Monday, July 4, 2022

Our Noisy Fourth of July Treat

A Fourth of July memory that stands out  from my 1960's childhood was of my mom’s noisy kitchen every Independence Day. 

Whether we were having company at our house or traveling to visit family and friends, homemade ice cream was likely going to be a treat. When I was very young, this wasn’t a noisy procedure and, because I was little, I didn’t have to sit and turn the hand crank, which would have made me appreciate the noisy machine. I was allowed to try the hand crank a time or two but if we were to have ice cream, we needed someone with muscles to make it happen. By the time I was in Junior High, Mom had a loud electric ice cream maker running by the kitchen sink before every summer get together.

Mom's recipe changed from time to time, and she experimented with flavors, by adding fresh peaches, or strawberries, or using eggs or no eggs. If she was making a flavored ice cream, it warranted a second batch of vanilla, always my favorite. I could hear the machine running from anywhere inside the house. I’d walk into the kitchen to it loudly rotating its paddles inside the canister. Why was it so loud? It seems all kitchen machines were noisy back then. 

Mom would stand in front of the redwood barrel on the counter with arctic ice water dripping into the sink from a hole on its side. She added crushed ice and rock salt in between the wooden sides and the canister to keep the freezing process moving along. Just like every procedure in her kitchen, she had it down to a science! My sisters and I all knew exactly how high to keep the ice in the barrel, just in case we needed to take over while she performed the multitude of tasks to have everything ready on time. She was great at kitchen timing.   

Making ice cream was even noisier with the constant yelling over the din. Not angry yelling mind you, but necessary planning yelling.

“We need to leave here by 11:00.” Dad might yell. 

“I’ll be ready.” Mom would answer. She was always right.

“Girls, why don’t you get the chairs put around the table?” or 

“Can you look in the second drawer of the hutch for the napkins I bought for today?”

“I think I’ll bring some tomatoes/ cucumbers/ radishes to give away.” Dad would yell above the commotion. 

It was the only time I heard Dad yell.

Suddenly the machine would stop, although the ringing in my ears took a few more moments to find silence. Then the motor would be set aside and carefully, Mom would lift the lid off the canister. She usually had a spoon and plastic bowl ready. A small portion was put into the bowl and if we were lucky, we got to participate in the taste test. One tiny spoonful and she knew if it was done. 

Satisfied, she’d slowly pull the paddles out of the ice cream before she replaced the lid, expertly sealing it with a folded piece of waxed paper. My sisters and I gathered around the bowl and paddles to eat the quickly melting leftovers. Mom tipped the barrel to empty any extra liquid, plugged the hole, and added more ice around the top. She covered the whole thing with old dishtowels or blankets, the insulation needed to get the sweet goodness to a party. 

Dad took over from there, if they would be transporting somewhere else.

When it was finally time to serve, Mom was there, with a big flat serving spoon, to distribute the milky mixture into bowls. I'd sample the other flavors and though delicious, I usually chose vanilla. It was always as good as I expected. My first bite, creamy and icy at the same time, had a rich vanilla flavor. Although Mom usually provided strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries as garnish, I either ate it plain, or topped mine with rivulets of chocolate syrup. I ate without stirring. Unlike some who mixed until theirs was a soupy light brown, I was looking for two distinct flavors in my bowl.

Homemade ice cream has become a rarity. It seldom appears on a summer holiday menu, and it’s been many years since I’ve had an ice cream maker of my own. I'm sure they're quieter now, but I’ll always remember the flavor that was worth the noise.

Monday, May 2, 2022

A Tribute to a Good Bird Dog

 My son-in-law, Dave Faught, wrote a great tribute about a dog they called Dixie, that they lost this last week. I asked his permission to share it. Our pets are like family!

She was a 26th birthday present from Emily. I can't begin to count the miles or the hours we spent together. Just me and her. Blazing heat, blizzards, subzero temperatures, rain storms. Nothing stopped us. She was never late getting in the truck. She never suggested we leave early. At the end of the day she always looked at me as if to say "one more fence row?" When we got home, she would crash out, sore and exhausted, grinning ear to ear. 

