Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brown Mansion in Coffeyville, Kansas

After visiting the Dalton Museum on Saturday’s road trip, we went out to see the Brown Mansion. So called because Mr. Brown built this three storied home with a full basement and included a ball room in 1906. It has been a glorious place to live in its day. Visitors can tour the entire home including the basement…something most museum type homes don’t allow. No pictures were allowed anymore due to damage on the old paint, but post cards can be purchased of most rooms.
Isn’t this library an inviting place? The entire house is heavy with rich hardwoods; however, it is not a dark place. So many windows and sun rooms allow light to stream in making the home such a cheerful place. However, the family had its difficulties here. The Browns had four children, but only the daughter lived to adulthood. All the boys died although one lived to twelve years old, but he had severe diabetes. The daughter Olive married and divorced. She had one son who also died. This daughter lived in the house until she was 88 years old, dying in 1961.

While the door isn’t noticeable in the picture, it is a gorgeous piece of work made from wood and Tiffany leaded glass. Just recently as small pane was cracked in a small earthquake. The appraisers put a price of one and a quarter million dollars on the door’s present worth.

Brown made his money in oil and gas, having also been associated with Frank Phillips of Oklahoma oil fame. The family was Catholic and attended Holy Name Catholic Church, also an old structure. The twin tower church was built about 1907.

And what would an outing be without a quick run through of at least one flea market? Just about to leave when I saw this delightful basket and snatched it up. Nice as it is, I made a mistake in that I was buying it to replace an existing tea basket. Hum, the lovely little doors on top aren't big enough for my tea pot to fit through. However, DH says he can used the small hinges, refashion a new lid, and we will have a traveling tea basket again!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Dalton Gang and Coffeyville, Kansas

After five days of steady rain, the sun came out and the air warmed to a delightful temp that reminded us of summer. We took a road trip for the day heading to Coffeyville, Kansas. I had spent a lot of time in Coffeyville as a kid because my grandparents lived there. The town’s claim to fame was a double bank robbery in 1892 when the town’s citizens took out the Dalton Gang. We had never been to the museum and so it was a good destination on a sunny day.

We traveled 166, a quiet highway crossing rolling farmland that was greening up for spring. The fields were muddy and ditches had leftover rainwater. We pulled into a town vastly changed from my memories. First of all, the huge old scenic bridge across the Verdigris had been replaced by a modern Plain Jane bridge. Then the humane society, a small rodeo ground, and some park features were gone. A massive flood a few years ago caused the entire town grief destroying much of the town.

While two banks had been hit in the Dalton raid, the Condon Bank building still stands. Imagine outlaws coming out the double doors and windows shattered by flying bullets. One can still see bullet holes and enter the bank from the attached Chamber of Commerce. Across the street is what is called Death Alley, a passage way as narrow as it was a hundred years ago when four outlaws met their death there…along with four unfortunate horses!

I never could understand why they built a museum to bank robbers, but it wasn’t to honor them. The museum called Dalton Defenders Museum is a testimony to the bravery and determination of ordinary folks not willing to give in the bad guys. The Daltons had robbed Coffeyville once before, and they decided to go back and do a double bank job of the Condon and the First National Bank. Through a series of mistakes and hitches, 30 citizens had time to grab guns and defend their banks. Four of them were to die in the line of duty.

There are numerous pictures of the dead gang which was a unique situation in 1892. Now we are used to cameras snapping photos of unfolding events, but that day a photographer was one of the first to capture the day for posterity. The bandits’ hats and guns are display at the museum. A picture of the Dalton mother intrigues me. She was supposedly a gentle woman (probably just worn out after bearing 15 children!!) and was related to the Youngers, a name associated with another gang of bandits. Bob was the leader of his brothers and others in the gang, and he was a very handsome man. My curiosity has been pricked, and I want to read more about these bad boys and their family.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Visiting WW II with Kristina McMorris

My parents taught me moral behavior that included kindness, charity, avoidance of slander and gossip. So I always felt funny when the “yellow peril” issue came up. They avoided explaining it fully, but I knew their feelings were strong in a negative way. We would sit in front of John Wayne WWII movies on Sunday afternoons in winter, and a lot of murmuring and low grumbles lingered in the corners of the living room while the Duke annihilated the “Japs”.
I was an adult before I began to truly understand their feelings. They were 12 and 14 when Pearl Harbor was bombed, a ripe age for forming hatred of an enemy. The publicity, bond sales, and movies all planted fear and hatred, but that was necessary in the name of patriotism at the time. But it lingered far longer than the war for people that were mere children of that era. 

