Milo Yield: Laugh Tracks in the Dust 5-6-13
This second installment of the Old Boar’s Mindless and Meandering Tour of the Southern Flint Hills on Gravel Roads begins when we left Chautauqua Springs and headed for Elgin, Kan., the self-proclaimed “Town Too Tough to Die,” southwest of Sedan, Kan., on the Oklahoma border.
Elgin has seen better days, but once upon a time it was a bustling cowtown with the true claim of the biggest cattle shipping point in North America. I’m sure cattle by the thousands, if not millions, loaded in Elgin on the Atlantic and Pacific Railway bound for hungry mouths on the east coast.
From Elgin, working off of directions of friend Dick in Sedan, we made our way northwest of Elgin to Stony Point, a high ridge from which you can see probably 30-40 miles south into Osage County, Okla., and west across the Flint Hills an equal distance.
Then we drove back south to a wonderfully scenic limestone crossing of a small, clear stream located at the site of an abandoned stone arch A/P railroad trestle. Although the railway was abandoned I’d guess at least 50 years ago, the stonework in the trestle looked as solid and artistic as the day it wuz built. The ancient Romans would be proud of the stonework. It was there we enjoyed a lunch of cheese, crackers, wine and beer, plus dessert of fruit and cookies.
It was easy for me to relive history at that site by imagining a steam engine huffing and puffing a load of Texas Longhorns eastward. In my mind I could hear the engine, hear the cattle bawling, and imagine the manure-smeared cars heading eastward. Heck, I could even “smell” that manure in my mind.
From there, we followed the Dalton Road west and passed a monument to the Hart’s Mill, which was established on the Caney River in 1870. The monument, consisting of the mill’s two huge grist stones set upright on a concrete base, was the only sad sign of the grist mill that once fed the settlers and their livestock.
Next we arrived at the tiny community of Hewins, also near the Oklahoma border. I was reminded that during my college days at Bea Wilder U II in Oklahoma, one of my classmates was Jeannie K., who bragged about growing up on a ranch near Hewins.
A few more miles of gravel brought us to Cedar Vale. While there, Canby and I admired the ambitious and beautiful Veteran’s Memorial on a vacant lot downtown. The citizens have erected and maintained a memorial to all the local military members who served in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. There were hundreds of names upon those well-maintained limestone slabs which we took as ample evidence of the patriotic nature of rural Americans. We also saw a remnant of a once colorful Flint Hills mural that covered the sidewall of a downtown store.
Next stop wuz across the Cowley County line to the community of Dexter. There new friends Roger and Carol sent us sightseeing on Grouse Creek to photograph three marvelous old stone arch bridges — one a three-arch bridge, dating back to 1911, that is still in use; another one-arch bridge that is still in use, and a third one-arch bridge that was abandoned in someone’s back yard when a new highway wuz built. One exciting thing happened at the one-arch bridge. I almost stepped on a copperhead snake sunning itself as I maneuvered to get a better camera vantage point. I decided not to shoot a picture from the snake’s location.
We overnighted at Shannon Martin’s Stonehouse Mercantile store and cabins a mile north of Dexter. The cabins were like new and the jacuzzi worked. Very pleasant accommodations and hospitality. We ate supper at Randy and Wanda’s pleasant Grouse Valley Grill in Dexter with new friends Roger and Carol. I ate a satisfying breakfast omelet at the GVG the next morning and the hospitality and service were both commendable and recommendable.
Took off on gravel to the communities of Burden, Atlanta and Latham in eastern (and very droughty) Cowley County, then on to Beaumont in southern Greenwood County. Beaumont, too, was once a huge cattle town, but is known now for the Beaumont Hotel, the only hotel in America where a person can fly in on a light plane, taxi right up to the hotel parking lot for a meal. Lots of history there.
Then back east to Piedmont and north through Reese and then, on the recommendation of friend Dale, high onto Cattleman’s Hill just into Butler County off highway 400. Splendid view of the Flint Hills from that vantage point. Next we joined volunteer tour guide Maurice for sights in central Greenwood County. First, the Ivanpau one-room stone schoolhouse, then the two-arch stone bridge, dated early 1900s and still in use, and finally to the Norwegian Lutheran Church, established in 1870s by the reverend Ole Ladd. The church has been in continuous service since the beginning, except for being rebuilt after a fire in the 1920s.
Said goodbye to Maurice there and headed northwest to Cassoday, then into southwestern Chase County were we drank cold artesian well water from a well that’s been flowing constantly and providing water for the locals since the 1950s.
From there, we drove northwest and went a half-mile into Marion County to visit the privately-owned Miller Springs. The ever-flowing big spring, surrounded by large oak and cottonwood trees, is scenic to the nth degree and you could harvest a ton of fresh watercress from its overflow. We could have spent hours there, but we were running late, so headed east back to Damphewmore Acres. En-route home, we took pictures of the famous Clements stone-arch bridge, now abandoned.
All in all, our Old Boar’s Tour proved that there’s a lot of lovely sights to be seen close to home, if you make the effort and open your eyes — including lots and lots of spring flowers and flowing trees and shrubs.
Our heartfelt thanks go out to all the folks who made “The Tour” interesting and memorable — Avery, Steve, Patty, Jim, Donna, Dick, Roger, Carol, Shannon, Randy, Wanda, Dale, Maurice, and Pat S. Hope I didn’t leave anyone out.
Have a good ’un. ❖
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