of the building.  Presenting it to Pam to divide up the work responsibility within the building.  Pam glancing at the diagram, apparently having already come to a decision,  immediately asserting that she would be responsible for 4 classrooms, two 3rd grades, Special Ed room and  one 2nd grade classroom.  In addition she would do the girls restrooms,  the administrative office,  cafeteria floor,  the stairwell and east section of the hall,  expressing that it was all she was doing departed the meeting.  Gary finding he had inherited two-thirds of the building , composed of 8 classrooms,  teachers lounge,  the gymnasium, stage, bleachers, downstairs dressing rooms, the library, three-quarters of the upstairs and all of the downstairs hall.  Additionally he had  two city blocks of yard mowing and edging, maintaining the tennis courts,  little league baseball diamond, plus the added responsibility for operation of the building’s heating system, the  low pressure steam boilers with their antiquated radiators,  also maintaining the abundant fluorescent lights and ballast and the privilege to raise the and lower the National and State flags on the flag pole each school day.   Gary questioned whether the time allotted for his bus route,  the school and its grounds would be sufficient,  the answer would arrive with the start of school.

Another Precipitous Realm……..#178 (80’s)

July 4, 2016

Low pressure steam boilers – the school’s heat

Gary’s school day began at 5:00 a.m. unlocking the gate to the fenced security area accommodating the school buses at the high school accessing his Suburban for the journey to the grade school.  The custodians first assignment in the winter, the firing of the two large low pressure steam boilers,  an unlocking of the building doors,  an activation of the Main St. school crossing flashing caution light and the posting of the flags.   His attention then given the vacuuming of the library, the cleansing of two male restrooms,  finishing with his upstairs rooms desk tops  and the classroom green chalk boards returned to an unused appearance followed by the dusting of all horizontal surfaces,  all to be accomplished in an hour and forty-five minutes before the 7:00 a.m. bus route embarkation.  In addition to his morning and afternoon regular suburban bus route Gary also inherited a noon route which provided for the return of the rural morning Kindergarten students to Hazelton and east of town.

Max McGee and Janet Elwood

The custodians goal was to have his eight classrooms in pristine posture at the beginning of each day when the teacher entered the room.  The other custodian, Pam Cooper,  evoking another tact, cleaning her classroom during the day, while the students participated at recess,  music or other out of classroom activities,  the teachers and students never really experiencing a primeval  classroom accomplishment.   Gary found Mrs. Elwood’s math and Mr. McGee’s science downstairs 4th and 5th grade classrooms conveniently vacated during the last period of the day enabling him to accomplish their room before the end of the school session.  The floors of his other six rooms were managed upon returning from his bus route as was the gym floor, it having been done in the morning and on an as needed basis especially during weather activity with the student utilizing the gym facility at noon and while waiting for their bus transportation. This being the  concluding task before the ending his day at 6:00 p.m. with the return of the suburban to the high school.

Superior Boiler Works Pawnee boiler

Enclosed steam radiators

Gary was journeying to Wichita directed by Glen Piper to attend a two-day steam boiler operations, maintenance and safety class, having never visualized or experience the two steam producing Goliath’s that occupied the boiler room,  his only operational knowledge was limited, coming from Ed Hermon the departed custodian.  The grade school still retaining the original Superior Boiler Works, Pawnee boiler, one of two installed when the school was built in 1936,  the second boiler was a Kewanee,   slightly smaller in capacity,  both boiler having never been fitted with automated water level controls and had to be filled manually,  but having at least one safety device, fitted with an electric sensing system that would shut the system down if no flames were detected.   The steam boilers providing the only source of heat for the entire building,  every room including the gym was accoutred with fixed radiators.  The radiators spoke up when first experiencing the steam with a clanging sound out of a movie script.  Their clamor and clanking resonating throughout the building,  caused by non-returning  condensation, when the heat from the steam was applied to a cold convector.   The two-day boiler indoctrination provided an insight to the maintenance aspects, the checking and replacement of steam traps, the large industrial return pumps,  the inspection of the boiler tubes for leakage and the cleansing of the oxidation formed on the numerous tubes and seals.   Also included was the proper monitoring of water  level and pressure, Gary realized although the boilers were a remnant from a past era it was interesting that an another precipitous realm was making his acquaintance.