I was not born until the 40’s were almost gone, yet I love the era despite the war being the dominate feature of the decade. I love the hats, the gloves, and those platform shoes. I tap my toes quickly to the music of swing. I am proud when I think of a generation of farm boys and country girls who not only took to the air and ruled, but of their work on the ground in conceiving, designing, and building those wonderful Flying Fortresses in the middle of former wheat fields.
I read Kristina McMorris’s first book Letters from Home set in the WWII era. I loved all the 1940 details and the author made me feel right back there in time. When I heard another book was on the way, I waited impatiently. Bridge of Scarlet Leaves arrived last week during those five rainy days! Perfect timing because I put on the kettle, brewed up some Irish Breakfast and read until dark. In her second novel McMorris stayed in the war years, but told the story from the eyes of Japanese Americans and the people who both feared them and loved them as well. Her own deep research allows her to write a powerful story, and her being half Japanese herself gives the story more punch.

I think Bridge of Scarlet Leaves should be required reading at the high school level. There are so many chapters and scenes in this book that could be used for rousing discussions of how people treat other people. The definitions of integrity, prejudices, fear, and forming hate could be bounced around a classroom, and under the guise of studying WWII or Japanese internment camps, students could look at some heavier issues like bullying, gossip, and defining what it means to belong to a community.
If you need a good read, grab a copy of McMorris’s newest book. You won’t be disappointed. I am anxious to share it with my good friend who was a school librarian. She is half Japanese, and I know we will have lots to talk about from this book!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Blurb/Taking Sinbad

Last Saturday, I tried to get back to some of the fun little writes that makes the brain play. On Saturday I did Centus, but forgot what I was doing with word count. I used the Book Blurb count of 150 instead of the assignment 98 words. I goofed! But today I am following the rules carefully, using Lisa's picture and word count of 150. For more blurbs based on the picture and complete rules to play, visit Lisa's blog at

This big cat picture is gorgeous. Our local school mascot is the tiger so I have lived in "tiger country" for several years. We do indeed have a small circus that winters just outside of town. While we don't see the big cats outside, on warm days you can drive down the road and see a mass of elephants in the pasture acting as at home as a herd of Angus.

                                                  Taking Sinbad

Jamey had worked under Pete’s tutelage long enough to learn how to manage the big cats at Ringling Bros. Now he wanted to move on to a small Missouri circus, taking star Sinbad along, where he could tend to cats but also be the tamer in the ring. He planned on taking Pete’s daughter Sheila with him.
But when lion tamer Josh Perkins had seen Pete’s daughter shed her baby fat and grow the audience-approved curves, he decked her out in sequins to waltz about the cats during performances. Old enough to be her father, it was not fatherly interest he had in her. Using deceit, threats, and underhanded ways to keep both cat and girl, Perkins hindered their reach for freedom and a life of their own.

 Could they escape Perkins? Would Sinbad become theirs?

Tension and evil lurked in three rings. The answer was under the Big Top.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Do You Love Route 66?

This a commemorative plate celebrating Buffalo Ranch on Route 66 near Afton, Oklahoma. Did you ever visit Buffalo Ranch? I did and I rode my first pony there. And here was where I fell in love with my first buffalo!

Route 66, the Mother Road, takes a turn or two through our town.  What Route 66 means to me is that old TV show with one Corvette and two handsome, well-groomed young men and their escapades while they traveled the highway. Recently the old Boots Motel here in town was purchased with the idea that it would be restored so people could really stay overnight in one of the old courts that lined the highway. Supposedly, Clark Gable passed through town and slept in the Boots Motel formerly known as the Boots Courts. Hum, now that is one ghost I might like to meet!