There wasn't a bird she didn't love to hunt, but her favorite days were spent tearing through the marshes after downed teal and busting coveys of quail because she knew she had a full day of pointing and retrieving singles. In the pre-dawn light, she would start to vibrate when she heard the flutter of dove wings overhead. Aching for the chance to do a job. She wasn't very big, so carrying roosters was tough, but she loved trying. By the time she retired, she was as sure-footed and wily as anything we hunted. No matter what we were after, I didn't even have to talk or gesture. We could read each others' minds. She knew how I hunted and I knew how she hunted. If you have ever looked in the eyes of a bird dog when it's working, you have seen the expression that defines purpose. 

It really is a privilege to watch a creature fulfill its destiny. Brittanies don't usually make it to 16 years old, but Dixie did. Because she was unstoppable. She has her legs back under her now, and I guarantee she is going off like a bottle rocket in the most perfect CRP patch she can imagine.

 ~David Faught

Monday, November 29, 2021

 My Grandparents, Ida Nelson and Arthur Johnson, were married on November 30, 1918. The following was a speech, written and delivered for his parents, by their son and my uncle, Don Johnson, at the program of their 50th-anniversary open house celebration. It was held in November 1968 at the New Gottland Covenant Church near McPherson, Kansas.

November 1918

My Parents 50th Anniversary Speech
Arthur and Ida Johnson

By Donald J Johnson

 Arthur, probably realizing that the approaching winter would be hard and cold, decided that it would be nice to have a wife. They had met in Kansas City, Missouri, but Dad was now back on the farm in Kansas. He left Galva by train on November 28, 1918, and headed for Osage City, Kansas, where Mother’s family resided. After a day or two of deliberation, Ida was convinced that they should get married in Topeka, Kansas. They made that journey to Topeka and were married on November 30, 1918.

1958 On their farm near New Gottland

 Following the wedding, they continued on to Kansas City, Missouri, for the night, and then on to Excelsior Springs, Missouri for a few days, where Ida toured the city, and Arthur remained in their room recuperating from the flu. The happy newlyweds returned to Galva as the blizzard of 1918 was raging, and they continued their honeymoon at the Galva Hotel.

 Their carriage chauffeured by Arthur’s brother Reuben, and his cousin Joe Johnson, got lost in the blizzard. A few days later, Teddy Nordstrom, a friend of Dad’s, arrived by team and wagon to escort them to their new home. 

Six children were born to this union: Helen Margaret, Earl, Donald, and Helen Lucille were the children of their first family, and LaDonna and LeRay were children of their ‘second family.’ LaDonna and LeRay were so much younger that the folks felt as if they had two families. 

 This is the Thanksgiving season, and we would like to thank the folks and God for the privilege of being raised in a home where much love was shown. Even though we realize that the times must have been difficult, and money was frequently a problem, they provided us with interesting and memorable experiences.

 Journeys to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins at Osage City and Kansas City, in our Model T Ford touring car were always looked forward to and enjoyed. The trip to the Rio Grande Valley to visit grandparents. To Padre Island where the pigs ate our dinner, and on to the gulf of Old Mexico, where I fell out of that old Ford into a mud puddle will always be remembered. 

 Thank you, Mom and Dad, for the discipline that was given to us while we were kids, and I was probably the hardest one to handle. I believe that I know more about discipline than the others, as I seemed to get in the most trouble. They taught us to know right from wrong by various methods, such as Dad wielding the razor strap, or mother washing our mouths out with soap and water, or maybe spending the evening in a dark room.

We also learned that we had better tell the truth or else suffer the consequences. That learning must have prompted me to report to Dad, and he nearly fell from the seat of his horse-drawn mower with laughter when I told him that I threw the hairbrush at Earl and broke the cupboard window, but it really wasn’t my fault because Earl ducked. 

 Earl never got in trouble that I remember. I guess he never did anything wrong, or else he was more able to avoid detection after he committed a misdeed.

 LaDonna and LeRay were brought up differently. They could do things that were worse than anything that we older ones ever thought of doing, and they didn’t have to suffer the consequences than we did.

Happy Anniversary!