32 inch swath Snapper

The daytime experience found the yard endeavor time consuming,  the only grass cutting appliance was a five horsepower Snapper mower with a 32 inch swath.  Mowing during the school day required scheduling, as there was an access restriction to certain areas dictated by the presence of students.   The grounds encompassed two city block including the little league baseball diamond which was always in a state of request for attention. The Main Street and sidewalk enhancing the length of the building each with four entrances demanded an ongoing edging application until a surprised discovery.   Tom Farney,  a farm owning family school board member suggesting the use of a commercial products sold at the Co-Op, Hi-Var XL, an effectively ground sterile,  once applied it was a preventive for grass attainment.  As a test the custodian spraying a very thin edging line of the liquid no more than an inch wide on both sides of the teachers walkway on the south side of the building.  After waiting for the results,  a lesson was learned,  the one inch application to prevent grass growth grew to an unsightly six to eight inches.

During a Friday below freezing winter’s day a main water condensate return pump located in an area enclosed at the bottom of the stairs leading to the cafeteria failed shutting down the  heating system.  Gary being informed that boiler parts were handled by Chuck Payne Plumbing,  soon discovering that Chuck was out-of-town and no one was sure when he would be back.  Gary informing Glen Piper of the situation, being told it was imperative to get it fixed as the outside temperature was going to continue well below freezing.  Gary making phone call after phone call to Wichita and Enid in search of a replacement pump but to no avail, but a company in Enid Oklahoma giving Gary the phone number of an oilfield service company in Okarche that just might be able to rebuild the old pump.  Eureka, because it was for a school and after confirming the pump numbers, the oilfield company person was willing to come in and rebuild the pump,  Gary making a Saturday afternoon trip to Okarche, able to get the system up and running Sunday, the irony coming later after Chuck Payne returned find that he had a backup pump.

The Teachers marvel of application

An antiquated backup


The most arresting situation confronting the teachers, one that could cause untold frustration,  the failure of the copy machine.  The copier,  its adherence, a marvel of application,  thousands of reproductions each week encompassed by the teaching staff in the  pursuit and publication of  academia lessons.  Gary finding some staff members mechanically inclined able to remedy minor obstructions,  others obliging their ignorance calling upon him for assistance.   The lone copier having an antiquated backup, something the custodian hadn’t experienced since his Burckhalter Elementary ascendancy in Oakland,  an ink filled,  hand cranked mimeograph machine, the throwback to past seeing limited use.  Superintendent Piper approached Gary with a solution to the copy machine down-time quandary  asking if he would be interested in working with the contracted vendor whom was finding it difficult to respond from Wichita every time a problem developed with the machine.   Gary agreeing to work with the serviceman the two meeting at the Grade School on a Saturday afternoon.   The technician  field-stripping the copier down to its component parts, Gary observing, taking notes, comprehending  their function and how to determine and resolve any problems.   The vendor satisfied with Gary’s hands on approach, his acknowledgement of the equipment’s operation and discernment to diagnose the cause of a malfunctions.  At the conclusion of their afternoon session the vendor offered and Gary accepted a monthly financial gratuity as compensation for not having to travel the 90 mile for something Gary could resolve.  Glen asking about  the Wichita vendor,  questioning if their Saturday meetings came to resolution and the results, Gary relating the event was successful and expressing confidence that he could resolve most of the grade schools copy machine problems.   Glen continued, asking if Gary would be susceptible in performing this service for all the district copiers and if so he would see that he receive a monthly stipend as compensation.   Gary was somewhat hesitant in accepting Glens offer but in this instance deciding  ” a bird in the hand wasn’t always better than two in the bush”   accepting  both the vendors and school compensation.

A Cascading Effusion…………….#179 (80’s)

July 2, 2016

The rumblings aloft announcing the coming event.

The twelve-hour work day fulfilled, a quiet evening then a journey to bed accompanied by the rumblings aloft announcing the coming event.  Gary distinguishing the quiescent  patter of rain starting to fall,  not unusual for late September in Kiowa,  a welcome sound providing a relief from the enduring hot summer.   An wakening at 4:15 a. m. the rumble of thunder  projecting thru the darken morning environment, the rain still descending from lightning silhouetted clouds, not drawing any concern.   Leaving his residence for the high school,  his school Chevrolet Suburban arrested behind the locked fenced  enclosure,  the rain still descending.  Gary proceeding to his appointed morning tasks at the school by its sound, noticing a definite increase in the rain.   A concern with the weather starting to formulate,  a subconscious thought beginning about the condition of his dirt roads.  The newly acquainted school employee having never experienced the advent of a large amount of rain on his route, but being an imparted optimist, surely the rain wouldn’t be a detriment in a four wheel drive to keeping his route schedule.