East of here in Lebanon, Missouri, there are still a couple of landmark travel courts and grocery stores from the 66 era. Now there is also a very small museum housed in the same building as the local library. I have always wanted to stop when we zoomed through town, but never made it until coming back from Verses and Voices in Jefferson City.

      Doesn't this look like a great place for a journalist or writer of Route 66 years?

It is a small museum, but is a feast for the eyes if you can remember the "olden days". A reconstructed motel room shows you what you would have found on the Route in the earlier era. Also a juke joint...a filling station...all interesting to see and so well done. There is also a collection of salt and pepper shakers that were mementos of the period...some could be bought as souvenirs on the Mother Road.   

So do you have any special Route 66 memories?

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Here is the house that DH grew up in, a typical farm house about one hundred years old. The picture was taken in better days. Now the shutters are gone, the paint peels, thanks to a recent storm the roof shingles on the south side are missing, and the blue front door is no longer such a vibrant hue. The trees still linger and are greening up right now as spring stretches over the Kansas prairie.
My in-laws are in assisted living and have accepted that after two years they will not be able to return to this home. Over six decades of living must be dismantled, divided, sold, or burned. It is a big job, made larger by the fact that my mother-in-law was an artist alongside of being a farm wife. Along with canning jars, cooking pots, quilted blankets, and a lifetime of notebooks and pictures are canvases, sketch books, frames, drawings and paintings.

She was an everywoman who struggled to rear her children, feed her family, make ends meet on a Kansas farm that fought her daily with wind, drought, or too much rain at the wrong times ruining crops and undermining her livelihood. Yet she struggled and fought the land back to do more than merely survive; she wanted to see her creative side of writing and painting flourish just as she wanted to cultivate wheat, corn, and a truck garden.

Her children grew up on the farm, influenced by both parent and land, but so did I in a sense. I was a mere 16 years old when I first appeared at the farm. I was not what she wanted to see the only son bring home, but to be fair, any outsider is often just that, an outsider to family and clan. But like the Osage orange in the hedge rows, I sank my roots deep and stayed. Now when DH needs me, I am there for him and my in-laws to help. The dismantling of this farm household hurts me too.

I found so many small things that I gave my mother-in-law like journals, letter openers, candle holders, a purse, a scarf, even a quote from my favorite book that I typed out for her 25 years ago. I took down the colored glass that sat in her windows for years filtering in sunlight through greens, ambers, and her all-time favorite cobalt blue. When the window sills stood empty, it was like the room had darkened. I boxed up the Gladys Taber books that I had bought her; we both loved the Taber books, rereading them in the winter and then discussing the old scenes over the phone. As I boxed up things for an auction, I shuddered thinking of people pawing through her things.

When the dirt and dust and memories became too much, I stepped out on the deck for a minute. The day was balmy and warm, and the trees out near the chicken house fluttered their faintly pink and white spring flowers. The hyacinths and jonquils she had patiently set deep into the earth were up like flags to greet the season….soon redbud would burst forth. I remembered when a mimosa, now long gone, leaned over the deck sprinkling pink gauzy flowers along the wooden bench seats. The garden spot that normally this time of year would already be tilled and planted now lay silent waiting for, maybe longing for, the forked spade of my mother-in-law turning over the earth. The frogs, probably lined up on the fallen tree trunk in the south pond, chirped like it was any farm day. They did not know there was change in the wind.

In my mind, I heard that song...”that was yesterday and yesterday is gone”…

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Centus, Buying a Treasure

It is time for Saturday Centus again. There has been no reading or writing for me in about ten days. I am up in the dark before dawn with only chirping song birds for company. Maybe I can get a shot at a few words. Jenny's prompt this morning is It was only ninety-eight cents.
For more details and to read more Centus writings, go to Jenny's blog at

                                            Buying a Treasure
Jenny opened the shop door as she felt the money in her pocket. Did she dare spend this wealth? Her hands were still slightly brown with broken nails where she had forced some of the pecans from dried mud. Her finger tips were sore from picking out the precious nut meats.