Arthur, Ida, Helen, Earl, Don,
LeRay, and LaDonna
About 1940


Sunday, November 21, 2021

My dad, Earl Milan Johnson, was born on October 23, 1921. For his hundredth year, I'm publishing some writing of his that I found a few years after he died. Here is the next installment.

 Trips and Vacations

by Earl Johnson

One of my earliest recollections was a trip our family took to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas when I was about 5 years old to visit our grandparents. We made the trip in a 1921 Model T Ford, and it took us almost a week to get there. I can remember driving across the state of Oklahoma on 81 Highway. 81 was not paved at the time. It had been raining and we drove in a rut for a good distance. An air-cooled Franklin was in the rut ahead of us and rolled over, possibly because the different wheelbase did not fit the rut. I remember how proud we (Don and I) were of the old Model T which made it through without tipping over.

Don, Helen, Ida, and Earl on Padre Island
Before leaving on the trip, we went to Wichita in our 1917 Model T with the intention of trading for a better car. I remember looking at an old Dodge with an enclosed cab and disc wheels. We liked it but because of the enclosed cab and disc wheels (carbon monoxide dangers and difficulty installing chains), Dad elected to buy the 1921 Model T touring car.

We spent almost 3 months in the valley with our grandparents that year (approx. 1925-1926) It was a different
life for us with palm trees and citrus orchards, meeting people from Mexico, and seeing the Gulf of Mexico.

I remember one side trip to the Gulf of Mexico where we, including the car, went to an island for a
picnic. After getting to the island, we left the car and took a long walk along the beach. While we were gone, some pigs got into the car and into the picnic lunch, so we had nothing to eat while on the island.

I also remember trips across the border into old Mexico since we at Alamo and McAllen were only about 7 miles from the border.

The Texas trip was the only long trip I can remember during our growing-up years.

We did go to Osage City, Kansas about 130 miles once or twice each year to visit Grandpa and Grandma Nelson, and Mother’s brother Emil and family. Then perhaps 2 or 3 trips to Kansas City, Missouri to visit Mother’s sisters and their families and other relatives.

Family Group at Johnson/Nordling Reunion
Wamego, Kansas 1937
Also, for several years, we went to Wamego, Kansas for the Johnson – Nordling reunion (halfway between K. C. and McPherson). This was Dad’s family. (About 129 miles)

We also went to Wichita perhaps twice per year to visit Edwin Johnson’s. Mrs. Johnson, “Melia”, was Mother’s 1st cousin. They had 1 son, Wilbur, about our age. The Johnsons were prosperous and owned the Johnson Bros Auto Supply along with two other brothers. Wilbur had lots of toys and often, when they came to visit us in McPherson County in their big Packard, they would bring us toys if Wilbur was tired of them. Years later I worked for Johnson Bros for a few months while in training for aircraft work in Wichita. Theirs was a wholesale and retail business. They even dealt in La France fire engines for a time.


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

 My dad, Earl Milan Johnson, was born on October 23, 1921. For his hundredth year, I'm publishing some writing of his that I found a few years after he died. Here is the first installment.

Oil and Gas

By Earl Johnson

Another early recollection was oil wells and gas wells and especially the drilling of the wells.

Dad, Don, and I would go to a drill rig almost every evening and sit and watch the drilling operation. We heard many tales from the driller and tool dressers and made many acquaintances including a driller by the name of Herb Long. He would become a partner in a wildcat drilling operation later with Dad and Grandfather, John A. Johnson.

As boys, Don and I had our own play drill rigs with which we drilled our own wells using the pully, rope, and bit method. I remember standing outside North Union School and seeing the Chinburg well blow in, spewing oil and water into the air high above the derrick.

There was a booster station right next to North Union School which was used to pump crude oil to the refineries.

There were two refineries in McPherson, the Globe Refinery which later became the Coop refinery and is still in existence as the CHS Refinery, and another whose name I can’t remember.

Don and Earl with their mother, Ida Johnson.

I remember one incident of an explosion where two oil company workers were killed. They were laid on an A-frame truck, and were brought out past North Union School, a sight that several of us remember. There were no ambulances in those days.

