A Philippine Adventure

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Grandad’s Foot Locker . . . .

This little handmade trunk was utilized by Ernest Sylvester Ullery as a foot locker when he served in the U. S. Army stationed in the Philippine Islands.  Constructed of mahogany, with crude metal strapping as reinforcement, it has little adornment other than rusting metal handles on each end and a brass plate around one keyhole.  The brass plate is missing from the keyhole on the left side, but two brass lock mechanisms are positioned in the interior of the trunk behind the keyholes, indicating it locked from both ends.   The brass tacks across the front of the trunk are purely ornamental.  Today, the trunk contains my father’s photographic equipment, including cameras, bags and a variety of lenses that I am too sentimental to part with now that Dad is gone.

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The cavalry man and his horse . . . .

My grandmother’s handwriting on the back of this photograph states: “After Ernie became bugler he rode the white horse in front of the 50 black horses.”  He served in Troop H, 14th Regiment Cavalry and was enlisted at Fort McDowell, California February 10, 1908 at 20 years of age.  He remained in California doing training and maneuvers for a period of time at Herbert Hoover Ranch and the Presidio.  He left by ship for the Philippines December 2, 1909 where he served until December 15, 1910.  He was officially separated from the U.S. Army January 19, 1911.

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One of Ernie’s coats – U.S. Army . . . .

Almost 100 years preceding September 11, 2001 and the war on Islamic terror, the U.S. military was engaged in a bitter, drawn-out struggle with a ferocious Muslim insurgency in the islands of the southern Philippines.   The Moro War, which is little remembered today, was fought from 1902 to 1913 against guerrillas who knew the terrain of islands, lakes, rivers and swamps and enjoyed popular support of their people.  Suicide attackers, malaria, dysentery and other disabling diseases plagued the U.S. troops.

Author James R. Arnold wrote in The Moro War : “The Moros had one essential ingredient to wage successful guerrilla operations: a large pool of utterly devoted fighters.  But they lacked almost everything else.  They possessed neither safe havens within their lands nor foreign sanctuaries across the border.  Time and again, U.S. infantry, Philippine Scouts and the Constabulary found ways to penetrate Mindanao’s jungles and swamps, thereby demonstrating that anywhere the insurgents could go they could follow.  On a larger scale, horses and steam power gave government forces superior strategic mobility and delivered the supplies to nourish a protracted campaign.”

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Polo, anyone? . . . .

All was not gritty warfare.  Troop H of the 14th Regiment was encouraged to enhance and maintain good horsemanship by playing polo.  They also had a baseball team and a brass band.  Ernie is positioned above between the polo mallets.  At 5 ft. 1/2 in. he was small but mighty.

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Goat rodeo? . . . . nah

The inscription on this photograph says “masqueraders and champion rooters of 14th Cavalry.”  Wish Ernie was here to tell us what all the fuss was about.  Another photo features a parade of musicians carrying the “goat” banner across the parade grounds.

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Dressed to kill . . . .

Ernie is far right, second row, holding his bugle.  According to Arnold’s book on the Moro war, during the entire stretch of Moro campaigns, “combat casualties were remarkably low.  Only 107 regulars and 111 Philippine Scouts died in action or from mortal wounds, while 270 and 109, respectively, were wounded.  The Philippine Constabulary suffered significantly higher losses.  From 1901 to June 30, 1911, 104 officers and 1,602 enlisted men became casualties . . . Non-battle-related casualties from disease and accidents–drowning being the most common accident in a combat theater comprising islands, rivers, lakes, and swamps–were appreciably higher than the deaths and incapacitations caused directly by battle . . . Years after discharge, veterans of the Moro campaigns continued to suffer from disabling diseases, including malaria.”  Generals Adna Chaffee, John Pershing, George Davis, and Leonard Wood were key military figures presiding throughout the Moro campaigns.