Times were hard and Mummy worked long hours at the laundry, but she refused to take Jenny’s money to help. She wanted Jenny to buy something for herself, some reward to enjoy from her hard work. Jenny had already set aside a few coins for the church collection basket. Now did she dare to spend the rest here?

Once inside the store, she went straight to the treasure she longed to have for her own. It was only ninety-eight cents, half of her money. She made her purchase and then opened the cover to Frost’s invitation-“You come too..”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fairy Tale Night in Missouri

How does Cinderella begin to describe her trip to the ball? Just in from Jefferson City and once again wearing my scullery maid hat, I feel like last night was unreal. I attended the Voices and Verses program sponsored by First Lady Georgeanne Nixon in support of the arts. Six student choirs and several poet laureates sang and read in the rotunda of our state capitol. What made this particular year special was poetry from Storm Country was used.

The choirs all sang music based on work from Missouri poets such as Langston Hughes and Sara Teasdale. State Music laureate Susan LaBarr took Bill Cairns poem from Storm Country and wrote new music. Then the Joplin Choir had the honor of singing the song for the first time with all the other choirs joining in at the chorus. David Benz is the Artistic Director of the Voices and Verses project and also director of the Western Missouri State University Chorale. He had seventeen family members in the Joplin tornado.

                            Poet Laureate, David Clewell with Artistic Director, David Benz

Yours Truly was steppin’ in tall cotton as they say when I read my poem "Weather Tantrum" with these people. Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg had to cancel at the last minute due to illness, and Missouri Writing Guild president Deborah Marshall stepped in to read the poem for her.

Joplin Writers' Guild President, Claudia Mundell and Missouri Writers' Guild President, Deborah Marshall
                                                                                                                Mundell and Benz

Mrs. Nixon opened the program and then songs were sung using words penned by such Missouri Poets as Langston Hughes, Sara Teasdale, and Eugene Field. Poems published in Storm Country were read by their authors, and the program drew to a close with Bill Cairns reading his poem “My Foundation” that became the musical piece ”Storm Country”. Then Joplin Choir began to sing and by the time the remaining choirs joined in with the chorus, it was hard to hold tears back. Some students were misty-eyed, and Deb and I had trouble holding our own tears back. The combination of music, words, and voices gave a mystical quality to the rotunda as various visions of Joplin filled minds and evoked emotions in hearts. No one was left unmoved.

                       Joplin Choir sings "Storm Country" directed by Eric Eichenberger

                                            Missouri Capitol on a spring Voices and Verses Night

It was one beautiful night with a bit of a fairy tale nature. The balmy air blanketed us all with a warmth and tenderness inspired by gratitude and appreciation of both music and poetry that spread among the participants and the audience alike.

Weather Tantrum
Thick clouds and wispy air wrestle in the heavy ceiling overhead.
On the ground, men with bald spots covered by brand name ball caps
Stop work, form a cautious audience gazing upwards.
Mothers call in heedless children and become vigilant sentries,
Knotted shoulders leaning against white porch posts.

Pushing and shoving, clouds twist and entwine until
A cone, curled as a wire bed spring,
Drops down like a ballet dancer’s pointed toe
Reaching for solid ground to stand on.
Suddenly, swaying trees cease in awe struck silence
Just as sirens scream warnings of a twister.
Roofs rumble down the street turning cartwheels;
Fence posts bow down to the cruel coil.
Then after a quick assault, turmoil ceases. 
Churning clouds move on; the sky’s seizure is over.

Families, like rabbits from burrows, ease out of fraidy holes,
Scanning damage, measuring the weather’s wrath.
Slow, intermittent rain drops fall from a bruised sky
Moistening the earth in tearful apology.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Week Ends, Another Begins

Getting ready for a spring auction at family farm this week. The sky was nice all day before the coming storms that evening.