There was an influx of oil company workers into the community at that time. They lived in temporary shacks, or tents, or in their cars. I remember a shack and tent village that was set up in the Roseburg timber. The Skates family, the Reynolds, the Hallenbacks, the Brinkmans, the Boyds, the Byerlys, the Donhains, the Birges, and other oil company families became important citizens of the community.

Alfred Hallenback was in my class and was later killed in an oil field accident. We were up to 44 kids one year at North Union School, all 8 grades and one teacher.

The Reynolds family lived just across the road from our house. They had 8 daughters. I remember Juanita and Rose Marie as being two of them. They were wonderful neighbors. Bill pumped and maintained several of the wells in the area and was a wonderful help to Dad.

The Johnson estate, the 3 eighties of flat land, had several oil wells and at least 2 gas wells. One of the gas-producing wells enabled our grandparents to retire when Grandpa was about 60. They spent their winters in Texas and summers in Kansas for many years. They had purchased an eighty of unbroken land in Texas around World War I.

The wells were nearly all Kansas City line formation wells and drilled to approximately 2300 feet. A few were drilled deeper to other formations but produced a lower grade of crude oil. At that time, they drilled 4 wells to 40 acres, evenly spacing helped. Most oil wells produced some gas, and this produced fuel for the gas engines used in pumping the wells. Access roads to the wells were arranged in north-south or east-west directions and were another hindrance to farming. Also, one engine often pumped 2 wells with a pump rod in between.

Many farmers were able to bring the gas from the wells to their homes and had free heating fuel and gas-lighting.

There was lots of “wildcatting” and many “dry holes.” A typical setup would be a road to the site, a slush pond to handle sludge from the drilling operation, a wood derrick possibly fifty-foot tall to handle the cable, bits, and bailers, and install casing in the wells, an engine house for gas or oil field engines, and a beltway or rod way house between the engine room and the drilling rig to operate the tools.

Drilling is really a misnomer as the early rigs used the drop bit method to produce the hole. They were called cable tools.

Dad, Herb Long, and Grandpa Johnson owned a cable rig and drilled two wells, one near Bushton, Kansas and one near Hoisington. The Bushton site produced a good well, as much as 800 barrels per day if allowed to produce at full capacity. In order not to have an oil surplus, wells were prorated down, big wells sometimes to 1/10 of full production. The Hoisington well appeared to be an even better prospect, maybe up to a 1000 barrels per day, but after developing, acidizing salt water came in and ruined the well. That ended the oil business for Dad and Grandpa. They lost the Bushton lease, the cable rig, and it left them with almost thirty thousand dollars in debt. Dad assumed responsibility for this and offered to give up his share of the land inheritance. His brothers and sisters did not accept this and later made him an equal heir. Needless to say, it caused our family some difficult years along with the depression and drought years of the thirties. Grandpa was financially able to shrug it off because of income from wells on his land.


Saturday, November 13, 2021

 My dad, Earl Milan Johnson, was born on October 23, 1921. For his hundredth year, I'm publishing some writing of his that I found a few years after he died. Here is the next installment.

High School Education

By Earl Johnson

Earl Johnson, high school

 I started High School in McPherson, Kansas, in August of 1936 and graduated in the spring of 1940. I had my freshman year at Park School on east Euclid Street and my sophomore year at Wickersham on west Kansas street. During my junior year, we moved to a new high school building in east McPherson where we graduated. 

There were 185 kids in our senior class. Several died during WWII which was going on in Europe, and America became involved on December 7, 1941. 

I did well in High School and made the honor roll by my junior year. I give great credit to friends like Paul Anderson and Carl Casey.  An interesting sidelight is that I met Carl Casey just by chance in Times Square in New York City about 1944. I was in Merchant Marine training in Brooklyn (Sheepshead Bay) and he was in the Navy, I believe.  

My favorite subjects were shop courses, woodworking, printing, bookkeeping, biology, civics, and unfortunately, I took only the required math. I regretted this later after I got into college and studied civil engineering. I was taking high school math along with all of the college math that is so important to an engineer. 