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Stotsenburg, P.I. –  Ernie second from left

Troop quarters for the 14th cavalry.  Not exactly home away from home, but when in war . . . .  “The decade-long war against the Moros was largely forgotten to Americans.  A veteran of Wood’s 1904 campaign returned home to receive his $16 mustering-out pay and little else.  There were no bands to welcome him . . . from 1903 to 1913, the average yearly strength of U.S. regular army troops in the Philippines Islands was twelve thousand men, while the average yearly strength of Philippine Scouts was five thousand,” wrote Arnold.  When Ernie mustered out January 19, 1911 he received $25.22, barely enough to travel home to Indiana.  He never spoke of his military service to the family and he died when I was 15 years old.

The Rest Of The Story . . .

The little trunk Ernie had built for his foot locker made it home to Indiana and then in 1918 to Wyoming where it suffered a perilous journey to the family dump.  I found it lying in a variety of pieces, tossed in a gunny-sack in a bushel basket in Dad’s old garage in the early 1990’s.  What I was rummaging for at the time escapes my memory, but I was intrigued enough to drag it into the house and inquire.  Dad said he found it tossed out in the weather and gathered up the pieces.  It had been collecting dust in the garage for quite some time.  He gave me permission to haul it home to Denver where I began trying to reconstruct it.  A carpenter friend helped me ease the corners where the tongue and grooves had parted.  I nailed the tin strips back, sanded and coated it with a wood preservative and it is still in use today.  If only it could tell me about Ernie’s Philippine adventure.

 

Chili Time

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This chili doesn’t “chicken out!” . . . .

We enjoyed a really wonderful bowl of chicken chili at one of our favorite restaurants recently, and we decided to try to re-create it at home.  We shopped for what we believed to be the relevant ingredients and when a recent snowstorm hit, decided the time was right for chili.  The following recipe makes a wonderful, satisfying cold-weather dish and we decided we had come very close to the original.  Enjoy!

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1/4 cup cooking oil (I used Canola)

Brown chicken thighs on all sides in large skillet on medium heat.  Set aside to cool and then shred.

2 Tbsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp chipotle chile powder

2 Tbsp ancho chile powder

3 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, chopped fine

Add onion to skillet and cook until softened.  Add garlic, cumin, chile powders, oregano and braise in skillet, stirring to prevent scorching and scraping to loosen brown bits.  

4 – 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth

2 – 14.5 oz. cans crushed tomatoes

2 large fresh poblano chiles, roasted, chopped

4 large fresh jalapeno chiles, seeds removed, chopped

Add one can chicken broth to onion mixture in skillet, simmer to loosen brown bits.  Pour onion mixture into large soup kettle.  Mix tomatoes, poblano and jalapeno chiles to shredded chicken, add to soup kettle mixture along with remaining 3 cans of chicken broth.  Simmer uncovered 1/2 hour.

1- 14.5 oz. can whole kernel corn, liquid drained

2 – 14.5 oz. cans small black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup finely minced scallions

Add corn and black beans to soup kettle, simmer uncovered 1/2 hour.  When ready to serve, ladle into large soup bowls. garnish with scallions.  Wedges of fresh lime  and flour tortillas optional as sides.

A Christmas Tale

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Nellie’s cookie tin . . . .

As Christmas and a new year approach, I become sentimental about seasons past and loved ones who have made life a little richer.  Recent musings about Christmas on Dry Creek led me to a time when I was the chosen child for a special mission.  I wasn’t in school yet and hung around the kitchen as my mother made an amazing array of cookies, fudge and pies.  My interest in all of this wasn’t culinary so much as waiting to lick a spoon or mixing bowl when she finished with it.

After many days of preparation, her Christmas goods were carefully wrapped in boxes and tins and placed in a deep shelf over the stairwell leading down to the basement.  In those days a small kitchen window looked out over the shelf and beyond to a summer porch.  It was cold on the porch and her treasure would be well preserved, if not literally frozen by the minus 30-degree temperatures that commonly occurred in Wyoming winters in the forties and fifties.

Getting to this temporary winter storage took a bit of daring.  The stairwell was a yawning chasm of steep concrete steps and if you slipped on the top stair or could not pull yourself onto the shelf, down you went.  I can vividly recall the fear and daring involved because as I got older, my brother and I were frequent visitors to the shelf, sneaking some pre-Christmas goodies and taking care not to disturb the wrapping so Mom could not observe through the little window what was going on.  But I digress.