1974 Chevrolet Suburban

     A decision to digress early from the school was decided on, the adornment from the sky having increased to an incessant downpour.  Seated in the suburban engaging the journey,  Gary well aware that he had never before driven the dirt artery to the David Meyer farm in such weather conditions.   Proceeding northeast on the glistening blacktop of Highway #2 towards Hazelton, finding the visibility difficult thru the downpour searching for the fourth mile section turnoff.  Stopping at the turnoff,  exiting from the suburban  in the cascading effusion to manually engage the four-wheel drive,  accessing the front wheels,  rotating the four-wheel drive lock on each wheel.  Employing the four-wheel drive shift lever, adroit in confidence, Gary entered his plight thru the nebula of precipitation   The visual acuity sporadic with each pass of the wiper blades, the 4 wheel drive front wheels attempting to assert its authority plowing forward on the peaking crown center of the road its stability causing a concern.  The rear of the Suburban processing a will of  its own  sliding towards the bordering edge of the road but the enabled front wheel drive exhorting its call  somehow pulling it back on course.   Its wheels in rotation traversing the quagmire at a crawl,  the vehicle continued, then inevitable happened.  The slick lateral slope of the road was too much to overcome, the rear of the car sliding off the avenue into a mire of cataclysm followed by the front.  The sound of the rain pelting,  the swish of the windshield wipers,  the vehicle idling,  a glow from the dashboard lights in the darkness,  providing a resonating aura,  a sense of dejection starting to prevail  but it was short-lived,  an awakening.

An ensuing quagmire.

D & W to the rescue

Keith Rathgeber

Gary reaching for the two-way radio knowing that Glen Piper would be at the District Office, the Superintendent always steadfast at his station during inclement weather.   Glen acknowledging the driver’s dilemma, then coming right back with having placed a telephone call to Keith Rathgeber relating that D & W  would be arriving in a tow truck to remedy his plight.  It wasn’t long till Gary could see the headlights in the rear-view mirror,  rescue was in sight, the tow truck approaching.  Embarking from the winch mounted vehicle in the pouring rain was Keith and Scott Rathgeber evaluating the situation,  pulling the cable towards the front of the Suburban,  finding the large towing eye bolt fastened to the frame beneath the bumper,  hooking the cable,  the vehicle ready to commence its appointment.   Scott sitting behind the wheel of the truck encouraging it forward, Gary remaining in the Suburban,  also attempting to edge its movement.   The towing vessels straining,  its wheels spinning and then a sudden jumping lateral movement,  the towing venture sliding sideways off the road joining the Suburban in the quagmire,  its wheels spinning, unable to muster any traction at all.  With both vehicles now disabled, Keith and Scott seemed perplexed at what to do,  Gary once again addressing the two-way radio  communicating with the Glen,  explaining the situation suggesting that he might call David Meyer and make him aware of what was going on, Gary suggesting that David had tractors.

David and Bert Gillig

Loretta & Sherrill Meyer

Glen coming back on the radio, just gotten off the phone, David was on his way.  Ten minutes having expired when the lights of the tractor could be seen advancing toward them, as it neared Gary could see that it wasn’t David’s  4430 John Deere, but his cab-less old 4020,  a John Deere mainstay from 1963 to 1972.  David stopping,  face drenched and  water streaming off his poncho, without hesitation fastening a rope to the truck as Keith unhooked the Suburban.  With  Scott aboard the tow truck, the 4020 having little trouble pulling it back onto the muddy road,  Keith and Scott acknowledging they could make from there, David saying he would see that Gary and the school vehicle would get to the blacktop. Fastening the rope to the Suburban, Gary steering they proceeding 1 1/2 miles to the Meyer farm, Davids two daughters Sherrill and Loretta boarding the Suburban more concerned on being late for school than the weather.   The towing journey continuing the two vehicle in tandem for the remaining 3 1/2 miles before reaching the blacktop at Gerlane Rd.    A very wet and soaked David Meyers was understanding,  not admonishing the inexperienced mud driver but enlightening him that during inclement weather, whether it be rain or snow,  always take the alternative river road by Girty’s and approach his place from the west.  Then adding the secret of staying on a mud slick road, always drive in the ruts from the previous traffic.  Knowing that he would once again encounter the mud when returning the girls after school Gary was indebted to the farmer for the lesson, this time he would journey the river route with a thank you to David Meyer.