Kiowa Service Co. – An Agronomic Introduction….#155 (the 70’s)

Kiowa Service Company

.  It was Monday, March 19, 1979, a day after his 38th birthday when the entered the John Deere franchised Kiowa Service, a stranger to the agricultural and farming world of rural Kansas.  Gary was greeted by a younger person behind the parts counter,  introducing himself with a cordial smile as  Jerry Whitney, the Parts Manager.  Gary briefly explaining the situation, Jerry acknowledging that he was expecting him, and with assurance the two walked across to a smartly furnished corner office.  Looking up from a desk, rising, extending a hand, introducing himself as Steve Miller, welcoming the newcomer to Kiowa Service.

.  Steve Addressing the Parts Manager to introduce Gary to the facility, and to get a new employee form from Sandy Palmer, the office manager.  As the two were leaving, Steve reminded Jerry,  he wanted Gary to get started with Homer on assembling the new parts bins. The company tour beginning with the time clocks location, a first step and the beginning of an uncertain journey,  finding Jerry Whitney an applicable instructor,  more than willing to educate this novice to the world of John Deere.  The recent employee from Oklahoma City experiencing some difficulty making acquaintances in his new environment, but meeting someone who recognized his dilemma, sales representative Larry Swonger taking it upon himself to intercede.

.  Kiowa Service proper  encompassed more than a city block, bordering Main Street on the north, across Miller Street on the south, 7th Street on the west, 8th on the east.  A long abandoned ice house and the town’s telephone company building occupying space on Main street and the relic of an old shop building on the corner of 8th and Miller.  adjacent north of the business office on 7th  stood an old building used as a paint shop, the domain of Service Company painter Leon Gashler.    Across Miller Street was an old warehouse with an extended wooden loading dock and on the corner of Miller and 7th was a building housing a feed grinding mill, the grinding unit still intact, a heirloom from a bygone era.  Kiowa Service having been given a face lift inside and out,  the sales department receiving two new offices,  the parts department extended with a new concrete loading dock.  The service department expanded, now in a 72 by 96 foot attached metal building, with an additional attached 72 by 96 foot building for pre delivery implement servicing still under construction.

.  Kiowa was home to four farming implement services, Humphrey Implement, a Massey-Ferguson  dealership owned by Bud Humphrey, Shoson Implement, a Case Tractor Dealership managed by Norvin Price, Coontz Implement  and the John Deere franchised Kiowa Service owned by Steve Miller, his brother John having an interest.  The agronomic application was a new assessment, Gary a long time resident of city life discovering a knowledge deficiency,  never having acquainted the variety of farming implements employed by the agricultural community, a totally new learning experience.

.  Miller and his brother John having raised the standard, the John Deere franchise no longer the laid-back agricultural store once owned by Fred “Jumbo” Shoe bah,  previously known as shoe bah Implement.  The Steve Miller enterprise expanding to the third largest employer in the Township.   The spring of 1979 finding Kiowa Service in transition, with wheat prices of two sixty two, in 1978 having risen to 3 75 and futures pushing 4 dollars plus, Steve Miller saw the handwriting on the wall, Katy bar the door.

.  Gary’s finding the retail parts counter a challenge, John Deere having a separate parts manual for each tractor model and every implement, and as a novice, not familiar with any of the farming equipment terminology and wasn’t surprised at the looks he received from the local farmers.  It was Larry Swonger who finally clued the novice in,  on how to deal with his lack of knowhow, it was basic and simple,  and it satisfied,   making the customer feel knowledgeable,  just turn the book around and let them find what they were looking for.

.  Gary’s continued employment seemed assured,  disappointed in his starting wage of $3.15 per hour,  having left $6.00 an hour employment in Oklahoma City, plus discovering  Steve Miller had visited with his father-in-law Bud Murrow,  extracting a conditional agreement if Miller employed Gary, down the road Bud wouldn’t hire him for his construction crew.  The transition from the briskness of a vibrant  City to the patience of a rural community was sanctioned, Gary beginning to accept the change of his life’s proclivity, its meaning and the beckoning of the new horizon.

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