As Christmas Day approached, my mother went into overdrive.  After delivering my older siblings to school in town, she began dragging her storage containers of baked goods to the dining room table.  She made a selection, wrapped everything in waxed paper, and filled a stack of cardboard boxes.  What a feast was laid out before my eyes!  Peanut brittle and red and green popcorn balls; penoche, peanut butter, chocolate, divinity and million dollar fudge; chocolate and vanilla pinwheels, peanut butter crisscrosses, mincemeat-filled and sugar cookies cut into bells, reindeer and Christmas tree shapes; pumpkin, mince and apple pies; and fruit cakes.  When she had her boxes filled she began carrying them out to the car, a black 1942 Chevy four-door sedan.

She bundled me in warm clothes and I don’t recall her saying where we were going.  As we bounced along on frozen rutted roads, I held my breath as she plowed through snow drifts, hard and crusted from the wind.  The car heater was just above the floor on the passenger side and the fan was rattling and wheezing on high, blowing warm air over me.  Frost melted on the car window, making it hard to see outside and I remember being too warm in all my winter clothes.  That would soon change.

Our first stop was in Antelope Basin just a few miles north and west of our house.  We pulled up to an old sheep wagon surrounded by a few rustic outbuildings which was the home of the Taylor brothers, Roy and John.  Two old bachelor sheep men who lived alone were at the top of Mother’s list to share her Christmas bounty with and as I surveyed the desolate scene, it sure looked like they could use a little cheer.  Mom carried the box of treats, and we stumbled through the snow to the steps to the sheep wagon.  I gave a knock on the door and then we waited while their herding dogs barked and raised a ruckus.  Finally, the fierce weathered face of Roy appeared at the door.  He smoked a little pipe and it was clenched in a notch in his lower teeth which were either worn or chipped away.  He had a hunch back which lowered his face down and forward a bit and he seemed quite close as I whispered “Merry Christmas” and bolted for the car.

The heater felt good as we headed to our next destination, which turned out to be another bachelor. Clyde Williams lived in a log house on a homestead just east of Dry Creek.  He had two maiden sisters, Maude and Gladys, who some years later moved to town.  He was always available to help us with the round-up and to brand calves in the spring and Mom invited him to dinner on occasion.  He praised her cooking and could lay away more mashed potatoes and gravy than anyone I had ever seen.  He was balding with tufts of white hair, red-faced, and wore wire spectacles that made him look just like how I imagined Santa Claus to be.  As we made our way to his cabin, I was relieved to see his ornery rooster was cooped up with the chickens and would not pose a threat.  Clyde was delighted to receive Mother’s annual Christmas box and handed me a little Snickers candy bar as his way of saying thanks.  It was old and hard as a brick but I didn’t mind as I knew I would get lots of sweets at home.

The trip into Kaycee was a little easier as we were on paved road–old U.S. 87 in those days.  We left a box with my great aunt Alice, who lived alone in a house next to my grandparent’s general store.  Her place was stacked so high with books, magazines, boxes and collectibles that she could barely make a path to the porch to greet us.  We made a couple more stops in town and I don’t recall who the people were.  Then we drove up Barnum Road to leave a box with Elmer Peters who lived in a dugout with a wooden camper shell for a roof.  Carved out of an embankment, Elmer’s abode wasn’t tall enough to stand in but he had a little wood stove that kept him from freezing.  He liked to joke that he did not believe in laying in too much wood–he might die and someone else would get to burn it!  Elmer worked for Dad off and on through the years as a hired hand and would often stay in our bunkhouse.  He taught us how to play Muggins, a card game that I loved.  When you had a Muggins you could yell, raise your arm and slap down your cards in a victorious assault.  I have tried to find someone who remembers how to play, but it seems to have been erased from all our memories.  One winter evening when Mom and Dad were away at the neighbor’s house for a Christmas party, we ganged up on Elmer and dressed him in our mother’s little red straw hat, high heels and a dress over his jeans and flannel shirt.  He had a purse over his arm and pranced around our living room, drawing hoots of laughter from us.  I don’t think our mother was thrilled when she learned what we had done with her finery.

