Yield: Country roads take me to Kelso
This has been a fun week so far. Having the weather clear from cold and stormy to warmer and sunny opened the door to the fun. My good buddy from Platte City, Mo., ol’ Canby Handy, drove down on Tuesday and got here in time for he and I to go on a mini-Old Boar’s tour of parts of southern Morris County on gravel/muddy roads.
We took some sparsely graveled and sparsely traveled roads north and made our way to Council Grove for lunch. Then we drove north of Council Grove Reservoir and turned west into unknown territory for either of us.
As we wended our way west and south on gravel or low-maintenance, travel-at-your-own-risk roads, we stumbled onto what was left of a defunct old rural community by the name of Kelso. The only thing left of Kelso is the still-in-use Methodist Church — a square, two-story, frame and lap-sided building with a sign out front stating it wuz founded in 1861.
From Kelso, we skirted the west side of the Council Grove City Lake and proceeded on south and west as the roads allowed. A couple of times we ended up on dead-end roads — one of which ended at an abandoned farmstead and the other ended up at a remote set of cattle pens.
While driving down one nondescript Morris County road, Canby and I stumbled upon a simple metal sign in the fence row that stated right there were the remnant ruts from thousands of freighter wagons traversing the old 1840s Santa Fe Trail from St. Joseph, Mo., to Santa Fe, N.M. A grassed-over dip and swale clearly showed where the ruts remained. Sure made my imagination run wild.
From there we kept heading south and west and I wanted to find the homes of two old friends that I seldom ever see. I knew they used to have homes south of Council Grove somewhere close to the Four Mile Road and west of Highway 177.
So, we headed back east along a gravel road and eventually came to a location I recognized and from it we found Four Mile Road. From my recollection of long-ago directions, we eventually found my friend Don’s farmstead, only to find that it is now occupied by Don’s son and family and that Don has moved to the east of Council Grove.
Then we stopped to visit with a very nice lady rancher who was out walking her German Shepherd dog. As it turned out, we have several mutual friends but had never met each other. When I asked if I was close to my other friend Bill’s farmstead, she said I had just passed it.
When we bade the nice rancher lady adieu, Canby and I took one more excursion along the county road that runs through a portion of the unfenced, open-range of the Mashed O Ranch on the south border of Morris County. That road ran a big U, past several remote ranch homes and eventually ended up back on the 177 highway south of Council Grove.
By then, Canby and I had enuf driving and riding, his pickup wuz coated in mud from bumper to bumper, so he headed back to Damphewmore Acres cross-country on gravel roads.
During that afternoon, Canby and I planned another Old Boars’ Tour for this April or May on the gravel roads of Wabaunsee County, which is north of Morris County. We’ll be trying to identify any unusual geographic or historic sites that we can visit. If any reader has an idea of what we should visit in Wabaunsee County, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canby overnighted with us and Wednesday morning we helped cook breakfast at the Saffordville Old Boars’ weekly Gentle Men’s Club get-together. We had 19 old geezers and two younger “pups” meet, greet and eat that morning.
Wednesday afternoon, Canby and I, and our mutual friend Mocephus, went to ol’ Lon G. Horner’s home and played cards until Canby and I had about all their money. Lon’s been laid up for about a month convalescing from ankle surgery.
During the Gentle Men’s Breakfast, the in-resident historian, ol’ R. E. Vealitt, brought a list he’d uncovered from 1913-1914 of all the school districts and the names of the teachers in Chase County. The county population in those early days wuz more than 9,000. Today, it’s around 2,000. The list of schools back in those days totaled an eye-popping 66. The number of school districts in the county today is “district.” Yep, only one!
Speaking of one-room schoolhouses, I got a nice email from faithful reader Peggy from Greeley, Colo. She wrote: “Your ‘Getting Even’ article sure brought back memories. As a child, I grew up in Sheridan County, Kansas. I went to a country school as was mentioned in this article. I rode my Shetland pony to school and then turned her lose and she would go back home. One morning we were on the way to school and a bad storm was in progress, lightning struck right near us! Of course Ole Babe jumped sidewise and I fell off in the mud! I went on to school and Ole Babe went back home. Your column really brought back that memory of years ago. But the rest of the story was humorous, letting the horses loose to go back home without the kids! My story was back in the early 40s and the school was a little one-room school house I went to up through my eighth grade, then we went and moved into Norton where I went to high school. I love your Kansas stories. You can take a Kansas girl out of Kansas but you can never take Kansas out of that girl!”
No wisdom to close on this week. Just memories. Have some good ‘uns. ❖