Earl pretending to play guitar in late 1930s.
We drove to school each day, 10 and a half miles each way, and shared rides with others, including, the Clarks. We all had Model A Fords to drive until my last year or so, when my Uncle Emil while using the Model A during the summer ran it low on oil and decided to fill it with crude oil from the oil field slush pond. Then we drove the 1934 Hudson, a large car that was worthless on mud roads. 

The Clarks, who were Republicans, and the Johnsons, who were Democrats, used to get into some pretty hot arguments to and from school.

For my freshman year, I rode with Roy Johnson. His father had never driven a car but rode with us one day. Roy took the Rolander corner a little fast that day. His dad told him in his beautiful Swedish accent, “Roy, you should never drive twenty-five miles per hour around the corner.” 

One day we were driven home by the “oil well pumper” father of one of our friends, who was drunk.  He sped down Old 81 Highway in his new 38 Ford at 65 miles per hour in second gear.  We never rode with him again. 

I suppose my favorite teacher would have to be Leonard B. Crumpacker, but I liked them all. He taught woodworking and printing and had me working whenever I could get out of study hall. W.R. Frazier was Principal, and R.W. Potwin was Superintendent of Schools. I really appreciated my English teacher, Edith I. Haight. She was strict, but a quality teacher and still remembered my first name years later after I was out of the service. Edith I. Haight’s name was changed to “I Haight Edith”, mostly as a joke, but she could be a strict teacher if we weren’t doing our best. What great teachers we had and great kids, too. I was particularly good at subjects that required the use of my hands or required memory work. 

I was still shy with girls and although I admired them, I would walk across the street to miss them. The only time they liked me was when I could help them with their studies. I remember one time when we were to pick up a neighbor girl, Phyllis Donham, and take her home. She was one of the most popular girls in our class. Don was driving the Model A. I got out of the car and flipped the seat so she could get into the back. Phyllis flipped the seat upright and sat between us. What a shock that was and with the prettiest girl in the class.  I don’t remember even going to the senior prom. 

It was the Depression along with the Dust Bowl and drought. Our parents were so hard up that we couldn’t take part in extracurricular activities, such as music and sports. Dad told us he could get us to school and back but couldn’t afford driving or to pay for games or music. We had morning chores before school and evening chores when we got home.  Because of this, I have never been much interested in football or basketball.


Friday, November 12, 2021

My dad, Earl Milan Johnson, was born on October 23, 1921. For his hundredth year, I'm publishing some writing of his that I found a few years after he died. Here is the second  installment.

Grade School Education  

by Earl Johnson
(written sometime in the 1990s) 

 I started grade school in September of 1926 at North Union School which was about ¾ miles east, one mile south, and a quarter-mile east of the Gustafson place where we lived. Dad and his brothers and sisters, also my brothers and sisters all attended grade

school at that location in a small building which was replaced by a larger approximately 40x40 foot building. The building had only 1 classroom, a library, boys and girls cloakrooms and a full basement. Toilet facilities were outside. 

 My first years in school were very difficult for me because I was a lefthander.  Educators at that time believed that being left-handed was a disability and thought to change it. Viola Engstrom was my teacher and used to whack my left hand with a ruler each time she caught me using it. This caused me not only pain but also fear and most likely set me back in the learning process. I would claim illness and play hookey. I should add at this time that Ms. Engstrom was a lovely and beautiful young woman and was only carrying out her job as a teacher.  She was a local girl and grew up on the next quarter east of the school.


This building was later made into a home and still stands in good condition. 

I do feel that it slowed my learning ability and concentration at least during the first few years and hurt my ability to throw a ball, etc. I was able to use either hand for most things except writing which helped me in other ways.  

 Robert Benson, Rachel Clark, and John Dee Holm started first grade with me. John moved after two or three years to North Diamond District and others came into the class, mainly children of oil field workers who moved to the area. Among those were Alfred Hollenback, Mary Byerly, Melvin McCabe, and Edith Birge. 

 Can you imagine 44 kids, one classroom, one teacher and all 8 grades? This was for much of my grade school years.  The older kids helped the younger ones and the younger ones heard the older ones during their recitations at the front of the room or at the chalkboard.