As Christmas draws near I imagine somewhere in Heaven our mother is busy baking treats for all the bachelors, loners and misfits who made it through the pearly gates.

Porcelain Bronc

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The last ride . . . .

More — Travels With Sandy

A minor restoration project turned into a fairly major event, which was duly recorded by Sandy.  I had been scraping and cleaning up the bottom of an ancient claw-foot cast iron bathtub which had a white porcelain finish on the interior.  The tub had been sitting outside for quite some time before I acquired it and had quite a bit of rust on the bottom.  Chet the carpenter and I managed to get the tub upside down aboard a cart he made with wheels so I could move it around and pull it inside the shop in case of rain.  I removed the legs so I could soak them and scrape off the old paint and rust.  After several coats of stripping gel and a couple of weeks, I was finally ready to paint.  I applied two or three coats of enamel and waited in between coats for the paint to dry.

Throughout all this activity, Sandy and I had coffee together a few times and conversation usually centered around our latest projects.  Sandy was always busy with something and had no fear of any chore she took on.  She was a bang-up carpenter, seamstress and general all-around hand.  We both decided to paint our houses that summer and she went to town with me to pick up paint samples.  She wanted a particular shade of red and wore me out with her decision-making process.  It had to be just the RIGHT SHADE OF RED!  We decided to try power washing before scraping and priming, but that’s another story.

As Chet finished the bathroom remodeling, the day came to install the bathtub.  We bolted the legs back on and hauled the tub on the cart into the house and into the bathroom.  It practically filled the dinky room, just as the old tub it replaced had done.  You can only do so much in an old house!  We had ripped out the old plastic tiles on the walls, replaced the drywall, installed new wall coverings, laid a new tile floor and repainted.  After much chaos and hard work, I decided to try the tub and soak my aching back.

I ran the tub full of hot water and bubble bath, climbed in and leaned back to soak.  My tiptoes barely made it to the end of the tub and the sloped back was made for comfort.  I had barely begun my sudsy immersion when something resembling an earthquake took place.  The tub tipped, the bath water became a tsunami rising toward my head, and the faucets began to spew a stream straight into the air.  In no time, the room was engulfed in a downpour of record proportions.  The tub’s plumbing was a free-for-all and as I raced from the room for shoes and a robe, I could not even think how of where to turn the water off.

Later, after I had twisted every water line faucet in the basement, I was able to bring the disaster under control, sort of.  The water by now had reached other rooms in the house.  Fortunately the old floors sloped down to the east and a lot of the water ran down the hallway through the door.  I was finally able to see that one of the legs had come off the tub, causing the whole business to tip downward, disrupting the plumbing.

By this time I decided I needed to talk to someone who had been through a flood.  Sandy had saved and restored her historic home after a 100-year flood on the Middle Fork of Powder River.  My troubles seemed tiny in comparison.

“Guess what?”  That’s a good way to start a conversation on the telephone.  As I sat with dripping hair and a cup of tea, I recounted what had just happened with my new old bathtub.  She offered sympathy, advice and told me to go to bed and “forget about it.”  Later that week when the Kaycee Voice was published, there in bold print was an illustration Sandy created of a wild-eyed woman in a capsizing bathtub that brings me to laughter whenever I think about it.  Sandy added the title “Porcelain Bronc,” and her illustration was as good as any I’ve seen.

Sandy’s vision is limited due to a hereditary condition that makes it very difficult for her to read or draw.  She had to have labored over her cartoon and put in a great deal of effort.  But that’s the way she does everything she takes on, and her determination, grit and savvy have always pulled her through.

Postscript:    Turns out the legs are numbered to coincide with numbers on the tub.  I remembered seeing raised numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 as I scraped, but did not give it much thought.  After a great heave-ho, we got the legs to match up to the numbers on the tub, re-installed the whole thing and it works just fine.