Mercy, the days have been packed this week and the coming week looks the same. This weekend has been a bridge between the two, as I have tried to catch up from the first and prepare for the second. When I told DH last night that I had pared seven 5x7 note cards of chores down to three, he asked, “ What, do you have one line on each card?” Funny, he isn’t! Of course in a busy week the clothes don’t stay clean, DH doesn’t stop being hungry, and the bills continue to flow into the mailbox--all in addition to the other activities. Each day I had writing and some pleasure reading jotted down. That never happened!

The week was traveling to Kansas for family issues and coming home to a sleepless night with the storms. Again we sat in the middle of funnel clouds that chose to pass us over like children in a game of Button Button. No, not our turn yet. Then on Friday we got a call that the family farmhouse had lost all the shingles on one side. More wind issues. Meanwhile we worried about children and grandbabies in Kentucky tornado. All ends well there for them, but not for so many other folks. I hate the word tornado!

Thursday afternoon was book club which is always nice. We discussed Hiding in the Spotlight, the story of two sisters who escaped from Nazis in WWII. They played classical piano which might have saved their lives. The discussion was interesting and most agreed the book was decent despite the writer’s stiff and journalistic style.

Part of Friday was a play day with a birthday luncheon. After salads we went to the Nature Center. The building here is built very GREEN and one can see things growing out the roof. At this time of year, it looks more like an abandoned building suffering lack of care. Then again, the entire landscape looks barren and desolate. The birds came in for food and the cardinals were numerous. It was lovely to see their red robes this time of year.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday Centus, Loving Her

This morning is chilly and provides a slower start to a Saturday. It is time for Centus and Ole Jenny said she is taking it easy on us today with the prompt. I liked finding Saying goodbye was harder than she thought... for the prompt. I saw lots of possibilities, but since Jenny suggests it might be too easy, it needed some sort of whammy to zip it up. I think I found it!
For full rules to playing Centus and more 100 words story with the prompt, go to

Have a good weekend!

                                                    Loving Her
She never knew when she started loving KB. Maybe it was hearing the vibrating laughter that sounded like glass beads in a wind chime. Maybe the tenderness started in quiet times when silence wasn’t a dismissal but an inclusion, folding her inside a comforting solidarity like a flannel robe on a winter’s night. Whatever made her love KB felt right, fitting like a glove, until the wedding.
As the nuptials began, the murmuring crowd quieted. She glanced at Doug. Did he realize how lucky he was? As he slipped the ring on Katie Bridget’s finger, a tear trickled down Aggie’s cheek.  
Saying goodbye was harder than she thought...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Book Blurb/ A Brewing Romance

Here we at Friday again and now the days are starting to race through March. It has been a busy week that included more tornados in our area. Oh, I hate and fear this tumultous weather! The coming week has a loaded calendar also. This morning I have a birthday brunch on the calendar, but I wanted to take a few mintues to try the Book Blurb. The picture this week has all kinds of possible stories hidden in the scene of the tea table. The limit of 150 words was quite limiting this week! My own blurb falls short because oh, I see so much more story in my setting! However, the calendar calls and I will have to leave the blurb at this point, although I would love to spend some time developing the rector!

For complete rules and links to more of today's book blurbs, visit Lisa's blog at Now on to the brunch and you all have a good Friday!

                                                          A Brewing Romance
Camray Hardisty had played at tea since she was five years old. She set out her toy china on a tea towel, filled plates with marshmallows, and hostessed doll tea parties. Now her dream came true with her grandmother’s trust fund, and she opened the Tea Spoon on the village square.
But Bingville residents did not take easily to the new. Councilmen that hindered her business license for so long, now shied away from sipping tea at her tables. The grand dames only came in to appraise her cranberry scones and tilt their noses up at her Darjeeling before turning over the china to check its mark. Her shop was struggling to stay afloat.

Then the rector began to drop in regularly, first for Wednesday quiche and then for afternoon tea. The village tongues began to wag as Camray began to ponder what was behind-or under-the clerical collar.