 The three teachers during my years at North Union were Viola Engstrom, Mary Alice Crist, and Pauline Cooprider.  I don’t believe any of them had much more than a high school education, perhaps summer school but they were excellent teachers.

 Mary Alice Crist was a strict disciplinarian and some of us felt the sting of the rubber hose that was kept in the lower right-hand drawer of her desk.  I remember John Dee Holm getting two whippings in one day, one for the crime committed and another for taking out across the field for home.  

 Mary Alice Crist was much appreciated for her teaching ability and all of us were in debt to her.  She was an “old maid”, drove a Model T Ford Coupe, and always carried a 22-Rifle in the back window of her car. She later married Newt Robinson, a fairly well-to-do-widower.  

 Pauline Cooprider was my teacher for seventh and eighth grade.  She was also a good teacher and we learned much from her.  At that time, however, we were tested in the seventh and eighth grade with exams prepared by the county superintendent of schools and staff. We studied one curriculum which was different from the one we were tested on and only two, Robert Benson and Rachel Clark, passed to eighth grade. They failed in only one subject and the other five of us failed in two and had to take the seventh grade over.  No fault on the teacher or us because other schools in the county had the same problem. It may have been the best thing that ever happened to us because when we started high school (ninth grade) we were well ahead of the town kids and by the end of my sophomore year I was on the honor roll.  Pauline Cooprider later married Leonard Lundberg and spent most of the rest of their lives in McPherson.

 We usually walked to school when it was nice either across the field or around the roads and had many good times with others as we walked. In bad weather, we shared with neighbors driving by car, by horse and wagon, and sometimes by horse and sled. Sometimes in the winter, the township roads might be blocked for a month from snowdrifts. The only way out would be across the field. Joe Clark lived just half a mile west of us and their older children Maurice and Lucille, although in New Gottland District, came to North Union for a few years because it was closer.  We shared rides with them and for a while with the Bill “Steamboat” Johnson family.  Otherwise, we were at the end of the line. Dad came and met us one night and caught Don and me wading in the grader ditch trying to catch tadpoles. It was fairly cold and we were wet. Dad left us as punishment for our sin and took all of the other kids home. 

 I met John Dee Holm in about 1996 at a Memorial Day festivity. It was the first time to see him in over 65 years. He told me he had wanted to apologize to me for all of that time because he had chased me, thrown a small piece of iron, and hit me in the head, causing bleeding out. I don’t remember it but it could be another reason why I was never too bright. 

 Some of the boys used to challenge each other to suck raw eggs and keep it down without vomiting. What a challenge! 

 Our teachers usually gave us craft time and allowed us to make crafts for gifts. Some of the painted wood dogs, cats, and rabbits were made into bookends or doorstops, etc, and are still around. I accidentally dipped my red paintbrush into the can of white paint. Ms. Crist liked me and I respected her but wasn’t real popular with her for a few days. 

Dad, Arthur Johnson 1915
 We played lots of games at recess and during the noon hour. The last day of school each year was very special. People brought a potluck lunch at noon. Children would put on a program for parents and neighbors and it usually became a community gathering. In the afternoon my Dad, a former pitcher for the Kansas City Monarchs would organize a ball game and the young men of the community would take part. Dad would pitch until he finally threw “his arm away”. I was always proud of Dad but sure afraid that he was somewhat disappointed in his boys because we didn’t have his playing ability. He certainly tried to teach us. 

 I did not have a girlfriend in grade school or high school for that matter. Don was the lover boy of the family. 

 About 1998, we had a reunion for members of the North Union School and many people were present including Carl Chinburg, who was 100 years old, and my Uncle Reuben, who was almost 95. Many people were present.

 Robert Benson and his father were killed in a car-train accident about 1935 before starting high school and Alfred Hollenback lost his life in an oil field accident the following year. I will never forget Robert’s aunt at the funeral singing “We Shall Meet at the River”. This was a great shock to both Don and me and we appreciated the consoling our parents gave us.

 The school was closed and children were bussed to McPherson for school. 

 School and church were the center of nearly all activities I wish the children of today could experience the same