Epilogue – Sandy left many good memories and I have tried to capture some to remind me of her.  She died October 6, 2017.

Incident At The Occidental

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Occidental Hotel

More–Travels With Sandy

Helen could croon a tune and play the best honky-tonk piano any of us can recall.  She had a gig at the Occidental in Buffalo on a Saturday night, and she asked if I would like to drive her and hear her group The Homesteaders play some country music.  I agreed, and invited Sandy to ride along so I would have some company while Helen performed.  We would travel in Helen’s white Cadillac and I was the designated driver.

We drove to Kaycee to get Sandy and headed north on old Highway 87.  Sandy was riding in the back seat and removed her shoe and sock to work on her “sore toe.”  Dad used to say 87 was nothing but a paved cow path, and as I took a sharp curve and then suddenly braked to avoid a mule deer near the edge of the highway, Sandy yelled out in pain.  She was attempting to trim a toenail with her pocket knife and had inadvertently stabbed herself.  I think I knew then the evening was going to be somewhat unusual.

We drove into Buffalo and got Helen settled in the saloon at the Occidental, stopping to say hello to Dan Carlat and Charlie Firnekas, who would be joining her on stage.  Helen ordered dinner and hurriedly ate as there would be no opportunity later in the evening.  Helen was diabetic and missed meals were a big deal.  Sandy and I settled down at a table in the saloon, ordered drinks and were soon immersed in conversation with locals who were gathering for the evening’s entertainment.  We were having a thoroughly enjoyable time when a tall, good looking guy walked over to our table and said, “Hi, Sandy.”  She got all flustered she didn’t immediately recognize her boss from Sheridan who was having dinner dinner with a group in the restaurant (she later told me he had a mustache last time she saw him).  She declined the offer of a drink and I felt like kicking her under the table as she obviously wasn’t going to introduce me.  More about that later.

We managed to stretch out a couple of drinks, including ice cubes, for the entire evening and when 11:00 p.m. rolled around, the band dispersed and we were loaded in the car for the return trip.  We got a couple miles south of Buffalo, just at cruising speed when “BLAM!”  I hit a whitetail deer crossing the highway in front of us.  Stopped the car, jumped out to view the damage, worried over the deer, who disappeared.  A womanly huddle ensued and it was decided we should drive back to town since the damage might be more severe than we imagined and we could be left stranded on the interstate if the car somehow failed to make it home.  The huge dent in the right front fender and missing headlight were a very real problem, however.

Buffalo’s finest might be waiting for a dented Cadillac with a missing headlight driven by a designated driver who had at least two drinks (possibly more).  They might also be waiting for Sandy, who had enjoyed at least two drinks (possibly more) and whose license was restricted to Kaycee and environs.  They might also be waiting for Helen, who could no longer drive due to her diabetes but who had not been consuming any alcoholic beverages all evening.  Take your pick.

Helen got the short straw and climbed behind the wheel.  We drive slowly back into town, peering right and left for state highway patrol and/or city cop cars, all the while watching the white lines to determine whether Helen could actually see where she was driving.  At least I was watching.  Sandy could not see the white lines.

We parked in an alley so as not to be too noticeable and decided to return to the Occidental to call Helen’s husband a.k.a. my big brother Jim to report the good news.  A restroom break was the first order of business and Helen was digging fiercely in her over-sized purse for her insulin.  “I forgot to shoot up after eating tonight, and I’m real shaky!”  I scrambled to help her find her insulin kit, insert a needle into the bottle and measure out the dosage she thought she needed (she couldn’t see the markings on the bottle and a lot of guesswork ensued). That’s when it dawned on us she had been driving to town on the edge of a diabetic coma!  She went into the restroom to “shoot up” as she called it and came out looking very wan and weak.  We sat down in the saloon, which by now was nearing closing time, to wait for Jimmy to rescue us and to try and imagine how to tell him what our evening had been like and why his wife’s car had a banged-up fender and missing headlight.

Sandy called next day to say it had been “a hulluva good time.”  She wasn’t sure she wanted to go again any time soon, however.

Dirt Roads, Reservoirs and Rattle Snakes

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Prairie steed . . . .

More . . . . Travels With Sandy

Sandy was the Southern Johnson County water commissioner.  She invited me to ride along with her in the autumn of 2007.  Summer was about gone and her long list of reservoirs to be inspected was narrowing down to a few far-flung dry holes on the eastern edge of her assigned territory.  I was interested in the prospect of touring the prairie stretching from Nine Mile to the Pumpkin Buttes.  My family homestead lies just east of the Pine Ridge and it was a welcome opportunity to stir up a few memories and a lot of dust.

We loaded up some lunch and water bottles.  Her old Ford Bronco was already piled high in back with the tools of her trade: shovel; level; tape measure; “come along” to open gates; rope; and a cheater bar to loosen lug nuts in case of a flat tire.  She had a sheaf of plans and permit maps provided by the Wyoming State Engineer which we were supposed to decipher to locate the reservoirs.  After a quick look at some of those, I figured we were in for a long day.

As near and I can recall, our trip was a vast circle that took us down the Sussex highway east to Highway 50 and from there a series of graveled and dirt roads that led us back to Reno Road and home on old U.S. 87.  I was lost most of the time, but Sandy seemed to have an unerring instinct for locating the reservoirs, many of which were ancient and had not seen water in years.  Finding roads to the dams was out of the question and we bounced and bucked over sagebrush, up and down hills, across gullies and washed out dry creek beds.  The dust came in one side of the Bronco and out the other.  We had to keep the windows rolled down because Sandy chain-smoked as she drove along.  Since I didn’t smoke, she wanted me to “breathe fresh air and smell the sage.”

The dust didn’t seem to affect her vision.  Frankly, I believe she was driving from plain grit and instinct.  I offered to take the wheel but got a flat “no!”  After a great deal of trial and error, our search would eventually lead us to the designated reservoir.  We got out and after a firm warning to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, she would commence with her job to determine if there was any water (no in almost all cases); measure the height of the dam; check the spill way; measure the length of the dam; and look for any problems that may have cropped up since the last inspection.  Some were only required to be inspected every five years, which makes it difficult to remember where on earth they are located.

It would seem a simple task to check in with the ranchers and get clear directions.  Not.  Modern ranches are far flung and few ranch headquarters remain out in the prairie.  We drove past old homestead sites with little but foundation stones and rusting windmills left standing to blow in the wind.  Houses, sheds and anything that could be relocated were removed long ago and ended up in town or on somebody’s ranch many miles away, which was the case with our homestead.

Whenever we weren’t hanging onto the seats for dear life as we jounced across the prairie, we had a few moments to relax on smooth road and watch the antelope, who were gathering for their fall mating rituals.  We spied a magnificent golden eagle sitting high on a branch in a dead cottonwood tree.  One of two larger reservoirs that had water was teeming with an amazing number of ducks, geese and shore birds.  We had a bird guide book and tried to identify whatever we came across, although I don’t recall any of the names on the list we compiled.  The prairie was a beautiful golden brown and stretched uninterrupted except for patches of sagebrush and old cedar fence posts.

As our day was wrapping up we reached the asphalt on Reno Road.  We headed west to 287 and we noticed a huge snake stretched across the road catching a few rays of sun and gathering some warmth from the asphalt.  Having an intense dislike for and morbid fear of snakes, I was hopeful we would drive over it and keep going, preferably at high speed.  Not Sandy.  She hit the brakes and we skidded sideways over the top of the snake.  Not satisfied, she backed up and took another run at him, braking where she believed the “sweet spot” was to put the Bronco tracks across it one more time.  She then turned the engine off and sat listening for the hissing rattle of a thoroughly agitated snake.  All was quiet.  She leaned over the seat and grabbed her shovel, then started to climb out the door and step down to the road.  “Are you coming?”  “Hell no!”  She walked along the road until she found what was left of the snake, detached his rattles with her shovel, and crawled back into the Bronco, cuddling the rattles in her hand.

I was relieved the snake had come at the end of the day.  We were pretty close to home and I figured the chances of coming upon another snake were pretty remote.  In a move to settle my jitters, she offered to let me drive the rest of the way back to Kaycee.

The Parade General

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Powder River, Let ‘er Buck! . . . .

More . . . Travels With Sandy 

A cup of coffee and conversation at Sandy’s kitchen table got me into all kinds of trouble.  We were discussing the upcoming Deke Rodeo for 2007 and I casually asked the question “why doesn’t Kaycee have parades anymore?”  In years past, a parade of sorts preceded the annual rodeo and were always a lot of fun.  Some years they were a little skimpy on floats, but the community usually pulled something together.  I couldn’t remember the last one I had seen, although I had lived away for a long time and figured I had missed a few.

Sandy took a drag off her cigarette and ignored my question altogether.  So I asked “why don’t we put one together?”  She tossed her head back, rolled her eyes, and responded “because it is too god-damned much work–that’s why!”  I dropped the subject.  A couple days later I got a call.  “I’ve got a few people that have agreed to help – are you in?” I, and a few other good people, were on the way to becoming her slaves for the duration.  We didn’t have a lot of time before the rodeo and would have to move fast. I should have had some idea what it would be like.  For the ensuing weeks General Patton a.k.a. Sandy barked out orders and manned the telephone in a frenzy to get floats lined up and committed.  People came forth because, in my opinion, nobody wanted to tell her no.

I worked on developing a program, typing up descriptions of each float as the entrants came in and developing a script for the parade announcer.  Sandy’s granddaughter Savanah designed a program cover with pen and ink cartoon sketches.  We ran off a couple hundred copies to distribute.  The Jarrard family was chosen to be honored and recognized in the parade for their involvement in ranching and rodeo for many generations in Johnson County.  Harold had previously been awarded the Top Hand Award by the Museum of American Cowboys in 1996; the Western Heritage Awarded, 1997, Oklahoma City; and was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, 1997.  Our very own local celebrity!

One of our most interesting parade entrants was inspired by Don Meike who told a tale of local ranchers getting behind an artificial rain-making plan in March of 1951.  The ranchers raised $19,000 for this adventure, or misadventure as it became known.  Lee Keith was chairman of the rain making committee.  Don recalled a “Dr. Krick” from Denver who was hired to conduct the procedure.  (Doesn’t that sound just like a snake oil salesman?)  Anyway, Don described it as a smudge pot filled with a silver iodide mixture.  A fire was lit under it to cause the smoke to rise into the atmosphere.  The story got quite humorous as Don recounted Raymond Cash recalling that Fred Hesse insisted it “really worked!”  When asked, “where is the rain?” Fred replied, “well something went haywire, and the rain went to Gillette.”  Naturally we had to have a rainmaker float in the parade.  A request went out to Kaycee High School shop class teacher Milo Warren to build one.

Milo must have gone out to test his machine because the day before the rodeo the sky burst forth.  I was sitting in Sandy’s kitchen trying to keep up with the last-minute details, barked out orders and total pandemonium when I looked out her window at the sky.  “I’m going home, Sandy, those storm clouds look fierce!”  I don’t recall what she replied, and it wasn’t worth repeating.  I slunk out of her kitchen feeling like a rat deserting the ship, but by the time I got to North Fork I knew I had made the right decision.  The river was over its banks north and south of the bridge.  I wasn’t sure if I should try to cross, but figured if the bridge went, it would be better to be on the side of home.  At any rate, Sandy wouldn’t be able to come and get me.  Five inches of rain fell. Who knew?  Kaycee was spared another major flood on the Middle Fork of Powder River that day, but the North Fork flood swamped ranches all along the river banks.

The rodeo, and the parade would go on as usual, however.  Powder River has yet to wipe out a rodeo – the show will go on!  There were 43 parade entries in all, and Sandy had them lined up Old Barnum Road stretching all the way up the hill to the west.  Someone made the last-minute comment that just about everybody in Southern Johnson County was in the parade.  Would there be anybody left in Kaycee to watch as the parade traveled up Main Street?  No worries.  There was always a great crowd for “The Deke.”